Who doesn’t love a good “piccolo mondo” (“small world”) story?

There are two sides to this one, so Paul and I will tell it together. He gets the italics. Fair enough, as long as I retain some semblance of editorial control.

I was in Benano with our friend Deborah to open the house for the 2011 rental season. We were working frantically and wondering how we could possibly finish everything in time for our first guests.

Stuck stateside yet again, I was quietly plotting to squeeze a professional photo shoot of our house into the few hours between the end of the renovations and the beginning of the rental season. I surfed the web in search of the perfect photographer for this most delicate of jobs. I say “delicate” because time was short and Karen was frazzled.

I was very, very stressed. Picture one of those contestants on “Fear Factor.” We were coming down to the wire, with lots still to be done. I was terrified that a houseful of jetlagged Americans would arrive before the hot water heater was hooked up or the beds made.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, Paul had found the perfect photographer for the job: Gianni Fantauzzi. Pronounced “Johnny Fawn-tout-see.”

Gianni is, in fact, a very busy wedding photographer. I’m not drawing any Bridezilla comparisons here. Really. And he had studied still life photography in London, so he speaks English flawlessly. Paul exchanged several pleasant emails with Gianni as the plot thickened. I had no idea any of this was going on. That was the idea.

With the last of the craftsmen preparing to leave the house and the cleaning crew about to show up for what promised to be a three-day scrub-down, Paul skyped me and ever-so-gently introduced his idea for a photo shoot. I’d practiced sounding nonchalant in front of the mirror. I dismissed his photographer idea out of hand. I think he could tell I was annoyed. Ya think? I swear she thought I said we should bring in a pornographer, so I repeated more slowly “photographer.” She wasn’t buying it. I decided to fall back and play for time.

Paul was great – really supportive and understanding of the impossibility of adding another big item to the “to do” list. I really slathered on the salve. He invited me to sleep on the idea to see if it became any more appealing. What choice did I have? I was confident that, as the day of the first guests’ arrival drew closer, she would realize that the house had never looked better, and it was now or never for its long-awaited “glamour shots.”

On the Wednesday before our Saturday opening, I was finally beginning to believe we would actually finish everything on time. This was the opening I’d been waiting for, so I pounced. Paul calmly forwarded his emails with Gianni and suggested I give the poor guy a call, if only to sound him out. I finally knew we had a chance. Before suggesting she call Gianni, I had briefed him on the whole situation and trusted him to seal the deal.

Gianni couldn’t have been more agreeable. He came the next day to scout for a Friday shoot, one day before the guests’ arrival. I could tell immediately he was perfect for the job. He was pleasant, engaging, and professional as he went room to room. To top it off, despite his perfect English, he encouraged me to speak Italian to give myself practice, unless something really important came up. Oh, this guy is very smooth. Well played, sir!

About an hour into his visit, Gianni said, “I have to tell you something in English because I want to make sure you understand. This is amazing – I have an appointment to take photos in Benano tomorrow. I’m shooting a new tile floor for the catalog of the company that made the terra cotta.”

Keep in mind that Benano is tiny. The whole village would fit on a football field. Because ours is the only house with recent construction (“recent,” as in since World War II), I said, “The floor you’re shooting has to be ours.” Cue that awful “It’s a Small World” song.

As it turned out, our tile-maker was so impressed with what we had done with his tiles that he will feature our floor in his company’s catalog. Imagine, at a time when slipping a photographer into the house on the last possible day was but a figment of Paul’s fertile imagination, the publicist producing the catalog had independently hired “our” Gianni, of all the photographers in Italy. Sixty million people in Italy, and I stumbled across the one who already was scheduled to be in our house that Friday!

The story has a happy ending, as Paul and I both count Gianni as our friend. Have a look at a selection of the “glam shots” he took.

One final aside: It’s ironic that I found a wedding photographer beause Karen and I had no photographer when we got married 20 years ago. I hired one but forgot to give him the address of the church. At least I made sure Gianni got to the right place at the right time.