Hot summer nights: ‘I was alone on holiday, and this was my last night on the island …’

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Heartbroken, sunburned and without my makeup, I felt totally lost. Perhaps the handsome stranger at my table could offer some excitement?

It was high summer on the Italian island of Procida, too hot but somehow still green, and I was eating dinner at a beachside cafe that spilled on to the black sand of the west-facing Spiaggia di Ciraccio.

I wasn’t supposed to be here. Ten days earlier, a long-building romance with a screenwriter from Milan had ended abruptly. It had begun when our knees touched in his car. Long emails full of agony and promise followed, made all the less real for jumping between English and Italian, but then stopped. A short trip to Naples to try things in a new context was cancelled. I was desperately sad, but had already booked my flight to Italy and, as it happened, a friend was staying on the island nearby. So, I tagged along.

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