At last the day had come for the family to move into the countryside, to Impruneta, and a big renovated farmhouse. The town was really lovely, with a big basilica, a tall bell tower and a red star that shone in the sky at night like lost hope.
They got there in the middle of the afternoon, with the car fit to bursting. The parents unloaded the cases and started sorting out the rooms. The kids threw themselves breathlessly into the fields in search of adventure. There were three children – two boys and a girl – born and bred in the city, who in a flash suddenly discovered how vast the skies were. Running around the countryside they came across a long, low building, from which voices could be heard.
The children drew closer. Walking beneath a stone arch they found themselves in a large space full of busy and oddly dressed men. The kids were drawn to a peculiar spectacle: on a wall opposite them a vast door opened, totally blocked off with loosely placed bricks that seemed incandescent. Maybe it’s better to say that a scorching infernal light and immense heat shot out through the cracks.
“Oi kids! What are you doing here?” asked one of the men with a powerful stare. He had that boss-like air around him. He was dressed in an enormous dark shirt that reached his knees.
“What’s that thing?” asked the girl, the youngest.
“It’s a kiln.”
“What’s it for?”
“To bake the terracotta,” replied the man, on his knees in front of the children.
“What are you baking?” asked the eldest boy.
“I’m baking the tiles to cover the dome of the most beautiful church in the world,” said the man, smiling.
“What dome is that?” asked the middle child, not wanting to be left out of the conversation. The man stood up and with his hands he slowly drew a marvellous dome in the air. The kids felt like they could actually see it.
“My dome… Filippo’s dome…” he murmured in a solemn yet mocking voice. The children’s eyes widened and said “Oooohhh” altogether, impressed most of all by the man’s crazy stare. Then a boy wearing a dirty tunic walked over.
“Mr. Filippo, I think we’re ready,” he muttered respectfully.
“At last,” said Filippo.
“Come and have a taste. Then you can tell me if it’s to your taste.”
“How many hours?”
“Almost 11,” said the boy.
“Is there plenty of pepper?”
“Good,” said Filippo, rubbing his hands together. The children looked on, trying to understand what they were talking about. In the end, the girl asked the question.
“Have you cooked the world’s dome?” she said, summarizing the situation.
“Not yet, but at least dinner’s ready,” said Filippo, and everyone burst out laughing. Even the children started laughing, affected by the happy crew. A minute later they were sat down at a makeshift table with dozens of labourers, muddy, sweaty, their faces covered with long beards, eating a sauce-covered stew served in wooden bowls. Filippo’s eyes were shining as he stared into the distance.