Staying in Mogliano in Northern Italy recently, we had an interesting experience: breakfast without any human intervention.
Juice? Push a button. Coffee? Push a button. Toast? Make it yourself. Yogurt? Lift one from the fridge. Ham or cheese? Lift some from the plate. Then put it all on a white plastic tray, and carry it yourself to the dining room, where there are no staff, even staff to clear your tray once you have finished.
It was, from a time-motion study point of view: masterly. Who needs to pay people when you can mechanise everything. It was the sort of future they used to predict back in the 1960's.
This morning, at Ivyleigh House in Portlaoise, Dinah Campion introduced the first course of breakfast: poached plums; melon balls with fresh orange; cinnamon poached prunes and apricots; home-made granola; home-made muesli; a little bowl of cornflakes. There was a jug of just-squeezed orange juice.
Tea was brought in a silver teapot that was so shimmering bright I could happily have used it to shave.
The cooked breakfast was two delicious sausages, two delicious slices of back bacon, a slice of black and white pudding, an orange-yolked free-range egg, two perfectly-cooked tomatoes, a little tumble of sliced mushrooms. There were two slices each of home-made white and brown bread.
Two things stood out. The perfect uniformity of the melon balls, all scooped by hand. And, secondly, the tomato was perfectly cooked, the hardest part to get right of the traditional breakfast. Of course, every other element was cooked to perfection.
It was a masterpiece. It was the antithesis of Mogliano.
It was what we do in Ireland, done as well as it can be done. It was inspiring, inspiringly delicious. What a treasure for the lone traveller!
Let's send Mrs Campion to Italy as a Cultural Ambassador. They need her.