Lucian is struggling to make the connection with Rose that his father, Cecil, desires. Walking with Rose, he comes across his friend Anish doing yoga with the American Claudine—she learned from a maharaja’s brother who had come to see her show in Paris—and happily accepts Claudine’s invitation to join. But Rose is skeptical—and her mother calls her away.
Julia Drummond-Ward is herself a significant obstacle to a relationship between her daughter and Lucian, even though she also supposedly wants the match. (Lucian suspects that Cecil and Julia are trying again to join their two houses, having failed to do so as young people themselves, but Lucian’s mother Bella insists that Cecil and Julia were never even engaged.) Julia constantly disparages Rose and keeps her nose up around Lucian, but she eventually acquiesces to the idea of a beach excursion for a painting lesson—accompanied by herself, of course.
The Italian hotel staffer Paola, who is secretly sleeping with Lucian, will accompany the excursion, carrying supplies and food along with the new arrival Constance March. Paola is taking her own lessons from Lucian, in English, but she’s jealously protective of him. She’s envious to learn that Lucian is tutoring Constance in reading and writing—although Constance is educated enough to write letters to her mother—and even more distressed to hear that Cecil and Julia want Lucian and Rose to marry.
Despite Lucian’s eagerness to please Cecil, however, Cecil doesn’t seem all that interested in his efforts to woo Rose. He’s more concerned with money: he wants Bella to ask her father for more money, even though he has already funded the hotel and Bella wants to make her own way and pay him back.
Cecil is also cooking up a scheme to sell a possible Rubens painting owned by his grandfather to the American art dealer Jack Turner. Finding the telegraph office closed, Cecil wanders the town looking for a phone and is offered one by the fascist Danioni—who then eavesdrops on the call. Cecil phones his brother in England and asks him to send the Rubens to Italy; even if it’s not authentic, Cecil thinks he can sell it.
Charmed by Danioni’s generosity, Cecil then brings him back to the hotel for some reciprocal hospitality—to Bella’s horror, given that Danioni wants to blackmail her. Count Albani, the Oxford-educated Italian staying at the hotel, is asked to join Danioni and Cecil for tea. Both he and Danioni tell Bella that she could easily sell afternoon tea to the local Italians. Despite her demurral, Danioni insists on bringing customers to her.
Albani notices Bella’s dislike of Danioni and warns her to tolerate him—he will become a difficulty if she does not. Albani also offers to plan the tea menu with Bella’s daughter Alice, thus providing an Italian perspective. Bella loves the idea.
The Italian-English team of Paola and Constance set up a picnic on the beach in the heat while Lucian and the Drummond-Wards explore town—after Julia forced Rose to change outfits, of course. Julia’s disapproval also prevents Lucian from joining his niece Lottie for a swim; her nanny Constance paddles with her instead. (Constance has some connection to another child: she carries a locket with a picture of a child.) Lucian later lets Constance try her hand at drawing while Rose takes a break.
The whole afternoon ends badly when Lucian gets paint on Rose’s blouse and she breaks down as a result. Julia insists they leave immediately—which means taking the vehicle while Lucian and the others must walk back. Lucian is stifled by the Drummond-Wards and judgmental of Rose, but Constance defends Rose.
Lucian has a happier evening, when he meets the tennis star Pelham Wingfield at the hotel’s cocktail hour. Pelham and his wife—who belittles his talent—have just arrived, and Lucian is a fan.
Cecil uses the cocktail hour to tempt Jack with mention of his grandfather’s Rubens. The next day, Jack takes Cecil for a drive and they discuss the painting. It’s not signed or titled, but Cecil is sure they can come to an agreement, no matter its authenticity.
Jack’s partner Claudine joins Anish, Alice, and Bella at church—Lucian lost his faith after the war, so he doesn’t attend. Danioni greets people at the door but shuns Anish and Claudine, both people of color. Bella has brought everyone there so that she can talk to Danioni. There were no food deliveries to the hotel in the morning, and Billy could only find some victuals by begging—no one would sell to him. Bella suspects Danioni.
Confronting him, he feigns ignorance, but tells Bella that his wife likes her ring.
Alice spots the English Lady Caroline after church, who is staying in a villa nearby, but is ignored by her. Count Albani receives a warmer welcome—he was at Oxford with the lady’s uncle.
Billy brings back fish and other fruits of the sea for dinner at the hotel—he and some Italian boys fish together. Bella thanks him, and says that normal deliveries will resume tomorrow. Paola helps Betty and Constance prepare a stew with the unfamiliar fish, and though the English guests are unnerved by the prawns they all end up loving the meal.
Betty tells Paola she did them proud and gives her a hug before turning in for the night. Lucian then appears from the shadows to join Paola for a passionate turn in the kitchen.
The kitchen is later the site of more nocturnal rumblings. Bella is in the midst of writing a letter to a Henry that she won’t send, given her fear that Danioni will intercept it, when she hears noise in the kitchen. Investigating, she finds a streak of blood on the floor.
Billy was out drinking with his Italian friends when he taunted some fascists. They chased him and his friends, and while he managed to hide, one friend was caught and beaten senseless. Billy brought him back to the hotel. I didn’t know where else to take him, he tells Bella.