Rino reveals a new plan to Lila: since their father has so much respect for Marcello Solara, if they can convince Marcello to support the shoe-making project, their father will go along with it as well. Moreover, since Marcello is wealthy and influential, he can increase the shoe business' chances of success. Reluctantly, Lila agrees to speak to their father, and after she does, Fernando gives permission for the shoes to be displayed in the shop window.
The display of the shoes attracts little attention from customers. It does, however, prompt Marcello to ask for Lila's hand in marriage. Fernando acknowledges that she is young, and suggests a long engagement, but urges Lila to accept this offer, which would be beneficial for her and for the family. Lila refuses to do, triggering her father's anger.
Shortly after Lila receives the proposal, Elena's teacher Maestra Oliviera intervenes directly by visiting her home and urging Elena's mother to let her spend some time on Ischia to rest over the summer. Within days, Elena is staying with her teacher's cousin, Nella Incardo. She quickly revels in the freedom and tranquility she experiences there. This happy existence is disrupted however by the surprising arrival of the Sarratore family, who are staying in rooms rented out by Nella. When they arrive, Elena is disappointed that Nino is not with them, as he will be joining his family later. She is happy with the warm welcome she receives from the rest of the Sarratore family.
When Nino does arrive, he is at first very aloof, although Elena gradually draws him into intellectual discussions and debates. She is delighted with the opportunity to spend time with him. Nino begins escorting Elena and his sister Marisa out to the seashore in the evenings, and since Marisa takes the opportunity to spend time with some boys she has met, Nino and Elena are often left alone. He reminisces at one point about his early declaration of love, and admits that it was partially driven by a desire for him, Elena and Lila to always be together. This insight makes Elena jealous and she stops writing to Lila.
One night shortly before Nino is supposed to leave he confides to Elena how much he hates and resents his father, mostly because of Donato Sarratore's infidelity. Elena suggests that this is not the worst sin someone could be guilty of, and Nino kisses her. Then he tells her that he is leaving the following day, ahead of schedule.
Nino does indeed depart very early the next morning, without any good-bye, leaving Elena devastated. At the same time, Donato, who has been visiting his family sporadically between time spent at work, comes to Ischia for an extended stay. Elena finds his presence comforting and draws closer to the whole Sarratore family as she begins to recognize the similarities shared by both Nino and Lila. She writes to Lila to tell her that she will not continue to write to her, since Lila has never answered any of her letters.
Elena's geographic separation from the neighborhood when she travels to Ischia marks an emotional separation as well. She seems to thrive in this new environment, and to be on the verge of finally beginning a romantic relationship with Nino. However, this section reveals how closely tied she remains to her history and to Lila. She worries about the drama that may be unfolding in Lila's life in her absence, and she continues to feel competitive and jealous towards her friend. She wants to be the one who is more successful in love, and who is also having more adventures.
Meanwhile, Lila struggles to retain control as economics and romance become more and more intertwined. Marcello is not shy about blatantly displaying his power and privilege in order to try and make himself appealing. Lila's determination to resist the pressure to marry him shows her stubborn and strong-willed character, but by this time the novel is suggesting it may not be so easy for her to resist pressure and make her own choices.