Sicily – October 5, 2015

There’s a short circuit somewhere. My MacBook vibrates as if its aluminum surface were alive. Electricity seems to leak out of everything in Sicily. Yet, is my personal energy source recharged? I think not, despite a night of well-deserved sleep. I feel sorry for the parents in equal measure to bitter personal privation.

Alice and I meet for breakfast and contemplate a slow start. No hurry. Destination – Noto. A stop on the way in Ragusa is the planned. Lunch, perhaps; gelato, certainly. First, we collect her laundry, releasing her from t-shirt sink washing and gamy trouser wearing. Her pants come back damp and linty. Villa Trigona has been a very pleasant inn, and probably on weekdays would be baby-free. Genial men from Afghanistan and South Sudan work long days at the inn in every capacity. I’m terribly curious, but can’t get up the nerve to attempt an awkward conversation through a convoluted language barrier.

Alice’s satellite of remote authority insists we drive the most direct possible way: it doesn’t take into account the perils inherent in its single-mindedness. Automotive vulnerability is a given on these Sicilian byways.

Ragusa has two parts, unlike Gaul. We are compelled to negotiate the unprepossessing, hectic, and sprawling Ragusa Superiore in order to enter the enchantment of Ragusa Ibla, the old town. Walking around the twisting cobblestone streets and stairways to heaven is deliciously disorienting. The sun sheds magic photons on the tile-roofed houses and uplifts the magnificence of Duomo di San Giorgio. We cap it off with an exquisite gelati in the piazza at the foot of the Duomo.

At last, we come to rest in Noto, in the southeast corner of the island. This citta is the apotheosis of Sicilian Baroque architecture. After the catastrophic earthquake of 1693, Noto (Antica) was abandoned and rebuilt 14 kilometers away, according to a pleasing grid pattern. The new construction used the local honey-colored tufa, a porous form of limestone. Noto is universally referred to as il giardino di pietra, the garden of stone.

Getting the fucking Fiat parked requires the not unfamiliar contortions, but once we’re settled at the Hotel Porta Reale, a stroll up the luminous main thoroughfare has us muttering and cooing and not taking photos. The Porta Reale is a triumphal arch built in the 19th century to honor their visiting ruler, Ferdinand the Second, King of the Two Sicilies. It features the three sculpted symbols of Noto, a tower for strength, a dog for loyalty, and a pelican for self-sacrifice. The pelican’s a head-scratcher. The hotel reserves us a table at a trattoria. I order far too much food. A group of three dashingly gay gentlemen sitting behind us have elaborately garnished cocktails delivered from some other bar. Certamente.

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