I’m up at dawn’s crack and inspired to explore Noto in the early morning sun, camera in hand. The glow is magic. Few people are about, the old men beginning to cluster to gossip and smoke and the buskers beginning to hawk their ugly inflated pigs and tennis balls on elastic.
The beautiful buildings on Noto’s main avenue, which has three names in the course of a single kilometer, stand suffused with golden light and uninfested by midday’s dithery tourists. The grand staircase to the Duomo is empty. Most intriguing to me is the theater, a 300-seat hall built around the time of the Unification. It will open at ten o’clock. I pass a vintage store with a couple of captivating baubles in the window. When I get back to the hotel, there’s a message from Ali saying she needs a couple more hours’ sleep.
That gives me plenty of time to caffeinate at my leisure and noodle with the website. It’s nice to push off slowly. I’m all packed. The hotel will let us deposit our luggage in a corner of the breakfast room, where I then sit watching Italian pop music videos. The most memorable one involves a young woman dressed in tin foil wandering around an empty hospital while a creepy hipster dude sings into the camera. Alice appears. We drink coffee on the terrace that looks over the roofs of Noto to the hills beyond. She smokes. And off we go, to Teatro Tina di Lorenzo. It is small and it is grand, with a red velvet curtain in a gold proscenium, 72 red plush orchestra seats, three tiers of boxes, and a peanut gallery. Trompe l’oeil plasterwork covers the ceiling. Only a few theaters in Sicily run a full season of programming: Teatro Lorenzo in one.
Though it’s grown pretty steamy, Alice and I opt for déjeuner sous ficus benjamina, hoping for a wee breeze. We both order pizzas, and when they come, lean back in our chairs, groaning, “Oh, this is too much.” Too much, indeed. We clean our plates.
Our directions are straightforward, but, once off the highway and pointed into Siracusa, the hoops necessary to jump through in order to reach our hotel are medieval. If I make a misstep, the plan gets thrown into the digital hopper and we’re in ‘recalibration’ limbo. The Testy Travelers finally arrive.
A grumpy, late-afternoon exploration of Siracusa is undertaken after a quasi-restorative nap and shower in this bizarro Jacuzzi orgasmatron thing, a glass person-size cylinder with nozzles everywhere and a digital fucking dashboard. . We locate the remaining stones of the temple of Apollo and the amazing freshwater spring, mythologically ascribed to the nymph Arethusa who made the mistake of bathing in the wrong river god’s river. To avoid his aggressive attentions, she dove into the Ionian Sea, resurfacing in Sicily. The smitten deity stalked her, whereupon the goddess Artemis turned her into a spring. The spring is right at the seawall, where it gushes into the sea from a pool of papyrus and koi. Lord Nelson, whose Sicilian adventures mostly involved courting Lady Hamilton, supplied his fleet there before the Battle of the Nile in 1798.
Dinner at the Hotel Livingston is not good, but not having to make a decision was.