29 March 2013

To the Sicilians: Sebastiano and Anna at the B&B Federica, Noto

I was pretty happy with all of the B&Bs and hotels we stayed in in Sicily but the B&B Federica in Noto was extraordinary, in no small part because of Sebastiano and Anna who run the place. We had arrived in Noto after dark, with a harrowing drive down a narrow street, around a hairpin turn that required a three-point turn, up to bollards above a staircase, and down another narrow street. That's iPad mapping for you. They may give the streets and intersections and sometimes the direction of traffic but they don't give you more than a hint about the width of the street. Christie stayed with the parked car while I went out on foot to find the B&B Federica. No answer at the door so I went to find a phone booth and actually found one about halfway between the B&B and the car. I got an answer at the number and got started on the conversation when the time ran out. Fortunately the connection stayed while I fed the phone another coin. I told Sebastiano that I had found the B&B and would meet him there in five minutes. OK. I looked at the room and said we wanted it for one night. All of that took about an hour. Meanwhile, Christie was on the iPad, learning that white smoke had risen from the Vatican chimney and that the papal announcement would be made at 8 pm. We moved the car closer to the B&B and got our luggage into the room. Sebastiano recommended the Trattoria Ducezio, just up the main street from the B&B. The TV was on and the captioning told us that Francesco would be a pope "dei poveri e dei più vulnerabili" (the poor and more vulnerable). The pizza was satisfying. Early signs are that Francesco will be pretty good too.

This was the view from the stoop of our room that greeted us the next morning. Our room had its own door on the Ronco Re Giovanni (the Ronco is off the Vico which is off the Via Ducezio). Ducezio, by the way, was an early king of the Sicilians, 5th century B.C.E. That's Sebastiano's motorcycle; they keep the car in a garage somewhere, probably out in the wider-street part of town.
That gray building in the background was described by Sebastiano as "abandonata" so I'm going to buy it and turn it into my studio apartment and let Sebastiano and Anna do the extra space as more rooms for the B&B .... just as soon as I win the lottery. I'll keep a dovecote so the birds don't feel abandoned.

Sebastiano was studying English and really loved learning new words and phrases and ways of saying things, perhaps even more than we wanted to learn Italian. Anna had less English but was more intuitive about gestures and expression. So we got on fine. After our first day in the Noto area, we decided we'd like to stay another night which was possible. Traveling before Holy Week meant the B&Bs were in low season and we were often the only guests. Sebastiano helped us with general directions and ideas about places to visit. We decided that we'd stay another night in Noto and used it as a hub for Siracusa rather than moving to a B&B in Siracusa. We both liked Noto much more than Siracusa which is more touristic and neater. Noto has a bit of grit. Maybe we didn't give Siracusa a full chance but we loved Noto. We are regulars even: we went back to the Trattoria Ducezio and ordered a pizza "uno per due" (one for two); the waitress said "like last night?" The second one had rocket salad on top. That's arugula and it really hit the spot.

Here's to Sebastiano and Anna and the B&B Federica in Noto:
More pictures of Noto can be seen here.

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