Luca’s guide to Sicily

Our guide Luca is tall, dark, and handsome. His English skills leave a lot to be desired but we are slowly learning to understand him. When he says “You will become crazy,” it means, we are really going to like it.
He is 35 or 36 and is to be married (reluctantly) in October. Every time he sees an attractive female guide, he sighs and says “I don’t think I’m going to marry October 4.” He especially likes blondes. Today another female attracted his attention, and he uttered, “A blonde. I must,” and ran off to talk to her.
We saw another Greek theater today. Luca loves ruins and we don’t have the heart to tell him we are ruined out. So obligingly, we listen to his pidgin English, trying to use our knowledge of Russian and French and of Greek mythology to make some sense out of his explanations.
He constantly laments about the state of affairs in Sicily in the area of ruin preservation, but the state of disrepair in which all Sicilian cities languish does not concern him. Syracuse has a potential of being a beautiful city were it not for the sorrowful state of its classic facades. The main square is more or less preserved, although not entirely – a private palace is grand but decrepit still. The huge palace would be too much to keep up with for one owner even in a wealthier country.
Churches in Sicily are history frozen in stone. On the main square, one of the churches incorporates Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Norman, Arab, and Spanish structures, which were added upon after each consecutive invasion.
The Jewish ghetto on the Ortigia Island, from which Syracuse Jews were expelled in the 15th century when Syracuse became part of Spain, is the most charming part of the city. As recent as early 1990’s, this was a red light district. Now, it is slowly undergoing gentrification, with upscale hotels, restaurants, and shops. We took a boat ride around the island on a private boat. Our captain’s English made Luca sound Oxfordian. That is if what he spoke was indeed English. His utterings consisted of disjointed butchered words and each phrase ended with a short laugh. Something like this, “Jews escaped and now only 10 Jews. Ha-ha-ha.” Considering that he looked like a mafioso hit man, it was unsettling to say the least. But he took us on a ride along a shoreline with glorious caves and caverns where water color was emerald, the stalactites were green, and the rocks – purple.
To round out the day, we went to a traditional marionette theater and saw a classical Sicilian play with an extremely complicated plot. The little theater was filled mostly with English-speaking tourists who clapped eagerly altogether when the hero defeated a sea monster and chopped off the head of a hapless Saracen.


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