The other day I was with a student when I happened to look up and saw not one, but six worried faces peering in at my window. Both student and I hurried outside to see what was the matter, by whIch time at least four other people had joined the impromptu party.
But what was happening on the steps behind them? To my astonishment, I could see a tall, perplexed-looking gentleman in shorts who was obviously, given his blond hair and pallor - which admittedly might have turned an even “whiter shade of pale” after he had been propelled up the steps by another posse of six – not Sicilian. The posse stopped when they saw me and gave the poor gentleman a little push towards me.
“He’s English and he’s lost”, they explained to me in Italian. I asked my compatriot how I could help him and he explained that he had just been standing in the street trying to get his bearings when the group of eager-to-help Sicilians had come up to him and gestured to him to follow them. He was then swept along amid much enthusiastic noise. He said all he really wanted was a map and I conveyed this information to the “helpers.” That did it!
“A map?” “Yes, a map!” chorused the ever-growing crowd. Well, reader, why on earth would you want a map when there were all these locals ready to direct you [though not, of course, to anywhere you actually wanted to go]?
“Yes”, I confirmed. “He wants to go sightseeing and he needs a map.”
There followed an extremely loud and excited confabulation about where our Anglo-Saxon wanderer should get his map and suggestions included the idea that he should go to Modica Alta [high above most of the tourist sights and difficult to navigate if you don’t know it, facts which, in the opinion of Modicans, make it much more interesting] because “my wife’s third cousin runs a newsagent’s there”.
While all this was going on I, being a spoilsport, gave the stranger directions to Modica Old Town and also to the nearest bar, where I knew they had maps. I must say he looked very relieved. No doubt I will meet him again one day, still dazed and hopelessly lost in Modica.