Fontana Vecchia: D.H. Lawrence in Sicily: Keith Davidson Visited Sicily This Year and Went in Search of D.H. Lawrence

Article excerpt

The writer D H Lawrence rented the top floor of a house 'out of town' from Taormina, Sicily, 1920-1922: Fontana Vecchia, on the slopes of the mountain above the town. It is now divided into two with but a patch of garden each and isolated in a dusty suburb, with blocks of flats stacked up against the mountain above and squat villas descending to the coast below--he would have hated it.

To find it: Turn sharp left out of the Porta Messina from the hubub of the Corso d'Umberto and then, past the church, drop down the Via Cappuccini to the bus stop. Opposite you'll see the road sign, 'Via David Hebert Lawrence', though the roads each side are differently named. Look a little right and you'll see a ceramic panel on an adjacent block, 'Fontana Vecchia', but that's not it--it's a 'B & B'! Turn up the road on the right, which turns left into the 'Via Fontana Vecchia'. There on the right-hand side is the old house, and at the far end you might just be able to see, above the parked cars, the small gray panel recording Lawrence's stay.

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Letter to Lady Cynthia Asquith, 7 May 1920:

We in our Fontana Vecchia are about ten minutes out of town, lovely and cool. We've had some sweltering days already--but our house with its terraces doesn't get too hot: so many green leaves.... I believe Sicily has always since Adam been run by a foreign incoming aristocracy: Phoenician, Greek, Arab, Norman, Spanish, Italian. Now it is people in hotels, and such strange fish as me....

It is very dry here--all the roses out, and drying up, all the grass cut, the earth brown. There is a lot of land, peasant land, to this house. I

have just been down in the valley by the cisterns, in a lemon grove that smells very sweet, getting summer nespoli. Nespoli look like apricots, and taste a bit like them--but they're pear-shaped. They're a sort of medlar ... they are delicious, and we've got tree-fulls. The sea is pale and shimmery to-day, the prickly pears are in yellow blossom.

... life at Fontana Vecchia is very easy, indolent, and devil-may care. …