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A summer night of love and music at Segesta

Posted by Suzanne on 05 Aug 2016



The 'loveliest' Greek temple

Early last month, after a few quiet days in the light filled port city of Trapani, my travelling companion and I started back towards Palermo to spend a night close by the Greek temple of Segesta.


We pulled off the A29 and headed towards, what John Julius Norwich has called, Sicily’s ‘loveliest’ ancient Greek temple. I glimpsed the top of the temple golden in the 31 degrees C heat on a cloudless blue day.

The heat was dry. It was nice to be inland.


A tiny place to stay

We booked into a tiny two room B&B, Villa Palmeri, on the top of a gentle rise with an uninterrupted view to the incomplete, yet faultless 5th century BC Doric temple set in the unspoiled countryside.

Antonella, the owner, greeted us and showed us the rooms. We chose the smaller one opening to the garden with a view to the temple, a washing line strung between trees and two orange sun lounges perfectly positioned facing the temple.

To sleep the night so close to the Greek temple of Segesta with a glorious 3rd century Greek theatre nearby on the very top of the next hill was my idea of near perfect Sicilian travel.


The setting 

With a backdrop of soaring mountains, green valleys and the Tyrrhenian Sea the theatre was the ideal setting for a night of music and love from the Elizabethan age, in a performance called, ‘Shakespeare on Love’. (The production was part of the Calatafimi Segesta Festival Dionisiache 2016, which runs for 2 months finishing September the 4th.)

It was Antonella who told us that ‘Shakespeare’ was on that evening. We were pleased: a room with a view to the temple of Segesta, and some Shakespeare in an ancient Greek theatre on a clear, clear night in the Sicilian summer.


Shepherds, a garden and a view

Before the evening of ‘Shakespeare on Love’: I sat in a small garden under pine trees; read a little and looked to an unspoiled Greek temple beneath the Sicilian sun; I noticed shepherds in the fields below as they slowly moved their flock to higher ground and we had enjoyed a really good Sicilian lunch in a remote restaurant up a dirt road about 20 minutes or so around the back of the temple. (The owner, like a character out of a Sicilian Western and the food, are a story on their own!)



A night of love, song and music from the time of Shakespeare

That night we caught the bus up the steep road to the theatre with a small group of Shakespearean enthusiasts. We took a cushion from the Italian Red Cross for a donation at the theatre’s entry and found a couple of spots on the stone hewn seats.

A small, open air Greek theatre, carved out of a mighty hill, set with a harpsicord before a spellbinding backdrop, and the quiet of a group of 40 or so theatre goers was a bit of magic.

For an hour or so, in the fading summer light, we enjoyed ‘an emotional journey into the story of love’ and music during the Elizabethan age with three artists.

Soprano Picci Ferrari sang passionate Elizabethan love songs (by English composers of Shakespeare’s time, including John Dowland and Thomas Morley) in English; the ‘elegant’ and ‘charming’ (to borrow David McNamee’s words) sound of the harpsicord was played by Basilio Timpanoro; and Irene Timpanoro narrated Shakespearean texts (noted in the programme), in Italian.


Emotion, a stray dog and golden light

Her narration was rich and stirring. With my high school knowledge of Shakespeare and my rudimentary Italian I was lost at times but happily so; content to be carried along by the pure emotion and intensity of Irene Timpanaro’s narration, the moving Elizabethan love songs, and a setting from antiquity in the silence of the Sicilian countryside.

A stray dog (captured in the photos) wandered onto the stage with ease and rested quietly on the floor while the artists continued. All went on as if he was meant to be part of the performance. Finally he was coaxed off stage.

And back at Villa Palmeri we enjoyed a pizza and a cold beer in the garden looking to the 'loveliest' temple uplit.





Edited 6/8/2016

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