Le Lumie is a one-of-a-kind bed and breakfast, secreted in a blink-and-you’ve-missed-it courtyard close to the imposing baroque Duomo di S. Giorgio in Modica. With just three understated modern rooms, each elegantly colour-themed, it’s a genuine keep-it-to-yourself hideaway in an enchanting secret garden.
Get this when you book through us:
One of the following, depending on season: Modica chocolates, a pot of organic honey or a jar of capers
Double rooms from £96.98 (€110), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €1.00 per person per night on check-out. Le Lumie is unable to accept payment by credit card.
Rates include breakfast. Children under three go free.
Le Lumie’s gardens are the main event – a smartly landscaped courtyard of terracotta tiles and sweeping stone walls. There’s a small wooden table and a handful of deckchairs – ideal for lazy days in the sun.
At the hotel
Free WiFi, kitchen area (to make tea and coffee). In rooms: TV, minibar, air-conditioning.
Our favourite rooms
All three of Le Lumie’s rooms are simply and cleanly decorated, differentiated by splashes of colour. Although the blue room is the largest, we like the medium-sized brown room with its elegant wallpaper, characterful a stack of antique suitcases, little balcony looking out over the terracotta rooftops, and the white-painted rafters.
Stash some binoculars in your bag so you can scout out the incredible vistas in more detail.
Extra beds can be provided for €30 a night. Cots can be provided for free.
The closest airport is Comiso (www.soaco.it), 88km from the hotel, a 90-minute drive away; Catania Fontanarossa is also close by, 114km from the hotel. British Airways (www.ba.com) flies here all year. AST (www.aziendasicilianatrasporti.it) buses run to Modica, where you'll be within a 10-minute walk of Le Lumie (the bus journey is just over two hours).
The nearest train station is in Modica, a five-minute drive from Le Lumie, from where you can reach Syracuse in under two hours. It’s possible to get to the Italian mainland without leaving your train; the carriages simply load onto a ferry across the Strait of Messina. See Trenitalia (www.trenitalia.com) for train times and prices, but railways don’t cover the whole island.
Le Lumie is linked to Syracuse and Catania by the E45 and is half an hour from the coast. There's free parking near the hotel.
Worth getting out of bed for
Le Lumie is just 200m from Modica's historic centre, so you're never short of museums to muse in, restaurants to rest in, or trattorias to, er, trat in.
Head to Taverna Nicastro (+39 0932 945884) in Modica for simple but excellent Italian fare – the owners are so confident in their menu, you can even watch it being made in the open-plan kitchen. Nearby, Locanda del Colonnello is more swish for smarter evenings: have the mackerel with fennel and orange, or the rabbit stew on chillier days. Taverna Migliore (+39 3384 981656) is typically Sicilian, and the friendly local crowd are testament to its quality. For light bites and live music, Momois the perfect choice; catch one of their intimate concerts in the piazza.
There are worse ways to begin married life than in the searing Sicilian summer sun. Everything from here on is likely to be downhill. Not our stay at Le Lumie though – even with expectations as high as the city steps we’re struggling over. We’re halfway through a long-awaited Italian honeymoon and we’re lost for the second time this holiday. Once is forgivable, twice is vow-testing. Alas, the navigational gods have it in for us and, what on first impressions appeared to be a mildly calf-straining flight of steps, has morphed into a mountain. With every step I take, our abandoned chariot (left lonely on the main road) seems ever more desirable; Mr Smith ever less so. My new Greek husband is in dire need of strong coffee, strong whisky, a chair in the shade, an ice-cold shower and a 40-pack of George Karelia cigarettes – none of which look likely to appear soon.
Adding to the confusion is Modica’s architectural jostle of winding streets and nougat-coloured, carbon-copy houses. From the road, you can’t gauge how high this higgledy-piggledy city rises. Of course, there’s nothing as sensible as simple signs or numbers. A tiny three-bedroom bed and breakfast hidden among the terracotta rooftops of Modica, Le Lumie has only been open since March 2008, and it’s ensconced in a pristine private courtyard that’s all too easy to miss if you’re passing by, and is still undiscovered by all but a lucky few. When we eventually stumble up to the hotel, Mr Smith gets down on his knees, kisses the door and sings a song of celebration.
Mr Smith nearly gets a black eye when owner Annamaria throws the door wide open with an exclamation. Federica is close behind. This mother-daughter team are as fast-talking, eye-flashing and hand-waggling as you’d expect native Sicilians to be, and we couldn’t feel more welcome. Mamma doesn’t speak English, but she instantly takes a shine to Mr Smith. Taking in our crumpled clothes and puffy, luggage-ruined hands, Federica earns immediate access to our good books by detailing very clearly, very slowly, how best to access the hotel by car. For once, I put aside my default reaction – nodding, smiling and thinking of cannoli – and actually listen.
Simple, stylish, and double-take-inducingly cheap, Le Lumie has rooms starting at €100 a night. Yet we know we’re in good hands: the owners won their hospitality stripes running the nearby Torre d’Oriente – a romantic modern restaurant celebrated for its seafood and glorious views of the city. After Modica’s mediaeval architectural sprawl, a tour of the hotel’s contemporary good looks come as something of a surprise. Interiors are crisp, white and airy, and each of the three bedrooms is decorated around a different colour theme: purple, blue and brown. Design details for us include beamed ceilings and strips of patterned wallpaper, and a slick little ensuite bathroom.
Chocolatey as an Easter egg, our room is also so tranquil that a bed ‘inspection’ soon turns into slumber – cue loud snoring from this Mrs Smith. Obviously, because I am sleeping, I am unaware of this, Mr Smith who is busy brewing more fresh coffee (his fourth that day; a blood sample would reveal a most exciting Lavazza blend), gleefully reports back later. It’s the soundtrack to his swotting up on our city from a pocket library of guidebooks.
A neatly concealed power shower washes away post-nap weariness and I stroll onto the flowery patio to find Mr Smith sitting studiously at a little table in the sunshine. Mr Smith surreptitiously slides his crib notes under a sun hat, and starts casually dropping some Modica tips as though he’s a local. Where to find the best pizza? How to zip around on a Vespa? Where to gorge on tiramisù? Soon it’s time for Mr Smith to put his money where his mouth is, and we stroll into town, happy, hungry and headed for La Gazza Ladra.
Amid this Michelin-starred restaurant’s pill-white, black-chaired elegance, we embark on a culinary orgy. After a laboratory-worthy parade of espumas, froths, cubes, textures, clouds, test tubes and quenelles, this Mrs Smith and mum-to-be has soon enough eaten too much – either the baby is on its way or too many petits fours have been consumed. Slowly, we waddle back and clamber clumsily into bed, vowing never to eat again.
The next morning, we wake with an urgent lust for croissants, which must be satisfied immediately. Thankfully, Annamaria obliges, loading our table outside with fruit-filled pastries and buttery pains au chocolat plucked from the local bakery, along with a mini market stall of fruit and more steaming coffee, practically inhaled by Mr Smith. From our garden perch, we eye up Modica and try to outdo each other with stories of what sights these ancient stones have seen.
Mamma re-appears, and with one flash of his black eyes, Mr Smith catches her attention (Annamaria and Federica live just across the courtyard, so they’re always there for the asking). Soon they’re off again, absorbed in a conversational tennis match played out in Greek and Italian. The lovely expression ‘una faccia, una razza’ (‘one face, one race’) rings true. Lots of map-stabbing and ‘Gree-talian’ chatter results in a recommendation for the day: the riserva naturale at Pino d’Aleppo.
It’s about an hour’s drive to the nature reserve (well, it is when you’re good at getting lost), so it’s a relief when we finally stumble out of the car and stretch our legs in such scenic surroundings. Mr Smith and I go off-track and, after some sweaty walking, we stumble upon hiking gold: a human-less haven of white sand and glass-clear waters. Stretched out on our own private ‘beach’, Mr Smith and I are as content as newlyweds could be. Le Lumie’s prescription for a happy marriage? Simple: sun, sleep and a generous dose of coffee.