The first thing you notice are the houses floating in the sky. Flashes of light rise up from the water, one after another, each one an impossible feat of geometry and space that rents the physical world asunder, unclear whether it should belong to the ocean or the stars. As the bus moves further into the city and your eyesight adjusts to unseen horizons, realisation dawns: the creases above the light do not cleave the sky from the clouds, but the mountains from the sky. In England, certainly, seaside towns are not usually distracted by mountains. If this sounds familiar, perhaps you have also seen Palermo for the first time on a late evening bus journey.
As I depart the bus and find my suitcase, a man is already stood waiting for me. Even by Sicilian standards, Fabrizio Cammarata is absurdly handsome, and although he confesses to several stories of having his heart broken across the weekend to follow, one suspects it has worked both ways. In Palermo, the eyes begin to adjust to beauty as they would to the dark; by the time we’ve reached the renovated 19th Century palace that I’d be calling home for the next two days, I fear that the slightly fancier Wetherspoons pubs of Exeter and Sheffield may no longer hold the same majesty.
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