August in the Bay of Palermo

All over the water in the Bay of Palermo are hundreds of boats: gozzi, caiques, feluccas, each festooned with its array of lights, each with its seating for the nobility and places for the oarsmen. The sea is calm, the moon hidden behind small ragged clouds edged with violet, the boundaries between sky and water invisible in the dense blackness of a calm, still August night.

Soon the firework scaffold that rises imposingly on the shore will explode with Catherine wheels, rockets and fountains of light that will rain down over the sea. In the background Porta Felice seems like a Christmas crib all strewn with oil lights. To the right the Cassaro Morto, the dark outline of the Vicaria, the low houses of the Kalsa, the massive facade of the Steri Palace, the grey domes of Santa Maria della Catena, the square wall of the Castello by the sea, the long stark building of San Giovanni de’ Leprosi. Suddenly from a maze of dark crooked lanes thousands of people are pouring out towards the sea.

The Silent Duchess, by Dacia Maraini, pp. 118-119

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