Capizzi is clumsily spilt on the top of a high hill, it’s stone houses have been plucked out of the Middle Ages. The streets are made of tightly paved stones and tiny houses like huts huddled together to create a mosaic in different shades of charcoal. The road snakes up the hill to Capizzi reaching a peak at the head of the town before skimming down to join main street. The buildings seem abandoned in the sombre predawn as most people are asleep. The only evidence the place isn’t deserted are the hundreds of compact fiat cars bundled together in front of the houses, tightening the already slender streets. The doors, windows and miniscule balconies are like the random holes carved in ants’ nests , all the people are hibernating.
The houses of Capizzi are like makeshift shacks without many straight edges, they slouch and lean against one another. This disordered feeling is characteristic of ancient Sicily, the random passing of time has shaped each place as irregularly as destiny shapes history. This lethargic paese exists outside of time, carved out of stone it remains like a religious icon engraved into the landscape, no one knows when it was created there is only the fact it exists. It is as if I’ve stumbled onto a lost village from many eons ago, which thanks to a strange incantation continues to exist centuries behind the rest of the world.
The four-wheel drive slows down to cram itself into a spot in front of a bar, perching awkwardly on the edge of a narrow foot path leaving enough space for one car to squeeze by. Shaking off the fatigue which dreamy Capizzi has re-enforced with its inherent weariness, I stretch my legs and begin to feel ravenous.
The barista is the first to open in town and he already has half a dozen customers slurping espressos at the bar. After a cappuccino and a croissant I feel alert and invigorated. Someone at the bar notices the dog carrier perched on the top of our car and asks if we are looking for rabbits. He says it should be a good year for hunting and describes a spot under a bridge, over a dried out river bed he is positive would be a sure thing. His advice is taken with a dose of cynicism as locals are always secretive about their hunting areas and often try to mislead outsiders.
Back in the car we continue down the meandering main street of Capizzi. Turning around various curves I see handfuls of people standing outside other bars waiting for them to open, like animals slumbering upright in the dark. It is strange to see people lingering before sunrise for a coffee. I notice they are mainly older men, perhaps it was too much coffee which kept them awake until the early morning, like hopeless addicts beckoning their next caffeine fix.
Driving down the tail end of Capizzi I look back to see the cue ball-shaped street lamps illuminating the way we have already passed. Sliding down towards the pure muted daybreak, the street lights are blown out one by one as dawn takes over the night. Abandoning the town we head further into the centre of Sicily towards Cerame, a rugged area full of small wiry vegetation like the terrain from a western filmed in the Arizona desert. Here the bitumen ends suddenly, after the end of the asphalt it becomes nothing but an old trail worn into the earth by the well-worn tracks created by ancient contadino peasants with their donkey’s loaded with harvested wheat on the way to the mill.
The car rocks violently as it follows the path along the hilly landscape down to the base of a rocky gully enclosed by a makeshift fence. The vehicle is parked and a craggy pass is opened so the dogs can be liberated from their box and go searching for rabbits.