Imagine that the face of someone close to you, someone you loved, had suddenly been radically altered – even taking on some of the characteristics of someone you didn’t like at all.  As I pondered this scenario in Paul Broks’ intriguing book Into the Silent Land: Travels in Neuropsychology, my thoughts turned to the new face of Casa Merlo.  The proprietors are the same, so is the stock – and the manner in which it is displayed.  And yet my reaction to the shop in its new premises is markedly changed.  Before, the shop was interesting; now, it is irresistible.

In the five years since it opened, Casa Merlo has become one of Palermo’s most interesting speciality ceramics shops.  Its previous premises in one of the old city’s beautiful historic squares, Piazza S. Francesco d’Assissi, was simple and elegant, the ceramics clearly and intelligently displayed.  But, somehow, there I always felt I was being kept at a distance.  The new premises, with its fantasy of shapes and colours reflected in mirrored and dark wood antique shelving, fires my imagination and draws me in.  The richness of the Sicilian ceramics tradition is being displayed to perfection. 

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