If you are planning a trip to Sicily, do not miss spending some time in Caltagirone, most famous for its ceramics. Built on a hilltop in the province of Catania, the Baroque town of Caltagirone is located halfway between Agrigento and Siracusa, and a forty-minute drive from Catania.
Hand-painted ceramics are everywhere in Caltagirone, and you will not be able to walk down a street, enter a piazza, or turn around, without experiencing the colorful tiles created by the best ceramic artists in Sicily. You will see ceramics embedded into sides of shops and buildings, used as embellishments on bridges, walls, balconies, and of course, in the hundreds of shops in this city of 39,000. Ceramic tiles decorate every building in the old town, and the result is a color photographer’s dream.
Local production of pottery began in the second century BC, and continues today as the major industry. Besides the usual ceramic plates, clocks, tabletops, bowls, etc, you will find a selection of hand-made ceramic whistles and precepi, scenes surrounding the nativity of Christ.
The main landmark in the town is the impressive Scala di Santa Maria del Monte, an exceptional staircase of 142 steps, connecting the old city at the top to the new at the bottom. The risers of each step are uniquely painted majolica tiles, and no two have the same design. The predominant colors are typically sage green, yellow, and blue. Although it is a long walk to the top, the views are stunning. You can also stop along the way, and venture inside some of the ceramic workshops that line both sides of the staircase. Seeing the artisans at work will be an unforgettable memory.
The highlight of the summer is the Luminaria Festival, held July 24-25, celebrating the patron saint of San Giacomo. The steps are illuminated with thousands of small oil lamps to create an artistic display.
Caltagirone is home to the Regional Museum of Ceramics, although you will likely find the streets and shops more interesting. A short walk from the museum is the Giardino Pubblico, a beautiful place to relax in the shade, and enjoy the vibrant colors of the flowers in bloom, especially during the summer months.
You will find the prices for the ceramics much less expensive than similar items for sale in trendy resorts like Taormina or Positano. Caltagirone is a great place to wander the narrow streets and immerse yourself into the Sicilian culture