In the province of Catania, another gem of the Sicilian Baroque stands: Caltagirone. Here the art of Ceramics developed when the area was known as Magna Grecia. It was during the Greek domination in the 8th century.
A bit of history
The activity of producing colorful pottery developed into a flourishing industry in the 10th century, with the Arab dominations. In fact, the Arabs thought about how to glaze and paint with different colors. It seems the sector was on the point to disappear. Luckily, Don Luigi Sturzo, the first Italian priest to enter politics, helped it. In fact, he decided to open the Ceramics School at the beginning of the 20th century.
The breathtaking public stairs
The symbol of Caltagirone is for sure the famous Scalinata di Santa Maria del Monte, a staircase with 142 steps, each one decorated with ceramic tiles.
The staircase starts from Piazza del Municipio, the town hall square. Then, it goes up until the Church that takes the same name. I suggest starting from the bottom in order to enjoy the view of the tiles on each step.
If you are in Sicily in August plan a visit on the 15th. In fact, for the celebration called ‘Ferragosto’ the entire staircase is filled with little candles.
On both sides of the staircase, you will find pottery shops, among which Ceramiche Failla. At the top of it, on the right stands the Church Santa Maria del Monte with its beautiful automated Nativity. Remain there for a few minutes to enjoy the passage from day to night, including a moment when rains hit the left side of the nativity landscape!
If you are here only for one day, I suggest taking the little tourist train for a nice tour around the city, the municipal garden included. It costs 5 euros per adult, but children under 10 yo only pay 2.5 euros. 99.9999% of the explanation is in Italian. The driver assured me that they can set the automatic explanation (one for all the visitors) in other languages. The moment I took the train, in August 2017, it didn’t work. So, if you are a big group, ask for an explanation in English or in your language, but be prepared to hear “Sorry, it only works the Italian one”.
Keep the ticket, because if you visit other cities, you might have a little discount on the train in that city.
Other points of interest include the public garden, decorated with wonderful statues and tails, all in ceramics, the Contemporary Art Museum, the Ceramics Museum, the Bridge dedicated to San Francesco d’Assisi, and the nearby church. I also suggest a stroll among the “carruggi”, a little street named in this way because of the Genoese domination.
You can reach Caltagirone by car or by train. There are two lines that stop here from Catania, the nearby province, and Messina.