Scicli from Montalbano’s Office
Here we are back on the coast after a wee road-trip to take in the filming locations of the fictional Italian detective; Inspector Montalbano. For the Uninitiated, Inspector Salvo Montalbano (Italian: commissario Salvo Montalbano) is a fictional character created by Italian writer Andrea Camilleri in a series of novels and short stories. It is also a TV series shown on BBC4 on a Saturday night either as Inspector Montalbano or Young Montalbano and is rather good. It is set in the fictional town of Vigata which in turn is based on the author’s home town of Porto Empledocle. We have been to Porto Empledocle and you can see why the TV company decided to shift filming to the photogenic baroque towns of Scicli, Ragusa and Modica and away from industrial Empledocle
In our first instalment we have been to all the main locations except Ragusa which we will do on Monday before we head off to meet some chums in Catania for the week. We have put the route and highlighted the locations on an interactive map. By pressing the film icons on the map you can see pictures and videos of the locations:
Click on the Map above to go Interactive
Scicli (pronounced Sheekly) is the location used for the police station where Montalbano works and for the regional police headquarters to where he get summoned when the investigations appear to be going a bit down the swanee. Scicli is one of the towns rebuilt after the 1693 earthquake and like its near neighbours Modica and Ragusa is a World Heritage Site, well one street is.
One of the advantages of visiting tourist spots completely off-season is the luxury you get of being the only people there. You also sometimes get little added bonuses like getting a private tour into the Mayor of Scicli’s office that just happens to be the room used by the Police Chief in the series. So here are some pictures of the outside and inside of the location with Inspector Tracy at her desk.
The Police Station
Scotland Yard’s finest
Just next door to the ‘Police HQ’ is the Church of Carmine which houses the painting; ‘The Christ of Burgos’. This is a picture of Christ wearing a white skirt. But as you can see below…………………………..
Christ becomes a Cup.
Our next stop is the Palace that doubles as the Regional Police HQ and we also got a private tour here including a quick hop of the ropes to show us a secret passageway where lovers used to go for their liaisons. The Palace now owned by the council is also used for civil weddings and for classical music recitals. Here are the pics:
Entrance hall. Staircase on right for nobles, staircase on left for peasants
Lovers secret Passage
Entrance to Palace. Note balustrade curved to accommodate ladies dresses, peasant balconies are straight.
The final building we visited in Scicli was the church of St Tereza which features in shot as Montalbano walks along the street where he works. Here are some other shots of Scicli that you might recognise from the TV series.
Girl on Bench
Looking towards St Tereza with Regional HQ in foreground
Altar of St Teresa
Angels with Dirty Faces
The viaduct that crosses the gorge is featured in the opening sequence is on the interactive map together with a very short video of us driving over it. It is on the SS115 between Modica and Ragusa. Here it is together with another location shot.
The Wings of the Sphinx
This is where Montalbano lives on the coast and also eats in the fish restaurant. Apart from that and a lighthouse there is not a lot to see here. It has a pleasant enough beach and a small harbour but at this time of year it is closed. The location used for his house is in fact a B&B and unfortunately it was shut so we could not get any on the balcony shots, the same applies to the restaurant.
Montalbano Residence with Fan
Punta Secca Harbour
Where he eats
We stayed overnight in Marina di Ragusa on a level piece of ground overlooking the sea on a small cliff. Marina di Ragusa is a purpose built resort a lot like Vilamoura in Portugal and like any place built for holiday makers it does not look its best with empty streets and beaches. While we were here we did drive around a bit to look at possible venues for a longer stay in the future. We knew of some campsites that open all winter in the town of Punto Braccetto and we went for a look. The campsites seemed fine but the town was a bit of a depressing hole and we crossed that off the list for any future stay.
This is the home of the Mafia boss in various episodes and they can be seen walking along the balcony having a friendly chinwag. Translated into English this castle is the lady that left although other sources dispute this and say it is a corruption of the original Arabic name for the area. Here is the woman who fled version, you can make your own minds up.
There are many local stories that try to explain the origin of the name Donnafugata, which translates from Italian roughly as ‘the fugitive woman’ or ‘the woman who fled’. Following what the name suggests, one legend claims that Queen Blanche of Navarre, widow of King Martin I of Aragon, was in hiding from Count Bernardo Cabrera who wanted to marry her and assume leadership over Sicily. She hid in Donnafugata Castle until it was taken under siege by Cabrera, during which Giovanni Moncada helped her flee and hide again in the Steri Palace in Palermo. While this story may be true, it is not from whence the castle’s name originates.
Where Queen Blanche stayed
Note catch on painting. These were false paintings in adjoining room to spy on Queen Blanche
Forgetting the Montalbano connection for a while this is quite a good castle to visit on its own merit. The rooms are decorated and furnished in period style and when we visited there was a exhibition of 8th and 19th century clothing as well as a dress of the period worn by the actress Claudia Cardinale in the film The leopard which was shot at Donnafugata.
Dress Claudia wore in ‘The leopard’
The gardens are a bit of a shambles with the only consistent flowers on offer being the common garden weed. The whole place is pretty unkempt.
Formal Gardens – I think not
There is also a stone-built maze to amuse yourself in for a time. This being Italy, a country not known for playing by the rules has had the complexity of the maze downgraded somewhat by the population placing stones on top of the walls to guide you around. But, us being English and believers in the Corinthian Spirit went round and cleared away all the offending rocks. We have been checking the news to see if any football-diving locals have been reported missing on a visit to Donnafugata.
The Maze with some guides
So here are the pictures of the outside one may recognize from the TV series.
Front of Castle
Princess in Tower
Princess and Big Tree
We finished with a drive along the coast as far as Pozzallo before returning to Sampiere. This is a fine stretch of beach where allied troops landed in WWII and now is known as the area of Mannara in the series. This is where we are staying.
Brickworks – Tuna factory in series
Love to all