Montalbano, between fiction and reality among precious testimonies of a Late Baroque

Testimonies from the territory

Where, if not in Sicily could Andrea Camilleri find inspiration for his famous stories? A series of places clustered around Ragusa in the southeastern part of the island, in Ibla, Scicli, Modica, Ispica, Punta Secca and small seaside villages: the Sicily of the “Inspector Montalbano “. A strip of land stretching toward the sea made up of superb Baroque churches, noble palaces whose balconies are supported by grotesque masks, amazing landscapes and breathtaking views. It is here that Camilleri through amusing allusions, describes in his novels ways of doing and saying, virtues and defects, vices and virtues, certainties and contradictions, passions and values of this Sicily and its inhabitants.

Vigata is the fictional name of the town in which Camilleri sets his novels, and Vigata exists. It is all these cities put together, the baroque streets of Ragusa, Modica, Scicli, the natural beauty and sea of Ispica and Santa Croce Camerina.

It is exciting to retrace the same country roads lined with dry stone walls, the sight of the farms, carob trees and pastures, on which Commissioner Montalbano in his gray Fiat would travel between locations of various crimes. So, in Ragusa, in the historic district of Ibla, declared UNESCO Heritage, Cathedral Square, with the majestic and slender Duomo di San Giorgio, one of the most beautiful in Sicilian Baroque, becomes the town square imagined by Andrea Camilleri, where the commissioner often strolls and has coffee outside the office. In the same square is the Circolo di Conversazione, a place where the medical examiner, Dr. Pasquano, who is fond of cannoli alla ricotta, likes to play cards, and then Piazza Pola home of the Vigata Police Station for a few series.

A short distance from the city, nestled in the countryside the magnificent Donnafugata Castle becomes the boss’s house Balduccio Sinagra. One episode in particular is “The Trip to Tindari.” with the discovery of Mr. and Mrs. Griffo in the labyrinth located within the castle grounds. The castle is a sumptuous aristocratic mansion from the late 1800s. On three floors, it has more than 120 rooms, about 30 of which can be visited, and an 8-hectare park.

The city of Vigata continues in Scicli, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2002.

The city’s town hall is the Vigata police station, where the commissioner’s office is based, the mayor’s room becomes the quaestor’s room of Montelusa and the beautiful Francesco Mormina Penna street, the late Baroque heart of Scicli is the set of many dialogues between the commissioner and his closest collaborators, Mimì Augello and Giuseppe Fazio. In Ispica, the short stories “Paper moon”, in which we glimpse square of Santa Maria Maggiore with his loggia, in the scene where the commissioner goes to a jewelry store while investigating Angelo Pardo, and “The Sand Track“, where Montalbano walked with Inspector Fazio in Piazza Santissima Annunziata To discuss clandestine racing.

Moving toward the seaside resorts, in Sampieri the ruins of the Fornace Penna, a former brick factory, now a monument of industrial archeology is the mythical Mannara. In the stories described as an infamous location where illegal trafficking is intertwined with prostitution and mysterious disappearances as in the episode “The Shape of Water.”

Marinella and its waterfront are in reality Puntasecca, one of Santa Croce Camerina‘s best-known seaside resorts. Life here is accompanied by the sound of frothy waves in clear sunrises and beautiful sunsets.

A surprisingly intense blue sea and a small harbor dominated by a large snow-white lighthouse built in 1858 at the behest of the Bourbon government. Here Camilleri sets the commissioner’s private life. Opposite Torre Scalambri, an ancient medieval fortress from 1593, on the beach is Montalbano’s famous house, in reality an elegant B&B, with a large terrace overlooking the sea and where he often dines with his fiancée Livia.

Here, Montalbano is able to clear his head of all thoughts with a swim; here is Adelina, Montalbano’s “personal” cook, who delights and pampers him with her very Sicilian recipes.

In Puntasecca there is also “Enzo a mare,” the trattoria with a wooden terrace on the beach, frequented by Inspector Montalbano for his meditative and solitary lunches or gallant ones. Nearby are the beautiful beaches of Caucana, Casuzze, Marina di Ragusa and Donnalucata whose streets and harbors have turned into sets for “heinous” crimes.

Finally, in Modica, a Baroque city, UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2002 and capital of the distinctive Igp chocolate, is the bus stop where the Commissioner picks up Livia upon arrival in Vigata .

In the background of so many shots the splendid Duomo di San Giorgio a Modica alta e la chiesa di San Pietro, in lower Modica, both baroque jewels.. Duomo di San Giorgio si affaccia su un grande giardino pensile in cui, in una parte, è stata ambientata la casa del Dr. Pasquano and where one of the scenes from the episode “Artist’s Touch” in which Inspector Montalbano, as Pasquano himself says, goes to “break their cabbasisi“.

An itinerary through the places of Inspector Montalbano is full of emotions and is an opportunity to immerse oneself in the most authentic Baroque Land, getting to know its places, culture, traditions and sea but also the smells and flavors that characterize it.

Montalbano’s places have been included in the Book of Symbolic Spaces (collective memory). The places have been part of the UNESCO-protected Intangible Heritage of the Region of Sicily since 2014.

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