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Sicily Guide > Catania province

CALTAGIRONE

Caltagirone, built between Erei and Iblei Mountains, is famous throughout the world for its pottery. Thanks to the abundance of the excellent quality of clay in the area and a thousand-year-old tradition Caltagirone is considered the capital of Sicilian ceramics. The origins of ceramics dates the pre-historical times, but its name derives from the Arabic "qal'at-al-ghiran" that means "Castle of vases". Over the centuries styles and techniques methods were modified and refined by the many dominations: Greek, Cretan and Arab. But the period of greatest splendour can be considered under the Normans and the Swabians, when Caltagirone became a centre for the production of ceramics. After the earthquake in 1693, that almost razed to the ground the town, Caltagirone was rebuilt rapid in the Baroque style. Nowadays, the ceramics are everywhere - along the walls, bridges, balconies also in ancient or modern buildings; the ceramics, that celebrate the yellow of the sun, the green of the gardens and the blue of the sky in its pottery, make Caltagirone the jewel of the central Sicily. In order to protect its splendid Baroque building and churches, the town has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.


The Vittorio Emanuele Public Garden

The Caltagirone Public Garden, to locals known as "The Villa Comunale", is a "green island" of particularly beauty. It was designed by the architect Giovanni Battista Basile in the mid-1800s and framed on an English garden model. The side that faces via Rome is marked by balustrade embellished with vases decorated with ominous, diabolic faces, alternating with green pine cones and majolica light stands. A vast number of pathways run though the garden; its open areas are decorated by ceramic statues, vases and fountains. In one open area stands impressive Arab-style bandstand, decorated in Moorish style majolica. On the hillside of the Public Garden stands Teatrino (Little Theatre), where is housed Museo della Ceramica.   


Regional Ceramics Museum

The Museum is located in a building of 50’s, after some refurbishment works in 1965 it was opened as Museum. The main entrance let us appreciate the artistic value of a portal from 19 th century, a scenic architecture of balconies and stairways with pottery decorations. Nowadays, this is the only Sicilian Institution that documents ceramics production and the production of pottery, figures, tiles, etc. The museum is articulated in three sections, where ceramics of various ages are exhibited, from the pre-historical age till the beginning of the 20 th century. It illustrates not only productions of the workshop of Caltagirone but also of other places of the island. Over 2500 items allow to follow the historical, technical and artistic development of Sicilian ceramics.

Location: Via Giardino Pubblico
Info: 0933 58418/423
Opening hours: All days 9:00 - 18:30
Ticket: Full price – 4,00 €; Reduced price - 2,00 €

Staircase of Santa Maria del Monte

The 142-step monumental Staircase of Santa Maria del Monte is one of the best-known attractions in Caltagirone. The staircase was built in the 1606 by the architect Giuseppe Giacalone in order to join the upper and the lower parts of the town. It was originally a staircase with 150 steps, but in the 1843 the entire structure was remade by the architect Salvatore Marino who reduced the number of steps to 142. The rarity is that each step is decorated with polychrome majolica tiles, using various geometrical patterns, floral, animal and decorative motifs. In religious or civil festivity occasions to see the staircase is a must, because a spectacular manifestation is represented.

At the top of the monumental staircase there is the Mother Church of S. Maria del Monte; its altar is graced with a 13 th century panel painting of the Madonna of Conadomini.

The Cathedral of San Giuliano

At the beginning of 1300  it was one of the richest churches in Caltagirone. The church was built during the Norman domination and dedicated to San Giuliano. Unfortunately, the earthquakes in 1542 and 1693 badly damaged it, and, today, the remains of the ancient church are kept at the Regional Museum of Ceramics of Caltagirone. In 1816 the church of San Giuliano became "Cathedral". The façade of Cathedral built in art nouveau, is dominated by an imposing ceramic dome and the steeple that reaches 48 meters high. Inside the church is divided into the nave and two aisles. The vault of Cathedral is enriched by a series of frescoes, painted by Giuseppe Vaccaro in 1862. In one of the side-altars there is magnificent wooden statue of Dead Christ, which you may see on Good Friday when it passes by in procession together with the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows. Among many extraordinary art works found in the Cathedral, there are also a 15th c. wooden crucifix - Madonna and Child (1594), after the style of Gagini, the baroque wooden choir which once belonged to the Church of San Bonaventura.


The Civic Museum at the Bourbon Prison
The Civic Museum is housed in the building that used to be a prison for about 100 years during the Bourbon period. It is a square and austere building, built by the Syracuse architect Natale Bonajuto in 1782. The museums contains various prehistoric and historic material, coins, sculptures and painting, some by respectable local artists like the brothers Giuseppe and Francesco Vaccaro.
Location: Via Roma 10
Info: 0933 31590
Opening hours: Monday closed; Tuesday – Saturday 9:30 – 13:30; Sunday 9:30 – 12:30
Ticket: Free entrance


FEAST DAYS   
- 24 th & 25 th July: Feast of San Giacomo
In the feast of San Giacomo, patron of the Caltagirone, one can admire the "Scala Illuminata di Santa Maria del Monte ". The Scala di Santa Maria del Monte is illuminated by 4000 candles and form a large carpet of lights and colours. The evenings of the "Scala Illuminata di Santa Maria del Monte" are animated by a show of great charm. As well, the heart of the town becomes an open-air theatre.
The staircase is illuminated again on August 14 th and 15 th for the solemnity of Maria SS. Del Ponte, because the staircase belongs to the neighbouring church named after Her.


- 3 rd Sunday in May & 1 st Sunday in June: Scala Infiorata

In the months of May and June, the town celebrates its Scala Infiorata festival dedicated to the Madonna di Conadomini. Scala di Santa Maria del Monte is completely covered with thousands flowers and plants, which create a beautiful series of vivid geometric patterns climbing up the staircase.

- December / January: Christmas and the Nativity Scenes exhibition
Caltagirone is famous for the old tradition of the Christmas Nativity Scenes. During the exhibition one can see the latest  creations of the local craftsmen as well as historical pieces normally kept in the town museum. This tradition is celebrated annually from 1 st December to the end of January.
FLAVOURS AND AROMAS
- Maccu verde - sort of soup with fresh beans, fennel and onion
- Pecorino cheese
- Sweets from ricotta and almond paste

- Extra-virgin olive oil of the Hyblean Mountains DOP

HOW TO REACH

By car: from Catania / SS417 Caltagirone-Gela, exit Caltagirone Nord; from Palermo / A19, exit Enna and after SS117bis;  from Syracuse / SS417 or SS287

By train: from/to Catania
Call Centre - 892021
www.fsitaliane.it/


By bus: from Catania & Syracuse - AST, from Palermo - SAIS

AST – 840 000323
www.aziendasicilianatrasporti.it
SAIS – 0935 500902
www.saisautolinee.it

By plane: the nearest airport is "Fontanarossa" in Catania (70km)

TOURIST INFORMATION
Location: Piazza Municipio - Galleria L.Sturzo
Info: 0933 41365
Opening hours: Monday – Saturday 9:00 – 19:00


 
 
 
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