Most visited city in the Val di Noto in Sicily for its artistic heritage of great value, best known as the homeland of Sicilian ceramics.
The name of Caltagirone is difficult to interpret. The first part of the name, that is calta-, certainly comes from the Arabic qalʾat which means castle or fortress, while the remaining part according to al-ḡīrānithat is “castle of the caves”, due to the numerous caves scattered throughout the territory. Others trace it back to the Greek past, therefore “fortress of Gelone”, “fortress of Gerone” or “fortress of the Gelesi”, or to the presence of Ligurian colonies, therefore “fortress of the Genoese”.
And it is from here that in September, after a few weeks off, we resume our tours to discover the Sicilian beauties, with a lot of energy and desire to have new experiences: Caltagirone, famous for its ceramics but which actually also holds a lot of history, culture and traditions of a Sicily to be discovered!
On this occasion, our hosts are Tina and Ben, managers of a property located in the center of Caltagirone, in a historic building that now houses many small businesses that give new life to this place. The property has 5 rooms that overlook the famous staircase of S. Maria del Monte, overlooking the whole city. From here the view is spectacular, you have an overview of everything the city has to offer
After becoming acquainted with our room, we begin our visit through the streets of Caltagirone, walking and admiring the numerous churches, the covered theater, and the small streets that intersect for the historic center called “carruggi”, due to the association of the city with that of Genoa.
Between one stop and another, we visit the Church of Santissimo Salvatore, inside which there is a beautifully animated nativity scene, in terracotta, very large that takes up the ancient crafts. It is so fascinating that one would want to observe it for hours. Caltagirone is, in fact, also the home of the nativity scene. There is a museum that houses over 2.500 specimens, of different shapes and materials, from all over the world.
Afterward, we visit the museum of the “water whistle”, small works of art of various shapes and sizes: from the sacred to the fabulous world of children, to abstract forms with multiple colors. For fans, it is really interesting! The same museum also hosts a free of charge photographic exhibition.
Here in Caltagirone, the museums are free to enter but, for those who wish, it is possible to leave an offering that allows them to maintain the activities.
It’s lunchtime and we stop for a quick lunch before meeting Enzo, a man of great culture and wealth of soul who is waiting to introduce us to his ambitious project.
We enter his world, a ceramic workshop and laboratory overflowing with objects, from the oldest to the most modern. Enzo enchants us with his stories, from the extraction of clay to the creation of ceramic objects, but above all with the explanation of how the latter was used by our ancestors. The time available is limited but we cannot fail to take advantage of this meeting to visit his house-museum located above the laboratory: here, using most of his artifacts but also antiques and donations, he created a typical house of the time. We really went back in time, reliving even some memories of our childhood. Bedroom, study, kitchen all suggestive and perfect! Glad to have met him, we say goodbye and off to another appointment. But since we weren’t able to visit all of his labs, we promise that we will return to find him.
After this appointment, we have the honor and pleasure of meeting a person who has made history in Caltagirone but we prefer to keep this meeting jealously in our memory.
It is already late afternoon and another historic residence awaits us: that of “Don Luigi Sturzo”, where even today everything has remained unchanged as it originally was and where books and newspapers are kept, that recall the events of this man who became a priest in 1894 and that from 1897 onwards began to be active both in the civil and political sphere for the good of the community.
The day was really intense but we still have one last appointment. It is not the first time we meet the Pupi but every time it’s really impressive! The puppets are a Sicilian treasure, full of passion, art, and history, and thanks to the last puppeteers who continue to keep them alive with love, they are still found today. This is the oldest theater in Sicily, born in 1918: over 100 years of history that is carried out with love and dedication by an entire family. The theatrical performances will resume shortly and we are looking forward to attending the show!
After this meeting, it is time to say goodbye to our guests, who have accompanied us to the discovery of Caltagirone, far and wide, throughout the day. And even if we feel the need to go to sleep, we allow ourselves dinner and chat in total relaxation in a nice restaurant in the historic center.
As always, we get up early, have breakfast, and then visit the exhibition of the Civic Senate of Caltagirone where Alessandro is waiting for us, showing us and explaining in detail the use of the liveries on display, typical costumes of the Senate. Each costume carries with it a history and a figure of belonging, in addition to the wonderful manufacture, very precious fabrics with hand-embroidered gold and silver inlays: the story of an elegant and regal ancient Caltagirone. After the interesting visit, we say goodbye to Alessandro and continue towards Villa Patti, a 19th-century villa that houses treasures and works of art of the nobility of Caltagirone. Among the statues, paintings, and furnishings, we see an enchanting four-poster bed donated by Countess Gaetana Bartoli Gravina, a work of art of inestimable beauty and value!
Our visit to Caltagirone is coming to an end, and since two days were not enough to discover the many hidden beauties, we promise to return, perhaps during the Christmas period when the atmosphere becomes truly magical!
We are ready for a new experience … and you?