Exploring the beautiful late Baroque towns in the Province of Ragusa, in the footsteps of Inspector Montalbano.
When Andrea Camilleri, aged 69, began writing his bestselling Il Commissario Montalbano novels in 1994, I doubt he ever imagined that they would become a popular TV series and that his leading man, having dropped a decade or two and gained a few muscles, would be transformed into a TV star that has had many an Italian and more than a few English ladies swooning.
I have to admit I had never heard of Montalbano or indeed the actor who plays him, Luca Zingaretti, until I was about to visit Sicily for the first time. My sister is a big fan and was more than a little jealous that I’d be walking in his footsteps around the beautiful late Baroque towns in the Province of Ragusa where the series was filmed over a 14 year period. Just look at the opening credits and you’ll see images of these lovely towns clinging to hilltops in this far south-east corner of the island. Many of these towns are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and all are magical places to explore.
And even though the series has given a boost to the tourism industry here, it is still a little-visited corner of the island compared to the likes of better known Taormina, Syracuse or Palermo. Yet it’s here in this southern province that you’ll find the authentic Sicily and relatively few tourists. It’s well worth visiting for the beauty of the towns and villages, but if you are a fan of the commissario, it’s an absolute must. Organised tours are available but with a hire car you can easily travel the following route yourself and visit a number of spectacular and intriguing Montalbano filming locations.
Where is Inspector Montalbano filmed?
Listed below are some of the many locations that have been featured in the Inspector Montalbano series. From his fictional home to the fictional police HQ, these are amongst the top destinations to seek out for fans of the show who are hoping to head on holiday to Sicily.
1. Casa di Montalbano, Punta Secca
This is the commissario’s fictional home in the series and the owners have renamed it Casa di Montalbano. It’s by a lovely beach so it’s easy to spend a few hours here. There’s a little cafe across the street as well as a restaurant on the beach itself where the inspector pops in occasionally for lunch.
2. Spiaggia Sampieri
The ruins of a former tile factory at the far end of this lovely, sandy beach are the setting for several episodes. Sampieri itself is an interesting old fishing village with stone houses lining a maze of narrow cobbled streets. It is said to be one of the most picturesque villages in this part of the island.
Image credit: Luigi Nifosi | Shutterstock
3. Scicli Town Hall (and the fictional Police HQ)
Palazzo di Città, the town hall in Scicli (pictured below on the right), features as Vigata’s regional police headquarters in the series. The nearby street of Via Francesco Mormino Penna is a beautiful example of a baroque street and this as well as many other buildings and streets in the town are well worth exploring.
4. Palazzo Iacono in Piazza Italia, Scicli
The palace in Piazza Italia doubles as the regional police HQ in the fictional Montelusa. In the series this is the nearest large town to the commissario’s home town of Vigata.
5. La Grotta, Scicli
Though not featured in the series, you may want to time a visit to Scicli to coincide with lunch or even dinner at La Grotta. This restaurant serves traditional local cuisine, including a very good cavatelli alla Norma (pasta with aubergines, tomatoes and salted ricotta), the inspector’s favourite dish.
6. Viaduct of Modica
Modica’s impressive Ponte Guerreri viaduct features in the opening credits of the main series. The town itself is interesting and the alleyway below, looking up at the one of a couple of lovely churches, features in one episode. Modica is also home to the finest Sicilian chocolate, and while here a visit to Antica Dolceria Bonajuto, is a must for anyone with a sweet tooth.
7. Church of Maria delle Scale, Ragusa
The terrace in front of the church of Santa Maria delle Scala has a sweeping view of the old town below, which occasionally features in the series. As do the stairs from here leading down to the main square of Ragusa, Piazza Duomo.
8. Piazza Duomo, Ragusa
This lovely square, dominated by the cathedral of San Giorgio, is a favourite haunt of the commissario.
9. Circolo di Conversazione, Ragusa
Stand in the square (near the Gelato di Vini) with the cathedral behind you and in front of you, to the left, you’ll see the neo classical Circolo di Conversazione, pictured below, with the grey shutters. Built in 1850, it was a place for the local elite to meet, talk and relax. It’s here in the episode 'The Scent of the Night' that Montalbano abruptly interrupts coroner Dottor Pasquano’s card game.
10. A Rusticana (and the fictional Trattoria San Calogero)
The restaurant that appears as the commissario’s beloved Trattoria San Calogero is in reality the lively, A Rusticana on Corso XXV Aprile, also in Ragusa. They serve generous portions of home-style cooking and have a lovely vine-covered terrace (and you’ll find the autographs of many of the actors on the walls).
11. Castello di Donnafugata
The Castello di Donnafugata is the fictional home of a Mafia boss the commissario has occasion to visit. This beautiful castle belongs to Ragusa town council, and is open to the public and is well worth visiting. It’s easy to spend a couple of hours wandering around the grounds, and there are a couple of good restaurants nearby. It was also the setting for Luca Zingaretti and his long-term partner, the Neapolitan actress, Luisa Ranieri’s, wedding in 2012.
12. Porto Empedocle Vigata
Viagata, the fictional home of Montalbano, is actually based on a town much further west than where the filming of the series took place, in the author’s hometown of Porto Empedocle near Agrigento. The town is very proud of this, so much so that in 2003 they officially added Vigata to the town’s name, giving us Porto Empedocle Vigata. The town itself is relatively unremarkable, but the impressive natural feature, the Scala dei Turchi (Turkish Steps), is a rocky work of art molded by the waves and wind, and is worth taking a look at if passing, especially just before sunset when they take on a golden hue.
Image credit: Lukasz | Shutterstock
Where to stay:
Villa Lausa | Eremoella Giubiliana - Ragusa
Villa Scurata, Scicli
Apartments Macchia Mare | Palazzo Failla | Villa Luci d'Oro - Modica
Filming locations of Il Commissario Montalbano:
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