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  • Writer's pictureThe Sicilian Wanderer

Caltagirone: Discover the city of ceramics and Baroque.

caltagirone steps

Welcome to Caltagirone, a city nestled at the foothills of the Iblei mountains, in the heart of eastern Sicily. Renowned globally for its artistic ceramic production and the famed Santa Maria del Monte staircase, Caltagirone is a hidden gem of the island, certainly worth a visit. For centuries, ceramics have been Caltagirone's specialty, thanks to the quality of the clay and the expertise of local craftsmen. The city boasts a range of workshops and studios where you can admire the art of ceramics and purchase beautiful artworks, ensuring you take home a unique and authentic piece of Sicily. Beyond ceramics, you can also find local products like wine, cheeses, and cured meats.

However, Caltagirone's true attraction is the renowned Santa Maria del Monte staircase, a 142-step stairway connecting the city's historic center to the Santa Maria del Monte church atop the hill. Each step of the staircase is adorned with colorful ceramic tiles, creating a breathtaking mosaic effect. Once at the top, you're rewarded with a panoramic view of the city and surrounding mountains.

But Caltagirone is not just about ceramics and staircases: the city offers a rich historical and cultural experience. You can visit the Regional Museum of Ceramics, housing an extensive collection of ancient and modern ceramics from all over Sicily, or the Senatorial Palace, an 18th-century Baroque building that now hosts art exhibitions and cultural events. For nature enthusiasts, don't miss the Madonie Park, a nature reserve spanning over 40,000 hectares, offering numerous hiking trails and stunning views. Here, you can witness Mediterranean flora and fauna, including Marsican bears, Sardinian deer, and golden eagles. Caltagirone is also celebrated for its traditional festivals, like the Feast of San Giacomo held on July 25th, featuring a solemn procession and fireworks displays.

Caltagirone offers visitors a plethora of experiences, from artistic ceramics to history, culture, nature, and traditional festivities. If you're seeking an authentic Sicilian holiday destination, Caltagirone is a must-visit.

Moorish Heads of Caltagirone

The Legend of the Moorish Heads of Caltagirone

The legend tells the tale of a young man from the city who, smitten by a beautiful dark-haired woman, tried to win her over with a series of gifts and attentions. However, the woman remained cold and distant, despite the young man's efforts. Desperate, he sought the advice of the village magician, who advised him to cut off the head of a statue representing a Moor and present it to her as a love offering. The young man heeded the magician's advice, but upon severing the statue's head, he realized it had turned into flesh and blood.

Terrified, he threw the head into a well. From that moment on, Caltagirone was cursed, and every year a calamity struck the city. The inhabitants discovered that the curse would only be lifted if they constructed a staircase decorated with Moorish heads. Thus, local artisans began crafting the famous Moorish heads, which were used to adorn the Santa Maria del Monte staircase, breaking the curse. Since then, the Moorish heads have become a symbol of Caltagirone and are considered a precious work of art.

Today, these Moorish heads are crafted in ceramic and are showcased worldwide as a symbol of Caltagirone's artisan tradition and its ancient and mysterious history.

There's also another version of the legend of the Moorish heads of Caltagirone. According

Moorish Heads of Caltagirone

to this variant, the city's curse was brought about by a group of Saracens who invaded the city and massacred many of its inhabitants. Following this horrific event, the city's residents decided to exact revenge on the Saracens, killing them all. After the battle, the severed heads of the Saracens were displayed as trophies on the city walls.

However, as time passed, the heads began to emit an unbearable stench, and the city was struck by a series of calamities. To end the curse, the city's inhabitants decided to remove the Saracen heads from the walls and use the Moorish heads as a symbol of peace and reconciliation.

In both versions of the legend, the Moorish heads of Caltagirone represent a symbol of hope and rebirth for the city, which has managed to overcome its challenges and renew itself through the creativity and artistry of its local craftsmen.

caltagirone steps

Caltagirone's Main Attractions and Visiting Hours:

Here's a list of the city's main attractions and their visiting hours:

  • Santa Maria del Monte Staircase: This iconic staircase, adorned with 142 steps decorated with colorful ceramic tiles, is open for visitors 24/7.

  • Regional Museum of Ceramics: A museum showcasing a vast collection of ancient and modern ceramics from all over Sicily. Open from Tuesday to Sunday, 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM - 7:00 PM.

  • Santa Maria del Monte Church: An 18th-century baroque church located at the top of the famous staircase. Open daily from 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM and 3:00 PM - 6:00 PM.

  • Public Garden: A central park in Caltagirone with a fountain and panoramic views of the city. Open daily from 7:00 AM - 9:00 PM.

  • Senatorial Palace: An 18th-century baroque building hosting art exhibitions and cultural events. Open from Tuesday to Sunday, 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM - 7:00 PM.

  • Municipal Villa: A public garden located in the southern part of Caltagirone, featuring children's play areas, a fountain, and a pond. Open daily from 7:00 AM - 9:00 PM.

  • Municipal Art Gallery: An art gallery displaying works from local and international artists. Open from Tuesday to Sunday, 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM - 7:00 PM.

  • Caltagirone Castle: A medieval fortress offering panoramic views of the city. While not open to the public, it can be admired from the outside.

Please note that visiting hours might vary during holidays and depending on the season. It's always a good idea to check updated information on attractions before planning your visit.

Caltagirone's Baroque Era:

The Baroque era in Caltagirone represents one of the most significant artistic periods in the city's history. This style flourished in the 18th century, following the reconstruction after the devastating earthquake of 1693.

Caltagirone's Baroque is characterized by monumental buildings, elaborate churches, and opulent decorations that still grace the city's historic center. Notable examples include the Church of San Francesco d'Assisi, Palazzo Gravina, and the Church of Santa Maria del Monte.

The Baroque style in Caltagirone was influenced by artistic trends of the time, such as the French Rococo and Roman Baroque, but it also incorporated local elements like ceramics and wrought iron artistry. This blend of influences and local traditions birthed a unique and distinctive style that still characterizes Caltagirone's historic center.

Caltagirone's Baroque era stands as an extraordinary artistic period in the city's history, leaving an indelible mark on its architecture and local art. If you're an art and history enthusiast, exploring Caltagirone's Baroque masterpieces is a must.


Ecco alcune informazioni su come arrivare a Caltagirone con i mezzi pubblici:

  1. In aereo: l'aeroporto più vicino a Caltagirone è l'aeroporto internazionale di Catania-Fontanarossa, che dista circa 70 km dalla città. Dall'aeroporto è possibile prendere un autobus diretto per Caltagirone oppure noleggiare un'auto.

  2. In treno: Caltagirone è servita dalla linea ferroviaria Catania-Caltagirone-Gela. La stazione ferroviaria di Caltagirone si trova nel centro della città e offre collegamenti con diverse città della Sicilia.

  3. In autobus: Caltagirone è ben collegata con diverse città della Sicilia tramite autobus. La stazione degli autobus si trova vicino alla stazione ferroviaria e offre collegamenti con Catania, Palermo, Siracusa e altre città della zona.

  4. In macchina: Caltagirone è facilmente raggiungibile in auto tramite l'autostrada A19 (Catania-Palermo). L'uscita più vicina a Caltagirone è quella di Caltagirone Est, che dista circa 3 km dal centro della città.

In generale, i mezzi pubblici in Sicilia sono abbastanza efficienti e affidabili, anche se possono essere un po' più lenti rispetto ad altre regioni italiane. Se hai bisogno di informazioni aggiuntive su come arrivare a Caltagirone con i mezzi pubblici, ti consiglio di consultare i siti web delle compagnie di trasporto locali o di contattare il servizio informazioni turistiche della città.

roman villa in piazza armerina

How to Reach Caltagirone by Public Transport:

Caltagirone, renowned for its ceramic artistry and Baroque architecture, is nestled in the heart of eastern Sicily. If you're planning a visit, here's how you can reach this historic city using public transportation:

  • By Air: The nearest airport to Caltagirone is Catania-Fontanarossa International Airport, located approximately 70 km away. From the airport, you can catch a direct bus to Caltagirone or opt for car rental services.

  • By Train: Caltagirone is connected by the Catania-Caltagirone-Gela railway line. The city's train station is centrally located and provides links to various Sicilian cities.

  • By Bus: The city enjoys good bus connectivity with several Sicilian towns. The bus station, situated near the train station, offers routes to Catania, Palermo, Siracusa, and other regional destinations.

  • By Car: If you're driving, Caltagirone is easily accessible via the A19 motorway (Catania-Palermo). The closest exit for Caltagirone is "Caltagirone Est," which is about 3 km from the city center.

Generally, public transportation in Sicily is reasonably efficient and reliable, though it might be slightly slower compared to other Italian regions. For additional information on reaching Caltagirone using public transport, it's advisable to check the websites of local transport companies or contact the city's tourist information service. Safe travels!


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