Staircase of Santa Maria del Monte

The Staircase of Santa Maria del Monte (in Sicilian A Scala dâ Matrìci) is a civil work located in the municipality of Caltagirone.

It was built in 1606 in order to connect the ancient part of Caltagirone to the new city built in the upper part. The stairway, over 130 meters long, is flanked by buildings with balconies and is today one of the identifying monuments of the city, to the point of being its emblem outside.

It had originally been built with cantilevers that interrupted its slope.

In 1844 the various ramps were unified, based on a project by the architect Salvatore Marino. Thus were born the 142 steps of the staircase of Santa Maria del Monte, which since 1954 has been entirely decorated, in the risers of the steps, with polychrome ceramic tiles produced by the Caltagironesi Maioliche Artigianali. A polychrome majolica coating has been applied to each step riser, of the same type as the one that has made the city famous over the centuries. The figurative, floral or geometric themes in the series of blocks represent the Arab, Norman, Swabian, Angevin-Aragonese, Chiaramonte, Spanish, Renaissance, Baroque, eighteenth-century, nineteenth-century, contemporary styles.

The stairway of 142 steps is annually illuminated on 24 and 25 July (for the feast of San Giacomo, patron saint of the city), by thousands of candles with live flames, the resulting visual result is a sort of lava flow, a river of fire which in its pulsating luminosity draws elegant decorative figures, the result of the skill of a master builder, under whose orders several dozen workers work for the arrangement of the lamps. To form the unique tapestry of fire is a set of four thousand lanterns called “lumere”.

Staircase lighting has an ancient history.

The first to have thought of a luminous design towards the end of the 1700s was the architect Bonaiuto. But it is due to a friar, Benedetto Papale, the scenography of the illuminated staircase. For forty years the monk designed highly effective ornamental motifs, especially floral ones. Arranging the lighting according to a pre-established design requires a month of preparation. The employees have handed down the art from father to son.

The timing of the placement of the four thousand oil lamps (“coppi”) is very curious. We witness it in the strictest silence. It is the master builder who directs the “call” of the design, which consists in slowly placing the “tiles” in their right place. The lighting moment is exciting: a large number of men, many of whom are boys, stationed along the steps, await the agreed signal to light the wicks with stems of dry plants, called “busi”. The “lumere” suddenly light up, one after the other, giving life to an impressive snake of fire. The tapestry lives for a couple of hours, during which a tide of spectators joyfully flocks to the feet. In spring (May-June), the staircase is decorated with floral compositions: thousands of potted plants are arranged on the steps with the aim of composing a given theme.

Ceramics and Museum of Ceramics

Caltagirone: city of ceramics
The name Caltagirone derives from the Arabic term Qal’at al Ghiran, whose literal translation is “Rocca dei Vasi”.

The city of Caltagirone is closely linked to the history of ceramics, with this term, which derives from the Greek keramos (clay, pottery), we indicate the objects produced by modeling the earth (clay) and subjecting it to firing.

The processing of ceramics in the Caltagirone area dates back to the Neolithic period, as evidenced by the archaeological finds kept in the Regional Museum of Ceramics of Caltagirone.

The imprint of the various peoples who have colonized Sicily over the centuries and is also perceived in the processing of ceramics.

The art of working with Sicilian ceramics has been handed down from generation to generation; the peculiarities of the product depend on the skills of the master potter. For this reason ceramic objects, such as the traditional Sicilian pine cones and the dark brown heads are real works of art, which represent Sicily in the world and act as a symbol.


The Ceramic Museum of Caltagirone is a regional museum of Sicily, which specializes in the exhibition of ceramic finds made in Sicily starting from prehistoric times. Together with the Museum of Faenza, it is the most important in Italy for the documentation of ceramic art.

The Museum exhibits a vast collection of ceramics, around 2,500 exhibits, which provide the visitor with a broad view of the history of ceramic art from the 4th millennium BC to the 4th millennium BC. to the contemporary age.

Discover Caltagirone

Caltagirone is a city located in the province of Catania, in Sicily. Known above all for the production of ceramics and for the presence of a unique artistic and cultural heritage, Caltagirone represents one of the gems of Sicily.

The history of Caltagirone dates back to ancient times, when the city was known as “Kalt Agròn” and was part of the territory of the ancient Sicilians. Subsequently, the city came under Roman and Byzantine rule, until it was conquered by the Arabs in 843. It was only in 1090 that Caltagirone came under Norman rule, which was followed by the French, the Aragonese and finally the Bourbons.

The city of Caltagirone is known above all for the production of ceramics, which represent a millenary tradition. Caltagirone ceramics are produced using craft techniques handed down from generation to generation, and represent one of the main tourist attractions of the city. Caltagirone ceramics are famous for their beauty and originality, and have been used to decorate many houses and churches in Sicily.

In addition to ceramics, Caltagirone offers a wide range of tourist attractions. The city is famous for its Baroque architecture, with many churches and palaces dating back to this period. The most famous of these is the Church of San Francesco d’Assisi, which houses a collection of 18th-century paintings and sculptures.

Another place of interest in Caltagirone is the famous Scala di Santa Maria del Monte, a staircase of 142 steps that leads to the upper part of the city. This stairway is famous for being decorated with majolica from Caltagirone, which represent the phases of the life of the Madonna.

Finally, Caltagirone also hosts an archaeological museum which contains a vast collection of artifacts dating back to Greek and Roman times. The museum also houses a section dedicated to ceramics, which illustrates the history and production technique of Caltagirone ceramics.

In summary, Caltagirone represents one of the most beautiful and fascinating cities in Sicily, thanks to its millenary history, its production of unique ceramics and its Baroque architecture. The city offers a wide range of tourist attractions, making it an unmissable destination for anyone wishing to discover the culture and beauty of Sicily.

Don Luigi Sturzo, a great figure of Caltagirone

Don Luigi Sturzo (1871-1959) was an Italian priest, politician and sociologist, founder of the Italian Popular Party and a prominent figure in the political and social history of 20th-century Italy.

Born in Caltagirone, Sicily, Sturzo was trained at the Catania seminary and later studied sociology in Fribourg, Switzerland. In 1899 he was ordained a priest and began to work as a teacher of philosophy and theology in various Italian cities.

In the 1910s, Sturzo engaged in political and social activity, founding the Italian Popular Party, the first Catholic political party in Italy. In 1919 he was elected deputy and played an important role in the construction of the post-war Italian political system.

In the 1920s, the Italian People’s Party played an important role in Italian political life, but in 1923 the party was dissolved by the fascist regime and Sturzo was forced into exile. He moved to London, where he continued to work for the cause of democracy and freedom in Italy.

After the war, Sturzo returned to Italy and in 1946 was elected deputy to the Constituent Assembly, where he contributed to the drafting of the Italian Constitution. In the 1950s, Sturzo broke away from the Popular Party and founded the Italian Democratic Movement, a secular and anti-fascist political movement.

Don Luigi Sturzo was a figure of great importance in the political and social history of 20th century Italy, engaged in the struggle to defend the rights and freedoms of citizens, for the construction of a more just and supportive society, and for dialogue between the different political and social forces of the country. His figure represents an example of civil commitment and moral courage for later generations.

Public Garden of Caltagirone

The Public Garden of Caltagirone is one of the most evocative places in the city. Located in the upper part of the historic centre, the garden offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the city and the surrounding countryside.

The garden was inaugurated in 1880, thanks to the will of the mayor of the time, Vincenzo Di Giovanni, who wanted to create it as a public space for the city. The garden was subsequently enlarged and remodeled during the 20th century, becoming one of the city’s major tourist attractions.

The Public Garden of Caltagirone covers an area of approximately 5,000 square meters and features a rich variety of trees, plants and flowers. Inside the garden it is possible to admire a series of sculptures and monuments, including a statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi and a monument to the fallen of the two world wars.

One of the most interesting points of the garden is the “Loggia dei Cappuccini”, a panoramic balcony that offers a spectacular view of the city and the surrounding countryside. The loggia was built in 1934 and features a series of arches and columns in the neoclassical style.

The Public Garden of Caltagirone is one of the most beautiful and evocative places in the city, an oasis of peace and tranquility surrounded by nature. The garden is open every day and is an ideal destination for a relaxing walk, to enjoy the panoramic view of the city and to admire the beauty of the local flora.

The cribs of Caltagirone

The tradition of the crib in Sicily has very ancient origins. In fact, the first production of characters from the Holy Family dates back to the 16th century, made by master craftsmen (pasturari and santari). Inspired by the work of the great Neapolitan and Palermitan masters, the craftsmen of Caltagirone began to produce figures increasingly rich in detail in shape and color.

Caltagirone has always been one of the most important centers in the creation of these figurines, which were generally made of clay. In fact, since ancient times the city had based its economy on clay processing, so much so that it became one of the most important production centers in Italy.

Unfortunately, the terrible earthquake that shook Sicily on January 11, 1693 razed a large part of the city to the ground, erasing forever the first examples of this art, evidence of a religious tradition widespread in all social classes.

Today we only know that the “Santari” and the “Pasturari” modeled and colored the figures of the Nativity on commission from churches and convents. The ancient ceramist tradition of the place greatly influenced this new production, immediately imprinting it with all particular characteristics and making it unmistakable.

Around the eighteenth century, within the aristocracy, the fashion of commissioning ever more precious and elaborate cribs spread. In this way the traditional representations of the Holy Family began to be completed, also with characters from peasant culture and crafts.

The work of craftsmen who dedicated themselves to the creation of sculptures for the nativity scenes dates back to the 18th century and among these artists A. Branciforte, G. Vaccaio, A. Margioglio and the brothers Giuseppe and Giacomo Bongiovanni deserve to be mentioned.

In particular, the younger of the two Giacomo distinguished himself by producing crib figurines in polychrome terracotta, referring to the secular tradition.

The last crib maker was Father Benedetto Papale of the Minims of St. Francis who knew how to enchant Caltagirone and the foreigners at every feast of the Patron Saint with his splendid designs with which the famous Scala was decorated and lit up.

The Confraternity of the Church of S. Maria di Bethlehem in Modica commissioned him to create a grandiose nativity scene. On that occasion Papale built a monumental crib animated with splendid shepherds of the Bongiovanni-Vaccaro family and the very young pupil Giacomo Azzolina.Every year, in Caltagirone, the exhibition of the Monumental Crib is proposed again in the crypt of the Capuchin Monastery and, among other things, the Crib of Wonder along the monumental staircase of Santa Maria del Monte.

The Bourbon prison of Caltagirone

It was built between 1782 and 1798 by the Syracusan architect Natale Bonaiuto.

The need to build this new prison building arose following the earthquake of 11 January 1693 which completely destroyed the old Arab-Norman castle, partially used as a prison.
It is a severe building with a square plan, of great size, very compact and yet elegant, because it is lightened by the insertion of the giant order, placed on a rusticated base, and by the scrolls of the windows which, with their chiaroscuro, draw and articulate the rhythm of the facade.

This is crowned by a cornice with the city’s coat of arms in the centre.

He remained destined for prison until 1890; later it became the seat of the Civic Museum whose official foundation, in 1914, dates back to the work of don Luigi Sturzo. In every city, or almost, that belonged to the Kingdom of the two Sicilies, there is no shortage of a building that is defined everywhere as ” Bourbon prison”.

St. Julian’s Cathedral

The cathedral basilica of San Giuliano (in Sicilian in Cattitrali) is the main Catholic place of worship in Caltagirone and mother church of the homonymous diocese. In 1948 Pope Pius XII elevated it to the rank of minor basilica. The high recognition was celebrated on 27 January 1949, the liturgical feast of San Giuliano with a solemn pontifical by Bishop Pietro Capizzi.

The primitive church of San Giuliano, according to tradition, was built in the Norman era with an attached bell tower, with a single nave decorated with Arab-Norman stuccos and with the apse facing east. The temple is dated to 1282, in the middle of the Aragonese age, probably on this date one of the first documented rebuildings took place: other reconstructions took place after the earthquake in the Val di Noto, Anno Domini 1542 and after the earthquake in the Val di Noto of 1693

For the reconstruction in the Tuscan style in its current form, the Agrigento architect Simone Mancuso was commissioned, assisted by the Palermitan builder and carver Giuseppe Montes. The ancient Norman church, which the architect Gullì had kept inside, was eliminated, new and taller columns of white stone were used to support the vaults and the large dome, a new and elegant prospect was taken from the foundations, with superimposed trifora bell tower, which was completed in 1756. The walking surface was paved with white majolica tiles.

In the first decades of the 19th century, at the behest of the first bishop, Monsignor Gaetano Trigona e Parisi, the interiors were stylistically revolutionized, all the Tuscan-style columns were incorporated into massive Corinthian-style pillars, they were commissioned to the Palermitan architect Emanuele Di Bartolo, who he designed all the stucco and painting decoration, assisted by the plasterers Gaetano Signorelli from Syracuse, and Agostino Perez from Palermo, and the painter and sculptor Giuseppe Vaccaro.

On 12 September 1816, Pope Pius VII with the papal bull Romanus Pontifex erected the diocese of Caltagirone and elevated the church of San Giuliano to a cathedral. The prospectus was designed by the architect Saverio Fragapane in 1908-13.

The Oriented Nature Reserve of the Bosco di Santo Pietro

The Bosco di Santo Pietro Oriented Nature Reserve is a protected area located in the province of Catania, in Sicily. The reserve covers an area of approximately 1,400 hectares and represents one of the most evocative natural places in the region.

The reserve takes its name from the Bosco di Santo Pietro, a dense forest of centuries-old oaks that extends along the slopes of Mount Etna, at an altitude ranging from 300 to 1,200 meters above sea level. The forest is made up of a great variety of trees and plants, including chestnuts, beeches, alders and hornbeams, and represents an important reserve of biodiversity.

Inside the Bosco di Santo Pietro Nature Reserve it is possible to practice various outdoor activities, such as excursions on foot or by mountain bike, horseback riding and birdwatching. Furthermore, the reserve hosts a series of equipped nature trails, which allow you to explore the area safely and respecting the environment.

The Bosco di Santo Pietro Oriented Nature Reserve is also an important archaeological site, with various evidence of human settlement in prehistoric times. In fact, inside the reserve there are the remains of some prehistoric caves, including the Grotta della Gurfa, which preserves important evidence of Sicilian culture from the Bronze Age.

The Bosco di Santo Pietro Oriented Nature Reserve therefore represents a place of great naturalistic and cultural value, a unique experience for those who want to immerse themselves in nature and discover the beauties of the Sicilian territory. The reserve is open all year round and access is allowed only on foot or by bicycle.