Two towns come to mind when talking about Sicilian ceramics: Santo Stefano di Camastra and Caltagirone. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to visit Santo Stefano but did visit Caltagirone on our way to Piazza Armerina.
Caltagirone is situated between two hills in the province of Catania, in southern Sicily. The name has Arab origins and I have read at least two different theories on the origin of the name. One states that it derives from Cal'at Ghiran, meaning “castle of vases”. The second one is Qal’at-al-ganom meaning “castle of the genies” because spirits were believed to inhabit in the nearby caves.
The main sight in Caltagirone is the Scala di Santa Maria del Monte (Stairway of Santa Maria del Monte). The steps were built in 1608 to link the lower city, where the Cathedral is located, to the upper city, where the government had its buildings. The stairway was rebuilt in 1953 at which time each riser was decorated with majolica tiles. With 142 steps, this impressive stairway has 4 more steps than the Spanish Steps in Rome with 138. For the feast of the patron saint - San Giacomo on July 24,25 - the stairway is lit with more than 4,000 oil lamps creating interesting designs and patterns.
A view as we get closer to the town.
Santa Maria del Monte stairway on a June morning.
Majolica tiles on the risers.
After the long hike up, a view from the top.
A colorful street off the stairway.
My treasures from Caltagirone. The boxes and candy dish are very representative of the design and color of most of the ceramics in Caltagirone. The plates were made in a well known 'laboratorio'. They have a feudal theme.