Is it a detective series, or is it more of a comedy? Having watched several episodes of Inspector Montalbano, I’m still not really sure. The scenery and the filmography date back to the 1970s, albeit with mobile phones and 21st-century fashion. And the endless stream of young, beautiful women falling for the balding, middle-aged detective are a throwback to the times when women were often cast as little more than accessories in your average detective drama. And yet there’s something endearing about these quirky stories, each of which are the length of a feature film and each of which make a great job of showing off the delights of Sicily to what is now an established international following.
So, if like me, you are inspired to visit Sicily as a result of watching Montalbano, here are a few of the places you’ll want to include in your tour.
It is here that most of the scenes from the fictional town of Vigata are played out. The Questore’s office (main police station) in the series is housed in the grand baroque Municipio (town hall). It is here that Montalbano works and has to suffer his painfully incompetent colleagues. The building is open to the public (restricted hours) and has a large Montalbano sign outside, in case you’re in any doubt about its claims to fame.
While you’re there…. take a climb up the lane leading from the town centre to the Chiesa di San Matteo, perched precariously on the hilltop overlooking the town. It only takes around 15 minutes to reach the church and the views from the top over the town and the coast are splendid.
The main square in fictional Vigata is undoubtedly an attractive space. You can enjoy it for real in the baroque city of Ragusa, a maze of narrow lanes and beautiful churches. The city is dominated by the spectacular Duomo di San Giorgio, and it is outside here that several Montalbano scenes play out. The restaurant La Rusitcana is known as Trattoria San Calogero in the series, and is the place where the detective takes a break for lunch with some of his many Sicilian femmes fatales.
While you’re there… take the chance to visit the beautiful cathedral itself (plan ahead to make sure you’re there during its limited opening hours). There’s a good gelateria/wine shop in the square (Gelati Divini) which serves unusual flavours of ice cream featuring Sicilian wines.
Another lovely city in southern Sicily, Modica appears in several episodes, and the links to Montalbano stretch beyond the sensible, as the advert below proves. Climbing the steps to the church of San Giorgio is hard work in the summer heat, but the blue-filled interior is cool and pleasant, while the views from the terrace outside make the effort worthwhile.
While you’re there… don’t miss out on the chance to taste Modica’s famous chocolate, said to be made from an Aztec recipe.
For more information about a suggested Montalbano itinerary of southern Sicily, take a look at the Sunvil Discovery Italy & Sicily brochure. I visited all of these places from the charming Agriturismo Il Granaio just outside Modica.
by Andy Jarosz