Dwight Peck's personal website

Sicily in December 2012

On the track of the Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, French, Spanish, Italians and Commissario Montalbano

You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

Chasing Montalbano

For latecomers, we've already synoptified the outlines of the Montalbano Cult a few pages earlier. At the risk of repeating ourselves, here it is again: "Should there still be anyone who doesn't know about Montalbano, he's the irascible and endearing Sicilian gourmet and police chief of the fictional city of Vigata. Inspector (or Commissario) Salvo Montalbano exists in two forms, complementary and both necessary: 1) the noted author Andrea Camilleri's engrossing and hilarious detective novels beginning in 1994 and still on, deftly translated into English by Stephen Sartarelli (14 in English so far) and 2) the RAI film versions, beginning in 1999, starring the brilliant Luca Zingaretti and a great cast, subtitled into English and broadcast throughout 2012 by the BBC, 22 so far (all of the novels so far and six more scripted from Camilleri's short stories)."

This is not just crime fiction -- this is a cult.

And an update, 2018: There are now 32 Montalbano films in the can, the last few still awaiting their English subtitles, and they're still being filmed by RAI, with mostly the same key cast members, at two more per year. In addition, in 2013-2016 BBC was broadcasting twelve films with English subtitles of the prequel spinoff 'Young Montalbano', starring Michele Riondino, very nearly as fabulous as its parent series, and there are rumors that more are on the way. Most of the plots are built not-very-seamlessly out of two of Camilleri's Montalbano short stories.

Punta Secca

Devotees of cults recognize the symptoms. Many monomaniacal cultists plant bombs, behead people, assassinate people from drones, or just get so stoned that they forget which cult they were devoted to. We're the kind who just focus on neat things very earnestly, like stamp, book, or coin collectors, Civil War re-enacters, and Montalbanistas.

Therefore, we're in Punta Secca -- a few kilometers west along the coast from Marina di Ragusa, Ragusa's port some 20km south of the city itself. Montalbano enthusiasts may or may not recognize this building. . .

. . . but they'll recognize this one straight off.

The film setting for Salvo's home in the fictional Marinella suburb of Vigata is here in Punta Secca . . .

. . . and it's now a B+B, La Casa di Montalbano.

Just across the parking lot at the end of Salvo's street

The lower patio, from which Montalbano leaps to go for his ritual swim or dashes over to investigate a dead horse on the beach . . .

. . . and the upper patio, where he cooks up some Sicilian spécialité for Ingrid, who's just agreed without question to flush out some evildoer for him and laughs at him indulgently for remaining faithful to Livia.

Kristin on the beach. Where the dead race horse was found. Near where Salvo swam into a dead body and dragged it ashore and got shot at by a northerner who'd brought an unregistered gun along on his vacation because he'd heard about what Sicily is like.

No signs of either tourists or film crews in the off-season

Montalbano's house on the beach in "Marinella"


Kristin contemplating Something

Montalbano's thinking-refuge of the Saracen Olive Tree, out in the countryside in the novels, was filmed here just farther along the beach.

Montalbano's lower patio

The same. Galluzzo got shot at here by some local goons who'd come to kill Montalbano.

The lighthouse at the end of the street; but Montalbano's after-lunch lighthouse is said to be the one at Licata.


Scicli, in the mountains near the coast, some 12km due south of Ragusa -- scene of the Vigata police station

Finally, a parking spot on the Via Nazionale

Scicli ('Schee-klee') is a pretty charming town in its own right, quite apart from Montalbano . . .

. . . which is not to say that they don't take their Montalbano heritage seriously here.

Picturesque churches and what not in the town . . .

. . . and more of them up on the clifftops.

Montalbano's police station (exterior), the Scicli city hall

The church next door

The interior shots of the police station and Montalbano's office are apparently shot in the Cinecittà studios in Rome.

The Via Mormino Penna running in front of the city hall and . . .

. . . the little church at the end of the street

Churches everywhere, in fact

The busy Scicli city centre

Scicli street scene (the tourist office)

The abandoned Church of San Matteo at the top of the gorge

San Matteo zoomed


One of our favorite Montalbano characters is Don Balduccio Sinagra, head of one of the two local Mafia families, who's about 120 years old and wheezes, and who several times, through his sleazy lawyer Orazio Guttadauro, invites Montalbano to visit him to discourse about the old days when gangsters had honor and to try to make a deal, because he trusts Montalbano's word.

The film setting for Don Balduccio's refuge is the Castello di Donnafugata, just southwest of Ragusa near Santa Croce Camerina . . .

. . . closed on our first try at it (as above), but . . .

. . . we'll write down the hours for Saturday.

A fascinating building, in any case, built upon a 17th century base, including the present square lookout tower . .

. . . it's been owned by the Arezzo family since 1628, and it was the 19th century baron who built it up in its present "Gothic-Venetian" and Renaissance style. The family sold it all to the state in 1982. After renovations, it's been opened to the public since 2002, and wines from the domain are highly sought after.

We're back -- there are 122 rooms but we're only allowed into the piano nobile, the first floor dwellings of the family its ownself.

The place is enormous -- we don't get to see all this in Montalbano.

"No Photos!!!" A brief opportunity, the guard's gone off to the ladies'.

The ambitious knights hall, with the armorial bearings of all the aristocratic families of Italy plastered on the walls, with the Arezzos prominently displayed amongst them.

A maquette of the main building

The courtyard. The castle's been the mise en scène for a number of films, Montalbano, of course, and Chaos by the Taviani brothers, and I Vicerè (the Viceroy) in 2007, not yet available with subtitles.

Kristin on her way to visit Don Balduccio

Salvo, with his aviator sunglasses, paces along the terrace with a semi-amused expectancy past goons lounging watchfully with one hand tucked under their jackets in case he gets rowdy.

Kristin, unarmed

Don Balduccio's room is at the end, just past the scaffolding. In one of the later novels, he explains his proposal to Montalbano, but in the film we only see him as a lump in the bed attended by a gaggle of nurses, and Lawyer Guttadauro leads the Inspector back out onto the terrace and explains the proposal instead. One might guess that in the decade intervening, Balduccio's actor has become unavailable for some reason.

The yard in front of the castle

Kristin watching out for Saracen raiders

The 'home farm' in front of the palace -- now half filled with concessions for the summer visitors

Not this part of it, though

The front terrace

One of the world's few sphinxes that's got good dentition

In the Donnafugata gardens

Kristin and Donnafugata

The concrete-and-stone maze on the family estate (less upkeep than hedges)

What must such a maze be like for people who can't see over the walls?

They just keep plodding on, I suppose, until somewhere it ends, and then they turn around.

The cleverer amongst us have sprinkled bread crumbs along the way.

The back of Donnafugata.

And back out into the unaristocratic world we go.

More visitors to the castle -- drove right in like they owned the place.

Some baroque drama being played out here. Someone 50 years from now will have these photographic memories to cherish.

This has been so inspiriting, so Montalbanish. Now we're going to Syracuse.


Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 25 January 2013, 25 April 2018.