Sicily’s ancient call: from literature to cinema

Real places that turns into narratives

This island, in the centre of the Mediterranean sea, has given birth to great authors and fabulous tales whose protagonists have entered the common narrative. Numerous men of letters have walked its city lanes, applying an infallible intuition to their explorations; aristocratic families, now in their twilight years, have danced the floors of the salons in the Baroque palaces, specially chosen for them by award-winning directors.

Camilleri's pen, for example, has brought life to Vigàta, located in the fictional province of Montelusa. The provinces of Ragusa, Syracuse and Agrigento were all chosen as locations for the televised representation of this fictional town.

Initially, in Camilleri's mind, Vigàta was located in the area of Porto Empedocle, but in the series it was given shape by combining different areas in and near Ragusa, which even the writer admitted to being pleasantly influenced by this choice.

In Il commissario Montalbano we will see Ragusa Superiore and Ragusa Ibla united by the famous staircase well known to fans of the series; Doctor Pasquano playing cards in Ragusa Ibla's Circolo di Conversazione – which Camilleri actually frequented - while Scicli's Town Hall became Vigàta's police station. 

We find Pasquano having breakfast tasting local delicacies in a beautiful house overlooking the cathedral of San Giorgio, which is actually in Modica.

Pozzallo, on the other hand, lends its port to Vigàta, while the Penna furnace in Sampieri has become the Mànnara, an infamous area where illegal trafficking cohabits with prostitution and mysterious disappearances. Vigàta would also appropriate some views of Ispica as its own, such as Piazza S. Maria Maggiore or Piazza S. S. Annunziata; in the episode "The Telephone Concession" we also perceive a 1902 ‘Locomobile Style’, part of the Boscarino family's private collection. 

There are then those places that Camilleri's pen decided not to change, such as the Greek temples of the Agrigento valley and those of Selinunte, or Mazara del Vallo’s Arab quarter and Tindari.

Last but not least, the Castle of Donnafugata will become the armoured residence of the fictitious Mafia boss Balduccio Sinagra. This ancient palace, enriched by time, has also hosted the cast of Matteo Garrone's Il racconto dei Racconti, but the first time it appeared on video was with Franco Franchi and Ciccio Ingrassia's Kaos

The curious thing is that Donnafugata was also the name of the fictional town conceived by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa and inspired by Palma di Montechiaro, in the province of Agrigento. But even here the film transposition needed to attune the fantasy with real places, so Luchino Visconti chose to transform Villa Boscogrande in Cardillo - located in the picturesque Piana dei Colli - into the Prince of Salina’s residence. 

"If we want everything to remain as is, everything must change."

Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa - The Leopard

Santa Maria delle Scale > 300 steps joining Corso Italia - in upper Ragusa - to Ragusa Ibla. A breathtaking view at any time of day frames the church, a symbol of the reconstruction that followed the tragic earthquake of 1693. (link) 

Donnafugata Castle > Near Ragusa stands the famous Donnafugata Castle, its neo-Gothic style with its side towers, its grandeur and its magnificent park with esoteric elements represent a perfect archetype of the nobility of the late 19th century. Its construction dates back to Saracen times, but it was Corrado Arezzo, the Baron of Donnafugata, who, in 1865, commissioned the renovation that gave it the appearance we know today. 

Legend has it that it owes its name to Queen Bianca of Navarra, betrothed to the Count of Cabrera, who fled to avoid marriage.

Guided tours >> We have prepared many guided tours to explore the world of Montalbano; contact reception for all information.

From fiction to reality

It’s also true that in this land full of surprises real stories cane hide behind a fictional place. Montalbano's house in Marinella, for example, is really a cottage on the beach, but in Punta Secca. It’s said to have once been a fish desalination laboratory, later acquired by a lawyer who transformed it into a private residence. Leonardo Sciascia, Gesualdo Bufalino, Elvira Sellerio and, more recently, Camilleri himself have also looked out onto the beautiful terrace where the commissioner sips his coffee. 

What might appear to be the perfect location for a TV shoot is instead a meeting point of Sicilian culture.

Another example of how Sicily has inspired the work of great authors is with Sciascia, whose passion for his land was so strong that he went on to portray it in all its wonders and darkest aspects. He had the courage to include mafia omertà into his works, thus denying it the power of invisibility. 

Among Sciascia's favourite places is certainly his beloved Racalmuto, in the province of Agrigento. And it’s precisely here that the famous Circolo Unione, in vicolo Rapisardi, was based, with Sciascia involved in the many cultural initiatives that turned the aristocrats’ club into a place of meeting and knowledge, as well as the setting for many of his works. Indeed, it was defined by the members themselves as a 'real and at the same time literary place, thanks to the lucid and caustic pages of its member Leonardo Sciascia'.

His essays include Pirandello e la Sicilia (Pirandello and Sicily), in which Sciascia gives us news of his land through readings and experiences that sublimely analyse the figure of his esteemed countryman Pirandello, passing by such cornerstones of Sicilian literature as Verga - born in Vizzini in the province of Catania - and Tomasi di Lampedusa, but also through such forgotten characters as Emanuele Navarro della Miraglia, also born in Agrigento.

This land, perpetual muse of authors in search of imaginary places, transforms fantasy into reality, giving new life to buildings and streets already full of history.

"Life is either lived or written, I have never lived it, except by writing it down."



foto Circolo conversazione Ragusa Ibla
foto Castello di Donna Fugata, 
credits: “Kaos” F. Franchi e C. Ingrassia
foto Terrazza di Montalbano
credits: serie televisiva “Montalbano”
foto Bufalino e Sciscia
credits: Fondazione Bufalino 


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