Caltagirone On a Budget
Located in Central Sicily in the province of Catania, Caltagirone is a town that is most famous for its ceramics as well as its long ceramic decorated staircase. The town is just 70 kilometers southwest of the city of Catania. The ceramic industry is notable for its pottery, more specifically its maiolica and terra-cotta wares. While there is a historical base for this industry, today the production is more focused on artistic items such as ceramics and sculptures. In addition to ceramics, the town's economy is dependent upon agriculture including the production of grapes, olives and peaches.
Caltagirone has been inhabited since prehistoric times. It has been inhabited by the Sicels pre-Roman population, the Arabs, and the Ligurians among other groups. Influences from these groups remain today. The rise of the ceramic industry occurred during the Norman and Hohenstaufen rule. In 1693 the city was almost completely destroyed by an earthquake. Many buildings were reconstructed in Baroque style. Because of its interesting architecture, the city has been listed in the UNESCO World Heritage program.
The most famous landmark in the city is the 142 step Staircase of Santa Maria del Monte (La Scala). It was built in 1608 and each step is made with unique, hand decorated ceramics. It is particularly beautiful on the city's patron saint day, July 25th, when the staircase is lit up with different colored candles that recreate an artistic drawing of impressive size.
With Caltagirone's famed pottery industry, you must stop at the local Museum of Pottery. It was established in 1965 and has a good collection of both ancient and modern pottery and terra-cotta, some of which dates back to the Magna Grecia period.
Other notable buildings in town include the Cathedral of St. Julian, the Baroque church of San Francesco di Paola, San Francesco d'Assisi, the Church of the Gesu, Santa Maria del Monte, the Renaissance Church of the New Capuchins, and Palazzo Senatorio.
Caltagirone spreads out over three different hills in the interior of Sicily. There are many impressive views that look out over the valley below. The city itself has an old town and a new town. The new town is where you will find both the train and bus stations. From there, it's about a 20 minute walk to the old town, where you will find the greatest concentration of sights and attractions.
Many people enjoy shopping for ceramics in Caltagirone. There are many shops along La Scala where you can find some interesting pieces. If you're looking to get out of town, then the bus ride to Piazza Armerina offers good views of Sicily's interior. It also offers a view across to Mount Etna.
Food and Dining
There are some high quality restaurants located in Caltagirone. From fine dining to local pizzerias, there are options for most budgets and styles. Seafood is common in much of the cuisine. Ingredients are usually fresh and of good quality. Seasonal produce and the area's agricultural influence mean that seasonal specialties are your best options. Ask around to find out where the locals eat and you won't be disappointed.
You can reach Caltagirone by bus from Piazza Armerina, Enna and Catania. Service is regular and reliable. There are also local trains that run between Caltagirone and Gela and Catania. The city's main train and bus stations are located next to each other in the new town part of Caltagirone. It's about a 20 minute walk from the stations to the center of the old town. Some of the buses may also stop in the old town so inquire in advance. It is possible to take a bus between the old and new towns if you don't wish to walk. A taxi may be your best option though as bus service can be limited.