The stories of my life on a little island in the middle of the Mediterranean sea ... and my occasional adventures beyond these shores.

Monday, 28 May 2012

The Steps Of Caltagirone

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In Caltagirone you cannot escape the ceramics. This Baroque town in the heart of Sicily is world-renowned for its beautiful pottery decorated in vibrant colours. For the past 1000 years, the abundant clay in the area has provided the local artisans with the perfect medium to mould and decorate in bright, bold hues.
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The ensuing results are quite stunning. Even with this in mind, I was not quite prepared for the profusion of majolica that decorated so many things in Caltagirone – from flower pots, to church domes and balustrades.
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But the most spectacular and striking display of ceramics is La Scala Santa Maria del Monte (or La Scala – the staircase – for short).
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La Scala consists of 142 steps that join the upper and lower parts of the town. Each step is decorated with tiles painted in a different motif.
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The designs were so pretty that I would have liked to photograph each and every step. It would have been worth the effort. An Infiorata (an artistic design created with plants and flowers) to celebrate the feast of La Madonna di Conadomini, one of the patrons of the city, further enhanced the beauty of this unique staircase.
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I thought that the staircase itself was utterly whimsical – a fairy staircase, a stairway to a magical realm.
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Up, up and up we climbed till we came to the top - La Scala was beneath us, behind us the square and church of Santa Maria del Monte and, beyond the rooftops and church domes, the rolling mountains of Sicily.
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I am not one of those people who can see a sight, take a few photos and move on to the next. Places like this move me. In 1608 it took several craftsmen a decade to create the unique ceramic tiles that line the steps. Surely such artisanship deserves more than a perfunctory glance? Could these men have ever imagined that 400 years later visitors from all over the world would come to Caltagirone to marvel at their workmanship … ?
It was siesta time and the small square in front of the church was deserted, except for some lines of bunting flapping gaily in the breeze.
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The church itself looked a bit run down, with  what appeared to be a wild  fig-tree was growing out of the steeple.
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For an inexplicable reason I felt a strange kinship with the place. Perhaps it was because the buildings were so strangely reminiscent of home. Or maybe it was the profusion of red geraniums that grow so abundantly here too.
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Or it could have been a myriad other things: the balconies, the narrow alleyways, the little shrine to the Madonna & Child at the end of a cul-de-sac.
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It was a strange feeling of deja-vu coupled with a sense of wonder that always comes to me when discovering a new place.
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I don’t know if I will ever go back to Caltagirone but the memories of this place will live in my memory forever.
Photographed in
Caltagirone, Sicily
May 2012
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For a brief history of Caltagirone please go here.

8 comments:

  1. Loree - what a beautiful post and lovely place - the photo of the city is magnificent - I may never get to this part of the world but I thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing this. The steps alone are amazing. God Bless You!

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  2. What a gorgeous place ! I didn't even know about it ! I have been in Sicily long time ago but more in the region of Messina. That's so beautiful ! How did you get there ? By car or are there buses from Catania or Messina ?

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  3. Lovely pictures Loree and interesting post.
    The buildings remind me of Malta too.
    Sue.

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  4. The steps going up is similar to the Spanish Steps in Roma, but Caltagirone has more colors and more artistic. Beautiful!

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  5. One of the things I love most about blogging is the chance to see these marvelous places through the eyes of a friend. Thank you for sharing this beauty with us. I am caught up in the wonder of this place, with you!

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  6. The steps are incredible, and how wonderful that they were decorated with Infiorata while you were there! I love the church dome too!

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  7. Wow. When I looked at the first image I thought to myself, my goodness isn't it pretty, then as I was reading along and looking at the photos to come they only got better and better and now all I can think of is "wow!". So incredibly beautiful!!

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  8. Beautiful photos! I love all of the colours and the history. I too, can't take a photos and move on. I like to know the history and details.
    What else would you like to know about Chicago? I love it too, especially this time of year...
    Wishing you a lovely weekend! xoxo, B

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