Caltagirone The City of Ceramics
Santa Maria Del Monte 142 Steps of Artisan Majolica
The city’s name of Caltagirone is derived from the Arabic “qal’at-al-ghiran” meaning “Hill of Vases.” The city stays true to the meaning of its name as everything here will certainly remind you that it is definitely a city of ceramics!
The Town Garden, The Steps of St. Maria del Monte, the historic buildings, the balconies, the streets and every corner in between are decorated with ornaments and handcrafts made of majolica (ceramic tiles). When walking through Caltagirone, be sure to take an opportunity and visit one of its workshops, where these masterpieces of ceramic and terracotta are created. The symbol of the city is the vision of the beautifully embellished Steps of St. Maria del Monte. Imagine the grandeur of 142 stairs bejeweled with polychrome majolica tiles of geometric and floral designs. Stop at step number 37 and enter the workshop of artistic maestro Salvatore Gurreri, who has been creating the most important pottery from Caltagirone since 1989. In July, during the festival of “San Giacomo”, St. James, it is a tradition to light the Steps celebrating the Saint. On the evening of July 23rd, the Russo Family places candles along all 130 meters of the Stairs. The night after, on the 24th, the Stairs fall into darkness, and the people fill the Stairs with each person holding a candle, waiting for the event leader to start the show! The event takes place once again on the 14th, and the 15th of August.
Must see in Caltagirone
The Monumental Crib of Peace is the largest animated crib in Italy (over 300 square meters) and is made of terracotta. These ancient Sicilian crafts are represented in a typical village from the Caltanissetta region, dating back from eighteenth century. It is a very special crib, as every year it is enriched by the addition of well known people who have been distinguished for important actions i.e. the Nobel Prize winners for Peace. The Sicilian crib has an important historical value as it represents the traditions of Caltanisetta region and is set in an ancient farming village from its rocky landscape. The crib is housed in a natural cave which is very evocative. It is made with very simple materials: reeds, plaster, moss, twigs water and coloured lights. One crib in particular is the historic eighteenth century one made by the Vaccaro brothers and housed inside the Cathedral of St. Julian.