Greysnet member Margaret Patten shares her experience of a trip to Sicily exploring the film locations of Inspector Montalbano.

The fascinating and amusing Italian police drama “Inspector Montalbano” has attracted an army of devoted fans here in the UK ever since the series was first broadcast on BBC4. Set on the Italian island of Sicily the action takes place in the imaginary town of Vigata. The series is filmed mainly around the Ragusa area of Sicily.

As a huge fan of the series it was with a feeling of great anticipation that I set off in late September on an early morning flight with EasyJet to Catania, the nearest airport to Ragusa. I booked a hotel at Ragusa Marina, which included a pick up from the Airport.

Sicily is situated in the central Mediterranean Sea. It is separated by the Strait of Messina from Italy. It is a delight with a wonderful climate and locations, friendly locals, and plenty of culture. It has a unique landscape and terrain. The scent of lemon makes you want to breath in deeply. The island is named after its earliest inhabitants the Sikeloi.

Ragusa Marina rests on a long expanse of beach lined with eateries and stalls. The properties here are newer and contrast with the baroque buildings of the old town of Ragusa – making it less authentic but it does give you the beach holiday experience. In Ragusa Marina there is a central sun dappled square, where functions and fiestas’ take place. This is bordered by shops and restaurants.  A lovely place to sit and watch the world go by while enjoying Sicilian food and a glass of wine.

Marina di Ragusa, Sicily

Arriving in the early afternoon we decided to walk along the seafront and enjoy a late lunch. Not many places were open, but we found a fish restaurant. The balcony overhanging the gentle lapping sea was restful and the food delicious. We really felt we were on holiday. We had only planned a very light lunch but changed our minds when we browsed the extensive fish menu.  This was of course combined with the obligatory bottle of white wine.  Many towns have regional specialities in wines, so be adventurous and try something different.

Soon after arriving we learned that Ragusa is a long distance from filming locations for Montalbano. We booked a taxi to take us to Punta Secca, the fishing village which is the location of La Casa del Montalbano. The house which will be familiar to fans has direct access to the beach and is empty when filming. The house is evidently a popular destination as there were many tourists of all nationalities. The area was buzzing, a reflection of how successful the series is both in Italy and around the world.

Casa Del Montalbano

The weather was hot even in late September, so I felt it must be quite uncomfortable in the height of summer. Opposite the house is a 16th century tower, in a small square. The lower floor of which is a restaurant, with tables outside. This is the perfect place to sit and enjoy a coffee and the ambience of it all.  When not in use for filming the Montalbano house is a bed and breakfast, popular with fans. Themed Montalbano tours can be arranged by the owner. Our taxi driver suggested picking us up in four hours, so we had plenty of time to wander and to take it all in. There are other historical sights close by. Agora about 3 miles, or Palazzo Comunale 3.3.

After spending time relaxing in Marina Ragusa, we again booked the hotel taxi and set off in search of the Police Station featured in the series. The building used for filming is actually the Town Hall of Siclia, the Mayor’s office is even used.  We weren’t sure where to find the Town Hall but we were happy to meander aimlessly along enjoying the experience and spending time in good quality gift shops, and taking in all around us. By now it was very warm so we turned down a wide street and found a restaurant, again with outside seating. – We really needed to sit down. As we looked around, to our excitement there was the Town Hall, opposite. There were very few people about and certainly no queue to go in. You can purchase a ticket to enter at a small cost. The ticket also gives you access to another building further down and a church with frescoes. It was exciting to be in the actual Police Station, and to experience it as it is in the series. It gave us even more enthusiasm to watch the programme. To see more of the town there is a small land train, that will take you around points of interest.

Regusa Ibla, Siclia

Ragusa Ibla is another lovely town to visit. The views from the higher part, Regusa Superior, is spectacular. It is UNESCO listed Baroque town in S.E Sicily. (Baroque comes from the French meaning irregularly shaped. A construction style from the 16th century- built originally to show wealth. There are beautiful examples throughout Europe. It is a highly decorated style and very ‘showy’ with dramatic colours and ornate ceilings usually with frescoes.)

Province of Ragusa is a relatively unspoilt area due to the migration of many locals for economic reasons in the early 20th century. A visit is a must. Ragusa Superior is the higher more modern town, built after an earthquake in the 1600s. While Ragusa Ibla was rebuilt in the old style by many who did not want to leave.

Sicily is known for its’ food. Take a trip to a food market and enjoy some street food. Arancini is a delicious snack of filled creamy rice rolled into a ball, coated in breadcrumbs and fried. When dining out try antipasti to start followed by the delicious fresh fish and be sure to try the regional wines. Dining at leisure is a must when in Sicily.

All too soon our short visit came to an end.  Goodbye to the warmth, not only of the climate but also to the locals. Back to a grey English September day. My cousin (my travelling companion) and I, parted company to return to opposite sides of the country. When next I watch Commisario Montalbano it will be with a new enthusiasm. I will look at his house, sit on the balcony, stroll along the golden beach with the sun on my back to the water’s edge, and smile with recognition when he enters the Police Station. I will be sitting alongside him at his desk. I will be there with them all, smiling to myself, watching intently.

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