This is how I turned the adventures of Italy’s most famous inspector Montalbano into a fantastic road trip through one of Sicily’s most beautiful corners.

 

If you love all things Italian, then I’m pretty sure you’ve heard about Inspector Salvo Montalbano, Italy’s most famous fictional detective. This character was first born on paper in the books of Andrea Camilleri and then turned into a hugely successful TV series.

Among the many fans of Montalbano is my dad, so I recently decided to surprise him with a last-minute road trip through some of the places where the TV series was filmed. What follows is a collection of notes for those keen to explore the colors and flavors of an enchanting part of Sicily, following in the footsteps of Montalbano and his team.

The TV series of Montalbano is set in the south-eastern part of Sicily, so we landed at Comiso, the closest airport, and rented a car there. We only had three full days but if you can, do spend a little more time here because it’s really beautiful. 

Now, let’s have a look at the places where fictional people live, eat and get arrested…

Punta Secca

Sicily_Punta Secca

Our road trip started at Punta Secca, that we used also as our base for the next three days. Never heard about it? Well, Punta Secca is the fictional hometown of Inspector Montalbano, Marinella, and here you can sleep in the very same house used to shoot the TV series! It’s called La Casa di Montalbano and it’s one of the most beautiful bed & breakfasts I’ve ever seen. No surprise that TV producers chose it as one of their key settings. Just imagine starting your day on the very same terrace where Montalbano drinks his coffee and talks on the phone after his morning swim.

Fun fact: La Casa di Montalbano  was originally a laboratory for the desalination of sardines and in 1904 lawyer Giovanni Di Quattro bought it for 4,000 lire (about 2 euros) to turn it into a holiday home for his family. What a forward-looking man, this house now is worth a fortune!

Apart from Montalbano’s house, Punta Secca is a sleepy hamlet with just a bunch of permanent residents and a few nice restaurants. One of these is Enzo a Mare, where Montalbano likes to eat. The location is unbeatable, directly on the sea, and the mixed fried fish is to die for!

Modica

 

Sicily_Modica

About 40 min drive from Punta Secca is Modica, a recurring sight in many episodes. In particular, various streets and corners of Vigata, the fictional town where the investigations of Montalbano take place, can be found in Modica. For example, the stunning Cathedral of San Giorgio often appears on TV, with the adjacent palace used as the house of Doctor Pasquano, Montalbano’s coroner.

Modica is a glorious baroque town with a labyrinth of steeped alleys, spectacular buildings and atmospheric piazze. And if besides being a fan of Montalbano you’re also a chocolate lover, then Modica is without a doubt the place for you. Here you’ll find  Antica Dolceria Bonajuto https://www.bonajuto.it/en/, Sicily’s oldest chocolate factory, established over 150 years ago!

Ragusa Ibla

Sicily_Ragusa Ibla

20 minutes’ drive from Modica is another baroque jewel, Ragusa Ibla. Its beautiful streets and buildings set the scene for various episodes of Inspector Montalbano. For example, the café of the fictional town of Vigata is located in Piazza Duomo, overlooked by the impressive Cathedral fo San Giorgio.

Close to Piazza Duomo you’ll find the Circolo di Conversazione, a pastel-blue building that was once the meeting place of the local elite, and the place where Inspector Montalbano abruptly interrupts Dottor Pasquano’s card game in the episode ‘The Scent of the Night’.

Food plays an important role in the TV series and here in Ragusa Ibla you can see the beloved “Trattoria San Calogero”, where Montalbano regularly has lunch with his colleagues – in real life it is called A’ Rusticana.

Noto

Sicily_Noto

Perhaps these days is more famous for Chiara Ferragni’s wedding, but Noto often appears in Montalbano’s adventures. For example, the prison of Vigata is set in the former monastery of San Tommaso, while a lot of filming was done in the beautiful interiors of Palazzo Di Lorenzo del Castelluccio and Palazzo Nicolaci – this last one is used as the office of notary Michele Altofermo.

When you are in town, do save some time to visit the panoramic terraces of the Church of Santa Chiara; along the way you’ll also learn some interesting facts about the cloistered nuns that used to live here.

Scicli

Sicily_Scicli

Montalbano is often seen parking his Fiat Tipo car in front of Vigata police station, which in reality is the Town Hall of Scicli. Here, the local mayor’s office was also turned into the room of the police commissioner of Montelusa, the fictional province in Camilleri’s books.

The nearby via Mormino Penna is the heart of Scicli’s historic centre and is lined with  beautiful buildings that represent the creative genius of baroque times. They will literally make you stand in awe…

Other locations used to film the episodes include Piazza Carmine, Palazzo Iacono, Piazza Armando Diaz and Via Duca degli Abruzzi.

Vendicari

Sicily_Vendicari

Vendicari is a stunning nature reserve overlooking the sea, on Sicily’s south-eastern coast. It’s home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, fantastic sandy beaches and the old tonnara, a fascinating place for the production of tuna in past times.  

One of the episodes of Montalbano was filmed here, in the surroundings of Torre Sveva, a fortified tower that was once used to defend this area.

Marzamemi

Sicily_Marzamemi

Marzamemi, one of Italy’s prettiest fishing villages, can be seen in various episodes of the TV series. Its cute fishermen’s houses are the backdrop for many scenes where Montalbano and his team investigate crimes.

Perhaps the best time to visit Marzamemi is at night, when restaurants and cafés around Piazza Regina Margherita are all lit up with candles and strings of little lights – a real fairy tale place!

Donnafugata

Sicily_Donnafugata

Donnafugata (which literally means ‘the woman who fled’) is home to an imposing castle that was used to represent the sumptuous residence of Mafia boss Balduccio Sinagra in the TV series. Open to the public from Tuesday to Sunday, the castle is definitely worth a visit when touring this area.

Fun fact: Luca Zingaretti, the actor that plays Inspector Montalbano, chose Donnafugata as the place to celebrate his wedding with Italian actress Luisa Ranieri.

 

USEFUL TIPS

  • When booking at La Casa di Montalbano, ask for the attic room. It’s the only one to have a small private balcony and trust me, opening your eyes and seeing all those shades of blue first thing in the morning is priceless…
  • In terms of restaurants, I can recommend Trattoria Al Buco in Noto and Osteria dei Sapori Perduti in Modica
  • Do check out the Tourist Office in Modica (along Corso Umberto I), it’s run by two lovey ladies who will tell you everything about the town and Sicily in general – we spend over 40 minutes in there!

 

Any fans of Montalbano out there? 😀

 

Until next time,

 

7 replies
  1. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    Sicily looks absolutely stunning and very high on our bucket list. Great photos! Where was your favourite place? And if you could live there, which town would you pick? Sicily is on our maybe we could live there for a while lists lol.

    Reply
  2. Heidi
    Heidi says:

    LOVE how you did the tour from the point of view of the detective Montelbano. Such a neat twist for looking at visiting a place. Been to Italy so many times but still have to make it to the Southern region. It looks as fun and beautiful as I imagine.

    Reply
  3. Navita Deshpande
    Navita Deshpande says:

    These places in Sicily seem so beautiful. I had read about Sicily in a novel when I was young and since then, have wanted to get there. Hope that day comes soon. Maezamemi stands out for me and comes across as very colorful. Fishing villages have a very distinctive charm and with this one that lights up at night with candles, I want to be there to see it. What an amazing surprise for your dad to go on this Montalbano Tour and experience the places where his favorite TV series was shot! He must have been thrilled!

    Reply
  4. Annick
    Annick says:

    I’ve never been to Sicily but having a great home base for day trips is really important. La Casa di Montalbano sounds wonderful- I can understand why it is used for a tv show! And I always appreciate tips like which room to request. Aren’t little old ladies who really know and love the area the best sources of information?

    Reply
  5. Rhiannon
    Rhiannon says:

    I hadn’t heard of Inspector Montalbano before and as somebody who studied Italian language and culture as part of their degree, I probably should have! Nevertheless, this looks like a great road trip with some beautiful stops. I bet your dad loved it 🙂 Marzamemi would be my favourite to visit, I think.

    Reply
  6. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    Ah good ol Inspector Montalbano! I loved this series, and was lucky to visit Scicli and see where it was filmed! We’re in Sicily every summer, so I haven’t yet visited Vendicari, but will add it to the list for next time!

    Reply
  7. Yukti
    Yukti says:

    Sicily is always on my wishlist and I missed it due to lack of time during my tour to Italy. I never knew of this TV series Montalbano and but it must be great to watch for beautiful locations of south-eastern Italy. The fishing town of Marzamemi is really looking like a fairy tale town and it would great to see in the evening when all candles lit up.

    Reply

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