26 May 2005

Day trip: Ceramic shopping in Caltagirone

La scala di Santa Maria
Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
Today was another sightseeing day for me. I decided to go to Caltagirone, and if I had time, I would also stop at either Piazza Armerina or Morgantina on my way back to San Giovannello.

Caltagirone is known for it hand-painted ceramics. In particular, I wanted to see La Scala di Santa Maria, a staircase that has different patterned majolica tiles on each of its 142 steps. Unknowingly, I wandered up a side street that opened up near the top of the staircase, and I had great view of the steps and the city spreading out below my feet.

Partway down the steps, I stopped to look in a craftsman’s workshop, and admired a large plate decorated with lemons in the traditional colors of yellow and blue. I knew there were many more shops to explore, so I continued on. After looking many places, I hadn’t found anything that compared to the first piece that had caught my attention. So, after lunch, I returned to the small shop off the staircase and purchased the plate as my signature piece of Sicily to bring home with me. It is now hanging on the wall in my dining room, and every time I look at it I have fond memories of my trip.

I had spent more time in Caltagirone than I had thought I would, so decided to focus only on the ruins of Morgantina on my way back. Morgantina was founded by the Morgeti, who settled there around 1000 BC. In the centuries that followed, it was occupied by the Greeks and then the Romans.

It was, at one point, an entire walled city with a gymnasium, market, sanctuary, outdoor theatre with seating for 1000, and many more buildings. I spent about an hour simply wandering and enjoying the countryside setting as much as envisioning the civilizations that one inhabited the area.

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