12 February 2012

Inspector Montalbano locations

The BBC series Inspector Montalbano (made by the Italian TV company Rai as Il Commissario Montalbano) is full of stunning Sicilian locations, from sweeping views to picturesque corners and lanes.

The original Montalbano books, by Andrea Camilleri, are set in fictional locations. Montalbano's imaginary  town, Vigata, is loosely based upon the real coastal town - Camilleri's hometown - Porto Empedocle, and Montelusa, the nearby big town, is based upon Agrigento, famous for its Greek temples.

However, the TV series moves the setting eastwards across Sicily, and it is mostly filmed in the south-eastern swathe of Sicily which is renowned for its architecturally-appealing Baroque towns (listed by UNESCO as heritage sites), some of which can be seen in sweeping overhead shots in the opening credits, including Scicli, Ragusa, Noto and Modica.

Town hall, Scicli - Montalbano's police station
In this article I'll list some of the filming locations for the TV series. Travellers who want to follow in Montalbano's footsteps won't find all the locations in one place, but you can find typical Montalbano atmosphere and scenery (minus the corpses) in any of these attractive Baroque towns. Within easy reach of Catania Airport, they are quite close together and linked by public transport, so it's relatively easy to spend a few days travelling around the area. This is a great destination for a cultural touring holiday, even without the Montalbano connection.

Regular locations

A lot of the locations are in the lovely little town of Scicli. Montalbano's police station, seen in many episodes,  is, in real life, the town hall of Scicli. It is in the pretty, central Via Penna. The mayor's real-life office (the Stanza del Sindaco) is used in the series too, as the Questore's office, and it can sometimes be visited by the public. The Questura (police HQ) building supposedly in Montelusa is also in Scicli, in Piazza Italia.
Piazza Duomo, Ragusa

In more recent episodes, Piazza Pola in Ragusa Ibla, off the main street, becomes the site of the Inspector's police station. Look out in TV episodes for the nearby Circolo di Conversazione, an elegant one-storey building. Ragusa is a picturesque town on two hilltops, surrounded by deep valleys, and it is featured heavily in Inspector Montalbano. The cathedral square Piazza Duomo, a long sloping piazza with a flight of steps leading up to the cathedral, can be glimpsed frequently.   Individual buildings and lanes close by are often used as the setting for Montalbano's investigations and house calls, and viewers will also notice and admire the famous view over Ragusa Ibla, the old town on its hilltop, with flights of steps and a road in the foreground.

The restaurant San Calogero which Montalbano visits often - and where he introduces colleague Mimi to future wife Beba  in Gita a Tindari / Excursion to Tindari -  is really La Rusticana in Ragusa Ibla, where the cast of the TV series have signed the walls.

La Rusticana restaurant, Ragusa Ibla

Punta Secca
Montalbano's home, with its balconies overlooking the beach, is at Punta Secca,  a small seaside settlement with a tall lighthouse, which stands in for fictional Marinella.   'Montalbano's' house is a B&B, helpfully called La Casa di Montalbano, so if you book well ahead you can actually stay here. The little square where the building is located is now rechristened Piazza Montalbano. Along the seafront is a restaurant where Montalbano occasionally enjoys a seafood and pasta lunch on the terrace.

Castello di Donnafugata
Castello di Donnafugata, near Ragusa
In the pursuit of his enquiries a disapproving Montalbano sometimes has to call upon aged Mafia boss Balduccio Sinagra in his sumptuous residence. In fictional Vigata the Sinagra family are the local Mafia clan. In reality the Castello di Donnafugata belongs to Ragusa town council, and is open to the public (and well worth visiting). It's outside the town and can be reached by car or very rare trains. The grounds also serve as the location for a horse race and a seduction in La Pista di Sabbia, and Montalbano finds a couple of corpses in the maze in Gita a Tindari / Excursion to Tindari.

Locations in individual episodes

Ragusa -  In Gli Arancini di Montalbano / Montalbano's Croquettes the detective calls in at a cafe in Piazza Duomo to see his housekeeper's delinquent son. The public park in Ragusa Ibla, the Giardino Ibleo, stands in for a hospital garden in another episode.

Alley, Modica
Alley, Modica (pictured) - On our Sicilian trip we were pleased to come across this spot in Modica, identified by an information board, not long after seeing the episode when Montalbano arrives here looking for a suspect and is served a barrage of foul-mouthed abuse by a little old lady.

La Pazienza del Ragno - Cava D'Ispica - Investigating a ransom case, Montalbano turns up in the rock-cut tombs which are a feature of the Monti Iblei area of Sicily, around Ragusa. A set of these caves can be visited in the archaeological park at Cava d'Ispica.

In Il Cane di Terracotta / The Terracotta Dog Montalbano discovers a pair of long-dead corpses in the Grotta delle Trabacche, another tomb site, located near Ragusa.

La Forma del Acqua / The Shape of Water and  La Pazienza del Ragno - Fornace Penna, Sampiero - this atmospheric ruined brickworks by the sea features in a couple of episodes.

In one episode Montalbano drives into Piazza del Duomo in Siracusa and visits the town hall.

Modica: Ponte Guerrieri - the terrifying road bridge crossing a ravine in the opening credits is this viaduct at Modica. We crossed it in a bus on a rather alarming journey, which continued with the bus swooping down hairpin bends into the town.

Scopello - the stunning bay in the north-west of Sicily is used as a location for Il Senso del Tatto

Other filming locations include Ispica, Donnalucata, Santa Croce Camerina and Tindari.

See the filming
New episodes of Montalbano are still being filmed, so if you are visiting the Ragusa area you may be lucky enough to stumble upon filming for new episodes of Il Commissario Montalbano.

Plan a holiday
>  Sicily destination and tourism information


Unknown said...

Thanks. most helpful. but you didnt answer one burning question - where are all the people?
Apart from the cast most of the locations seem to be a ghost town! is this down to the time of year, the time of day, do they shut the streets for filming or are they all really quiet locations???

Unknown said...

Can you tell me why there are usually only a few people/extras or cars in the episodes. The locations look deserted at times except for the criminals and the policemen.

Currently watching a new season on BBC 4.

many thanks
Helen Rosenblatt
Liverpool uK

Italy Heaven said...

Some of the scenes may be shot at dawn or in streets which are specially closed for filming. Towns are usually very quiet in the early afternoon, when Sicilians eat or rest at home. But these historic towns are not usually that busy anyway, and town centre streets are often pedestrianised.

Anonymous said...

I agree about the 'missing people': having spent a fortnight in the area last Spring, I can testify that it is well worth visiting south-eastern Sicily, and that it is usually full of its inhabitants. Goodness knows where RAI store them! Also, why does the gorgeous Mount Etna never feature?

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have any info on the seafood restaurant along the beach? And having looked at the website of the Montalbano B&B it would seem that options for eating out of season in Punto Secco are very limited - can anyone confirm?

Anonymous said...

The seafood restaurant is called Enzo a Mare. It is situated in Punta Secca, a few streets from Montalbano's fictional house. It's on the beach off Via Paulo VI. It has an average review in Trip advisor.
Cheers from Australia.

Anonymous said...

Enzo di Mare in Punta Secca is run by Danilo who also has the place next door, SanD. Address: Lungomare Amerigo Vespucci, Punta Secca, 0932-915956. The food is very good.I ate there in October 2012.

Anonymous said...

Visited Punta Secca today in February. hardly anyone around. must film off season. House next door has a huge modern roof terrace. Practical but not in keeping.

Anonymous said...

Where are all the people? This came up in one of the featuretes you can find on youtube. They are all behind the camera! The series has brought crowds to the region so they have to close the streets to get the look. When the show started filming the streets were that empty, but no longer!

Anonymous said...

Where is the high road bridge that is shown at the start of each episode

Italy Heaven said...

The bridge is in Modica (see above).

Unknown said...

We love this area of coastline and often holiday here (at Petrantica, near Marina Di Ragusa). We recognize many of the locations in the TV series, but not the harbour that appears in the opening credits - seemingly with houses on both sides of a river coming down in to a harbour.

In the credits sequence it appears after the viaduct over Modica, and a church in what I think is also Modica, and before the sweeping views of Ragusa.

Unknown said...

We love this part of South East Sicily and often holiday here (at Petrantica in Eredita near Marina Di Ragusa - which we recommend).

We recognise many of the locations in Montalbano TV shows, and have even watched them filming at 'Enzos' in Punta Secca one day in 2016.

Can anyone tell me where one of the harbours is in the opening credits? It is just after the Modica viaduct (and church in what I believe is also Modica), and before the sweeping views of Ragusa. It seems to be a river coming down to a large harbour with houses on both sides.

Unknown said...

As others have asked,I am interested in the location of the aerial shots in the opening credits of the town with streets that go down perpendicularly to the sandy beach, and the river that opens out to the sea with town on both sides. Also a light house tower...

Italy Heaven said...

I'm pretty sure the port town with a river featured in the opening credits is Mazara del Vallo. I'll add it to the article.