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 all situated in the Province of Ragusa.
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, Ragusa Ibla, Noto, Modica and Marina di Ragusa.
Discover Montalbano's places in the south-east of Sicily, in the Province of Ragusa.
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.
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.
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, 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 (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, Sampieri - 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