I love colours. The more colours the better. This is also one of the reasons why I love Sicily. I love Sicily for the smell, for the taste, for the people, for the sea, for the culture, and for the colourful ceramics which can be met everywhere and with every step you take.
Flowerpots, dishes, or decoration of doors or stair cases - in Sicily all this and more is made out of colourful ceramics. Archeologists found out that the tradition of ceramics production in Sicily is already quiet an old and long one, going on for several centuries with its centre in Caltagirone in the innerland of South Sicily. The late-baroque city is part of the UNESCO world heritage site Noto valley.
When you are fascinated by Sicilian ceramics as I am, then you should not miss to pay a visit to this charming place Caltagirone dating back to the 9th century when Arab people populated this area and built a first village. From the 15th century Caltagiorne was the city of pottery. Out of 20.000 inhabitants 1.000 were ceramicists. In 1693 an earthquake in Val di Noto ruined Caltagiorne completely, but within 10 years only it was rebuilt - in the Sicilian baroque style of the Noto valley.
Today there is the museum of ceramics in the heart of Caltagiorne as well as the open staircase "Santa Maria del Monte"connecting the upper and lower part of the city with 142 stairs decorated by handpainted ceramictiles. This staircase is in the focus of interest end of May (Maria Santissima dei Conadomini) when it is over and over decorated with flowers and on July 24 and 25 (San Giacomo, the patron Saint of the city) when it is illuminated by hundreds of oil candles!
When you are already in town, do not miss the cathedral San Giuliano on the main square, the townhouse, the different palaces, the bridge San Francesco or the English garden with the aritifical lake.
With all the different ceramic pieces you can get in colourful Sicily, the most interesting one for me are the heads of a dark-skinned man and of a light-skinned woman decorating Sicilian balconies, staircases or doors. These heads often come as flower pots and go back to a nice legend, I would like to share with you:
The old legend tells that once upon a time, it was around the year 1100, there was a beautiful, white (or rather peach) skinned girl with ocean-blue eyes living in the area of Palermo. The girl was almost always at home, taking good care of her plants growing on her balcony. One day, a dark skinned man was below her balcony. He saw her and suddenly fell in love with her. He entered the house and told her how much he would love her. The beautiful girl was amazed and shared those love-feelings with the dark-skinned stranger. She was happy. But the happiness was over soon. The day came when the girl's love told her that he needed to go back home where his wife and two kids were waiting for him.... so the girl waited for the night when her lover fell asleep and killed him. She cut off his head which became a flower pot in which she planted basil and put it onto her balcony. In that way, she thought, he could not run away anymore and would stay with her forever. The basil was growing and growing, the girls'neighbours were jealous and wondered whether it was the form of the pot that made the basil grow that rich? From that moment on, Sicilians started to produce flower pots out of ceramics looking like a dark-skinned man's head and put them on their balconies as well.
Today, there are still potteries that produce these heads. As they are handmade, they are unique art pieces and do have their price. But they are definitely a great souvenir from Sicily. And if a head-pot is too big or expensive, there are many, many other great Sicilian ceramics souvenirs adding some Sicilian touch into your home :).
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