Sicily's hidden treasures
From Caltagirone to Caltanissetta, the Sicilian cities which have never seen even a glimpse of the sea.
Caltagirone, situated right in the center of Sicily, is famous for its colorful ceramics, which have been produced here, using the area's ample supply of clay, since the 2nd century AD.
In the old town, even the houses are faced in majolica, and there is no end to the number of little shops where you can purchase plates, dishes, cups, ornaments and every genre of souvenir made from the local ceramic.
The symbol of Caltagirone is the town's Santa Maria del Monte and, in particular, the magnificent flight of steps which lead up to the main entrance of the church.
Stairway to heaven
There are a total of one hundred and forty two steps, all embellished with majolica tiles. The tiles use geometric patterns, floral designs, and figurative images to recount the history of Sicily from the period of the Arab dominion right up to the modern day.
Each year, the monumental flight of steps is the scene of two important events: the Luminaria and the Infiorata
The Luminaria (held on the 24th and 25th of July and 14th and 15th of August) features a stunning display of some four thousand lit candles placed upon the steps; the Infiorita (during the last two weeks of May) sees the steps completely covered in flowers.
At home with Proculus Populoniius
The next stage of our journey takes us back in time, to the period of the Ancient Romans and the town of Piazza Armerina.
It is here that we find Villa del Casale, the country residence and treasure dome of the Sicilian governor Proculus Populoniius, built between the 330 and 360 A.D. Visitors tour the villa's forty rooms walking along a series of raised platforms, designed to protect the floors and, at the same time, allow visitors to admire to the full the magnificent mosaic pavements below.
The villa's 3500sqm of mosaics include elaborate hunting scenes, complete with animals of the Savanna and others depicting female athletes in various states of undress
The town that Fred built
Standing some 1000meters above sea level, Enna is the highest provincial capital in the whole of Italy. The ancient Romans described Enna as "urbs inexpugnabilis", because of its indomitable position in the Erei Mountains.
The city is divided into Enna Alta (High Enna) and Enna Bassa (Low Enna). The Rocca di Cerere archeological zone and an important temple dedicated to the goddess, Ceres, are located in Enna Alta.
It was during the medieval period, when Frederick II of Swabia arrived in the city, that most of Enna's most important edifices were built and it was here, in the Lombardia castle, that the emperor was crowned King of Trinacria, in 1314
The castle is an imposing fortress with immense courtyards. From its Pisana tower, one of the 6 towers (there were originally 20) to have survived the passage of time, an incredible view, extending all the way to Mount Etna, can be seen.
Caltanissetta is a city of Arab origin, once called "Qalat-an-Nisa". The economy of the city was based predominantly on agriculture until the 19th century, when the city's sulfur mines were opened.
The Museo mineralogico, paleontologico e della zolfara has been created to best record the history and importance of Caltanissetta's mining industry
The beauty of the city's historic center is a direct result of the area's 275 sulfur mines and the significant wealth they generated.
Whilst it was in the baroque period that the majority of the Caltanissetta's churches were built, it was in the 18th century that the painter Guglielmo Borremans was employed to embellish them.
The Flemish artist was responsible for the frescoes in the Cathedral dedicated to Santa Maria La Nova and San Michele and for those in the nearby Church of the Church of Sant 'Agata.