Sunday, January 11, 2009

Italy: Andrea Camilleri's "Paper Moon" in paperback, and Montalbano's Sicily.

You won't find Vigàta on any map of Sicily. It’s the fictional setting for Andrea Camilleri's highly popular series of nine (in English) crime novels featuring temperamental yet wise Inspector Salvo Montalbano.

Paper Moon is the most recent to be translated into English, and the paperback version has just been reissued. It delivers the expected romp as Montalbano once again finds himself investigating beautiful women, this time involved in the death of a travelling pharmaceutical salesman, aided (or hindered) by his caricature police colleagues. And throughout the story he is plagued by intimations of his mortality.

Camilleri himself grew up in the Sicilian town of Porto Empedocle on the SW coast of the island, and this is the inspiration for Vigàta, the little harbour town in which Montalbano serves alongside his small band of officers. In fact, so proud are the inhabitants of their literary connections that in 2003 the town was officially renamed Porto Empedocle Vigàta. The fictional city of Montelusa is based on Agrigento, the nearby provincial capital.The detective's favourite trattoria, the San Calogero, actually exists at 2 Via Roma, Porto Empedocle. The owners are used to tourists coming in and asking for Montalbano's favourite dishes.

The Italian television episodes based on the Montalbano novels were filmed in various places around Sicily, but much of Vigàta was shot in the hillside town of Ragusa (see map below) a glorious baroque fortified town with steep winding streets, slashed by a deep ravine created by an earthquake which split the town in two in the 17th century, now spanned by four impressive bridges.

Montalbano's beachside home with terrace was shot using the seafront at Punta Secca, although the bedroom was filmed a few miles away at a seafront villa in Marina di Ragusa.

For a taste of the fantastic scenery and settings for the Italian TV version, visit the RAI Montalbano website, and here is a direct link to go directly to this page from which you can watch all the TV episodes – in Italian, of course.

I especially love the opening sequence which has some fabulous shots, so it's worth a look even if you don't intend to watch each 90 minute show in full! My only difficulty with this series is that Luca Zingaretti seems a decade too young for my idea of Montalbano, but he's quite compelling in the role.

Finally, anyone wishing to follow in Salvo's footsteps, there are organised tours– or you can even have one customised especially for you!

Click on the map to view larger


Anonymous said...

What a lovely post! I have just today finished reading Paper Moon, having read Rounding the Mark and The Patience of the Spider immediately beforehand. I think Paper Moon is both a stronger mystery and a better story than many of this wonderful series (in which the plot is often irrelevant).
I particularly like the perspective that the octogenarian author brings to bear on the state of modern Sicily (and Italy).
Thank you for all the extra background information about Sicily, particularly the tour, which I'd love to undertake.

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Parafield Flight Training Noise said...

Vigata to Monteluso, keep up the good work! Cheers to the makers on Montelbano, delightfully refreshing from overly dramatic Amerikanglo stuff, & you do your place proud. Hopefully the tourists/foreign interests don't pollute/damage the pleasant amenity we see, learn from us...

TheDozingLion said...

Love the books and tv show - it is a joy to watch as it takes you into the laid-back world Montalbano inhabits and allows you to enjoy a taste of Italian humour (and the wonderful seafood vicariously).

I found it hard to find the episodes online so I did a bit of work to create English subtitled versions so I can watch Montalbano anytime. I want to share this with other fans, here is a link to my blog with an episode guide and links.