Well, 300 steps do not sound too much, right? But if I add uphill on staircases then it is not so easy peasy. During my trip in Sicily, I was more than happy to climb so many steps for a butter holder! We write August, it is almost 40 degrees and the sky is crystal blue with some cirrus clouds. We are driving somewhere between Palermo and Catania with our rented car, trying to fight our way through the winding mountain roads and endless serpentines. In the meantime, we try to get familiar with the Italian driving style, i.e. constant humming and total disregard for any rules of the road. Not surprisingly I haven’t seen any single car in Sicily in mint condition.
We head to a small town called Caltagirone, the citadel of pottery. The town is located far from the coast, in the middle of the barren island, high on top of a mountain. The earthquake of 1693 destroyed almost the entire settlement, which was rebuilt in earthquake baroque style after all. Throughout the history, the city has grown into a major producer of pottery, majolica tiles and terracotta products. Most of the handicrafts you can see in the shops in Sicily are being made here. Currently, Caltagirone is under UNESCO World Heritage protection due to its unique architectural style and pottery. The guidebooks do not really write much about this town undeservedly.
Undoubtedly, one of the most special attractions of the city is the staircase of Santa Maria del Monte, which consists of 142 degrees and each is decorated with different patterns of tiles. It’s a fantastic view from below as the colourful stairs lead higher and higher up the side of the mountain. Not accidentally these stairs are decorated with flowers and candles for different holidays during the year. At the bottom of the hundred-year old buildings there are shops of local potters, where in most cases the master himself helps the sale too. The variety of ceramics are wild, all of them are unique and handcrafted and carry the stylistic cues of their maker.
I always wished to have a beautiful porcelain butter holder, and I thought it is the best time to buy one. After visiting all the shops, I found the perfect piece in the shop at the top of the stairs of course. A blue-yellow butter holder decorated with a lemon motif and plant tendrils. I immediately purchased it, that Master Gulino carefully wrapped in a bubble wrap to withstand the flight way back home. I happily walked down to the bottom of the stairs, with my beautiful butter holder in my hand, when a thought began to ride through my head. How will the butter holder look like on the table at home? I do not have any similar kitchen accessories.
So it happened that I climbed the 142 steps again in the 40 degree heat to have more lemon decorated kitchenwares. This time, I no longer left the thing to chance: I bought a napkin holder and two serving trays next to the butter holder to make a perfectly matchy collection. Since then the blue-yellow lemon ceramics are the gems of me kitchen. Of course I only use the butter holder as I planned originally but nevertheless I have the complete series for sure.
If you wish to buy beautiful ceramics made in Caltagirone without climbing 300 stairs, you can order them online: https://www.ceramichecaltagirone.com. But the best if you visit here once you have a chance.