Caltagirone is situated 80 km from the main airport of Filippo Eredia in the province of Catania. Every year it attracts thousands of tourists who are fond of souvenirs, because it is known on Sicily as the capital of ceramic handicraft. The place is full of Sicilian spirit. There are a lot of medieval buildings and monuments built in baroque style there. There are lots of pizza-bars with the best pizza in the world. And certainly, Caltagirone is full of things made of ceramics. The buildings and monuments in the streets are decorated with ceramic tiles.
The town was founded long ago. Though the first settlers are considered to be ancient Greeks, the name of Caltagirone is Arabic. The Arabians lived there after Greeks. They called this place Qalat-Jerun, which can be translated as “Sepulchral Castle”. The name was so gloomy because of lots of ancient burial places called necropolises.
St. Guliano Cathedral is the heart of the town. The Cathedral was built at the end of the 13th century by the Normans, but unfortunately it has not preserved. It was destroyed by the earthquakes in 1569 and 1693. Only 100 years later at the beginning of the 19th century when Caltagirone became the residence of the Bishop, the Cathedral was restored. Today it is famous also because its walls and arches are decorated with frescos painted by a well- known artist Giuseppe Vacaro.
In Caltagirone you should be careful while walking. Otherwise you risk not noticing the most interesting thing there, the stairs, going down from the main square of the town to the St. Maria del Monte Church. Each step of these stairs is decorated with tiles of different pictures. Many of them are connected with the legends about the town. Be ready that going down the stairs will take a lot of time because there are 142 steps.
Ceramics is a handicraft in which most of the population is engaged. There are more than 100 workshops in Caltagirone. Some of them make tiles and dishes using the old technologies which have not changed for the last 500 years. The ancient traditions of producing ceramic things in Caltagirone can be seen in a wonderful collection of the town Museum of Ceramics, which was founded in 1956.
The most popular souvenir in Caltagirone is considered to be a vase in the form of a human head. According to a legend such a vase is a symbol of victory over the Moors, who struggled against Sicilians in the Middle Ages.