Located in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, La Scala di Santa Maria del Monte is an old 142-step staircase, each of which are decorated with a different ceramic pattern. It’s a wonder to behold, but during the Spring and Summer seasons it becomes even more breathtaking as locals adorn it with potted flowers and lanterns, creating intricate designs.
Situated 68 kilometers from Catania, the town of Caltagirone has long been famous for its production of pottery. The name of this charming settlement derives from the Arabic qal’at-al-jarar” (“Castle of [pottery] jars”) and befits its longstanding pottery-making tradition perfectly. The talent of local craftsmen can be admired everywhere in Caltagirone, as everything from the palaces, churches and monuments to the gardens and squares of this place are covered in beautiful ceramics. But it’s the splendid Scala di Santa maria del Monte, a 142-step staircase dating back to 1608 that really stands as a testament to the town’s millennial tradition of pottery making. This breathtaking work of art that connects the high part of Caltagirone to the low part, is completely covered in ceramic tiles, with each of its steps featuring a different design inspired by local culture. The Staircase of Santa Maria del Monte is the main attraction of the Sicilian town, and it’s here that locals celebrate their most important festivals, La Scala Infiorata and La Luminaria, during which they use the staircase as a canvas for floral and light masterpieces.
Every year, during La Scala Infiorata, the Flower Festival of Caltagirone, the Staircase of Santa Maria del Monte are decorated with thousands of potted plants masterfully arranged to create a monumental design. From the 8th of May to June 2nd, tourists are invited to Sicily’s pottery town to admire the floral designs that stretches from the bottom of the stairs all the way to the top. They can even walk through the maze of potted flowers and see every detail up-close. The unique event is a tribute to Our Lady of Conadomini, the protector of Caltagirone, and every year it draws tourists from all around the world.
Less than two months after La Scala Infiorata, the Staircase of Santa Maria del Monte hosts yet another breathtaking spectacle. On the nights of July 24th and 25th, the Luminaria Festival is held in honor of San Giacomo, and the steps of the old staircase are adorned with up to 4,000 handmade lanterns arranged in intricate patterns by local artists. Preparations for La Luminaria begin about a month before the days dedicated to San Giacomo, with artists making simple cylinders of special transparent paper, called “briglia”, in which they place ceramic lamps fitted with a cotton wick. Hours before the light show, the lamps are filled with olive oil which produces a pleasant perfume when the traditional lanterns are lit. Each year, the design of the light mosaic is kept secret until the day of completion to surprise the audience.