In Search of Inspector Montalbano.
When we first planned this Mediterranean cruise we had decided that a visit to Sicily would not be complete without a visit to Inspector Montalbano's house. For the cognoscenti of a certain age and disposition Salvo Montalbano is THE Italian detective hero for fat middle aged men who dream of sharing delicious beachside lunches with Italian beauties. (He is not young, he is beefy and bald, but women love him). So it was with some excitement that we weighed anchor at Taormina and headed to Ragusa, which is the real town used for Montalbano’s fictional city of Vigata.
Our next stop on our way to this Montalbano Mecca was the anchorage a Brucoli. The location was beautiful but a swell got up from the south which made for a very uncomfortable night. In the morning we took the tender ashore for lunch and came upon an Italian war memorial. We realised that Brucoli had been the site of fierce fighting in July 1943. The shocking thing was how many members of the same family and how many women’s names were on the memorial. Modern warfare is indiscriminate.
Later that day to avoid the swell we weighed anchor and made for the ancient and beautiful port city of Syracuse. It is easy to understand why the ancients made Syracuse into such a fabulous port. A narrow but well buoyed entrance opens into a huge and relatively shallow lagoon which is flat as a millpond. The pilot book instructed us to call Syracuse VTS (Vessel Traffic Service) to ask for permission to anchor. A very professional female voice came back giving the precise LAT/LONG to three decimal places of where we were to anchor! We were soon launching the tender and heading for shore to re-provision and test the quality of Syracuse's gelaterias - excellent!
The following day three new members joined the crew of three to make it six up. After a further night at Syracuse exploring ancient monuments and beautiful buildings we left port heading for Ragusa Marina. It was a very pleasant and lively sail which I thought was a good introduction to sailing for one crew member who, until last night, had never stepped onto a sailing yacht before. Ragusa Marina is an enormous new marina with modern facilities and even a golf buggy shuttle service to ferry crews across the vast complex. It wasn't long before we had worked out which bus we had to catch to take us to the beach at Punta Secca where Montalbano’s house is located. The following morning we boarded the bus and the driver was all smiles as I confirmed with him that the bus would indeed take us into Montalbano territory. It was lovely to discover that the beach and house were just as depicted in the TV series. Montalbano’s connection has clearly changed this beachside village for the good bringing some chic restaurants, restored and preserved buildings and of course the ubiquitous gelaterias. After yet another granite (a delicious lemon iced drink) we lay on the our hero's beach to contemplate life. The series never depicted this as a popular tourist destination but here was an example of fiction changing reality!
Later we rode a bus in the other direction to Ragusa town. It is a stunningly beautiful city clinging to the side of a hill. Within the city walls there are more magical buildings and exquisite restaurants. It's no wonder that Salvo does not move far from Vigata. It's picture postcard perfect.