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Chasing Montalbano: Donnalucata, Sicily

Montalbano likes the water. He likes to swim. And he likes to walk the beach. But looking at his place in Punta Secca and the beach he has outside his door, it looked a little short for some of the beach scenes in the TV show.

So we headed up the coast, to the beach in Donnalucata and stuck gold. I recognised the promenade as one Montalbano has strolled a time or three. It’s amusing to see how the towns and villages in the area are cashing in on the Montalbano phenomenon.  The fishing village got its name from the Arab Ain-lu Kat (source of the hours – and legend has it that water from one source only flowed during hours of prayer.

The Church of St Catherine of Siena is particularly nice, although we didn’t step inside; it’s closed for restoration. In the summer though, mass is held outside in the square. St Catherine of Siena was the 25th child born into the family. Her mother was 40 when she had her and had to have been pregnant for all of her adult life. At 16, Catherine’s sister died and her parents reckoned she’d be a good replacement for her brother-in-law, but she had other plans. She was quite the diplomat in her day, credited with brokering peace deals between warring Italian cities. As a patron saint, her lot is full:

St. Catherine’s feast day is April 29, she is the patroness against fire, illness, the United States, Italy, miscarriages, people ridiculed for their faith, sexual temptation, and nurses.

 

Photo by Miklos Ilona
Photo by Miklos Ilona

There are some beautiful houses, some for sale. By all accounts, even in summer, the beach in Donnalucata still has space, except maybe on a Sunday. I read some interesting reviews of the place with foreign visitors rhapsodizing about the small town. I can’t say I was tempted but I wouldn’t be against coming back for a day on the beach.

I was curious about this monument but for the life of me, I can’t find any information about it. If you’ve been in this part of the world and have any insights, let me know.

Donnalucata is primarily a fishing village. It depends heavily on the tourist dime and like many other villages and towns in this part of the world, it is involved in intensive agriculture. The place is littered with greenhouses, their plastic covers reflecting the sun and creating an illusion that the sea is encroaching on the land. Far be it from me to suggest that the presence of so much plastic can be linked to the nasty practise of fly-tipping, but it would be an interesting study. Every niche in the road is home to broken plastic bags of spilling trash. The trees were plastic like coats. This part of Sicily is a mess. But it’s here that the eggplants we eat are grown, and the cherry tomatoes, and all sorts of other vegetables.

In the early seventies the explosion of the Ragusian greenhouses has been, according to Antonio Saltini , one of the most striking phenomena of vitality of the entire Italian agriculture building, on land which offered virtually no income, a flow of income and involving a large number of related areas, from trade of seeds and pesticides to that of polyethylene, from bottled gas for heating greenhouses and refrigeration facilities for road transport.

It was very selfish of me to complain about the spoiled views. I was there for a matter of days. These farmers have to make their living for years. And if this is their only option, so be it. This interview with a Sicilian agronomist makes for interesting reading.

For Montalbano fans, Donnalucata means something. For others, especially off-season, there’s not much happening. But by all accounts, the locals are friendly and the place has a village feel to it. If you want to know everyone at the end of your two weeks of beaching it, then this is the place for you.

Note to self: Next time, check out Blue Moon, supposedly one of the best artisan ice-cream parlours on the island.

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