Il Commissario Montalbano
It had to happen at some point... I mean after all this diary focuses on the South-East of Sicily, and in the past three or four years you simply cannot deal with the South-East of Sicily if you do not deal with Commissario Montalbano...
Montalbano is a fictional character created by author and screen-writer Andrea Camilleri. Camilleri was born in Agrigento, and he writes about Sicily with honesty and true love. The books about Commissario Montalbano are extremely popular and have also been adapted for a TV version that has been probably RAI's best work in these troubled times it is going through. The series for RAI UNO is filmed almost entirely in the area of Ragusa. They pieced together a number of different neighbourhoods from Scicli, Ragusa, Modica and seaside villages to create Montalbano's fictional town. At the same time, they have made the rest of Italy fall in love with the area - watching Montalbano weave his way through historical centres, and chasing criminals across squares dominated by baroque cathedrals made thousands of Italians want to visit the area.
Montalbano is a police commissioner that lives in the South-East of Sicily and has a beautiful house by the beach where he goes for a swim every morning. Appropriately refreshed he then heads out to tackle crime in Sicily. He has an excellent range of friends around him as well as a fiance that lives in the North of Italy but that comes and visits quite often. The crimes do not follow the typical stereotype of Mafia, but rather are more "real" and at the same time more "surreal". While always entertaining they touch upon some of the contemporary issues, such as immigration, unemployment, a political administration that is more worried about the media. As such, it shows that Sicily is alive and moving forward and not stuck in some re-run of the "Cinema Paradiso" or "Malena" forever. And it is this true character that we find truly appealing and immensely charming.
The characters use both Italian and the Sicilian dialect and because they are written with both respect for the people, as opposed to some caricature of Sicily, as well as a touch of irreverence, are fantastically entertaining. Another feature of Montalbano that is extremely appealing, especially to food lovers like us, is the gusto with which Camilleri writes about food. Montalbano always has a nice long lunch and Camilleri does not fail to describe every dish.
We reccomend the books unreservedly since the stories are truly entertaining and the descriptions of Sicily are a wonderful introduction to anyone thinking to visit. Unfortunately, something is lost in the english translation since the use of the Sicilian dialect cannot be transferred over. For those with a fast internet connection, it is also worth checking out Rai Click where they have eight episodes of the series freely available. If you are unsure about whether you would like to visit the area or not, we are pretty sure they will help you make your mind up :-)