One of the reasons I was inspired to go to Sicily was the Italian TV series “Inspector Montalbano” (Il Commissario Montalbano) produced by RAI and broadcast in the UK on BBC4 (with subtitles). The series is based on the novels by the Sicilian writer Andrea Camilleri and follows the investigations of the small-town police inspector Salvatore (Salvo) Montalbano. The films closely mirror the books, and in fact entire pieces of dialogue come straight from passages in the novels.
Montalbano lives in the fictional Sicilian town of Vigata, and is helped (or hindered) in his investigations by a cast of permanent characters, including the bumbling yet likeable Catarella. We have the TV journalist, the head of forensics, the pimp who happens to be an old friend of Montalbano’s, the sultry Swedish blonde…oh the list goes on. Of course, this being an Italian show, no episode is complete without Montalbano coming into the acquaintance of an attractive young woman, deeply implicated in the affair under investigation. However, how can I forget to mention the long-suffering Livia, Montalbano’s fiancée, who lives in far-off Genoa.
I quite like the way that Montalbano takes his time to have a good lunch and really enjoys his food and drink. He also has a beautiful house right on the coast and takes a long swim every morning. All in between fighting the Mafia, making sure justice is done (even if he has to bend a few rules), and shouting at his inept colleagues. 🙂
Even though Vigata is fictional, the town of Porto Empedocle, Andrea Camilleri’s home town, officially changed it’s name a few years ago to Porto Empedocle Vigata. The films themselves are shot on location in and around the town of Ragusa. There are organised tours that will take you around the locations found in Montalbano novels and where the films were made. Maybe next time I’m in Sicily, I will go on one of these.
My favourite episode is “Il Cane di Terracota” (The Terracota Dog), in which Montalbano veers away from the main investigation when he uncovers an old mystery hidden away in a cave for nearly half a century.
You will find the Montalbano books (typically with a small, dark blue cover and a stylised image and title) in most large Italian bookstores. In fact, I picked up the latest Montalbano book (La piramide di fango) from a mainly second-hand bookstore in Lugano. The English translations and DVDs are available on Amazon. However, if you are confident with your Italian, I’d strongly recommend tackling the originals–they have smatterings of Sicilian dialect that add a lot of flavour to the narrative.