The Staircase of Santa Maria del Monte is a 142-step monumental staircase from 1608 in the old part of the town of Caltagirone, located on the island of Sicily, about 70 km southwest of Catania. This breathtaking staircase that connects the high part of the city to the low part, is the center of many cultural events in Caltagirone. The peculiarity of the staircase is each step is decorated with different hand-decorated ceramic tile, using styles and figures derived from the millennial tradition of pottery making. Twice a year this staircase is used a backdrop for which images of patron saints and other local themes are illustrated using thousands of flowers or candles.
Caltagirone is famous for its craft production of pottery, a job that still employs many craftsmen. This ancient art, which was begun in the Arab period, has developed over the centuries, but has maintained practically the same decorations and colors so typical of Caltagirone pottery. Virtually all buildings in the old town are decorated with ceramic tiles - in the palaces, the churches, the monuments, the gardens and the squares.
Between the month of May and June, the town celebrates La Scala Infiorata, the flower festival of Caltagirone. During this period the Staircase of Santa Maria del Monte is decorated with hundreds of potted plants artfully arranged to create beautiful geometric patterns that climb up the staircase. Then later in July, the Luminaria Festival is held in honor of the town's patron saint, San Giacomo, and the steps undergo yet another transformation. The staircase is illuminated with thousands of candles of different colours arranged in order to reconstruct an artistic drawing of several tens of meters.
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