In both Inspector Montalbano and the prequel currently thawing BBC4's Saturday slot, the Sicilian detective rarely lets the minor matter of a murder impinge on his daily swim in the Mediterranean or his simple but mouth-watering lunches.
In the original TV series, he lives in a beautiful beachside apartment in Marinella and works at the police station in Vigata – both fictional places. In reality, Marinella is the quiet fishing village Punta Secca, while much of the action in Vigata is shot in a photogenic little town called Scicli and further inland in Ragusa, a stunning, Unesco-listed baroque town spread across two hilltops (pictured above).
If you’re planning a proper Montalbano homage tour, the other location worth visiting, a few miles away and open to the public, is the imposing Castello di Donnafugata with its enormous terrace, which often appears in the original show as the residence of the elderly, reformed Mafia don, Balduccio Sinagra.
Salvo Montalbano’s beat is the southern tip of Sicily. But, of course, there’s so much more to the island, whether you’re on a driving, cycling or trekking tour, or just basing yourself in one place.
Sicily has a history stretching back three millennia. It was settled by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Vandals, Arabs, Normans… and the landscape is peppered with reminders of their presence, while the mixed blood of these peoples flows in the inhabitants today.
Moving northwards up the coast, you come to Syracuse (once home to Archimedes), which has an 18th-century Duomo (cathedral) with a baroque façade, but more interestingly the ruined Temple of Apollo, an impressive archaeological park and a museum stuffed with relics from around the island.
The town of Catania is another baroque gem – but really now there’s no competition as Sicily’s most impressive landmark, Mount Etna, looms into view. It is vast – at almost 11,000 feet, it’s the tallest active volcano in Europe. When it’s not shrouded in cloud, you’ll often see smoke belching from its summit; occasionally, there are eruptions of ash and lava.
The view from Taormina - the white, smoking peak of Mount Etna