On April 22, 1932, Escher and his friend Giuseppe Haas-Triverio left for Sicily for a month, an island new to both of them. They limited themselves to the northern part, which they reached from Naples with the steamship Florio. The number of places visited during the month that followed was impressive: the port city of Palermo with it’s university, the Saracen town of Corleone, Cefalù, with its famous cathedral, the Greek town of Tindari, the seaside resort of Milazzo, the island of Lipari, the beautifully located town of Taormina, the surroundings of Etna, Giarre, with the traces of the volcanic eruption in 1928, Randazzo, with the houses built out of dark colored lava, the lava formations at Bronte, Cesarò, Roina, Cerami, Nicosia, where the inhabitants speak a Lombard dialect, Sperlinga, Enna, Gangi, Petralia Sottana, Sclafani, Segesta, with the Greek temple and Caltavuturo. In that month he made twenty-three sketches that he worked out in 12 prints in the winter of 1932-1933. Together they give a good impression of the visit to the island that had made such a big impression on him and Haas-Triverio.
Caltavuturo in the Madonie Mountains is one of these prints. The Madonie is a mountain range in Sicily with the Pizzo Carbonara as the highest peak, at almost 2000 meters the second highest in Italy (after Mount Etna). A beautiful area with exuberant nature and a number of ancient towns and villages. Escher liked nothing more than to wander through a mountainous landscape and marvel at the settlements he encountered in these often remote areas. Caltavuturo lies in the shadow of a mighty rock formation and the contrast between nature and culture is something that he has captured in many prints. He usually adds something of the buildings to the Italian landscapes he made in the 1920s and 1930s. Examples include Goriano Sicoli, Barbarano, Cerro al Volturno, Castrovalva, Palizzi, Morano, Pentedatillo, Tropea, and Santa Severina. All of them prints in which the town in question is stuck on or against a rock or mountain wall, as if it were constantly involved in a struggle for life. In the case of Caltavuturo, the city and its inhabitants seem to lose the battle. Escher pictures the town only in rough form and emphasizes the cloudy sky and the ‘Rocco di Sciara‘, the rock formation that is overpowering the buildings beneath.