In the 1920s and 1930s Escher made several long trips to Italy in search of inspiration for his work. Together with artists he befriended, he visited untouched parts of the country in spring and in summer and made drawings there. In the following winter, he developed a selection of these into prints.
In February 1931 he produced this lithograph of Santa Severina. The previous spring, he had sketched and photographed this mountain village in Calabria, in southern Italy. He was fascinated by towns and villages situated on top of a hill or mountain. The contrast between high and low, between the man-made environment and the wild nature surrounding it, the views and perspectives that the subject offers. In his Italian years, he kept returning to places like this. To Santa Severina, but also think of the citadel of Calvi, Barbarano, Cerro al Volturno, Castrovalva, Morano, Pentedatillo, Scilla, Tropea, Caltavuturo, and Sclafani.
In his diaries, Escher did not only add his itinerary but also noted the relevant photos he took and their locations. Subtle scratch marks in his diary indicate that he incorporated them into a photo album. Santa Severina is a prime example of this. On 19 May 1930, together with his friends Giuseppe Haas-Triverio, Roberto Schiess and Jean Roussett, he travelled from the coastal town of Crotone to Santa Severina, which was situated in the hills. They spent a whole day there and returned to Crotone on 21 February.