The brand-new season of The Young Montalbano premieres May 17th exclusively on MHz Choice! Here we bring you excerpts from a conversation with the production designer of the series, Luciano Ricceri, who is also the production designer for Detective Montalbano. New Detective Montalbano feature films will premiere this Summer exclusively in the U.S. on MHz Choice.

Ricceri was a major film designer at the time RAI/Palomar began Detective Montalbano, with the most famous credit on his resume being Fellini’s 8½. As production designer, he is responsible for the series’ look – crafting what you see in every frame of all the episodes.

Luciano Ricceri ©2016 MHz Choice

Have you noticed that you can enjoy The Young Montalbano or Detective Montalbano episodes without the sound? Watching the characters move through the magnificent Sicilian province of Ragusa brings its own pleasure. If you’re an Italian cinema fan and you think you recognize some of the settings, you’re right. The 1961 comedy, Divorce Italian Style with Marcello Mastroianni was shot in Ragusa Ibla, which is the higher, older section of the city of Ragusa. MHz Choice spoke with Ricceri and Alberto Sironi, director of the Detective Montalbano series about Ragusa and filming the series there.

Luciano: It seems like everything is distilled into that small province – the dry stone walls, the locust beans, the deserted countryside – dry scorched in the summer and green like Switzerland in the winter. And then this magnificent baroque architecture, which is unique. There they had a big misfortune, but it was also fortunate. There was a big earthquake in 1693 that practically demolished everything. The cities were completely flattened, and in the 17th century they were reconstructed. So they’re all pure baroque, pure 17th century style architecture. Small houses, big houses, palaces, churches, they’re all of that period. So there’s a uniformity, which is difficult to find in other places, where various periods and various constructions have overlapped. Over there (in Ragusa) it’s all 17th century.

Alberto: We never thought of going anywhere else. No other place existed. In his books, Andrea Camilleri wrote about his youth in Porto Empedocle, where he was born. But Porto Empedocle doesn’t exist anymore. It’s gone. It’s totally different. Luciano went there before me, and he went all over Sicily.

Luciano: In 1998 Ragusa looked like a ghost town. Practically uninhabited. There were no inhabitants at Ragusa Ibla, Few, very few. But it was a beautiful place. There were no restaurants, no hotels. There were no stores, no ice cream shops, there was absolutely nothing. It looked like a place that was far away, like a remote place, but extremely fascinating. Years before I had seen this place, for another project. I had done the scouting for another movie that was then not filmed there. The minute Alberto arrived we started scouting, going to Ragusa Ibla, Scicli, Modica, and so on. He couldn’t believe what he saw, and said, “We’ll do it here.”

Alberto: We had two fundamental problems to solve. One, a house on the beach, with sand. And in Sicily, there’s not much sand. There’s a lot of rocks. The second problem was, we needed a beautiful Baroque piazza close by. Luciano knew everything we were looking for, because they were in old Italian films, directed by Pietro Germi, Zampa, Visconti… They had all found these places. Luciano went and brought me photos. Then we went together, and we found what you see in the Montalbano films. Always so beautiful.

Luciano: Honestly, the landscape embodies the principle character, which is Sicily, and all that this place has to express.

Alberto: Luciano Ricceri was a film designer. He’d worked with Fellini, Scola – he was a tremendously important designer. I didn’t know him (before Detective Montalbano). The producer just told me, “Your designer’s Ricceri.” And I said, “Thanks!!” He really was a great gift.

You can hear more from Alberto and Luciano (along with the rest of the cast and crew of Detective Montalbano) in the exclusive MHz Choice behind-the-scenes documentaries Making Montalbano, Montalbano: From Page to Screen and Detective Montalbano: True Sicilians.

Watch the new season of The Young Montalbano here – premiering May 17th exclusively on MHz Choice, where you can also watch all 26 episodes of Detective Montalbano – with two brand-new feature films coming this summer!