The legend of the Moorish Heads of Sicily

If you’re visiting Sicily, you must have noticed the balconies, colourful and scented, but mostly bizarrely decorated with ceramics representing Moorish heads. This motif grew so much in popularity, since Dolce&Gabbana used it as well in their summer collection, creating much controversy.

Taormina balcony

The art of ceramics is very popular in Sicily and it has to do with the Arabic domination from 827 to 902 A.D. The Arabs brought to Sicily the art of ceramics, later referred as “maiolica poterry” since it resembles the techniques used in the island of Majorca in Spain.



Walking around Taormina one will fall in love with the charming ceramics pots embellishing every corner, every street, every balcony.

My favourite of all, Viglia degli Artisti was designed by a local artisist, with paintings, murals and charming ceramic pots hanging over balconies.

Taormina, VIglia dei Artisti



Taormina, Viglia degli Artisti


There are many motifs and patterns, like the sun/moon, the lemons, the pineapple, but the pottery–heads representing a beautiful woman or a moor head caught our attention.


Testa di Moro, or the Head of the Moor has a legend behind that goes back in the 11th century.

Legend says that in the Arab neighborhood of Palermo, there lived a beautiful girl with peach skin and blue eyes as the Sicilian sea. She spend her days helping her mother and tending the plants and flowers on her balcony. A young Arab who lived nearby fell for her and declared his love. The girl was so impressed that she also returned his feelings. But one day she come to know that the young man was married with children. So she swore revenge and during the night, while the young man slept, she took a sword and cut his head. She took the head and put it on her balcony and grew a basil plant as a reminder that her love is not joke. The locals were impressed with how beautiful the plant grew and bloomed and decided to use as well colourful clay head pots.


Nowadays this motif became so popular and common in homes, hotels,restaurants all over Sicily.


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