MONTEROSSO ALMO

On the top of a hill, in a suggestive landscape amid gullies and valleys stands the highest town of the province. 691 m above the sea level, Monterosso Almo is also the second smallest town in the Hyblaean territory. Like the two other mountain towns of the area, Chiaramonte Gulfi and Giarratana, Monterosso is a community where gastronomic traditions and local usage and customs are still strongly related to its past. The genuine products of the land and the taste of home made things are a deeply rooted tradition. Monterosso and the habits of its population are the object of the big international research Epic, which is studying this small town in the heart of the Mediterranean, the longevity and the very low death rate for cancer among its inhabitants. In the territory of Monterosso we find woods, and the parks of Calaforno and Canalazzi where there is a suggestive fortified farm, unique of its kind, with high walls and slits. The Amerillo river, whose waters in the past fed a series of water mills built in the valley which today is called "Dei Mulini" flows in this territory too. The mills used the river currents to grind wheat while the abundance of water has created in time a small green paradise made up of big plane trees and birches and an underbrush in which still today survive animal species which have disappeared elsewhere. Peace and silence of these bucolic places are preferred by directors who have often chosen Monterosso as a setting for their movies. In the green valleys places out of time have remained unaltered, as virgin as the traditions that are handed on from father to son; the small town isn’t full of works of art but it is a small artistic and natural jewel in itself. Monterosso lives in its splendid isolation enjoying it and suffering from it at the same time since a rich series of mountain surround it. From Monterosso you can watch the highest mountain of the chain, Monte Lauro, which once was a volcano.


The History

The History of Monterosso has been influenced by the hilliness of its territory, which has conditioned the economy since the prehistory of the built-up areas. In the area of Calaforno, in the so called "Prehistoric Hypogeum", the inhabitants got their means of subsistence exploiting the mines of flint-stones, they could not devote themselves to agriculture since the land was not fertile. Archaeological excavations have brought to light 35 small rooms which were probably used as burial grounds, and in the late roman age or in the early Middle Age were changed into dwelling places.

Monterosso was probably born from the union of different villages and men who decided to form one nucleus easier to fortify and to defend from the invaders. The first historical news speaking of a village of this kind, date back to the Empire of Byzantium while there are no historical news on the Greek or Roman period. In the area called "Grotta dei Santi" geographically belonging to the territory of Vizzini but historically annexed to Monterosso the archaeologists have discovered some caves with frescoes in an early Christian style. The frescoes once probably extended on a broader and longer area. Today we can still see a unique panel dedicated to the Crucifixion. The caves, first used as catacombs and later as dwelling places were abandoned in the first half of the fifteenth century, since then they have been ruined with murals which have worsened the condition of the frescoes.

When in 1168 Godefroy, the son of the Earl of Ragusa Ruggero, gave the church of Syracuse the town in a bull of the Pope Alexander III, Monterosso was called "Monte Ioalmo". This name was probably given in the Norman age. Later, in the Casale area, a castle was built but nothing has remained of it today. Under the Chiaramonte family, Monterosso was annexed to the County of Modica, and it was probably in this period that it got its present name. When the Cabrera family came into power Monterosso was considered many times as a means for transaction and was separated by the rest of the County. Before the earthquake, it was bought again by the heirs of the Cabrera family which built there two castles. The earthquake of 1693 destroyed the town, particularly the churches, while only a chapel of the church of the Madonna delle Grazie and some little temples in the areas Mulino Vecchio and Santa Venera have remained On the contrary of Scicli, Monterosso was rebuilt on the top of a hill while the previous centre was at the feet the mountain.


The town

The streets, above all those of the quarter "Cava", keep their original aspect like some arches dating back to the medieval age. The most interesting work of art is the Mother Church, a national monument, which contain some treasures of a period before the twelfth century. There is also a big altar- piece of San Lorenzo, some paintings of "the christening of Constantine" and the "Madonna del Carmelo" in a style which recalls Caravaggio, two holy water stoups in local stone of the fourteenth century and two statues of S. Antonio and S. Marco.