Italy's most beautiful town in 2015
Full of history, art and traditions, Montalbano Elicona represents one of the most ancient and enchanting villages of the Nebrodi Mountains, elected “Il Borgo più bello d’Italia 2015” (the most beautiful village of Italy in 2015). Someone thinks that its name comes from the Arabic “Al Bana” that means “excellent place”; others say that its name comes from the Latin “Mons Albus” to indicate the upland on which the village rises up that, during the winter, is full of snow. The word “Elicona” comes from the Greek colonization: Dorians called “Helikon”, that means “tortuous”, the place on which the Medieval village rises up because of the shape of the near river. This village is so beautiful that you will feel lost in his magnificence: Middle Age is everywhere. Small houses castled on some spurs of rock and alleys that delimit the various churches, noble buildings and the enchanting castle.
The castle, built as a defense during the Swabian-Aragonese domination, it became a royal palace during the reign of Frederick III of Aragon. it was made of two floors, it had eighteen big and refined windows on the perimetrical walls above the Swabian embrasures and a conspicuous number of portals and doors. In the interior, big rooms will take us into the atmosphere of the ancient courts.
Near the castle, the church of Santa Caterina d’Alessandria of 1393 deserves attention. in Romanesque style, it guards fine paintings such as the “Cena Domini” made by the workshop of Guido Reni and a marble statue of Saint Catherine of Alexandria made by the workshop of Gagini.
From the castle, having a stroll among the alleys and small streets of the historical centre, we live the village reaching the Cathedral. Restored in 1645 with a big bell tower on its side which has fine bronze bells, it is consecrated to the Assumption of Queen Mary and to Saint Nicholas, the patron of the village.
The territory extends from one side towards the upland of Argimusco - where agreeable expanses of pastures and thousand-year old, such as the Riserva Orientata Bosco di Malabotta, gives a breathtaking scenery to the visitor - and, to the other side, goes gently down towards the Tyrrhenian Sea, taking the view up to the Aeolian Islands outline. The amazing megaliths of Argimusco have an irresistible charm: very big calcareous rocks which have peculiar anthropomorphic and zoomorphic shapes and esoteric symbols that seems to be magic. According to someone, this rocks had been shaped by the thousand-year old erosion made my wind and rain. Others say that this shapes had been made by a prehistoric mysterious population settled here, used to practice propitiatory rituals and sacrifices to the gods.
Among the most important megaliths, two big rocks rises up with an elongated shape similar to the symbols of virility and fertility; some hundreds meters far from them, the so-called “Eagle” rises up, one of the most realistic megalith of the world that represents the predatory profile who spread its wings. The upland of Argimusco is the unique example of megaliths in Sicily. in this area the river Elicona originates. During the centuries windmills have been constructed and people used to come walking or by donkeys carrying grain to grind. Today it is possible to admire among the vegetation, the rests of the old mills (wheels and walls). In the territory of Montalbano Elicona there are also some buildings called “cubburi” or “casotti”, similar to the Apulian “trulli” and the Sardinian “nuraghi”. Some hundreds meters far from the upland, there is the amazing Riserva Naturale del Bosco di Malabotta, in the middle between Peloritani and Nebrodi Mountains. The reserve has peaks from 650-700 meters to 1341 meters high.
In the protected area there are beeches, Turkey oaks, oaks, pines, chestnut trees, hazelnut trees, maples, black poplars, willows, hornbeams, hollies.
The fauna is typically from Sicily: there are the wild cat, the fox, the rabbit, the porcupine, the European hedgehog, martens and weasels, the dormouse, the garden dormouse and the boar.
There are also several species of reptiles, amphibious and insects and some species of rare butterflies.