Middle Ages and Dolomites in Sicily: San Marco D’Alunzio, Alcara Li Fusi, Longi and Frazzanò
This part of the Nebrodi mountains is a few kilometres from the Dolomites. From here you can enjoy a breath-taking views of the Aeolian Islands and watch griffon vultures in their natural habitat. You can easily get lost in the Middle Ages, while walking along narrow streets with its old abbeys walls.
Let’s start out itinerary from San Marco d’Alunzio, a beautiful village set on a hill in the Nebrodi Park. The view from San Marco stretches from the Aeolian Islands to Palermo: this wonderful panorama has been awarded with two stars out of three by the Michelin Green Guide.
San Marco’s architectures and monuments have very ancient origins (Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Arab): here you can visit the Temple of Hercules, the Church of San Teodoro (of Byzantine construction), and the impressive ruins of the Norman castle.
If you like open-air sport, there is a free, well-equipped area (“Percorso della Salute“) where you can exercise surrounded by nature. There are also many paths and trekking routes to discover the natural beauty of the Nebrodi as well as great spots to photograph the Nebrodi griffon vultures.
Let’s now move away from the sea and head for our second stop: Alcara Li Fusi, a beautiful village surrounded by the Rocche del Crasto, also known as the “Dolomites of Sicily“. Alcara has ancient origins (its name comes from the Arabic Al Qarya, literally ‘urban centre’) and it offers a wide range of interesting sites: from the monumental Fontana Abate to the many churches, from the Hermitage of S. Nicolò Politi to the Motta district, an area very similar to the Arab kasbahs because of its maze of streets. A visit to the Grotta del Lauro is a must. This Grotto is set in the massive Crasto Dolomites, at 1068 metres above sea level. The cave is the main karstic cavity of the Rocche and inside you will find stalactites, stalagmites and columns of the most diverse shapes. The golden eagle is the symbol of the town and has its natural habitat on the smooth walls of the grotto. Behind the Rocche del Crasto is the Griffon Vulture Area, where you can see the aviaries for the griffon vultures that will soon be reintroduced into the Nebrodi Park. It is also a beautiful observation point to watch the griffon that are already free in the wild.
For those who love trekking, it is possible to hike starting from the Calanna rock (1045 m above sea level), then continue to the Crasto rock (1315 m above sea level). Passing through all the peaks of the rocky ridge that overlooks the village, where we end on the Traura rock (1005 m above sea level) and again, you can enjoy breath-taking views.
We will now proceed eastwards, descending on the Fitalia side, to reach Longi, lu paisi di li funci (“the town of mushrooms”), as the natives say. The town is surrounded by the Rocche del Castro and it is built around the Castle (12th century). You can get lost in its medieval alleyways, walk along the stone stairways and through the steep slopes: everything here is a reminder of ancient times. You can also visit the Chiesa Madre with its 17th-century pipe organ and precious paintings, then go inside the Chiesa della S. Annunziata which houses a 16th-century statue by Giacomo and Antonio Gagini.
In Longi you can also enjoy places where Mother Nature seems to be talking to us: for example let’s have a walk in the Mangalaviti forest, with its centuries-old trees; or you can go to the nearby Biviere (Cesarò) lake; where you can also discover the so-called “Stretta” of Longi, it is a valley crossed by rivers and waterfalls where the two mountains seem to touch each other (possibility of trekking and hydro trekking routes).
Remember not to leave Longi without tasting one of the many delicious mushroom dishes, as well as those prepared with the tasty Nebrodi black pork.
We end our tour moving further north to Frazzanò. A few kilometres from the town there is the ancient Abbey of San Filippo di Fragalà. Its existence dates back to 495, but during Arab times the institution went through a period of decline. It was rebuilt in the Norman period (1090) and became one of the most important Italian-Greek centres in the south of Italy. Whether you’re surrounded by the old walls of the Abbey or by the unspoilt nature, the Middle Ages era never seemed so close.