This curious itsy-bitsy place attracted my attention when I first saw it from a train heading from Palermo to Messina. I blinked my eyes in amazement to witness a town literally camped up on the top of a mountain.
San Marco d’Alunzio seems tightly compacted up there on Monte Castro some five hundred and forty meters above sea level but there are many features packed into this wee town.
Founded in the fourth century B.C during the Greek period in Sicily, San Marco has a rich history as a prosperous agricultural and economic centre in the area.
Strategically speaking it was in a perfect position both as a look out and a defensive point and so it found itself being jostled between the various conquerors of Sicily, from the Romans to Byzantines and the Arabs.
Another amazing aspect of this town is just how many churches it has, there is a joke which says there are more churches than people at San Marco.
Look in at the Commune of San Marco d’Alunzio and you will find the Churches of Santissimo Salvatore (which only partially survives),the main parish church of San Nicola di Bari, the church of the Aracoeli built with a sumptuous local marble, the churches of Sant’Antonio, Sant’Agostino, San Basilio, Santa Maria dei Poveri, Casile, Gesù e Maria, tutti i Santi, Quaranta martiri, San Giuseppe, San Giovanni and the convents of the Cappuccini and the Benedettine.
It is a testament to the Sammarchitani (as they are known in Sicilian) that they are able to maintain so many churches filled with precious art and decorations, I’m sure they are quite a tourist attraction.
The marble from San Marco is famous throughout Sicily and is used in many important monuments in the province of Messina, including the interior of the provinces impressive town hall, even the main roads and squares are paved in it.
I once read in a curious little tourist guide that the folks at San Marco are particularly well known for their politeness and always say hello and welcome everyone with particular warmth. What else can you ask for in a picturesque Sicilian town, loads of history, beauty and good manners, sounds marvelous doesn’t it!