From the Castle to the Temple of Hercules: what to do and see in San Marco d'Alunzio and its surroundings (in Messina) with advice on how to get there from Sicily.
With its 548 meters of height, the municipality ofSan Marco d'Alunzioit stands out on the top of Mount Castro and dominates the coast that extends from Capo d'Orlando toCefalu, along the Tyrrhenian coast of the province ofMessina, In Sicily.
Listed among the most beautiful villages in Italy, San Marco d'Alunzio directly overlooks theAeolian Islandsof the Tyrrhenian Sea and is characterized by narrow medieval alleys, a Norman castle, Byzantine frescoes and picturesque churches.
The foundation of San Marco d'Alunzio dates back to the 4th century BC. During the period of Greek domination it took the name ofAlontionto then become Haluntium with the Romans, Demenna with the Byzantines, San Marco with the Normans and, in 1867, San Marco d'Alunzio, as we know it today. The city holds within it treasures and testimonies of a glorious and flourishing past. From the Greek temple of Hercules to the Norman Castle, from the sculptures of Gagini to the many bell towers in locally sourced red marble, San Marco d'Alunzio is a village to experience and discover in every corner.
What to do and see in San Marco d'Alunzio
If you are planning a trip to the northern part of Sicily, remember to include San Marco d'Alunzio among the stops on your itinerary. This internal area of the province ofMessina, still outside the mass tourist circuits, retains an authentic beauty capable of surprising and enchanting.
Below I leave you a list of the main things to do and see in San Marco d'Alunzio, with information, curiosities and directions on how to get there.
Greek Temple of Hercules
Built in the 4th century BC on a rock step at the foot of the town, the Temple of Hercules is one of the highest testimonies of the classical age in the Messina area. Its particular position means that, seen from a certain perspective, it appears literallysuspended in the sky.
The style of the Temple of Hercules, among the main things to see in San Marco d'Alunzio, is Doric. With a rectangular plan, it has a portal enriched (probably from the early 1600s) with baroque marble friezes and decorations. Inside, the cell, i.e. the sacred area that was reserved for priests, remained intact. It is probable that, in ancient times, it was used for sporting activities linked to the cult of Hercules.
Ruins of the Norman Castle
Located in the highest part of San Marco d'Alunzio, on the top of Mount Rotondo, the Norman Castle was built in 1061 at the behest of Robert Guiscard. Thanks to its strategic position it became a military outpost of enormous importance.
What remains of the Norman Castle today are the so-called "ruins”: a picturesque wall of great visual impact that has become the symbol of the village.
Mother Church of San Nicola
The Mother Church of San Nicola is the Cathedral of San Marco d'Alunzio and is located in the medieval quarter of the village. Built between 1584 and 1800, it has a single nave flanked by 12 chapels and a facade with three portals in local red marble. Inside there are wooden statues, a marble tabernacle from the late Renaissance period, a baptismal font in red marble (typical of the area) and canvases depicting scenes of the Madonna and Christ.
At the top of the list of things to see in San Marco d'Alunzio stand outtwo necropolises dating back to the end of the 4th century BC They occupy two large areas of the village located in via Cappuccini (where once there was the garden of the Convent of the Friars Minor) and the Santa Marina district. Their discovery is recent. In one of them akottabos, a play instrument dating back to the 3rd century BC
Housed inside a former Benedictine monastery (in turn built in the 16th century on a church from the Byzantine-Norman age), the Byzantine Museum is one of the things absolutely to see in San Marco d'Alunzio.
Inside there are several rooms divided into three large sections: Archaeological, Byzantine-Norman figurative arts and Middle Ages in the Nebrodi.
Among the things not to be missed are theByzantine frescoes, the various collections of coins, fibulae, missals of the Greek Orthodox rite, Byzantine capitals and amphorae from the Byzantine and post-Byzantine era.
Festivals and traditions
The Sicilyit is a land of festivals, traditions and folkloristic events that celebrate customs and customs of past eras and yet, in some way, always current. Among the most characteristic ones of San Marco d'Alunzio are to be counted
- Palio dell'Assunta with the parade of medieval costumes which is celebrated onAug. 15;
- The medieval day ofJune 2nd;
- Feast of the crucifix and procession with thehooded Mugglers of the last Friday of March (betweenmost evocative Easter rites in Sicily).
What to see in the surroundings of San Marco d'Alunzio
If you are organizing an on the road among the main attractions of the Tyrrhenian coastSicily, know that in the surroundings of San Marco d'Alunzio there are several things to see and put on your list.
First of all theNebrodi Park which extends south of the village and is the largest protected natural area in Sicily (the autumn period is highly recommended as it is one of thebest places to admire the foliage in Sicily). Don't miss the Capo d'Orlando area with the attractive Port which, in 2021, is also Blue Flag.
Not far from San Marco d'Alunzio they ariseMontalbano Helicon and Castroreale, among the most beautiful villages in Italy in the province of Messina, as well as the Tindari area, with theArchaeological area of Tindari, The Sanctuary of the Black Madonna of Tindari and Marinello lakesand the splendid oneCefalu.
How to get to San Marco d'Alunzio
The municipality of San Marco d'Alunzio is located in the Tyrrhenian area of the province of Messina and is easily reachable by car (I do not recommend other means of transport):
- From Messina (about 103 km): A20 Messina-Palermo motorway (direction Palermo) with exit at Rocca di Caprileone;
- From Palermo(about 140 km): A20 Messina-Palermo motorway (direction Messina) with exit at Rocca di Caprileone.
The nearest airport is Palermo Falcone-Borsellino (169 km).