Montalbano Elicona, Sicily, and the Argimusco stones

Photo of Montalbano Elicona (Sicily region)

Visit Montalbano Elicona

Montalbano Elicona is a small town on a hilltop in the region known as Nebrodi to the north-east of Sicily. It is officially recognised as being one of the 'most beautiful villages in Italy', although it still remains a quiet and quite undiscovered village by most visitors.

Explore Montalbano Elicona

Montalbano is a medieval city, with a maze of narrow winding streets leading to the various districts of the town. The hill is not particularly steep and you will discover lots of the small architectural features that give the village its charm as you explore.

Above the town stands the most interesting historic and architectural building in Montalbano Elicona, the castle, with the Palatine Chapel being the most extraordinary part of the castle. In medieval times the village originally developed around the castle. See history of Montalbano Elicona for information.

Montalbano Elicona Castle

Because most of its defensive walls are intact the castle presents a formidable sight from many places in the town - certainly you won't struggle to find it! The castle, as you will see, overlooks Montalbano Elicona, a settlement of medieval origin.

According to tradition, much of the structure of the castle was built under Frederick II of Swabia, although recent research suggests that the Giuliana Tower was perhaps added by Frederick III of Aragon, and other parts of the castle rebuilt at this time.

"Frederick III (1272-1337) often loved to stay in the castle, accompanied by his trusted personal physician Arnold of Villanova (1240-1311), for treating his gout, and who was also famous for his religious and esoteric knowledges".

The Castle of Montalbano consists of two buildings, the oldest of which has a rectangle in the centre,  protected by two massive square towers to the south and a five sided tower to the north. There are two entrances to the original fortified settlement, thought to be of Norman origin. The second part f the castle, lower than the first, consists of an enclosure with a geometric shape that follows the cliff. A tower and a chapel remain of the ancient external structure.

The churches

Next to the castle in Montalbano Elicona you can see the Church of St. Catherine, with a Romanesque portal and built around the 14th century. Inside the church there is a large marble statue of Saint Catherine, attributed to the school of the Gagini.

The Cathedral Church, built in the Middle Ages, was enlarged in the 17th century when the two side aisles were added and the bell tower was erected. In the interior there are a sculpture of Saint Nicholas and a marble ciborium, also attributed to the Gagini school, a wooden crucifix dating back to the 15th century, and the "Last Supper", attributed to Guido Reni (1575-1642).

The megalithic stones of Argimusco

A short walk from the village is the plateau called Argimusco where you can see the remains of ancient megalithic stones. These Argimusco megalithic stones have aroused a great deal of interest among specialists, with little agreement about their origins.

For Paul Devins the stones represent "one of the rare examples of megalithic systems in Italy" while for other scholars these large stones are simply a natural formation and for others they are "a place of worship for primitive man", or even "an hermetic site designed between the 14th and 18th century, representing hermetic-alchemical symbols and with a reference to the constellations" (Paul Devins, “Il mistero dell'Argimusco” , 2010, pp . 16 ff.).

In any case, whatever their origins you will find an impressive work worthy of admiration. Close to Montalbano Elicona, it was here that Frederick III of Aragon came to cure his gout, on the advice of his physician.

Other information

After visiting the Argimusco and the woods that abound around Montalbano Elicona we also suggest you sample the local cuisine, with typical dishes including the macaroni, roasted goat and cakes made with almonds and hazelnuts. Note: photo is copyright

Where is Montalbano Elicona

In north-east Sicily, you can find Montalbano Elicona inland about 15 kilometres south of Tindari. The village can be reached from both the north-east coast and the western coast of Sicily, although whichever approach you take involves several kilometres on rather small and winding roads.

See also:

Map of Montalbano Elicona and places to visit

Montalbano Elicona places to visit

See more places nearby in the Sicily guide