Defined by Gesualdo Bufalino 'Isola nell ́Isola' (an island within an island) this is the woodiest area in Sicily. And from almost all the green scrub we get a glimpse of the azure blue of the Tyrrhenian or the Ionic sea. It is also the largest park, with its 85,687 hectares of cork, ash, beech, birch, oak, elm and maple trees, crossed by rivers, torrents, lakes, gorges rich in wildlife with golden eagles, peregrine falcons and colonies of griffins, reintroduced some years ago, flying overhead. A paradise for green tourism. The forest here ranges in altitude from 1200m to 1500m; the park's highest peak is Monte Soro (1847m), and the Lago di Biviere is a lovely natural lake supporting herons and stilts.
Themed itineraries, didactic areas (don't miss the one about charcoal in the thousand-year- old wood of Tassita), guided visits, events at high altitude, landscapes in continuous transformation to be discovered on foot, on horseback or by bike but also highly interesting gastronomic stop-overs thanks to the net- work of typical products well-established all over the region. In the park there are 23 municipalities, historical villages, with art and ancient traditions linked to weaving, to grazing and to the production of excellent cheeses and cold cuts. Particularly engrossing are a series of popular festivals inspired by the cycles of nature, by the patron saints and by Easter. The main star is almost always the Sanfratellano horse, a native race of great strength, character and elegance. Envied by the Greeks and quoted by Flavio Vegezio, who defined it the 'Equus Sicanus, it lives happily in a semi-wild state among the woods of the park.
Perched north of town at a height of nearly 1000m, the ruins of Mistretta's 11th-century Norman castle make an atmospheric spot to survey the old town's huddle of stone houses and the surrounding patchwork of fields and rolling hills. First mentioned in historical accounts dating to 1083, the castle nowadays is a crumbling shell of its former self, but the views are lovely, and the evocative approach through Mistretta's narrow stone streets is reason enough to make the climb.
Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie
The most impressive of San Marco d' Alunzio's churches is Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie, where there's a Domenico Gagini statue of the Madonna con bambino e San Giovanni (Madonna with Child and St John) from 1481.