Monterosso Almo (24km from Ragusa; 3600 inhabitants; 691m a.s.l.; zip code 97010; area code 0932) nestles high on the slopes of the Iblean mountains. It is the highest and southernmost city of the province of Ragusa; its territory is mainly mountainous and dry with the exception of a few areas. It is divided into two sides: upper and lower Monterosso Almo. Works of re-afforestation started in the nearby Calaforno district, leading to Ragusa, have much contributed to its splendid environs.
The roots of Monterosso Almo go back to very ancient times as show the many necropolises discovered in its underlying valley. Another ancient settlement has been brought to light in the close area of the Casaia mount, where the Sikels, one of the earliest Sicilian peoples, settled. The earliest records on Monterosso’s area refer to a hamlet of the 4th century BC granted, along with those of Gulfi and Iomiso, to the Byzantines. During the Norman rule this village was named Monte Iohalmo, then belonging to Enrico Rosso from Aidone, who built a castle, no longer existing, in the Casale district. Assimilated into the County of Modica, Monterosso was first sold by Bernardo Cabrera and eventually re-bought by his heirs. On 11 January 1693, a terrible earthquake razed the city to the ground, causing over 200 dead.
Giarratana has a mainly agricultural economy. It produces a considerable output of cereals, almond, olive, nut, fig, wine and, above all, a delicious and big cherry, the so-called raffiuni. A special mention must go to its excellent Pecorino cheese. These traditional products are supported by a number of festivals recurring during the year. Worth-mentioning are those celebrating the fresh ricotta and the crispella (kind of fritters). The Carnival is much awaited and celebrated with a big parade of allegoric floats and masks. Finally, there is the Festival of San Giovanni, in honour of the patron saint of Monterosso, able to draw thousands of locals and tourists on the first Sunday of September.
The tour of Monterosso Almo comprises various sites. The Baroque Chiesa di San Giovanni has a fine cupola and front elevation. Lovely stuccoes adorn the nave and the aisles. The desecrated Chiesa di Sant’Anna, flanked by several palazzi in neo-classic style, rises in the central Piazza. The lower side of the town hosts the three-nave Mother Church, a National monument rebuilt in a neo-Gothic style after the 1693 earthquake. Inside, it has several pieces of art, such as a 15th century wooden crucifix and two 16th century holy-water fonts.
The Palazzo Zacco and the Chiesa di San Antonio, also declared National monuments, also contain beautiful works of art. The latter fouses a great altarpiece containing the Martyrdom of San Lorenzo, the Baptism of Constantine and the Madonna del Carmelo.
Out of town are several naturalistic and archaeological attractions, notably the grotte dei santi (the caves of the saints) and the grotte dei denari (money’s caves), consisting of ancient rock-cut tombs later transformed into dwellings. According to legend money was buried into the grotte dei denari, that is still recoverable through use of magic rituals. Excursions in the close areas of Calaforno and the Lauro Mount are also highly recommended. The former offers a beautiful naturalistic and peaceful environment, the latter, a wild landscape with terrific views of the entire province.