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Misterbianco, about 45,000 inhabitants, lies 213m a.s.l. on the Southern slopes of the Etna volcano. Once a mostly farming town with outstanding outputs of citrus fruits, cereals and grapes, Misterbianco boasts today a thriving industry and commerce.
It is a city of historical and cultural importance. Several religious and secular buildings in the old town are worth-seeing.
The Mother Church – Its construction was initiated after the 1669 Etna eruption. Its imposing Romanesque façade is made of the popular Priolo stone and is complete with capitals, columns, rose-windows and a central loggia where is a statue of the Madonna delle Grazie. The interior is adorned with precious works such as a 16th century statue of the Madonna delle Grazie attributed to Antonello Gagini, a statue of S. Antonio da Padova, two paintings portraying “Le anime del Purgatorio” and “San Francesco d’Assisi”.
Chiesa di San Nicolò – The church dedicated to Saint Nicholas and to Our Lady of the Holy Rosary has oldest roots. Formerly dedicated to Maria Santissima delle Grazie, it collapsed at the end of the 18th century and was successively rebuilt. The church is renowned for some works at its interior, notably a 16th century altarpiece depicting Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, and a painting of San Pietro Martire flanked by San Lorenzo and San Placido.
Surroundings and Minor Churches – Among the minor churches a mention must go to the chiesa di San Giuseppe – with chalk statues representing two Angels, the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, in the façade – the 1600’s Chiesa del Carmine and the Chiesa di Sant’Orsola – one of the earliest buildings of the post-quake reconstruction, containing a 1600’s painting of Santa Maria della Consoloazione, the 1700’s painting of S. Lucia and the 1700’s painting of Sant’Agostino.
The city has two nice squares, Piazza Mazzini and Piazza Dante, both lively meeting places, a rich Library, founded also thanks to donations, and an Art-Gallery in the west side of the mentioned Piazza Mazzini, built on an old building called “a casa di l’acqua” (water house).
Two old parchments report on some donations dating from the second half of the 14th century; at that time the Church of Santa Maria was the only building in the area. The settlement was founded on a plateau with a very fertile soil, crossed by the Amenano River. An endless number of church were soon erected. The town name derives from a monastery with white walls destroyed, as most of the village, by the powerful eruption of 1669 lasted over one-hundred days. The reconstruction that followed sought to respect, as far as possible, the former town design. So the Piazza Quattro Canti, the four noble Palazzi – Santonocito, Scuderi, Anfuso and Santagati – and most of the remaining secular and religious buildings were rebuilt. Misterbianco was one of the most important hamlets in the Etna area. Initially sold to the Genoan Massa family, it passed to the Trigonas who became, since 1685, the Dukes of the town.
Misterbianco has some interesting archaeological sites with various relics of the Neolithic Age. Also worth-mentioning are the Greek-Roman and Byzantine settlements discovered at the Erbe Bianche area. An aqueduct of Greek-Roman age also crosses the city.
The ruins of the old Mother Church dedicated to Santa Maria de Monasterio Albo are located in the area that bears the same name, where is a splendid oak-wood. Very few is known about the church; documents of the 14th century report on its annexion to the Collegiata di Santa Maria dell’Elemosina di Catania; a second mention is documented in the 16th century, under the title of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Largely devastated by the 1669 eruption, it only retains an ancient campanile. It was later rebuilt in an area nearby.