Population: 2,408 (1989). Height: 530m.
Isnello is a starting-point for excursions on foot through the surrounding area. It occupies a fine position clinging to the rock in the middle of a gorge surrounded by high limestone walls. Its narrow streets reveal a typical medieval layout.
Go back towards the Santuario, at the junction (signposted for Piano delle Fate) turn left along another panoramic road, leading through the villages of Gratteri, whose centre retains a medieval feel, and Lascari, and then continues on down to the coast and Cefalù.
The caves around Isnello have been inhabited since prehistoric times. The name is said to be a derivation of the Arabic ‘Hassin’, meaning cold water, and the name given by the Arabs to the local river, now known as the Asine. The original nucleus of the town is the site on which now stand the ruins of the castle. The castle, standing above Piazza Mazzini dates from the 13th C, however it had previously been a Greek and Arabic settlement. Records have been found of an Arabic settlement here called Menzil Al Hamar. From the 15th C the town began to expand towards the east and south east along what is now known as Corso Vittorio Emanuele III.
The heart of the little village is Piazza Mazzini just below the castle and where the MotherChurch, dedicated to St Nicholas, the patron saint of Isnello, founded in 14th C, is located. It contains frescoes by Antonio Ferraro and a canvas by Giuseppe Salerno, Lo Zoppo di Gangi. It also houses some very impressive stucco work done in 1607 by Giuseppe Li Volsi. Unfortunately it is rarely open except for Mass.
The main thoroughfare, Corso Vittorio Emanuele III, leads south, uphill away from Piazza Mazzini towards Pizza dei Caduti. At the end of the 16th C, the counts of Isnello, the Santacolomba, moved from their original palace, on Piazza Mazzini to a new palace (which now no longer exists), further south off the Piazza dei Caduti. The Chiesa del Rosario, next door to the palace and now a convent, was used as the family chapel. It had previously belonged to Dominican Friars, but the Count, Pietro Santacolomba Denti, annexed it for his personal use.