Situated on the woody Brinja mountain (from the Albanian word meaning “rib”), Mezzojuso was built on the remains of an ancient settlement of Arab origin, hence the name which derives from Manzil Jusu meaning “village of Joseph”. A good part of the extension and growth of the town is due to the Albanian colonists who settled in these lands from the 15th century.
Many customs of the Albanian colonists still exist today, such as the orthodox rite celebrated for example in the Church of Saint Nicholas of Myra, founded in 1516 by the Albanian exiles in the main square of the town. The Church of the Annunciation, which stands in the same square, was built just a few years later now celebrates the Latin liturgical rites. The Church of Our Lady of Grace, richly decorated with icons in late Byzantine style, is instead from the period of Norman rule.
Two patron saints are celebrated at Mezzojuso, Saint Joseph (on 26 September), with Latin liturgy, and Saint Nicholas (on 6 December), with Greek liturgy. One of the most heartfelt events is the Mastru di Campu town festival which takes place during Carnival and is unique in its kind. It is a tragicomedy entirely mimed which involves about one hundred characters in period costume.
One of the most common specialities is Pupi cu l’ova, a typical Easter biscuit in which an egg coloured red is inserted as a symbol of divinity in Greek liturgy. The there is Cosi ri Natali which is prepared at Christmas with shortbread pastry filled with almonds or dried figs.