The pleasant hills and picturesque roof-tiled villages of the Mendrisiotto region vaguely recall Tuscany. In this striking landscape, the most delightful, intact and best preserved village is certainly Meride, with compact and stern medieval structures and little alleys that branch out from the narrow main street. Above the village is the Monte San Giorgio, a UNESCO World Heritage site, which is renowned for the fossils that have been found, over 200 million years old, and for the modern museum presenting the paleontological heritage of the region.
"The village of Meride preserves many traces of a glorious past. Walking along the one main street, you are faced with a harmonious conglomeration of houses, some very old, of regional and national importance. Elegant gates from the 1500s, spacious courtyards and breezy loggias supported by columns made from Saltrio stone, offer a valuable and noble perspective." With these words, published on a large information panel, the commune welcomes its visitors.
The village's sumptuousness is a result of a migratory legacy, a century-old tradition that trained Meride natives to be excellent artisans: the famous Mastri. It's quite surprising that a small village such as Meride knew how to feed such a significant and dense flow of artistic emigration. The village was in fact home to numerous artists and academics. They were sculptors, painters and stucco craftsmen who, leaving Mendrisiotto, participated in the "construction" of Europe presenting their works in Italy, France, Germany, Poland and all the way to Saint Petersburg. They worked in European cities in the summer and would return to their hometown in the winter to build their own homes by using the skills they acquired abroad.
The houses in Meride are horizontally aligned along a narrow main road, the backbone of the village. Behind the high walls and solid portals that face the street dedicated to Bernhard Peyer (discoverer of the San Giorgio fossils), a maze of roofs, loggias and courtyards that were once connected to each other from the interior, are concealed. A network of alleys delineates the medieval heart of the historic centre, housing the important and modern Museum of Fossils of Monte San Giorgio.
Halfway down the main street, in front of the church of San Rocco (17th century) is a little square that enjoys a beautiful view of the vast plateau that spreads out from the foot of the village with broad stretches of vineyards, orchards, gardens and corn and wheat fields. On a slight ridge west of the village, rises the gracious little church of San Silvestro (16th century), surrounded by a small cemetery. Inside the church the walls are covered in frescoes depicting the life of San Silvestro, work of local painter Francesco Antonio Giorgioli (1655-1725).