Sicily (/ˈsɪsɪli/ SISS-i-lee; Italian: Sicilia [siˈtʃiːlja],
Sicilian: Sicìlia) is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. It
is an autonomous region of Italy, in Southern
Italy along with
surrounding minor islands, officially referred to as Regione
Sicily is located in the central Mediterranean Sea, south of the
Italian Peninsula, from which it is separated by the narrow Strait of
Messina. Its most prominent landmark is Mount Etna, the tallest active
volcano in Europe, and one of the most active in the world,
currently 3,329 m (10,922 ft) high. The island has a typical
The earliest archaeological evidence of human activity on the island
dates from as early as 12,000 BC. By around 750 BC,
three Phoenician and a dozen Greek colonies and, for the next 600
years, it was the site of the
Sicilian Wars and the Punic Wars. After
the fall of the
Roman Empire in the 5th century AD,
Sicily was ruled
Early Middle Ages
Early Middle Ages by the Vandals, the Ostrogoths, the
Byzantine Empire, and the Emirate of Sicily. The Norman conquest of
Italy led to the creation of the Kingdom of Sicily, which was
subsequently ruled by the Hohenstaufen, the Capetian House of Anjou,
Spain, the House of Habsburg, It was finally unified under the
House of Bourbon
House of Bourbon with the
Kingdom of Naples
Kingdom of Naples as the Kingdom of the Two
Sicilies. It became part of
Italy in 1860 following the Expedition of
the Thousand, a revolt led by
Giuseppe Garibaldi during the Italian
unification, and a plebiscite.
Sicily was given special status as an
autonomous region on 15th May 1946, 18 days before the Italian
constitutional referendum of 1946.
Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the
arts, music, literature, cuisine, and architecture. It is also home to
important archaeological and ancient sites, such as the
Pantalica, the Valley of the Temples, and Selinunte.
2 Flora and fauna
3.1 Ancient tribes
3.2 Phoenician, Carthaginian, Greek and Roman period
3.3 Germanic and Byzantine periods (440–965)
3.3.1 Germanic (440–535)
3.3.2 Byzantine (535–965)
Arab Period (827–1091)
3.6 Kingdom of Sicily
Sicily under Spanish rule
3.9 Italian unification
4 20th and 21st centuries
6.1 Administrative divisions
7.2 Industry and manufacturing
7.3.1 GDP growth
7.3.2 Economic sectors
8.5 Planned bridge
9.1 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
9.1.1 Tentative Sites
9.2 Archeological sites
9.4 Coastal towers
10.1 Art and architecture
10.1.1 Sicilian Baroque
10.2 Music and film
10.10 Popular culture
10.11 Regional symbols
11 Notable people
13 Further reading
14 External links
The island of Sicily
See also: Geology of Sicily
Sicily has a roughly triangular shape, earning it the name Trinacria.
To the east, it is separated from the Italian mainland by the Strait
of Messina, about 3 km (1.9 mi) wide in the north, and about
16 km (9.9 mi) wide in the southern part. The northern
and southern coasts are each about 280 km (170 mi) long
measured as a straight line, while the eastern coast measures around
180 km (110 mi); total coast length is estimated at
1,484 km (922 mi). The total area of the island is
25,711 km2 (9,927 sq mi), while the Autonomous
Sicily (which includes smaller surrounding islands) has an
area of 27,708 km2 (10,698 sq mi).
the Rocca Salvatesta over Fondachelli Fantina,
The terrain of inland
Sicily is mostly hilly and is intensively
cultivated wherever possible. Along the northern coast, the mountain
ranges of Madonie, 2,000 m (6,600 ft), Nebrodi, 1,800 m
(5,900 ft), and Peloritani, 1,300 m (4,300 ft), are an
extension of the mainland Apennines. The cone of
Mount Etna dominates
the eastern coast. In the southeast lie the lower Hyblaean Mountains,
1,000 m (3,300 ft). The mines of the
Caltanissetta districts were part of a leading sulphur-producing area
throughout the 19th century, but have declined since the 1950s.
Sicily and its surrounding small islands have some highly active
Mount Etna is the largest active volcano in
still casts black ash over the island with its ever-present eruptions.
It currently stands 3,329 metres (10,922 ft) high, though this
varies with summit eruptions; the mountain is 21 m (69 ft)
lower now than it was in 1981. It is the highest mountain in Italy
south of the Alps. Etna covers an area of 1,190 km2
(459 sq mi) with a basal circumference of 140 km
(87 mi). This makes it by far the largest of the three active
volcanoes in Italy, being about two and a half times the height of the
next largest, Mount Vesuvius. In Greek mythology, the deadly monster
Typhon was trapped under the mountain by Zeus, the god of the sky.
Mount Etna is widely regarded as a cultural symbol and icon of Sicily.
Mount Etna rising over suburbs of Catania
Aeolian Islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea, to the northeast of
Sicily form a volcanic complex, and include Stromboli. The
three volcanoes of Vulcano,
Lipari are also currently
active, although the latter is usually dormant. Off the southern coast
of Sicily, the underwater volcano of Ferdinandea, which is part of the
Empedocles volcano, last erupted in 1831. It is located between
the coast of
Agrigento and the island of
Pantelleria (which itself is
a dormant volcano).
The autonomous region also includes several neighbouring islands: the
Aegadian Islands, the Aeolian Islands,
Pantelleria and Lampedusa.
The island is drained by several rivers, most of which flow through
the central area and enter the sea at the south of the island. The
Salso flows through parts of
Caltanissetta before entering
Mediterranean Sea at the port of Licata. To the east, the
Alcantara flows through the province of
Messina and enters the sea at
Giardini Naxos, and the Simeto, which flows into the
Ionian Sea south
of Catania. Other important rivers on the island are the
Platani in the southwest.
length in km (mi)
144 km (89 mi)
113 km (70 mi)
107 km (66 mi)
105 km (65 mi)
103 km (64 mi)
81 km (50 mi)
74 km (46 mi)
72 km (45 mi)
58 km (36 mi)
57 km (35 mi)
54 km (34 mi)
53 km (33 mi)
52 km (32 mi)
45 km (28 mi)
40 km (25 mi)
Location of the Salso
Simeto near Saraceni Bridge
Sicily has a typical
Mediterranean climate with mild and wet winters
and hot, dry summers with very changeable intermediate seasons. On the
coasts, especially the south-western, the climate is affected by the
African currents and summers can be scorching.
Sicily is seen as an island of warm winters but also, above all along
the Tyrrhenian coast and in the inland areas, winters can be cold,
with typical continental climate.
Snow falls in abundance above 900–1000 metres, but stronger cold
waves can easily carry it in the hills and even in coastal cities,
especially in the northern coast of island. The interior mountains,
Madonie and Etna, enjoy a fully mountain climate,
with heavy snowfalls during winter. The summit of
Mount Etna is
usually snow capped from October to May.
On the other hand, especially in the summer it is not unusual that
there is the sirocco, the wind from the Sahara. Rainfall is scarce,
and water proves deficient in some provinces where water crisis can
According to the Regional Agency for Waste and Water, on 10 August
1999, the weather station of
Catenanuova (EN) recorded a maximum
temperature of 48.5 °C (119 °F). The official European
record – measured by minimum/maximum thermometers – is held by
Athens, Greece, which reported a maximum of 48.0 °C
(118 °F) in 1977. Total precipitation is highly variable,
generally increasing with elevation. In general, the southern and
southeast coast receives the least rainfall (less than 50 cm
(20 in)), and the northern and northeastern highlands the most
(over 100 cm (39 in)).
Flora and fauna
Zingaro Natural Reserve
Sicily is an often-quoted example of man-made deforestation, which has
occurred since Roman times, when the island was turned into an
agricultural region. This gradually dried the climate, leading to
a decline in rainfall and the drying of rivers. The central and
southwest provinces are practically devoid of any forest. In
Northern Sicily, there are three important forests; near Mount Etna,
Nebrodi Mountains and in the Bosco della Ficuzza's Natural
Reserve near Palermo. The
Nebrodi Mountains Regional Park, established
on 4 August 1993 and covering 86,000 hectares (210,000 acres), is the
largest protected natural area of Sicily; and contains the largest
forest in Sicily, the Caronia. The
Hundred Horse Chestnut
Hundred Horse Chestnut (Castagno
dei Cento Cavalli), in Sant'Alfio, on the eastern slopes of Mount
Etna, is the largest and oldest known chestnut tree in the world at
2,000 – 4,000 years old.
Sicily has a good variety of fauna. Species include fox, least weasel,
pine marten, roe deer, wild boar, crested porcupine, hedgehog, common
toad, Vipera aspis, golden eagle, peregrine falcon, hoopoe and
The Zingaro Natural Reserve is one of the best examples of unspoiled
coastal wilderness in Sicily.
Surrounding waters including
Strait of Messina
Strait of Messina are home to varieties
of birds and marine life, including larger species such as flamingos
and fin whales.
Main article: History of Sicily
Dolmen of Avola, east Sicily
Megaliths of Argimusco, Montalbano Elicona
The original inhabitants of
Sicily were three defined groups of the
ancient peoples of Italy. The most prominent and by far the earliest
of these was the Sicani, who were said by
Thucydides to have arrived
Iberian Peninsula (perhaps Catalonia). Important
historical evidence has been discovered in the form of cave drawings
by the Sicani, dated from the end of the
Pleistocene epoch around 8000
BC. The arrival of the first humans on the island is correlated
with the extinction of the
Sicilian Hippopotamus and the dwarf
elephant. The Elymians, thought to be from the Aegean Sea, were the
next tribe to join the Sicanians on Sicily.
Dolmen of Monte Bubbonia, south Sicily
Recent discoveries of dolmens on the island (dating to the second half
of the third millennium BC) seems to offer new insights into the
culture of primitive Sicily. It is well known that the Mediterranean
region went through a quite intricate prehistory, so much so that it
is difficult to piece together the muddle of different peoples who
have followed each other. The impact of two influences is clear,
however: the European one coming from the Northwest, and the
Mediterranean influence of a clear eastern heritage.
There is no evidence of any warring between the tribes, but the
Sicanians moved eastwards when the
Elymians settled in the northwest
corner of the island. The
Sicels are thought to have originated in
Liguria; they arrived from mainland
Italy in 1200 BC and forced the
Sicanians to move back across
Sicily and settle in the middle of the
island. Other minor Italic groups who settled in
Sicily were the
Ausones (Aeolian Islands, Milazzo) and the
Morgetes of Morgantina.
Studies of genetic records reveal that peoples from various parts of
Mediterranean Basin mixed with the ancient inhabitants of Sicily,
including Egyptians and Iberians.
Phoenician, Carthaginian, Greek and Roman period
Main articles: Magna Graecia, Ancient Rome, and Sicilia (Roman
Ruins of the ancient Phoenician city of Motya.
Selinunte (Temple E)
The Sicilian province in the Roman Empire.
The Phoenician settlements in the western part of the island predates
the Greeks. From about 750 BC, the
Greeks began to live in Sicily
(Σικελία – Sikelia), establishing many important settlements.
The most important colony was in Syracuse; others were located at
Akragas, Selinunte, Gela,
Himera and Zancle. The native
Sicel peoples were absorbed into the Hellenic culture with relative
ease, and the area became part of
Magna Graecia along with the rest of
southern Italy, which the
Greeks had also colonised.
Sicily was very
fertile, and the successful introduction of olives and grape vines
created a great deal of profitable trading. A significant part of
Greek culture on the island was that of the Greek religion, and many
temples were built throughout Sicily, including several in the Valley
of the Temples at Agrigento.
Politics on the island was intertwined with that of Greece; Syracuse
became desired by the Athenians who set out on the Sicilian Expedition
during the Peloponnesian War. Syracuse gained
Sparta and Corinth as
allies and, as a result, the
Athenian expedition was defeated. The
Athenian army and ships were destroyed, with most of the survivors
being sold into slavery.
Greco-Roman theatre at Taormina.
Greek Syracuse controlled eastern
Sicily while Carthage controlled the
West. The two cultures began to clash, leading to the Greek-Punic
Greece had begun to make peace with the
Roman Republic in 262
BC, and the Romans sought to annex
Sicily as their republic's first
province. Rome attacked Carthage's holdings in
Sicily in the First
Punic War and won, making
Sicily the first Roman province outside of
Italian Peninsula by 242 BC.
In the Second Punic War, the Carthaginians attempted to take back
Sicily. Some of the Greek cities on the island sided with the
Carthaginians. Archimedes, who lived in Syracuse, helped the
Carthaginians, but was killed by the Romans after they invaded
Syracuse in 213 BC. They failed, and Rome was even more
unrelenting in its annihilation of the invaders this time; Roman
consul M. Valerian told the
Roman Senate in 210 BC that "no
Carthaginian remains in Sicily".
Sicily served a level of high importance for the Romans, as it acted
as the empire's granary. It was divided into two quaestorships, in the
form of Syracuse to the east and
Lilybaeum to the west. Some
attempt was made under
Augustus to introduce the
Latin language to the
Sicily was allowed to remain largely Greek in a cultural
sense. The once prosperous and contented island went into sharp
Verres became governor of Sicily. In 70 BC, noted figure
Cicero condemned the misgovernment of
Verres in his oration In
The island was used as a base of power numerous times, being occupied
by slave insurgents during the First and Second Servile Wars, and by
Sextus Pompey during the Sicilian revolt. Christianity first appeared
Sicily during the years following AD 200; between this time and AD
313, Constantine the Great finally lifted the prohibition on
Christianity, but not before a significant number of
become martyrs, including Agatha, Christina, Lucy, and Euplius.
Christianity grew rapidly in
Sicily over the next two centuries. The
period of history during which
Sicily was a Roman province lasted for
around 700 years.
Germanic and Byzantine periods (440–965)
Main article: Byzantine Empire
Historic map of
Sicily by Piri Reis
As the Western
Roman Empire was falling apart, a Germanic tribe known
Vandals briefly took
Sicily in AD 440 under the rule of their
Geiseric but in 476 the island was returned to Odoacer, who was
ruling Italy, 476-93, in the name of the Byzantine (Eastern Roman)
Vandals had already invaded parts of Roman France, Spain,
and Portugal, asserting themselves as an important power in Western
Europe. However, they soon lost these newly acquired possessions
to another East Germanic tribe in the form of the Goths. The
Ostrogothic conquest of
Italy as a whole) under Theodoric
the Great began in 488. The
Goths were Germanic, but Theodoric sought
to revive Roman culture and government and allowed freedom of
Forty-seven years later the
Gothic War (535–554)
Gothic War (535–554) began between the
Ostrogoths and the Eastern Roman Empire, also known as the Byzantine
Sicily was the first part of
Italy to be taken by general
Belisarius, who was commissioned by
Justinian I as
part of an ambitious attempt to restore the whole Roman Empire,
thereby uniting the Eastern and the Western halves.
used as a base for the Byzantines to conquer the rest of Italy, with
Naples, Rome, Milan, and the Ostrogoth capital
Ravenna falling within
five years. However, new Ostrogoth king
Totila drove down the
Italian peninsula, plundering and conquering
Sicily in 550. Totila, in
turn, was defeated and killed in the
Battle of Taginae
Battle of Taginae by Byzantine
Narses in 552.
In 535, Emperor
Justinian I made
Sicily a Byzantine province and, as
in Roman times, Greek continued to be the predominate language spoken
on the island. After the advent of Islam,
Sicily was invaded by the
Arab forces of Caliph Uthman in 652, but the
Arabs failed to make any
permanent gains and returned to Syria after gathering some booty.
Raids seeking loot continued until the mid-8th century.
Byzantine Emperor Constans II decided to move from the capital
Constantinople to Syracuse in
Sicily during 660. The following year,
he launched an assault from
Sicily against the Lombard Duchy of
Benevento, which then occupied most of southern Italy. Rumors that
the capital of the empire was to be moved to Syracuse probably cost
Constans his life, as he was assassinated in 668. His son
Constantine IV succeeded him, a brief usurpation in
Sicily by Mezezius
being quickly suppressed by the new emperor. Contemporary accounts
report that the
Greek language was widely spoken on the island during
this period. In 740 Emperor
Leo III the Isaurian
Leo III the Isaurian transferred
Sicily from the jurisdiction of the church of Rome to that of
Constantinople, placing the island within the eastern church.
In 826 Euphemius, the Byzantine commander in
Sicily having apparently
killed his wife forced a nun to marry him. Emperor
Michael II caught
wind of the matter and ordered general Constantine to end the marriage
and cut off Euphemius' head. Euphemius rose up, killed Constantine,
and then occupied Syracuse; he in turn was defeated and driven out to
North Africa. He offered the rule of
Sicily to Ziyadat Allah, the
Aghlabid Emir of Tunisia, in return for a position as a general and a
place of safety. A Muslim army was then sent to the island consisting
of Arabs, Berbers, Cretans, and Persians.
Muslim conquest of Sicily
Muslim conquest of Sicily was a see-saw affair and met with much
resistance. It took over a century for Byzantine
Sicily to be
conquered; the largest city, Syracuse, held out until 878 and the
Greek city of
Taormina fell in 962. It was not until 965 that all of
Sicily was conquered by the Arabs. In the 11th century Byzantine
armies carried out a partial reconquest of the island under George
Maniakes, but it was their Norman mercenaries who would eventually
complete the island's reconquest at the end of the century.
Arab Period (827–1091)
Main article: Emirate of Sicily
Arabesque on a wall in the Cuba Palace in Palermo
Arabs initiated land reforms, which increased productivity and
encouraged the growth of smallholdings, undermining the dominance of
the latifundia. The
Arabs further improved irrigation systems. The
language spoken in
Arab rule was
Siculo-Arabic and Arabic
influence is still present in some Sicilian words today. Although the
language is extinct in Sicily, it has developed into what is now the
Maltese language on the islands of
Trilingual sign in
Palermo in Italian, Hebrew and Arabic.
A description of
Palermo was given by Ibn Hawqal, an
Arab merchant who
Sicily in 950. A walled suburb, called the Al-Kasr (the
palace), is the centre of
Palermo to this day, with the great Friday
mosque on the site of the later Roman cathedral. The suburb of
al-Khalisa (modern Kalsa) contained the Sultan's palace, baths, a
mosque, government offices, and a private prison.
Ibn Hawqal reckoned
7,000 individual butchers trading in 150 shops.
Palermo was initially
ruled by the Aghlabids; later it was the centre of Emirate of Sicily
under the nominal suzerainty of the Fatimid Caliphate.
Throughout this reign, revolts by Byzantine
occurred, especially in the east, and parts of the island were
re-occupied before being quashed. Agricultural items such as oranges,
lemons, pistachio and sugarcane were brought to Sicily. Under the
Arab rule, the island was aligned in three administrative regions, or
"vals", roughly corresponding to the three "points" of Sicily: Val di
Mazara in the west;
Val Demone in the northeast; and
Val di Noto
Val di Noto in
the southeast. As dhimmis, the native
Eastern Orthodox Christians were
allowed freedom of religion, but had to pay a tax, the jizya, and
experienced some limitations to actively participate in public
Emirate of Sicily
Emirate of Sicily began to fragment as intra-dynastic quarrelling
fractured the Muslim regime. During this time, there was also a
minor Jewish presence.
See also: Norman conquest of southern Italy
Roger I conqueror and first count of Sicily, depicted on a Trifollaris
The cathedral of
Cefalù at night
In 1038, seventy years after losing their last cities in Sicily, the
Byzantines under the Greek general
George Maniakes invaded the island
together with their Varangian and Norman mercenaries. Although
Maniakes was killed in a Byzantine civil war in 1043 before completing
Normans would complete a conquest of
Sicily from the
Arabs under Roger I. After taking
Apulia and Calabria, Roger
Messina with an army of 700 knights. In 1068, Roger was
victorious at Misilmeri, but the most crucial battle was the siege of
Palermo, which led to most of
Sicily coming under Norman control in
Normans finished their conquest in 1091, when they
captured Noto, which was the last
Roger died in 1101 and was succeeded by his son Roger II, who was the
first King of Sicily. The elder Roger was married to Adelaide, who
ruled until her son came of age in 1112.
The Norman Hauteville family, who were descendants of Vikings, came to
appreciate and admire the rich and layered culture in which they now
found themselves. And they began implementing their own culture,
customs, and politics in the region. Many
adopted some of the attributes of Muslim rulers and their Byzantine
subjects in dress, language, literature, and even in the presence of
palace eunuchs and, according to some accounts, a harem. The
court of Roger II became the most luminous centre of culture in the
Mediterranean, both from
Europe and the Middle East, like the
multi-ethnic Caliphate of Córdoba, then only just eclipsed. This
attracted scholars, scientists, poets, artists, and artisans of all
kinds. Laws were issued in the language of the community to whom they
were addressed in Norman Sicily, still with heavy
Arab and Greek
influence. The governance was by the rule of law, so there was
justice. Muslims, Jews, Byzantine Greeks, Lombards, and
together to form a society that historians have said created some of
the most extraordinary buildings that the world has ever seen.
Kingdom of Sicily
Kingdom of Sicily
Kingdom of Sicily and List of monarchs of Sicily
The Cathedral of Monreale
Palermo continued on as the capital under the Normans. Roger's son
Roger II of Sicily
Roger II of Sicily succeeded his brother
Simon of Sicily as Count of
Sicily, and was ultimately able to raise the status of the island to a
kingdom in 1130, along with his other holdings, which included the
Maltese Islands and the Duchies of
Apulia and Calabria. He
appointed the powerful Greek
George of Antioch
George of Antioch to be his "emir of
emirs" and continued the syncretism of his father. During this period,
Kingdom of Sicily
Kingdom of Sicily was prosperous and politically powerful,
becoming one of the wealthiest states in all of Europe—even
wealthier than the Kingdom of England.
Significantly, immigrants from Northern
during this period. Linguistically, the island shifted from being one
third Greek and two thirds
Arabic speaking at the time of the Norman
conquest to becoming fully Latinised. In terms of the church, it
became completely Roman Catholic; previously, it had been Eastern
Orthodox under the Byzantines.
interior of Castello Maniace.
After a century, the Norman Hauteville dynasty died out; the last
direct descendant and heir of Roger, Constance, married Emperor Henry
VI. This eventually led to the crown of
Sicily being passed on to
Hohenstaufen Dynasty, who were
Germans from Swabia. The last of
the Hohenstaufens, Frederick II, the only son of Constance, was one of
the greatest and most cultured men of the Middle Ages. His mother's
will had asked
Pope Innocent III
Pope Innocent III to undertake the guardianship of her
son. The pope gladly accepted the role, as it allowed him to detach
Sicily from the rest of The Holy Roman Empire, thus ending the spectre
Papal States being surrounded. Frederick was four when, at
Palermo, he was crowned
King of Sicily
King of Sicily in 1198. Frederick received no
systematic education and was allowed to run free in the streets of
Palermo. There he picked up the many languages he heard spoken, such
Arabic and Greek, and learned some of the lore of the Jewish
community. At age twelve, he dismissed Innocent's deputy regent and
took over the government; at fifteen he married Constance of Aragon,
and began his reclamation of the imperial crown. Subsequently, due to
Muslim rebellions, Frederick II destroyed the
Arab presence in Sicily,
moving all the Muslims of
Sicily to the city of Lucera in Apulia
between 1221 and 1226.
Conflict between the
Hohenstaufen house and the
Papacy led, in 1266,
Pope Innocent IV
Pope Innocent IV crowning the French prince Charles, count of Anjou
and Provence, as the king of both
Sicily and Naples.
Sicily under Spanish rule
Depiction of the Sicilian Vespers
Strong opposition to French officialdom due to mistreatment and
taxation saw the local peoples of
Sicily rise up, leading in 1282 to
an insurrection known as the War of the Sicilian Vespers, which
eventually saw almost the entire French population on the island
killed. During the war, the
Sicilians turned to Peter III of
Aragon, son-in-law of the last
Hohenstaufen king, for support after
being rejected by the Pope. Peter gained control of
Sicily from the
French, who, however, retained control of the Kingdom of Naples. A
crusade was launched in August 1283 against Peter III and the Kingdom
of Aragon by
Pope Martin IV
Pope Martin IV (a pope from Île-de-France), but it
failed. The wars continued until the peace of Caltabellotta in 1302,
which saw Peter's son Frederick III recognised as king of the Isle of
Sicily, while Charles II was recognised as the king of
Naples by Pope
Sicily was ruled as an independent kingdom by
relatives of the kings of Aragon until 1409 and then as part of the
Crown of Aragon. In October 1347, in Messina, Sicily, the Black
Death first arrived in Europe.
Sicilian Baroque in Catania
The onset of the
Spanish Inquisition in 1492 led to Ferdinand II
decreeing the expulsion of all Jews from Sicily. The eastern part
of the island was hit by very destructive earthquakes in 1542 and
1693. Just a few years before the latter earthquake, the island was
struck by a ferocious plague. The earthquake in 1693 took an
estimated 60,000 lives. There were revolts during the 17th
century, but these were quelled with significant force, especially the
Palermo and Messina. North African slave raids
discouraged settlement along the coast until the 19th century.
Treaty of Utrecht
Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 saw
Sicily assigned to the House of
Savoy; however, this period of rule lasted only seven years, as it was
exchanged for the island of
Sardinia with Emperor Charles VI of the
Austrian Habsburg Dynasty.
While the Austrians were concerned with the War of the Polish
Succession, a Bourbon prince, Charles from
Spain was able to conquer
Sicily and Naples. At first
Sicily was able to remain as an
independent kingdom under personal union, while the
over both from Naples. However, the advent of Napoleon's First French
Naples taken at the
Battle of Campo Tenese
Battle of Campo Tenese and Bonapartist
Naples were installed. Ferdinand III the Bourbon was forced to
Sicily which he was still in complete control of with the
help of British naval protection.
Sicily joined the Napoleonic Wars, and subsequently
the British under
Lord William Bentinck
Lord William Bentinck established a military and
diplomatic presence on the island to protect against a French
invasion. After the wars were won,
Naples formally merged
Two Sicilies under the Bourbons. Major revolutionary movements
occurred in 1820 and 1848 against the Bourbon government with Sicily
seeking independence; the second of which, the 1848 revolution
resulted in a short period of independence for Sicily. However, in
Bourbons retook the control of the island and dominated it
See also: Risorgimento
The beginning of the Expedition of the Thousand, 1860.
Expedition of the Thousand
Expedition of the Thousand led by
Giuseppe Garibaldi captured
Sicily in 1860, as part of the Risorgimento. The conquest started
at Marsala, and native
Sicilians joined him in the capture of the
southern Italian peninsula. Garibaldi's march was completed with the
Siege of Gaeta, where the final
Bourbons were expelled and Garibaldi
announced his dictatorship in the name of Victor Emmanuel II of
Kingdom of Sardinia.
Sicily became part of the Kingdom of Sardinia
after a referendum where more than 75% of
Sicily voted in favour of
the annexation on 21 October 1860 (but not everyone was allowed to
vote). As a result of the Kingdom of
part of the kingdom on 17 March 1861.
The Sicilian economy (and the wider mezzogiorno economy) remained
relatively underdeveloped after the Italian unification, in spite of
the strong investments made by the Kingdom of
Italy in terms of modern
infrastructure, and this caused an unprecedented wave of
emigration. In 1894, organisations of workers and peasants known
Fasci Siciliani protested against the bad social and economic
conditions of the island, but they were suppressed in a few
Messina earthquake of 28 December 1908 killed more
than 80,000 people. This period was also characterised by the
first contact between the
Sicilian mafia (the crime syndicate also
known as Cosa Nostra) and the Italian government. The Mafia's origins
are still uncertain, but it is generally accepted that it emerged in
the 18th century initially in the role of private enforcers hired to
protect the property of landowners and merchants from the groups of
bandits (briganti) who frequently pillaged the countryside and towns.
The battle against the Mafia made by the Kingdom of
controversial and ambiguous. The
Carabinieri (the military police of
Italy) and sometimes the Italian army were often involved in terrible
fights against the mafia members, but their efforts were frequently
useless because of the secret co-operation between mafia and local
government and also because of the weakness of the Italian judicial
20th and 21st centuries
Private Roy W. Humphrey of
Toledo, Ohio is being given blood plasma
after he was wounded by shrapnel in
Sicily on 9 August 1943.
In the 1920s, the Fascist regime began a stronger military action
against the Mafia, which was led by prefect
Cesare Mori who was known
as the "Iron Prefect" because of his iron-fisted campaigns. This was
the first time in which an operation against the
Sicilian mafia ended
with considerable success. There was an allied invasion of Sicily
World War II
World War II starting on 10 July 1943. In preparation for the
invasion, the Allies revitalized the Mafia to aid them. The invasion
Sicily contributed to the 25 July crisis; in general, the Allied
victors were warmly embraced by Sicily.
Italy became a Republic in 1946 and, as part of the Constitution of
Sicily was one of the five regions given special status as an
autonomous region. Both the partial Italian land reform and
special funding from the Italian government's Cassa per il Mezzogiorno
(Fund for the South) from 1950 to 1984 helped the Sicilian economy.
During this period, the economic and social condition of the island
was generally improved thanks to important investments on
infrastructures such as motorways and airports, and thanks to the
creation of important industrial and commercial areas. In the
1980s, the Mafia was deeply weakened by a second important campaign
led by magistrates
Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino. Between
1990 and 2005, the unemployment rate fell from about 23% to
Main article: Sicilians
The city of
Palermo in 2005
Sicily is a melting pot of a variety of different cultures and
ethnicities, including the original Italic people, the Phoenicians,
Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Saracens, Normans,
Swabians, Aragonese, Lombards, Spaniards, French, and Albanians, each
contributing to the island's culture and genetic makeup. About five
million people live in Sicily, making it the fourth most populated
region in Italy. In the first century after the Italian unification,
Sicily had one of the most negative net migration rates among the
Italy because of the immigration of millions of people to
other European countries, North America, South America and Australia.
Like the South of
Italy and Sardinia, immigration to the island is
very low compared to other regions of
Italy because workers tend to
head to Northern
Italy instead, due to better employment and
industrial opportunities. The most recent ISTAT figures show
around 175,000 immigrants out of the total of almost 5.1 million
population (nearly 3.5% of the population);
Romanians with more than
50,000 make up the most immigrants, followed by Tunisians, Moroccans,
Sri Lankans, Albanians, and others mostly from Eastern Europe.[not in
citation given] As in the rest of Italy, the official language is
Italian and the primary religion is Roman Catholicism.
Main article: Politics of Sicily
The politics of
Sicily takes place in a framework of a presidential
representative democracy, whereby the President of Regional Government
is the head of government, and of a pluriform multi-party system.
Executive power is exercised by the Regional Government. Legislative
power is vested in both the government and the Sicilian Regional
Assembly. The capital of
Sicily is Palermo.
Sicily gives centre-right results during election.
From 1943 to 1951 there was also a separatist political party called
Sicilian Independence Movement
Sicilian Independence Movement (Movimento Indipendentista Siciliano,
MIS). Its best electoral result was in the 1946 general election, when
MIS obtained 0.7% of national votes (8.8% of votes in Sicily), and
four seats. However, the movement lost all its seats following the
1948 general election and the 1951 regional election. Even though it
has never been formally disbanded, today the movement is no longer
part of the politics of Sicily. After
World War II
World War II
Sicily became a
stronghold of the Christian Democracy, in opposition to the Italian
Communist Party. The Communists and their successors (the Democratic
Party of the Left, the
Democrats of the Left
Democrats of the Left and the present-day
Democratic Party) had never won in the region until 2012.
now governed by a centre-left coalition between Democratic Party and
the centre-party Union of Christian and Centre Democrats. Rosario
Crocetta is the current President since 2012.
Provinces of Sicily
Sicily is divided into nine provinces, each with a
capital city of the same name as the province. Small surrounding
islands are also part of various Sicilian provinces: the Aeolian
Islands (Messina), isle of
Ustica (Palermo), Aegadian Islands
(Trapani), isle of
Pantelleria (Trapani) and Pelagian Islands
Province of Agrigento
Province of Caltanissetta
Province of Catania
Province of Enna
Province of Messina
Province of Palermo
Province of Ragusa
Province of Siracusa
Province of Trapani
See also: Economy of Italy
Thanks to the regular growth of the last years,
Sicily is the eighth
richest region of
Italy in terms of total GDP (see List of Italian
regions by GDP). A series of reforms and investments on agriculture
such as the introduction of modern irrigation systems have made this
important industry competitive. In the 1970s there was a growth of
the industrial sector through the creation of some factories. In
recent years the importance of the service industry has grown for the
opening of several shopping malls and for a modest growth of financial
and telecommunication activities. Tourism is an important source
of wealth for the island thanks to its natural and historical
Sicily is investing a large amount of money on
structures of the hospitality industry, in order to make tourism more
Sicily continues to have a GDP per capita
below the Italian average and more unemployment than the rest of
Italy. This difference is mostly caused by the negative influence
of the Mafia that is still active in some areas although it is much
weaker than in the past.
A sample of Marsala, a DOC wine produced in the city of Marsala.
Sicily has long been noted for its fertile soil due to the volcanic
eruptions in the past and present. The local agriculture is also
helped by the pleasant climate of the island. The main agricultural
products are wheat, citrons, oranges (Arancia Rossa di Sicilia IGP),
lemons, tomatoes (
Pomodoro di Pachino
Pomodoro di Pachino IGP), olives, olive oil,
Opuntia ficus-indica (Fico d'India dell'Etna DOP),
almonds, grapes, pistachios (Pistacchio di Bronte DOP) and wine.
Cattle and sheep are raised. The cheese productions are particularly
important thanks to the Ragusano DOP and the
Pecorino Siciliano DOP.
Ragusa is noted for its honey (Miele Ibleo) and chocolate (Cioccolato
Modica IGP) productions.
Sicily is the third largest wine producer in
Italy (the world's
largest wine producer) after
Veneto and Emilia Romagna. The region
is known mainly for fortified
Marsala wines. In recent decades the
wine industry has improved, new winemakers are experimenting with
less-known native varietals, and Sicilian wines have become better
known. The best known local varietal is Nero d'Avola, named for a
small town not far from Syracuse; the best wines made with these
grapes come from Noto, a famous old city close to Avola. Other
important native varietals are
Nerello Mascalese used to make the Etna
Rosso DOC wine,
Frappato that is a component of the Cerasuolo di
Vittoria DOCG wine, Moscato di
Pantelleria (also known as Zibibbo)
used to make different
Pantelleria wines, Malvasia di
Lipari used for
the Malvasia di
Lipari DOC wine and
Catarratto mostly used to make the
Alcamo DOC. Furthermore, in
Sicily high quality wines are
also produced using non-native varietals like Syrah,
Sicily is also known for its liqueurs, such as the Amaro Averna
Caltanissetta and the local limoncello.
Fishing is another fundamental resource for Sicily. There are
important tuna, sardine, swordfish and
European anchovy fisheries.
Mazzara del Vallo
Mazzara del Vallo is the largest fishing centre in
Sicily and one of
the most important in Italy.
Industry and manufacturing
Oilfields near Ragusa.
Improvements in Sicily's road system have helped to promote industrial
development. The region has three important industrial districts:
Catania Industrial District, where there are several food industries
and one of the best European electronics industry centres called Etna
Valley (in honour of the best known Silicon Valley) which contains
offices and factories of international companies such as
STMicroelectronics and Numonyx;
Syracuse Petrochemical District with chemical industries, oil
refineries and important power stations (as the innovative Archimede
combined cycle power plant);
Enna Industrial District in which there are food
Palermo there are important shipyards (such as Fincantieri),
mechanical factories of famous Italian companies as Ansaldo Breda,
publishing and textile industries. Chemical industries are also in the
Messina (Milazzo) and in the Province of Caltanissetta
(Gela). There are petroleum, natural gas and asphalt fields in the
Southeast (mostly near Ragusa) and massive deposits of halite in
Central Sicily. The
Province of Trapani
Province of Trapani is one of the largest sea
salt producers in Italy.
A table showing Sicily's different GDP (nominal and per capita) growth
between 2000 and 2008:
Gross Domestic Product
(Millions of Euros)
GDP (PPP) per capita
After the table which shows Sicily's GDP growth, this table shows
the sectors of the Sicilian economy in 2006:
GDP (mil. €)
Agriculture, farming, fishing
Commerce, hotels and restaurants, transport, services and
Financial activity and real estate
Other economic activities
VAT and other forms of taxes
GDP of Sicily
The A20 Messina-
Palermo motorway near Torregrotta
Messina Tramway System
Highways have recently been built and expanded in the last four
decades. The most prominent Sicilian roads are the motorways (known as
autostrada) running through the northern section of the island. Much
of the motorway network is elevated by columns due to the mountainous
terrain of the island. Other main roads in Sicily
are the Strade Statali like the SS.113 that connects
Messina (via Palermo), the SS.114 Messina-Syracuse (via Catania) and
the SS.115 Syracuse-
Trapani (via Ragusa,
Gela and Agrigento).
76 km (47 mi)
RA15 Catania's Bypass (West)
24 km (15 mi)
25 km (16 mi)
40 km (25 mi)
199 km (124 mi)
181 km (112 mi)
A29 Palermo-Mazara del Vallo
119 km (74 mi)
38 and 44 km (24 and 27 mi)
Two trains inside
Punta Raisi railway station
Punta Raisi railway station within Palermo
Palermo, AMAT Tramway System Map
The first railway in
Sicily was opened in 1863 (Palermo-Bagheria) and
today all of the Sicilian provinces are served by a network of railway
services, linking to most major cities and towns; this service is
operated by Trenitalia. Of the 1,378 km (856 mi) of railway
tracks in use, over 60% has been electrified whilst the remaining
583 km (362 mi) are serviced by diesel engines. 88% of the
lines (1.209 km) are single-track and only 169 km
(105 mi) are double-track serving the two main routes,
Palermo (Tyrrhenian) and Messina-Catania-Syracuse (Ionian). Of
the narrow gauge railways the
Ferrovia Circumetnea is the only one
that still operates, going round Mount Etna. From the major cities of
Sicily, there are services to
Naples and Rome; this is achieved by the
trains being loaded onto ferries which cross to the mainland.
Catania there is an underground railway service (metropolitana di
Palermo the national railway operator
a commuter rail (
Palermo metropolitan railway service), the Sicilian
Capital is also served by 4 AMAT (Comunal Public Transport Operator)
Messina is served by a tramline.
Catania International Airport
Main article: List of airports in Sicily
Sicily has several airports which serve numerous Italian and
European destinations and some extra-European;
Catania-Fontanarossa Airport, located on the east-coast is the busiest
on the island (and one of the busiest in all of Italy).
Palermo International Airport, which is also a substantially large
airport with many national and international flights.
Trapani-Birgi Airport, a military-civil joint use airport (third for
traffic on the island). Recently the airport has seen an increase of
traffic thanks to a low-cost carrier.
Comiso-Ragusa Airport, has recently been refurbished and re-converted
from military use to civil airport. It was opened to commercial
traffic and general aviation 30 May 2013.
Palermo-Boccadifalco Airport is the old airport of
Palermo and is
currently used for general aviation and as a base for the Guardia di
Finanza and Police helicopters.
NAS Sigonella Airport, it is an Italian Air Force and US Navy
The port of Catania
Sicily is served by several ferry routes and cargo ports, and
in all major cities, cruise ships dock on a regular basis.
Mainland Italy: Ports connecting to the mainland are
Messina (route to
Villa San Giovanni
Villa San Giovanni and Salerno), the busiest passenger port in Italy,
Palermo (routes to Genoa,
Civitavecchia and Naples) and
to Naples) .
Sicily's small surrounding islands: The port of
Milazzo serves the
Aeolian Islands, the ports of
Marsala the Aegadian Islands
and the port of
Porto Empedocle the Pelagie Islands. From Palermo
there is a service to the island of
Ustica and to Sardinia.
International connections: From
Trapani there are weekly
Tunisia and there is also a daily service between Malta
Commercial/Cargo Ports: The port of Augusta is the 5th largest cargo
Italy which handles tonnes of goods. Other major cargo ports
are Palermo, Catania, Trapani,
Pozzallo and Termini Imerese.
Touristic Ports: Several "Touristic ports" along the Sicilian coast
are in the service of private boats that need to moor on the island.
The main ports for this traffic are in Marina di Ragusa, Riposto,
Cefalù and Sciacca. In Sicily,
Palermo is also a
major centre for the Boat Rental l with or without crew in the
Mediterranean. Is the home of some of the charter companies such as
Velasud Yachting Italy, with the nautical base in
Arenella Yachting Club with a fleet of 10 yachts including sailboats
and catamarans up to 52 feet. In Palermo, and in general in Sicily,
there are a number of boat rental companies, many of these do not have
the ownership. Most of them are just simply brokers. Other companies
well known in
Palermo and Portorosa (Messina) are Best Charter and
Fishing ports: As all islands,
Sicily also has many fishing ports. The
most important is in
Mazara del Vallo
Mazara del Vallo followed by Castellamare del
Scoglitti and Portopalo di Capo Passero.
Strait of Messina
Strait of Messina Bridge
Plans for a bridge linking
Sicily to the mainland have been discussed
since 1865. Throughout the last decade, plans were developed for a
road and rail link to the mainland via what would be the world's
longest suspension bridge, the
Strait of Messina
Strait of Messina Bridge. Planning for
the project has experienced several false starts over the past few
years. On 6 March 2009, Silvio Berlusconi's government declared that
the construction works for the
Messina Bridge will begin on 23
December 2009, and announced a pledge of €1.3 billion as a
contribution to the bridge's total cost, estimated at
€6.1 billion. The plan has been criticised by
environmental associations and some local
Sicilians and Calabrians,
concerned with its environmental impact, economical sustainability and
even possible infiltrations by organised crime.
Lampedusa, Pelagie Islands
Sicily's sunny, dry climate, scenery, cuisine, history and
architecture attract many tourists from mainland
Italy and abroad. The
tourist season peaks in the summer months, although people visit the
island all year round. Mount Etna, the beaches, the archaeological
sites, and major cities such as Palermo, Catania, Syracuse and Ragusa
are the favourite tourist destinations, but the old town of Taormina
and the neighbouring seaside resort of
Giardini Naxos draw visitors
from all over the world, as do the Aeolian Islands, Erice,
Castellammare del Golfo, Cefalù, Agrigento, the
Pelagie Islands and
Capo d'Orlando. The last features some of the best-preserved temples
of the ancient Greek period. Many Mediterranean cruise ships stop in
Sicily, and many wine tourists also visit the island.
Some scenes of famous Hollywood and
Cinecittà films were shot in
Sicily. This increased the attraction of
Sicily as a tourist
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
One of the mosaics in Villa Romana del Casale
There are seven
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
UNESCO World Heritage Sites on Sicily. By the order of
Valle dei Templi
Valle dei Templi (1997) is one of the most outstanding examples of
Greece art and architecture, and is one of the main
Sicily as well as a national monument of Italy. The
site is located in Agrigento.
Villa Romana del Casale
Villa Romana del Casale (1997) is a
Roman villa built in the first
quarter of the 4th century and located about 3 km (2 mi)
outside the town of Piazza Armerina. It contains the richest, largest
and most complex collection of Roman mosaics in the world.
Aeolian Islands (2000) are a volcanic archipelago in the Tyrrhenian
Sea, named after the demigod of the winds Aeolus. The Aeolian Islands
are a popular tourist destination in the summer, and attract up to
200,000 visitors annually.
Baroque Towns of the
Val di Noto
Val di Noto (2002) "represent the
culmination and final flowering of
Baroque art in Europe". It
includes several towns: Caltagirone, Militello in Val di Catania,
Catania, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo Acreide, Ragusa and Scicli.
Cathedral of San Giorgio in Modica
Necropolis of Pantalica
Necropolis of Pantalica (2005) is a large necropolis in
over 5,000 tombs dating from the 13th to the 7th centuries BC.
Syracuse is notable for its rich Greek history, culture, amphitheatres
and architecture. They are situated in south-eastern Sicily.
Mount Etna (2013) is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and
is in an almost constant state of activity and generated myths,
legends and naturalistic observation from Greek, Celts and Roman
classic and medieval times.
Palermo and the cathedral churches of
Monreale; includes a series of nine civil and religious structures
dating from the era of the Norman kingdom of
Taormina's central square at sunset.
Taormina and Isola Bella;
Motya and Libeo Island: The Phoenician-Punic Civilisation in
Scala dei Turchi;
Strait of Messina.
Because many different cultures settled, dominated or invaded the
Sicily has a huge variety of archaeological sites. Also, some
of the most notable and best preserved temples and other structures of
the Greek world are located in Sicily.. Here is a
short list of the major archaeological sites:
Sicels/Sicans/Elymians/Greeks: Segesta, Eryx, Cava Ispica, Thapsos,
Greeks: Syracuse, Agrigento, Segesta, Selinunte, Gela, Kamarina,
Himera, Megara Hyblaea, Naxos, Heraclea Minoa,
Phoenicians: Motya, Soluntum, Marsala, Palermo.
Romans: Piazza Armerina, Centuripe, Taormina, Palermo.
Arabs: Palermo, Mazara del Vallo.
The excavation and restoration of one of Sicily's best known
archaeological sites, the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, was at
the direction of the archaeologist Domenico Antonio Lo Faso
Pietrasanta, Fifth Duke of Serradifalco, known in archaeological
circles simply as "Serradifalco". He also oversaw the restoration of
ancient sites at Segesta, Selinunte, Siracusa and Taormina.
Sicily there are hundreds of castles, the most relevant are:
Castello Ursino in Catania
Zisa Castle in Palermo.
(Castle of the Counts of
Modica (Alcamo) in Alcamo.
Castello di Donnafugata near Ragusa
Castelluccio di Gela
Castello di Aci
Forte dei Centri
Castello di Milazzo
Castello di Sant'Alessio Siculo
Castello di Pentefur
Castello di Schisò
Castello di Caccamo
Castello di Carini
Castello dei Ventimiglia
Castello di Donnafugata
Castello Dei Conti
Castello di Venere
Castle of the Counts of Modica
Castle of Calatubo
The Coastal towers in
Sicily (Torri costiere della Sicilia) are 218
old watchtowers along all the coast of the isle. In Sicily, the first
coastal towers date back to the period between 1313 and 1345 of the
Aragonese monarchy. From 1360 the threat came from the south, from
North Africa to Maghreb, mainly to
Barbary pirates and corsairs of
Barbary Coast. In 1516, the Turks settled in Algiers, and from 1520,
Hayreddin Barbarossa under the command of Ottoman Empire,
operated from that harbour.
Most of the existing towers were built on architectural designs of the
Camillo Camilliani from  to 1584, and
involved the coastal periple of Sicily. The typology changed
completely in '800, because of the new higher fire volumes of cannon
vessels, the towers were built on the type of
Martello towers that the
British built in the UK and elsewhere in the British Empire. In 1805
the U.S. Marines and Navy, in the Battle of Derne, near Tripoli.
destroy all of the Barbary pirates, and to put an end to piracy acts.
Torre di (Altavilla Milicia)
Torre Spalmatore (Ustica)
Torre Pozzillo (Cinisi)
Ligny Tower - (Trapani)
Torre Nubia (Paceco)
Torre Cabrera (Marina di Ragusa)
Torre Cabrera (Marina di Ragusa) (Marina di Ragusa)
Torre Cabrera (Pozzallo)
Torre Cabrera (Pozzallo) (Pozzallo)
Vignazza Tower (Giardini Naxos)
To have seen
Italy without having seen
Sicily is to not have seen
Italy at all, for
Sicily is the clue to everything.
Virgin Annunciate, Antonello da Messina
Sicily has long been associated with the arts; many poets, writers,
philosophers, intellectuals, architects and painters have roots on the
island. The history of prestige in this field can be traced back to
Greek philosopher Archimedes, a Syracuse native who has gone on to
become renowned as one of the greatest mathematicians of all
Empedocles are two other highly noted early
Sicilian-Greek philosophers, while the Syracusan Epicharmus is held to
be the inventor of comedy.
Art and architecture
Majolica painting art of Caltagirone
Terracotta ceramics from the island are well known, the art of
Sicily goes back to the original ancient peoples named the
Sicanians, it was then perfected during the period of Greek
colonisation and is still prominent and distinct to this day.
Caltagirone is one of the most important centres in Sicily
for the artistic production of ceramics and terra-cotta sculptures.
Famous painters include
Renaissance artist Antonello da Messina,
Renato Guttuso and Greek born
Giorgio de Chirico
Giorgio de Chirico who is commonly
dubbed the "father of Surrealist art" and founder of the metaphysical
art movement. The most noted architects are
Filippo Juvarra (one
of the most important figures of the Italian Baroque) and Ernesto
Main article: Sicilian Baroque
Sicilian Baroque has a unique architectural identity. Noto,
Caltagirone, Catania, Ragusa, Modica,
Scicli and particularly Acireale
contain some of Italy's best examples of
Baroque architecture, carved
in the local red sandstone.
Noto provides one of the best examples of
Baroque architecture brought to Sicily.
Baroque style in
Sicily was largely confined to buildings erected
by the church, and palazzi built as private residences for the
Sicilian aristocracy. The earliest examples of this style in
Sicily lacked individuality and were typically heavy-handed pastiches
of buildings seen by Sicilian visitors to Rome, Florence, and Naples.
However, even at this early stage, provincial architects had begun to
incorporate certain vernacular features of Sicily's older
architecture. By the middle of the 18th century, when Sicily's Baroque
architecture was noticeably different from that of the mainland, it
typically included at least two or three of the following features,
coupled with a unique freedom of design that is more difficult to
characterise in words.
Music and film
Teatro Massimo, Palermo
See also: Music of Sicily
Palermo hosts the
Teatro Massimo which is the largest opera house in
Italy and the third largest in all of Europe. In
Catania there is
another important opera house, the
Teatro Massimo Bellini with 1,200
seats, which is considered one of the best European opera houses for
its acoustics. Sicily's composers vary from Vincenzo Bellini,
Giovanni Pacini and Alessandro Scarlatti, to
contemporary composers such as
Salvatore Sciarrino and Silvio Amato.
Many award-winning and acclaimed films of Italian cinema have been
filmed in Sicily, amongst the most noted of which are: Visconti's "La
Terra Trema" and "Il Gattopardo", Pietro Germi's "Divorzio
all'Italiana" and "Sedotta e Abbandonata".
Italian Literature and Sicilian School
The golden age of Sicilian poetry began in the early 13th century with
Sicilian School of Giacomo da Lentini, which was highly
influential on Italian literature. Some of the most noted figures
among writers and poets are
Luigi Pirandello (Nobel laureate, 1934),
Salvatore Quasimodo (Nobel laureate, 1959),
Giovanni Verga (the father
of the Italian Verismo), Domenico Tempio, Giovanni Meli, Luigi
Capuana, Mario Rapisardi, Federico de Roberto, Leonardo Sciascia,
Vitaliano Brancati, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, Elio Vittorini,
Vincenzo Consolo and
Andrea Camilleri (noted for his novels and short
stories with the fictional character Inspector
Salvo Montalbano as
protagonist). On the political side notable philosophers include
Gaetano Mosca and
Giovanni Gentile who wrote The Doctrine of Fascism.
In terms of academic reflection, the historical and aesthetic richness
as well as the multi-layered heterogeneity of Sicilian literature and
culture have been first grasped methodologically and coined with the
term of transculturality by German scholar of Italian Studies Dagmar
Reichardt who, after having published an extensive study on the
literary work of Giuseppe Bonaviri, was awarded the International
Premio Flaiano ("Italianistica") for a trilingual (English, Italian,
German) collection about the European liminality of Sicily, Sicilian
literature and Sicilian Studies.
Main article: Sicilian language
Sicily most people are bilingual and speak both Italian and
Sicilian, a distinct and historical Romance language. Some of the
Sicilian words are loan words from Greek, Catalan, French, Arabic,
Spanish and other languages. Dialects related to Sicilian are
also spoken in
Calabria and Salento; it had a significant influence on
the Maltese language. However the use of Sicilian is limited to
informal contexts (mostly in family) and in a majority of cases it is
replaced by the so-called regional Italian of Sicily, an Italian
dialect that is a kind of mix between Italian and Sicilian.
Sicilian was an early influence in the development of the first
Italian standard, although its use remained confined to an
intellectual elite. This was a literary language in
under the auspices of Frederick II and his court of notaries, or Magna
Curia, which, headed by Giacomo da Lentini, also gave birth to the
Sicilian School, widely inspired by troubadour literature. Its
linguistic and poetic heritage was later assimilated into the
Florentine by Dante Alighieri, the father of modern Italian who, in
his De vulgari eloquentia, claims that "In effect this vernacular
seems to deserve a higher praise than the others, since all the poetry
Italians can be called Sicilian". It is in this
language that appeared the first sonnet, whose invention is attributed
Giacomo da Lentini
Giacomo da Lentini himself.
Catania has one of the four laboratories of the Istituto Nazionale di
Fisica Nucleare (National Institute for Nuclear Physics) in which
there is a cyclotron that uses protons both for nuclear physics
experiments and for particle therapy to treat cancer (proton
Noto has one of the largest radio telescopes in
Italy that performs geodetic and astronomical observations. There
are observatories in
Palermo and Catania, managed by the Istituto
Nazionale di Astrofisica (National Institute for Astrophysics). In the
Palermo the astronomer
Giuseppe Piazzi discovered the
first and the largest asteroid to be identified Ceres (today
considered a dwarf planet) on 1 January 1801;
Catania has two
observatories, one of which is situated on
Mount Etna at 1,800 metres
Syracuse is also an experimental centre for the solar technologies
through the creation of the project
Archimede solar power plant
Archimede solar power plant that
is the first concentrated solar power plant to use molten salt for
heat transfer and storage which is integrated with a combined-cycle
gas facility. All the plant is owned and operated by Enel.
The touristic town of
Erice is also an important science place thanks
Ettore Majorana Foundation and Centre for Scientific Culture
which embraces 123 schools from all over the world, covering all
branches of science, offering courses, seminars, workshops and annual
meetings. It was founded by the physicist
Antonino Zichichi in honour
of another scientist of the island,
Ettore Majorana known for the
Majorana equation and Majorana fermions. Sicily's famous
scientists include also
Stanislao Cannizzaro (chemist), Giovanni
Battista Hodierna and
Niccolò Cacciatore (astronomers).
Department of Engineering, University of Messina
Sicily has four universities:
The University of
Catania dates back to 1434 and it is the oldest
university in Sicily. Nowadays it hosts 12 faculties and over 62,000
students and it offers undergraduate and postgraduate programs.
Catania hosts also the Scuola Superiore, an academic institution
linked to the University of Catania, aiming for excellence in
The University of
Palermo is the island's second oldest university. It
was officially founded in 1806, although historical records indicate
that medicine and law have been taught there since the late 15th
century. The Orto botanico di
Palermo botanical gardens) is
home to the university's Department of Botany and is also open to
The University of Messina, founded in 1548 by Ignatius of Loyola. It
is organised in 11 Faculties.
The Kore University of
Enna founded in 1995, it is the latest Sicilian
university and the first university founded in
Sicily after the
See also: Italo-Albanian Catholic Church
See also: History of the Jews in Sicily
See also: History of
Islam in southern Italy
As in most Italian regions, Christian
Roman Catholicism is the most
predominant religious denomination in Sicily, and the church still
plays an important role in the lives of most people. Before the
invasion of the Normans,
Sicily was predominantly Eastern Orthodox, of
which few adherents still remain today. There is also a notable small
minority of Eastern-rite
Byzantine Catholics which has a mixed
congregation of ethnic Albanians; it is operated by the Italo-Albanian
Catholic Church. Most people still attend church weekly or at least
for religious festivals, and many people get married in churches.
There was a wide presence of Jews in
Sicily for at least 1,400 years
and possibly for more than 2,000 years. Some scholars believe that the
Sicilian Jewry are partial ancestors of the Ashkenazi Jews.
However, much of the Jewish community faded away when they were
expelled from the island in 1492.
Islam was present during the Emirate
of Sicily, although Muslims were also expelled. Today, mostly due to
immigration to the island, there are also several religious
minorities, such as Jehovah's Witnesses, Islam, Judaism, and Sikhism.
There are also a fair number of Evangelical Church members and
practitioners who reside on the island.
Sicilian cuisine and Sicilian pizza
Cannoli, a highly popular pastry associated with Sicilian cuisine
The island has a long history of producing a variety of noted cuisines
and wines, to the extent that
Sicily is sometimes nicknamed God's
Kitchen because of this. Every part of
Sicily has its speciality
Cassata is typical of Palermo, even if available
everywhere in Sicily, as is Granita, a
Catania speciality). The
ingredients are typically rich in taste while remaining affordable to
the general public The savoury dishes of
Sicily are viewed to be
healthy, using fresh vegetables and fruits, such as tomatoes,
artichokes, olives (including olive oil), citrus, apricots,
aubergines, onions, beans, raisins commonly coupled with seafood,
freshly caught from the surrounding coastlines, including tuna, sea
bream, sea bass, cuttlefish, swordfish, sardines, and others.
Arancini, rice balls fried in breadcrumbs
Perhaps the most well-known part of
Sicilian cuisine is the rich sweet
dishes including ice creams and pastries.
Cannoli (singular: cannolo),
a tube-shaped shell of fried pastry dough filled with a sweet filling
usually containing ricotta cheese, is in particular strongly
Sicily worldwide. Biancomangiare, biscotti ennesi
(cookies native to Enna), braccilatte (a Sicilian version of
doughnuts), buccellato, ciarduna, pignoli, bruccellati, sesame seed
cookies, a sweet confection with sesame seeds and almonds (torrone in
Italy) is cubbaita, frutta martorana, cassata, pignolata, granita,
cuccidati (a variety of fig cookie; also known as buccellati) and
cuccìa are amongst some of the most notable sweet dishes.
Like the cuisine of the rest of southern Italy, pasta plays an
important part in Sicilian cuisine, as does rice; for example with
arancini. As well as using some other cheeses,
Sicily has spawned
some of its own, using both cow's and sheep's milk, such as pecorino
and caciocavallo. Spices used include saffron, nutmeg, clove,
pepper, and cinnamon, which were introduced by the Arabs.
used abundantly in many dishes. Although
Sicilian cuisine is commonly
associated with sea food, meat dishes, including goose, lamb, goat,
rabbit, and turkey, are also found in Sicily. It was the
Swabians who first introduced a fondness for meat dishes to the
island. Some varieties of wine are produced from vines that are
relatively unique to the island, such as the Nero d'
Avola made near
the baroque of town of Noto.
Giuseppe Gibilisco, pole vaulter from Syracuse, 2003 World Champion
and bronze Olympic medalist
The most popular sport on
Sicily is football, which came to the fore
in the late 19th century under the influence of the English. Some of
the oldest football clubs in all of
Italy are from Sicily: the three
most successful are Palermo, Messina, and Catania, who have all, at
some point, played in the Serie A. To date no club from
ever won Serie A, but football is still deeply embedded in local
culture and all over
Sicily most towns have a representative
Catania have a heated rivalry and compete in the Sicilian
derby together: to date,
Palermo is the only football team in Sicily
to have played on the European stage, in the UEFA Cup. In the island,
the most noted footballer is Salvatore Schillaci, who won the Golden
Boot at the
1990 FIFA World Cup
1990 FIFA World Cup with Italy. Other noted players
include Giuseppe Furino, Pietro Anastasi, Francesco Coco, Christian
Riganò, and Roberto Galia. There have also been some noted
managers from the island, such as
Carmelo Di Bella
Carmelo Di Bella and Franco Scoglio.
Although football is by far the most popular sport in Sicily, the
island also has participants in other fields. Amatori
competed in the top Italian national rugby union league called
National Championship of Excellence. They have even participated at
European level in the European Challenge Cup. Competing in the
basketball variation of
Serie A is
Orlandina Basket from Capo
d'Orlando in the province of Messina, where the sport has a reasonable
following. Various other sports that are played to some extent include
volleyball, handball, and water polo. Previously, in motorsport,
Sicily held the prominent
Targa Florio sports car race that took place
Madonie Mountains, with the start-finish line in Cerda.
The event was started in 1906 by Sicilian industrialist and automobile
enthusiast Vincenzo Florio, and ran until it was cancelled due to
safety concerns in 1977.
From 28 September to 9 October 2005
Trapani was the location of Acts 8
and 9 of the Louis Vuitton Cup. This sailing race featured, among
other entrants, all the boats that took part in the 2007 America's
Sicilian arrotino at a living nativity scene wearing traditional
Religious festival in Trapani
A carnival float in Acireale
Each town and city has its own patron saint, and the feast days are
marked by colourful processions through the streets with marching
bands and displays of fireworks.
Sicilian religious festivals also include the presepe vivente (living
nativity scene), which takes place at Christmas time. Deftly combining
religion and folklore, it is a constructed mock 19th century Sicilian
village, complete with a nativity scene, and has people of all ages
dressed in the costumes of the period, some impersonating the Holy
Family, and others working as artisans of their particular assigned
trade. It is normally concluded on Epiphany, often highlighted by the
arrival of the magi on horseback.
Oral tradition plays a large role in Sicilian folklore. Many stories
passed down from generation to generation involve a character named
"Giufà". Anecdotes from this character's life preserve Sicilian
culture as well as convey moral messages.
Sicilians also enjoy outdoor festivals, held in the local square or
piazza where live music and dancing are performed on stage, and food
fairs or sagre are set up in booths lining the square. These offer
various local specialties, as well as typical Sicilian food. Normally
these events are concluded with fireworks. A noted sagra is the Sagra
del Carciofo or
Artichoke Festival, which is held annually in Ramacca
in April. The most important traditional event in
Sicily is the
carnival. Famous carnivals are in Acireale, Misterbianco, Regalbuto,
Paternò, Sciacca, Termini Imerese.
The marionettes used in the Opera dei Pupi
Opera dei Pupi
Opera dei Pupi (Opera of the Puppets; Sicilian: Òpira dî pupi)
is a marionette theatrical representation of Frankish romantic poems
such as the
Song of Roland
Song of Roland or
Orlando furioso that is one of the
characteristic cultural traditions of Sicily. The sides of donkey
carts are decorated with intricate, painted scenes; these same tales
are enacted in traditional puppet theatres featuring hand-made
marionettes of wood. The opera of the puppets and the Sicilian
tradition of cantastorî (singers of tales) are rooted in the
Provençal troubadour tradition in
Sicily during the reign of
Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, in the first half of the 13th
century. A great place to see this marionette art is the puppet
theatres of Palermo. The Sicilian marionette theatre Opera dei Pupi
was proclaimed in 2001 and inscribed in 2008 in the UNESCO Intangible
Cultural Heritage Lists.
Today, there are only a few troupes that maintain the tradition. They
often perform for tourists. However, there are no longer the great
historical families of marionettists, such as the Greco of Palermo;
the Canino of
Partinico and Alcamo; Crimi, Trombetta and Napoli of
Catania, Pennisi and Macri of Acireale, Profeta of Licata, Gargano and
Grasso of Agrigento. One can, however, admire the richest collection
of marionettes at the Museo Internazionale delle
Pasqualino and at the Museo Etnografico Siciliano
Giuseppe Pitrè in
Palermo. Other beautiful marionettes are on display at the Museo
Civico Vagliasindi in Randazzo.
There are several cultural icons and regional symbols in Sicily,
including flags, carts, sights and geographical features.
Triskelion painted on Ancient Greek vase, Agrigento.
The Flag of Sicily, regarded as a regional icon, was first adopted in
1282, after the
Sicilian Vespers of Palermo. It is characterised by
the presence of the trinacria (triskelion) in its middle, the (winged)
Medusa and three wheat ears. The three bent legs are supposed
to represent the three points of the island
Sicily itself. The
colours, instead, respectively represent the cities of
Corleone, at those times an agricultural city of renown.
Corleone were the first two cities to found a confederation against
the Angevin rule. It finally became the official public flag of the
Regione Siciliana in January 2000, after the passing of an apposite
regional law which advocates its use on public buildings, schools and
city halls along with the national Italian flag and the European one.
Familiar as an ancient symbol of the region, the
Triskelion is also
featured on Greek coins of Syracuse, such as coins of Agathocles
(317–289 BC).The symbol dates back to when
Sicily was part of Magna
Graecia, the colonial extension of
Greece beyond the Aegean. The
triskelion was revived, as a neoclassic – and non-Bourbon – emblem
for the new Napoleonic Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, by Joachim Murat
Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder attributes the origin of the triskelion of
Sicily to the triangular form of the island, the ancient Trinacria,
which consists of three large capes equidistant from each other,
pointing in their respective directions, the names of which were
Pelorus, Pachynus, and Lilybæum. The three legs of the triskelion are
also reminiscent of Hephaestus's three-legged tables that ran by
themselves, as mentioned in
A traditional Sicilian cart
Sicilian cart is an ornate, colourful style of horse or
donkey-drawn cart native to Sicily. Sicilian wood carver George
Petralia states that horses were mostly used in the city and flat
plains, while donkeys or mules were more often used in rough terrain
for hauling heavy loads. The cart has two wheels and is primarily
handmade out of wood with iron components.
The Sicilian coppola is a traditional kind of flat cap typically worn
by men in Sicily. First used by English nobles during the late 18th
century, the tascu began being used in
Sicily in the early 20th
century as a driving cap, usually worn by car drivers. The coppola is
usually made in tweed. Today it is widely regarded as a definitive
symbol of Sicilian heritage.
Main article: List of people from Sicily
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private (often much smaller than the term palace implies in the
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Contributions to a Transcultural Approach to Sicilian Literature,
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Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Sicily.
Sicilian Region — Official website (in Italian)
Geographic data related to
Sicily at OpenStreetMap
Sicily Transportation Map
10 Reasons To Visit
Sicily – Part I
10 Reasons To Visit
Sicily – Part II
Images of Sicily
10.000 Images of Sicily
The Sicilian tourist magazine
The Wonders of
Sicily – The Cities, Architecture, Culture, History,
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Coordinates: 37°30′N 14°00′E / 37.500°N 14.000°E /
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