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The island of Sicily (Italian: Sicilia) with its neighboring islands forms a semiautonomous region of Italy. Palermo is the capital. Separated from the southwest tip of the Italian peninsula by the Strait of Messina , Sicily is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the south, the Ionian Sea to the east, and the Tyrrhenian Sea to the north. Sicily is divided into nine provinces: Agrigento, Caltanissetta, Catania, Enna, Messina, Palermo, Ragusa, Siracusa, and Trapani. The island's Peloritani, Nebrodi, and Le Madonie mountain chains are structurally a continuation of the Apennine Mountains. The highest point (10,705 feet) is the active summit of Mount Etna, former source of summer snow for the wealthy all up and down the peninsula. Sicily has two other active volcanos: Stromboli and Vulcano, both in the Aeolian Islands.. The island's three main ports are Catania, Messina, and Palermo. Tuna and other fishing dominate the coastal economy.

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Sicily, the largest and most populous island in the Mediterranean, has been settled and ruled by many peoples. Its earliest-known inhabitants were the Elymi, Sicani, and Siculi. From the 8th century B.C. Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Greeks established settlements on the island. In the 5th century B.C. the leading Greek city, Syracuse, established hegemony over the other Greek colonies (including Agrigento, Gela, Catania, Himera, and Messina). It faced a vigorous challenge from the Carthaginians, however, who by the end of that century controlled half the island. In the mid-3d century the Romans intervened against the Carthaginians on Sicily, precipitating the First Punic War (264-241 B.C.).

After the Roman victory and the death of Hiero II of Syracuse, Rome gained control of most of the island, and Sicily became known as the Breadbasket of Rome. Sicily was taken by the Vandals and then the Goths in the 5th century. In 532 it came under Byzantine rule, and in the 9th century it fell to the Muslim Arabs.

The Arabs, who promoted both economic and cultural development, were driven out by the Normans in the late 11th century. The Norman Roger II was recognized (1139) by Pope Innocent II as king of Sicily and of the Norman territories in southern Italy . Through the marriage of Constance, heiress of the last Norman king, to Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI, Sicily passed in 1194 to the Hohenstaufen dynasty. Their son, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, spent much of his time in Sicily, where, like Roger II, he effected important administrative reforms. After his death (1250), however, his weak successors were outmaneuvered by the papacy, which placed (1266) the Angevin Charles I on the throne as a papal vassal.

Charles's oppressive rule provoked the Sicilian Vespers (1282), a revolt in which the Sicilians chose Peter III of Aragon as their king. Although the Aragonese secured control of Sicily, the Angevins retained Naples, and wars between the two continued until 1373. The Aragonese allowed Sicily considerable local autonomy, but this policy was reversed after the unification of Spain and the accession to the Spanish throne of the Habsburg dynasty (early 16th century). Sicily passed briefly to the house of Savoy (1713) and then to the Austrian Habsburgs (1720), but in 1734, during the War of the Polish Succession, both Sicily and Naples were conquered by the Spanish Bourbon prince Charles. When Charles succeeded (1759) to the Spanish throne (as Charles III), Sicily and Naples passed to his son Ferdinand (see Ferdinand I, King of the Two Sicilies). The Bourbons ruled from Naples until the French forced Ferdinand to flee to Sicily in 1806. After the Napoleonic Wars, Ferdinand formally combined (1816) his realms as the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. In 1860, Giuseppe Garibaldi took Sicily, which then joined the kingdom of Sardinia and ultimately became part of united Italy. During World War II, Sicily was the scene of heavy fighting when the Allies launched an invasion from North African bases on July 9-10, 1943.

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The Phoenicians founded Palermo; the ancient Greeks are present in the temples at Agrigento; the Romans leave us the exquisite villa at Piazza Armeria; the Normans built cathedrals; the Swabians built castles; the Spanish built palazzi. Everyone left something wonderful to see in Sicily. This island, whose name derives from the Greek Sikelìa ("three points"), has also 645 miles of wonderful coasts and many active volcanos.

Palermo, the largest city, revolves around the intersection of Via Maqueda and Corso Vittorio Emanuele, the so-called Quattro Canti which delineates four rival quarters. Artistic rivalries abound as well, as exemplified in the massive Palazzo dei Normanni, Roger II’s palace. Look for the Christian haloes King Ferdinand II had placed over the heads of the original Moorish figures. Greek rites are still the norm at the Church of the Martorana, with its exquisite belfry. San Giorgio dei Genovesi is a rare example of Sicilian Renaissance. Sicily’s kings and queens are buried in the breathtaking cathedral; on a smaller but no less extravagant scale are the stuccos in the Oratorio di San Domenico, whose altarpiece is by Van Dyck. The Oratorio di San Lorenzo is a masterpiece of Sicilian roccoco, contrasted starkly by Caravaggio’s "Nativity," his next to last work. Just outside Palermo are the chinoiserie-decorated La Favorita; La Zisa, the most important Norman building in Sicily; La Cuba, a 12th-century royal pavilion buried within a modern barracks (half the fun is the military tour guide/escort you will be provided), and the Capuchin Convent, with its macabre catacombs holding the mummified bones of 8000 Palermitans.

The cathedral of Monreale is at the top of any list, with its dazzling mosaics and Benedictine cloisters. The unfinished temples of Segesta, the Valley of the Temples at Agrigento, the 6th-century city of Heraclea Minoa all rival any ancient site in Greece today. Erice is perched high atop a hill, its 5th-century BC walls and great medieval castle overlooking the valleys and, on a very clear day, the shadows of nearby Africa. A few miles south is Marsala, home of great wines both sweet and dry, and of long sandy beaches. Sciacca, a small town with a festive evening atmosphere, is the best place to stay to visit Selinunte, the other ancient Greek town.

Noto is as heady a baroque extravaganza as any you’ll ever find. In Gela, stand atop the monumental ramparts, built less than a hundred years after Aeschylus died here in 456 BC.

And then there is Siracusa. On the mainland, inside the dense archeological zone, Aeschylus may have seen one of his own plays performed at the Linear Theatre (so-called because its seats form straight rows, unlike the semicircular ones found in most ancient theatres). On Ortygia Island are Santa Maria delle Colonne, a church that combines a 5th-century Greek temple, Norman battlements and a baroque façade; and San Pietro, one of the oldest churches in all of Italy; just a few miles north of town is the Eurylus Castle, built in 100 BC.

Catania, the second largest city, is tipical for its barocco, the night life, the outdoor fish market, and the Feast Day of Sant'Agata. The barocco is also dominant in Acireale, the city of the most famous Carnival of Sicily.

Piazza Armerina is a spectacular town with a breathtaking hilltop view and a hunting lodge whose mosaics date from the 4th century BC.

Troìna and Randazzo are lovely little medieval towns; the 11th-century church of San Pietro in Itala Marina is one of the few remaining structures built by Count Roger.

Taormina is also medieval, though its fame derives from its ancient Greek theatre (and from its view, probably the most spectacular of any theatre built by the Greeks, who certainly loved their views). A few miles away in the country, the church at San Francesco di Paola, a most important Norman building, is lost at the far end of a rustic valley: the trek there is indeed as unique as the goal (ask a local to open the door if it’s closed!).

Make sure you get to the cathedral of Messina at noon to see the world’s largest astronomical clock perform; like its neighbor Catania, Messina was devastated in the 1908 earthquake, then heavily bombed in World War II; both have extensive new quarters and small baroque neighborhoods that have miraculously survived.

Go to the Aeolians to see the extensive Greek ruins on Lipari, but mostly to swim and dive in the crystalline seas and to sunbathe on the myriad beaches and rocky shores.

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Sicilian cooking is unique in Italy, blending extravagant Arab and northern techniques with simple peasant ingredients, mainly the catch of the sea and the pick of the garden. Pasta con le sarde is the perfect example: featuring a sauce made with sardines, raisins, pine nuts, fennel, saffron, parsley and capers, its origins go all the way back to the Phoenicians. Pasta alla Norma combines tomato, eggplant and tasty ricotta salata. Swordfish and tuna dishes abound, especially in May and June.

But the Sicilian tooth is most glorious when it's sweet. Sicilians think nothing of having a brioche stuffed with ice cream for breakfast. Try it, if you dare. Try also Cannoli, cassata and frutta di Martorana, perfectly authentic looking marzipan fruits and vegetables originally made by the nuns of the Martorana convent. And when you're in Messina sample la pignolata, a delicate mound of lemon-scented crispy deep-fried batter balls covered half with vanilla and half with chocolate icing.




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Coordinates: 37°38′33″N, 14°11′34″E


Flag of Sicily

Image:Italy Regions Sicily Map.png



Autonomous region




Lino Leanza, acting (2008-)




25,708 km²

 - Ranked

1st (8.5 %)

Population (2006 est.)

 - Total


 - Ranked

4th (8.5 %)

 - Density


Sicily (Italian and Sicilian: Sicilia) is an autonomous region of Italy in Europe. Of all the regions of Italy, Sicily covers the largest surface area with 25,708 km², and currently has five million inhabitants. It is also the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, though several much smaller islands surrounding it are also considered part of Sicily.

Throughout much of its history, Sicily has been considered a crucial strategic location due in large part to its importance for Mediterranean trade routes.[1] The area was highly regarded as part of Magna Graecia, with Cicero describing Siracusa as the greatest and most beautiful city of all Ancient Greece.[2]

Although today it is a region of Italy, it was once a country in its own right, as the Kingdom of Sicily, ruled from Palermo. The Kingdom of Sicily ruled over southern Italy, Sicily, and Malta. It later became a part of the Two Sicilies under the Bourbons, which was actually centered in Naples rather than Sicily. Since that time the risorgimento has occurred and Sicily has been a fully fledged part of Italy.

Sicily is considered to be highly rich in its own unique culture, especially in regards to the arts, cuisine, architecture and even language. The Sicilian economy is largely based in agriculture (famously orange and lemon orchards), this same rural countryside has attracted significant tourism in the modern age as its natural beauty is highly regarded.[3] Sicily also holds importance for archeological and ancient sites such as the Necropolis of Pantalica.

[edit] History

Main article: History of Sicily

[edit] Ancient tribes

The original inhabitants of Sicily were three defined groups of the Ancient peoples of Italy. The most prominent and by far the earliest of which was the Sicani, who according to Thucydides arrived from the Iberian Peninsula (perhaps Catalonia).[4][5] 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.[6]

The Elymians, thought to be from the Aegean, were the next tribe to migrate to join the Sicanians on Sicily.[7] Although there is no evidence of any wars between the tribes, when the Elymians settled in the north-west corner of the island, the Sicanians moved across eastwards. From mainland Italy, thought to originally have been Ligures from Liguria came the Sicels in 1200 BC; forcing the Sicanians to move back across Sicily settling in the middle of the island.[6]

[edit] Greek and Roman period

Main articles: Magna Graecia, Ancient Rome, and Sicilia (Roman province)

Greek temple at Selinunte.

Greek temple at Selinunte.

In around 750 BC, the Greeks began to colonize Sicily, establishing many important settlements. The most important colony was Syracuse; other significant ones were Akragas, Gela, Himera, Selinunte, and Zancle. The native Sicani and Sicel peoples were absorbed by the Hellenic culture with relative ease, and the area was part of Magna Graecia along with the rest of Southern Italy, which the Greeks had also colonized.

Sicily was very fertile, and the introduction of olives and grape vines flourished, creating a great deal of profitable trading;[8] a significant part of Greek culture on the island was that of Greek religion and many temples were built across Sicily, such as the Valley of the Temples at Agrigento.[9] Politics on the island was intertwined with that of Greece; Syracuse became desired by the Athenians, who during Peloponnesian War set out on the Sicilian Expedition. Syracuse gained Sparta and Corinth as allies, as a result the Athenian army and ships were destroyed, with most of the survivors being sold into slavery.[10]

The Roman amphitheatre

The Roman amphitheatre

While Greek Syracuse controlled much of Sicily, there were a few Carthaginian colonies in the far west of the island. When the two cultures began to clash, the Sicilian Wars erupted.[11] Greece began to make peace with the Roman Republic in 262 BC and the Romans sought to annex Sicily as its empire's first province. Rome intervened in the First Punic War, crushing Carthage so that by 242 BC Sicily had become the first Roman province outside of the Italian Peninsula.[11] The Second Punic War, in which Archimedes was killed, saw Carthage trying to take Sicily from the Roman Empire. They failed and this time Rome was even more unrelenting in the annihilation of the invaders; during 210 BC the Roman consul M. Valerian, told the Roman Senate that "no Carthaginian remains in Sicily".[12]

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.[13] Although under Augustus some attempt was made to introduce the Latin language to the island, Sicily was allowed to remain largely Greek in a cultural sense, rather than a complete cultural Romanisation.[13] When Verres became governor of Sicily, the once prosperous and contented people were put into sharp decline, in 70 BC noted figure Cicero condemned the misgovernment of Verres in his oration In Verrem.[14]

The religion of Christianity first appeared in Sicily during the years following 200 AD, between this time and 313 AD when Constantine the Great finally lifted the prohibition, a significant number of Sicilians became martyrs such as Agatha, Christina, Lucy, Euplius and many more.[15] Christianity grew rapidly in Sicily during the next two centuries, the period of history where Sicily was a Roman province lasted for around 700 years in total.[15]

[edit] Early Middle Ages

Main articles: Byzantine Empire and Emirate of Sicily

As the Roman Empire was falling apart, a Germanic tribe known as the Vandals took Sicily in 440 AD under the rule of their king Geiseric. The Vandals had already invaded parts of Roman France and Spain, inserting themselves as an important power in western Europe.[16] However, they soon lost these newly acquired possessions to another East Germanic tribe in the form of the Goths.[16] The Ostrogothic conquest of Sicily (and Italy as a whole) under Theodoric the Great began in 488; although the Goths were Germanic, Theodoric sought to revive Roman culture and government and allowed freedom of religion.[17]

Depiction of the Gothic War.

Depiction of the Gothic War.

The Gothic War took place between the Ostrogoths and the Eastern Roman Empire, also known as the Byzantine Empire. Sicily was the first part of Italy to be taken under general Belisarius who was commissioned by Eastern Emperor Justinian I.[18] Sicily was 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.[19] However, a 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 by the Byzantine general Narses in 552.[19]

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.[20] The rumours that the capital of the empire was to be moved to Syracuse, along with small raids probably cost Constans his life as he was assassinated in 668.[20] 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.[21]

San Giovanni degli Eremiti, red domes showing elements of Arab architecture.

San Giovanni degli Eremiti, red domes showing elements of Arab architecture.

In 826, Euphemius the commander of the Byzantine fleet of Sicily forced a nun to marry him. Emperor Michael II caught wind of the matter and ordered that general Constantine end the marriage and cut off Euphemius' nose. Euphemius rose up, killed Constantine and then occupied Syracuse; he in turn was defeated and drove out to North Africa.[22] He offered rule of Sicily over to Ziyadat Allah the Aghlabid Emir of Tunisia in return for a place as a general and safety; an Islamic army of Arabs, Berbers, Spaniards, Cretans and Persians was sent.[22] The conquest was a see-saw affair: with considerable resistance and many internal struggles, it took over a century for Byzantine Sicily to be conquered. Syracuse held for a long time, Taormina fell in 902, and all of the island was eventually conquered by 965.[22]

Throughout this reign, continued revolts by Byzantine Sicilians happened especially in the east and part of the lands were even re-occupied before being quashed. Agricultural items such as oranges, lemons, pistachio and sugar cane were brought to Sicily,[16] the native Christians were allowed freedom of religion but had to pay an extra tax to their rulers. However, the Emirate of Sicily began to fragment as inner-dynasty related quarrels took place between the Muslim regime.[22] By the 11th century mainland southern Italian powers were hiring ferocious Norman merecenaries, who were Christian descendants of the Vikings; it was the Normans under Roger I who freed Sicily from the Muslims.[22] After taking Apulia and Calabria, he occupied Messina with an army of 700 knights. In 1068, Roger Guiscard and his men defeated the Muslims at Misilmeri but the most crucial battle was the siege of Palermo, which led to Sicily being completely in Norman control by 1091.[23]

[edit] Kingdom of Sicily

Main articles: Kingdom of Sicily and List of monarchs of Sicily

The Cathedral of Monreale.

The Cathedral of Monreale.

Palermo continued on as the capital under the Normans. Roger's son, Roger II of Sicily, was ultimately able to raise the status of the island, along with his holds of Malta and Southern Italy to a kingdom in 1130.[24][23] During this period the Kingdom of Sicily was prosperous and politically powerful, becoming one of the wealthiest states in all of Europe; even wealthier than England.[25] Significantly, immigrants from Northern Italy and Campania arrived during this period and linguistically the island became Latinised, in terms of church it would become completely Roman Catholic, previously under the Byzantines it had been more Eastern Christian.[26]

Depiction of the Sicilian Vespers.

Depiction of the Sicilian Vespers.

After a century the Norman Hauteville dynasty died out, the last direct descendent and heir of Roger; Constance married Emperor Henry VI.[27] This eventually led to the crown of Sicily been passed on to the Hohenstaufen Dynasty who were Germanic peoples from Swabia. Conflict between the Hohenstaufen house and the Papacy, led in 1266 to Pope Innocent IV crowning Angevin Dynasty duke Charles I as the king of both Sicily and Naples.[27]

Strong opposition of the 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.[27] During the war the Sicilians turned to Peter III of the Kingdom of Aragon for support after being rejected by the Pope. Peter gained control of Sicily from the French though the French retained control of the Kingdom of Naples. The wars continued until the peace of Caltabellotta in 1302, which saw Frederick III recognised as king of the Isle of Sicily, while Charles II was recognised as the king of Naples by Pope Boniface VIII.[27] 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.[8]

Sicilian Baroque in Catania.

Sicilian Baroque in Catania.

The Spanish Inquisition in 1492 saw Ferdinand I decreeing the explusion of every single Jew from Sicily.[27] The island was hit by two very serious earthquakes in the east in both 1542 and 1693, just a few years before the latter earthquake the island was struck by a ferocious plague.[27] There were revolts during the 17th century, but these were quelled with significant force especially the revolts of Palermo and Messina.[8] The 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.[28]

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.[29] At first Sicily was able to remain as an independent kingdom under personal union, while the Bourbons ruled over both from Naples. However the advent of Napoleon's First French Empire saw Naples taken at the Battle of Campo Tenese and Bonapartist Kings of Naples were instated. Ferdinand III the Bourbon was forced to retreat to Sicily which he was still in complete control of with the help of British naval protection.[30] Following this Sicily joined the Napoleonic Wars, after the wars were won Sicily and Naples formally merged as the 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 was successful and resulted in a sixteen month period of independence for Sicily, until the armed forces of the Bourbons regained control by May 1849.[31]

[edit] Italian unification

After the Expedition of the Thousand led by Giuseppe Garibaldi, Sicily became part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1860 as part of the risorgimento.[32] The conquest started at Marsala and was finally completed with the Siege of Geata where the final Bourbons were expelled and Garibaldi announced his dictatorship in the name of Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia. An anti-Savoy revolt pushing for Sicilian independence erupted in 1866 at Palermo: this was quelled brutally by the Italians within just a week.[33][32] The Sicilian (and the wider mezzogiorno) economy collapsed, leading to an unprecedented wave of emigration.[32] Organisations of workers and peasants known as the Fasci Siciliani, who were leftist and separatist groups rose and caused the Italian government to impose martial law again in 1894.[34][35]

The Mafia, a loose confederation of organised crime networks, grew in influence in the late 19th century; the Fascist regime began suppressing them in the 1920s with some success.[32] There was an allied invasion of Sicily during World War II starting on July 10, 1943, the invasion of Sicily was one of the causes of the July 25 crisis; in general the Allied victors were warmly embraced by the Sicilian population. [32] Italy became a Republic in 1946 and as part of the Constitution of Italy, Sicily was one of the five regions given special status as an autonomous region.[36] 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 improve.[37][38]

[edit] Geography

Provinces of Sicily.

Provinces of Sicily.

Sicily is directly adjacent to the Italian region of Calabria, via the Strait of Messina to the east. The early Roman name for Sicily was Trinacria, alluding to its triangular shape. Sicily has been noted for two millennia as a grain-producing territory. Citrons, oranges, lemons, olives, olive oil, almonds, and wine are among its other agricultural products. The mines of the Enna and Caltanissetta district became a leading sulfur-producing area in the 19th century but have declined since the 1950s.

Administratively Sicily is divided into nine provinces; Agrigento, Caltanissetta, Catania, Enna, Messina, Palermo, Ragusa, Syracuse and Trapani. Also part of various Sicilian provinces are small surrounding islands, including the Aeolian Islands, the Aegadian Islands, Pantelleria, Ustica and the Pelagian Islands.

The island of Sicily 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 River flows through parts of Enna and Caltanissetta before entering the Mediterranean Sea at the port of Licata. To the east the Alcantara in the province of Messina, it exits at Giardini-Naxos. The other two main rivers on the island are to the south-west with Belice and Platani.

Topography of Sicily.

Topography of Sicily.

Sicily and its small surrounding islands are highly significant in the area of volcanology. Mount Etna is the only volcano on mainland Sicily located in the east; with a height of 3,320 m (10,900 ft) it is the tallest active volcano in Europe and one of the most active in the world. As well as Etna, there are several non-volcanic mountain ranges in Sicily, Sicani to the west, Eeri in the central era and Iblei in the south-east. Across the north of Sicily there are three other mountains Madonie, Nebrodi and Peloritani.

The Aeolian Islands to the north-east are volcanically significant with Stromboli currently active, also in the Tyrrhenian Sea are the three dormant volcanos of Vulcano, Vulcanello and Lipari. Off the Southern coast of Sicily, the underwater water volcano of Ferdinandea, which is part of the larger Empedocles last erupted in 1831. It is located between the coast of Agrigento and the island of Pantelleria (which itself is a dormant volcano), on the Phlegraean Fields of the Strait of Sicily.

[edit] Transport

The A29, passing through the countryside near Segesta.

The A29, passing through the countryside near Segesta.

The most prominent Sicilian roads are the motorways (known as autostrade) running through the northern section of the island, this includes the A19 Palermo-Catania, the A20 Palermo-Messina, the A29 Palermo-Trapani-Mazara del Vallo and the toll road A18 Messina-Catania. Much of the motorway network is elevated by columns due to the mountainous terrain of the island.[39][40][41][42] The Sicilian public is served by a network of railway services, linking to most major cities and towns; this service is operated by Trenitalia. There are services to Naples and Rome; this is achieved by the trains been loaded onto ferries which cross to the mainland.[43]

There were plans to link the railway to the mainland via the world's longest suspension bridge, the Strait of Messina Bridge, construction of which was expected to start in 2006. However, the plan was scrapped by the Italian Parliament in late 2006 due to lack of popular support, particularly amongst Sicilians.[44] In two of the main cities there are underground railway services; these feature in the cities of Palermo and Catania.

Mainland Sicily has three airports which fly to numerous European destinations; to the east is the Catania-Fontanarossa Airport which is the busiest on the island (and one of the busiest in all of Italy). Palermo hosts the Palermo International Airport, which is also substantially large, the third airport actually on the island is the Trapani-Birgi Airport which is smaller. There are also two small airports on smaller islands which are considered part of Sicily; Lampedusa Airport and Pantelleria Airport. By sea, Sicily is served by several ferry routes most of which are to Sicily's small surrounding islands and mainland Italy (as well as Sardinia), there is also a daily service between Malta and Pozzallo.[45][46]

[edit] Culture

[edit] Flag

Main article: Flag of Sicily

The regional flag of Sicily, recognized since January 2000,[47] is also the historical one of the island since 1282. It is divided diagonally yellow over red, with the trinacria symbol in the center. "Trinacria" literally means "3 points" and it most probably is a solar symbol even though lately, it has been considered representative of the three points of the island. The head shown on the Sicilian trinacria is the face of Medusa. The trinacria symbol is used also by other regions like the Isle of Man.

[edit] Arts

Landscape with temple ruins on Sicily, Jacob Philipp Hackert, 1778

Landscape with temple ruins on Sicily, Jacob Philipp Hackert, 1778

Sicily is well known as a region of art: many poets and writers were born here, starting from the Sicilian School in the early 13th century, which inspired much subsequent Italian poetry and created the first Italian standard. The most famous, however, are Luigi Pirandello, Giovanni Verga, Salvatore Quasimodo, Gesualdo Bufalino. Other Sicilian artists include the composers Sigismondo d'India, Girolamo Arrigo, Salvatore Sciarrino, Giovanni Sollima (from Palermo), Alessandro Scarlatti (from Trapani or Palermo), Vincenzo Bellini, Giovanni Pacini, Francesco Paolo Frontini, Alfredo Sangiorgi, Aldo Clementi, Roberto Carnevale (from Catania).

Noto, Ragusa, and particularly Acireale contain some of Italy's best examples of Baroque architecture, carved in the local red sandstone. Caltagirone is renowned for its decorative ceramics. Palermo is also a major center of Italian opera. Its Teatro Massimo is the largest opera house in Italy and the third largest in the world, seating 1,400.

Sicily is also home to two prominent folk art traditions, both of which draw heavily on the island's Norman influence. A Sicilian wood cart, or Carretto Siciliano, is painted with intricate decorations of scenes from the Norman romantic poems, such as The Song of Roland. The same tales are told in traditional puppet theatres which feature hand-made wooden marionettes, especially in Acireale, the capital of Sicilian puppets.

Sicily is the setting for many classic Italian films such as Visconti's La Terra Trema (1948) and Il Gattopardo (1963), Rosi's Salvatore Giuliano (1962) and Antonioni's L'avventura (1960).

The 1988 film Nuovo Cinema Paradiso, was about life in a Sicilian town following the Second World War. It is also the setting for Michael Radford's Il Postino (1994) starring Massimo Troisi.

Academy Award winning film director Frank Capra was born in Bisacquino.

[edit] Cuisine

Main article: Cuisine of Sicily

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.[48] The ingredients are typically rich in taste while remaining affordable to the general populance.[49] The savory dishes of Sicily are viewed to be healthy, implomenting fresh vegetables and fruits, such as tomatos, artichokes, olives (including olive oil), citrus, apricots, aubergines, onions, beans, raisins commonly coupled with sea food, freshly caught from the surrounding coastlines, including tuna, sea bream, sea bass, cuttlefish, swordfish, sardines and others.[50]

Cannoli, a popular Sicilian sweet.

Cannoli, a popular Sicilian sweet.

Like the cuisine of the rest of southern Italy, pasta plays an important part in Sicilian cuisine, as does rice; for example with arancini.[51] As well as using some other cheeses, Sicily has spawned some of its own, using both cows and sheeps milk, such as pecorino and caciocavallo.[52] Spices used include saffron, nutmeg, clove, pepper, and cinnamon which were introducted by the Arabs. Although commonly associated with sea food cuisines, meat dishes including goose, lamb, goat and turkey are also found in Sicily, it was the Normans and Hohenstaufen who first introduced a fondness for meat dishes to the island.[53]

Perhaps the most well known part of Sicilian cuisine is the rich sweet dishes

[edit] Language

Main article: Sicilian language

Many Sicilians are bilingual in Italian and Sicilian, an entirely separate Romance language which is not derived from Italian and has a sizeable vocabulary with at least 250,000 words. Some of the words are loan words with slight changes, taking influence from Greek, Latin, Catalan, Arabic, Spanish and others.[54] The Sicilian language is also spoken to some extent in Calabria and Apulia, it had a significant influence on the Maltese language. In the modern age as Italian is taught in schools and is the language of the media, especially in some of the urban areas Sicilian is now a secondary language amongst much of the youth.

One of the places that hosted Frederick's Magna Curia.

One of the places that hosted Frederick's Magna Curia.

The Sicilian language was an early influence in the development of the first Italian standard, although its use remained confined to an intellectual élite. This was a literary language in Sicily created 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 written by Italians can be called Sicilian".[55] It is in this language that appeared the first sonnet, whose invention is attributed to Giacomo da Lentini himself.

There is also a couple of less common, unofficial languages spoken on the island. In around five small Palermitan villages, Arbëreshë dialect of the Albanian language has been spoken since a wave of refugees settled there in the 15th century; these people are predominantly Byzantine Catholics and chant Greek at local Byzantine liturgy.[56] There are also several Ennese towns where dialects of the Lombard language of the Gallo-Italic family are spoken.[57] Much of these two groups of people are tri-lingual, being able to also speak Italian and Sicilian.

[edit] Sports

Football manager Carmelo Di Bella.

Football manager Carmelo Di Bella.

The best known and most popular sport on the island of Sicily is football, which was introduced in the late 1800s under the influence of the English. Some of the oldest football clubs in all of Italy are Sicilian: the three most successful are Palermo, Messina and Catania, who have all, at some point, played in the prestigious Serie A. To date, no Sicilian side has ever won Serie A, however football is deeply embeded in local culture, all over Sicily each town has its own representative team.[58]

Palermo and Catania have a heated rivalry and compete in the Sicilian derby together: to date Palermo is the only Sicilian team to have played on the European stage, in the UEFA Cup. The most noted Sicilian footballer is Salvatore Schillaci who won the Golden Boot at the 1990 FIFA World Cup with Italy.[58] Other noted Sicilian players include Giuseppe Furino, Pietro Anastasi, Francesco Coco, Christian Riganò and Roberto Galia.[58] There have also been some noted managers from the island, such as 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 Catania compete in the top Italian national rugby union league called Super 10, 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, the sport has a reasonable following. Various other sports which are played to some extent includes volleyball, handball and water polo.

[edit] People

The position of Sicily as a stepping stone of sorts in the center of the Mediterranean Basin has lent it strategic importance throughout history, resulting in an endless procession of settlers and conquerors. Modern methods of genetic testing enable us to see which have had the greatest demographic impact. Several studies show strong ties between Sicily, mainland southern Italy and Greece,[59][60][61][62][63] suggesting that the Siculi, Elymi and Greek colonizations were the most important.

It has been proposed that a genetic boundary divides Sicily into two regions, reflecting the distribution of Siculi and Greek settlements in the east, and Sicani/Elymi, Phoenician/Arab and Norman settlements in the west.[64][65][66] However, other research has failed to detect any such division.[67][61] No data exist on the contribution of Normans, but a number of studies hint that North African and Middle Eastern gene flow was limited by the physical barrier of the Mediterranean Sea and resulting cultural differentiation.[60][68][69][70][71][72]

Sicily's population is approximately 5 million, and there are an additional 10 million people of Sicilian descent around the world, mostly in the United States, Argentina, Canada, Australia and the EU countries. The island today, like all of western Europe, is home to growing communities of immigrants, including Tunisians, Moroccans, Nigerians, Indians, Romanians, Russians, Chinese and Gypsies (Roma) from the Balkans.

[edit] Demographics

In Sicily there are fifteen cities and towns which have a population level above 50,000 people, these are;



Population (2006 est.)



















Population (2006 est.)













Mazara del Vallo


[edit] Noted Sicilians

  • Stesichorus (c. 640 – 555 BCE), poet
  • Empedocles (c. 490 – 430 BCE), scientist and philosopher
  • Gorgias (c. 483 – 375 BCE), philosopher
  • Dion (408–354 BCE), politician and friend of Plato
  • Timaeus (c. 345 – 250 BCE), historian
  • Theocritus (c. 310 – 250 BCE), poet

Archimedes of Syracuse

Vincenzo Bellini

Luigi Pirandello

[edit] References

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  67. ^ Walter et al. (1997) GM and KM allotypes in nine population samples of Sicily
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  69. ^ Kandil et al. (1999) Red cell enzyme polymorphisms in Moroccans and Southern Spaniards: New data for the genetic history of the Western Mediterranean
  70. ^ Scozzari et al. (2001) Human Y-chromosome variation in the western Mediterranean area: Implications for the peopling of the region
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  72. ^ Capelli et al. (2005) Population Structure in the Mediterranean Basin: A Y Chromosome Perspective


[edit] See also

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