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Sicily (Italian and Sicilian: Sicilia) is the largest island in the Mediterranean Seamarker and an autonomous region of Italymarker. Minor islands around it are also considered to be 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. The area was highly regarded as part of Magna Graecia, with Cicero describing Siracusamarker as the greatest and most beautiful city of all Ancient Greece.

The island was once a city-state in its own right, and as the Kingdom of Sicily ruled from Palermomarker over southern Italy, Sicily, and Maltamarker. It later became a part of the Two Sicilies under the Bourbons, a kingdom governed from Naplesmarker that comprised both the island itself and most of Southern Italy. The Italian unification of 1860 led to the dissolution of this kingdom, and Sicily became an autonomous part of the Kingdom of Italy. Sicily is today an autonomous region of Italymarker. Of all the regions of Italy, Sicily covers the largest land area at and currently has just over five million inhabitants.

Sicily has its own unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, cuisine, architecture and language. The Sicilian economy is largely based on agriculture (mainly orange and lemon orchards); this same rural countryside has attracted significant tourism in the modern age as its natural beauty is highly regarded. Sicily also holds importance for archeological and ancient sites such as the Necropolis of Pantalicamarker and the Valley of the Templesmarker.

The Sicilian economy is plagued by organized crime, the Cosa Nostra being the oldest of Italian mobs. The overall income of criminal associations in Italy (including 'Ndrangheta and Camorra) was estimated to be 63 billion Euros annually, or 7 percent of the Italian economy.

Geography

Sicily has been known since ancient times for its roughly triangular shape, which earned her the name Trinacria. It is separated to the east from the Italian region of Calabria through the Strait of Messinamarker.The island is characterized by a densely mountainous landscape. The main mountain ranges are Madoniemarker and Nebrodimarker in the north and Peloritanimarker in the north-east, whereas the south-eastern Hyblaeanmarker are considered geologically as a continuation of the Italian Appenninesmarker. The mines of the Ennamarker and Caltanissettamarker district were a leading sulfur-producing area throughout the 19th century, but have declined since the 1950s.

Sicily and its small surrounding islands are extremely interesting to the volcanologist.Mount Etnamarker, located in the east of mainland Sicily with a height of it is the tallest active volcano in Europe and one of the most active in the world.

The Aeolian Islandsmarker in the Tyrrhenian Seamarker, to the north-east of mainland Sicily, exhibit a volcanic complex including Strombolimarker currently active, also are the three dormant volcanoes of Vulcanomarker, Vulcanellomarker and Liparimarker. Off the Southern coast of Sicily, the underwater volcano of Ferdinandeamarker, which is part of the larger Empedoclesmarker last erupted in 1831. It is located between the coast of Agrigentomarker and the island of Pantelleriamarker (which itself is a dormant volcano), on the Phlegraean Fields of the Strait of Sicily.

Flora & Fauna

Sicily has a number of forest and riverine habitats. The largest forest in Sicily is the Bosco di Caronia. A number of bird species are found in Sicily. In some cases Sicily is a delimited point of a species range. For example, the subspecies of Hooded Crow, Corvus cornix ssp cornix occurs in Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica, but no further south.

Rivers

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 River flows through parts of Enna and Caltanissetta before entering the Mediterranean Seamarker at the port of Licatamarker. To the east the Alcantaramarker in the province of Messina, it exits at Giardini Naxosmarker and the Simetomarker. Other important rivers on the island are to the south-west with Belicemarker and Platanimarker.
 
River length in km
Salso River 144
Simetomarker 113
Belicemarker 107
Dittaino 105
Platanimarker 103
Gornalunga 81
Gela marker 74
Salso Cimarosa 72
Torto 58
Irminiomarker 57
Dirillomarker 54
Verduramarker 53
Alcantara 52
Tellaromarker 45
Anapomarker 40


Climate

Sicily's location means that it has a Mediterranean climate with mild to warm, wet winters and warm to hot, dry summers.

History

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 Peninsulamarker (perhaps Cataloniamarker). 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 is correlated with extinction of dwarf hippos and dwarf elephants. The Elymians, thought to be from the Aegean Seamarker, were the next tribe to migrate to join the Sicanians on Sicily. 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 Italymarker, 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. The Phoeniciansmarker also were early settlers before the Greeks.

Greek and Roman period

About 750 BC, the Greeks began to colonize Sicily, establishing many important settlements. The most important colony was Syracusemarker; other significant ones were Akragasmarker, Gelamarker, Himeramarker, Selinuntemarker, and Zanclemarker. 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 colonised. Sicily was very fertile, and the introduction of olives and grape vines flourished, creating a great deal of profitable trading; 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 Agrigentomarker. Politics on the island was intertwined with that of Greece; Syracusemarker became desired by the Atheniansmarker, who during the Peloponnesian War set out on the Sicilian Expedition. Syracuse gained Spartamarker and Corinthmarker 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.

The Roman amphitheatre
While Greek Syracuse controlled much of Sicily, there were a few Carthaginianmarker colonies in the far west of the island. When the two cultures began to clash, the Greek Punic Wars erupted, the longest wars of antiquity. 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. 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".

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 Lilybaeummarker to the west. 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. 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. 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 in Sicily during the years following AD 200; between this time and AD 313 when Constantine the Great finally lifted the prohibition on Christianity, a significant number of Sicilians became martyrs such as Agatha, Christina, Lucy, Euplius and many more. 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.

Early Middle Ages

Depiction of the Gothic War
As the Roman Empire was falling apart, a Germanic tribe known as the Vandals took Sicily in AD 440 under the rule of their king Geiseric. The Vandals had already invaded parts of Roman Francemarker and Spainmarker, inserting 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 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. 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. Sicily was used as a base for the Byzantines to conquer the rest of Italy, with Naplesmarker, Romemarker, Milanmarker and the Ostrogoth capital Ravennamarker falling within five years. 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.

In 535, Emperor Justinian I made Sicily a Byzantine province, and for the second time in Sicilian history, the Greek language became a familiar sound across the island. As the power of the Byzantine Empire waned, Sicily was invaded by the Arab forces of Caliph Uthman in the year 652. By the end of the 7th century they had captured the nearby port city of Carthagemarker, allowing the Arabs to build shipyards and a permanent base from which to make more sustained attacks.

Byzantine Emperor Constans II decided to move from the capital Constantinoplemarker to Syracusemarker 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. The 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.


By 826, Euphemius the commander of the Byzantines killed his wife in Sicily and 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' head. Euphemius rose up, killed Constantine and then occupied Syracuse; he in turn was defeated and driven out to North Africa. He offered rule of Sicily over to Ziyadat Allah the Aghlabid Emir of Tunisiamarker in return for a place as a general and safety; a Muslim army of Arabs, Berbers, Spaniards (then an Islamic regionmarker), Cretansmarker and Persians was sent. The conquest was a see-saw affair and met with much resistance. It took over a century for Byzantine Sicily to be conquered. Syracuse held for a long time, Taorminamarker fell in 902, and all of Sicily was eventually conquered by Arabs in 965.

Arab Sicily (965-1091)

The Arabs initiated land reforms which in turn, increased productivity and encouraged the growth of smallholdings, a dent to the dominance of the landed estates. The Arabs further improved irrigation systems. A description of Palermomarker was given by Ibn Hawqal, an Arab merchant who visited Sicily in 950. A walled suburb called the Al-Kasr (the palace) is the center of Palermo to this day, with the great Friday mosque on the site of the later Roman cathedral. The suburb of Al-Khalisa (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.

Throughout this reign, revolts by Byzantine Sicilians continuously occurred, especially in the east, and parts of the island were re-occupied before being quashed. Agricultural items such as oranges, lemons, pistachio and sugar cane were brought to Sicily. As dhimmis, the native Christians were allowed freedom of religion, but had to pay Jizya in lieu of Zakat, which Muslims paid, to their rulers. However, the Emirate of Sicily began to fragment as intra-dynastic quarreling fractured the Muslim regime. During this time there was also a minor Jewish presence. By the 11th century, mainland southern Italian powers hired Norman merecenaries, who conquered Sicily from the Arabs under Roger I. After taking Apuliamarker and Calabria, he occupied Messinamarker with an army of 700 knights. In 1068, Roger Guiscard and his men were victorious at Misilmerimarker, but the most crucial battle was the siege of Palermo, which in 1091 led to Sicily coming under Norman control.

Kingdom of Sicily

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 to a kingdom in 1130, along with his other holdings which included the Duchy of Apulia and Calabria and the Maltese Islandsmarker. 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 Englandmarker. Significantly, immigrants from Northern Italy and Campania arrived during this period. 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.

After a century the Norman Hauteville dynasty died out, the last direct descendent and heir of Roger; Constance married Emperor Henry VI. This eventually led to the crown of Sicily been passed on to the Hohenstaufen Dynasty who were Germans 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. Strong opposition of the Frenchmarker 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, son-in-law of the last Hohenstaufen king, of the Kingdom of Aragonmarker 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 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 Boniface VIII. 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 of 1347, in Messinamarker, Sicily, the Black Death first arrived in Europe.

The Spanish Inquisition in 1492 saw Ferdinand II decreeing the expulsion of every single Jew from Sicily. 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. There were revolts during the 17th century, but these were quelled with significant force especially the revolts of Palermo and Messinamarker. 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 Austrianmarker Habsburg Dynasty.

While the Austrians were concerned with the War of the Polish Succession, a Bourbon prince, Charles from Spainmarker was able to conquer Sicily and Naples. 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. 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 period of independence for Sicily.

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 . The conquest started at Marsalamarker and was finally completed with the Siege of Gaetamarker 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 Palermomarker; it was quelled brutally by the Italians within a week. Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa wrote in his book Il Gattopardo that the Sicilians viewed the unification of Italy as a conquest of the south by the north. The Sicilian (and the wider mezzogiorno) economy collapsed, leading to an unprecedented wave of emigration. Organizations 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. The Messina earthquake of December 28, 1908 killed over 80,000 people.

The Mafia, a loose confederation of organized crime networks, grew in influence in the late 19th century; the Fascist regime began suppressing them in the 1920s with considerable success. There was an allied invasion of Sicily during World War II starting on July 10, 1943. In preparation of the invasion of Sicily, the Allies revitalised the Mafia to aid them. 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. 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. 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.

Economy

Sicilian oranges
Sicily has long been noted for its fertile soil, pleasant climate, and natural beauty. It has a long, hot growing season, but summer droughts are frequent. Agriculture is the chief economic activity but has long been hampered by absentee ownership, primitive methods of cultivation, and inadequate irrigation. The establishment (1950) of the now-defunct Cassa per il Mezzogiorno (Southern Italy Development Fund) by the national government led to land ownership reforms, an increase in the amount of land available for cultivation and the general development of the island's economy. However, the Mafia, which is still influential, has hindered governmental efforts to institute reforms in the region, and Sicily continues to have an extremely low per capita income and high unemployment, although many workers have “black,” or unreported, jobs.

The main agricultural products are Citrons, oranges, lemons, olives, olive oil, almonds, grapes and wine; cattle, mules, donkeys, and sheep are raised.

Sicily produces more wine than New Zealand, Austria and Hungary combined, but was previously 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 Notomarker, a famous old city close to Avola.

There are important tuna and sardine fisheries.

In addition to wine, Sicily manufactures processed food, chemicals, refined petroleum, fertilizers, textiles, ships, leather goods, and forest products. There are petroleum fields in the southeast, and natural gas and sulfur are also produced. Improvements in Sicily's road system have helped to promote industrial development. The chief ports of the island are Palermomarker, Cataniamarker, Augustamarker and Messinamarker.

Transport



Roads

The most prominent Sicilian roads are the motorways (known as ) 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 Trapanimarker to Messina (via Palermo), the SS.114 Messina-Syracusemarker (via Catania) and the SS.115 Syracuse-Trapani (via Ragusamarker and Agrigentomarker).

 
Sign Motorway length in km Toll
A18 Messina-Catania 76 km Yes
RA15 Catania's By Pass 24 km free
A18 Catania-Siracusa 35 km open free
A18 Siracusa-Rosolini 42 km free
 
Sign Motorway length in km Toll
A19 Palermo-Catania 199 km free
A20 Palermo-Messina 181 km Yes
A29 Palermo-Mazara del Vallo 119 km free
A29dir Alcamo-Trapani/Marsala 38 km/44 km free


Railways

The Sicilian rail network in 2007
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 of railway tracks in use, over 60% has been electrified whilst the remaining 583 km are serviced by diesel engines. 88% of the lines (1.209 km) are single-track and only 169 km are double-track serving the two main routes, Messina-Palermo (Tyrrhenianmarker) and Messina-Catania-Syracuse (Ionianmarker). Of the narrow gauge railways the Ferrovia Circumetnea is the only one that still operates, going round Mount Etnamarker. From the major cities of Sicily, there are services to Naplesmarker and Romemarker; this is achieved by the trains being loaded onto ferries which cross to the mainland. In two of the main cities there are underground railway services; these feature in the cities of Palermo and Catania whilst Messina is served by a light rail service.

Airports

Mainland Sicily has several airports which serve numerous Italian and European destinations and some extra-European;

Ports

By sea, Sicily is served by several ferry routes and cargo ports, and in all major cities, cruise ships dock on a regular basis.

The Bridge

Plans for a bridge linking Sicily to the mainland have been around 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 Bridgemarker. Planning for the project has undergone 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 December 23, 2009, and announced a pledge of 1.3 billion EUR as a contribution to the bridge's total cost, estimated at 6.1 billion EUR.The plan has been put under severe criticisms by environmental associations and local Sicilians and Calabrians, concerned with its environmental impact, economical sustainability, and even possible infiltrations by organized crime.

Demographics

The people of Sicily are often portrayed as very proud of their island, identity and culture and it is not uncommon for people to describe themselves as Sicilian, before the more national description of Italianmarker. Despite the existence of major cities such as Palermomarker, Cataniamarker, Messinamarker and Syracusemarker, popular stereotypes of Sicilians commonly allude to ruralism, for example the coppola is one of the main symbols of Sicilian identity; it is derived from the flat cap of rural Northern England which arrived in 1800 when Bourbon king Ferdinand I had fled to Sicily and was protected by the British Royal Navy.

Throughout history Sicily had rulers from a variety of different cultures, from the Italic people, Romans, Vandals, Greeks, Byzantines, Saracens and Normans, each of whom has contributed island's culture, particularly in the areas of cuisine and architecture. Sicilian people tend to most closely associate themselves with other southern Italians, with whom they share a common history. The island of Sicily itself has a population of approximately five million, and there are an additional ten million people of Sicilian descent around the world, mostly in North America, Argentinamarker, Australia and other European countries. Like the rest of Southern Italy, 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 100 thousand immigrants out of the total five million population or nearly 2 percent of the population; Romanians with more than 17 thousand make up the most immigrants, followed by Tunisians, Moroccansmarker, Sri Lankans, Albanians, and others mostly from Eastern Europe. [4655]

Major settlements

In Sicily there are fifteen cities and towns which have a population level above 50,000 people, these are:
 
Comune Population (2006 est.)
Palermomarker 665,434
Cataniamarker 300,701
Messinamarker 244,573
Siracusamarker 123,494
Marsalamarker 82,378
 
Comune Population (2006 est.)
Gelamarker 77,239
Ragusamarker 72,419
Trapanimarker 70,635
Vittoriamarker 61,424
Caltanissettamarker 60,369
 
Comune Population (2006 est.)
Agrigentomarker 59,158
Bagheriamarker 55,283
Modicamarker 54,008
Acirealemarker 52,830
Mazara del Vallomarker 51,412


Population genetics

Y-Dna haplogroups were found at the following frequencies in Sicily :R1 (30.09%), J (29.65%), E1b1b (18.21%), I (7.62%), G (5.93%), K2 (5.51%), Q (2.54%).R1 and I haplogroups are typical in West European populations while J and E1b1b consist of lineages with differential distribution within Middle East, North Africa and Europe.

Government and politics

The politics of Sicily, Italymarker 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.

Administrative divisions

Administratively Sicily is divided into nine provinces. Also part of various Sicilian provinces are small surrounding islands: Aeolian Islandsmarker of Messina, isle of Usticamarker (Palermo), Aegadian Islandsmarker (Trapani), isle of Pantelleriamarker (Trapani) and Pelagian Islands (Agrigento).

Province Area (km²) Population Density (inh./km²)
Province of Agrigentomarker 3,042 455,288 149.6
Province of Caltanissetta 2,128 272,359 127.9
Province of Catania 3,552 1,084,674 305.3
Province of Enna 2,562 173,558 67.7
Province of Messina 3,247 654,520 201.5
Province of Palermo 4,992 1,244,012 249.2
Province of Ragusa 1,614 313,698 194.3
Province of Syracuse 2,109 402,680 190.9
Province of Trapani 2,460 435,877 177.1


Tourism

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 archeological sites, and the two major cities of Catania and Palermo are the favourite tourist destinations, but the old town of Taorminamarker and the neighbouring seaside resort of Giardini Naxosmarker draw visitors from all over the world, as do the Aeolian Islandsmarker, Ericemarker, Cefalùmarker, Syracusemarker, and Agrigentomarker. The latter 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.


World Heritage Sites



Sicilian Baroque

The Sicilian Baroque has a unique architectural identity. Notomarker, Caltagironemarker, Cataniamarker, Ragusamarker, Modicamarker, Sciclimarker and particularly Acirealemarker contain some of Italy's best examples of Baroque architecture, carved in the local red sandstone.


Archeological sites

Because many different cultures settled, dominated or invaded the island, Sicily has a huge variety of archeological 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 archeological sites:



Castles

Castles Comune
Province of Caltanissetta Castelluccio di Gela Gelamarker
Province of Catania Castello Ursino Cataniamarker
Castello Normanno Adranomarker
Castello Normanno Paternòmarker
Castello di Aci Aci
Province of Messina Forte dei Centri Messinamarker
Castello di Milazzo Milazzomarker
Castello di Sant'Alessio Siculo Sant'Alessio Siculomarker
Castello di Schisò Giardini Naxosmarker
Province of Palermo Zisa, Palermomarker Palermomarker
Castello di Carini Carinimarker
Province of Ragusa Castello di Donnafugata Ragusamarker
Torre Cabrera Pozzallomarker
Castello Dei Conti Modicamarker
Province of Syracuse Castello Maniacemarker Syracuse


Culture

Language

Many Sicilians are bilingual in Italian and Sicilian, a distinct Romance language which has a sizeable vocabulary, with at least 250,000 words. Some of the words are loan words from Greek, Catalan, French, Arabic, Spanish, and other languages in addition to Italian. The Sicilian language is also spoken to some extent in Calabria and Apuliamarker; 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
The Sicilian language 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 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 , 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". It is in this language that appeared the first sonnet, whose invention is attributed to Giacomo da Lentini himself.

There are also several 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. As one might expect, the language bears the marks of fifteenth century grammar and diction. In some cases, the Church itself encouraged the Albanians to settle on formerly monastic lands, particularly in western Sicily. In others, feudal lords welcomed the new residents. Messina and Palermo boasted the largest urban Albanian communities in Sicily. The Sicilian towns founded or repopulated by the Albanians are Piana degli Albanesimarker, Santa Cristina Gelamarker, Mezzojuso, Contessa Entellinamarker, Palazzo Adrianomarker, Sant' Angelo Muxaro, Bronte, Biancavillamarker and San Michele in Ganzaria.There are also several Ennese towns where dialects of the Lombard language of the Gallo-Italic family are spoken. Much of these two groups of people are tri-lingual, being able to also speak Italian and 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. The ingredients are typically rich in taste while remaining affordable to the general populace. The savory 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 sea food, freshly caught from the surrounding coastlines, including tuna, sea bream, sea bass, cuttlefish, swordfish, sardines, and others.

Perhaps the most well-known part of Sicilian cuisine is the rich sweet dishes including ice creams and pastries. Cannoli, a tube-shaped shell of fried pastry dough filled with a sweet filling usually containing ricotta cheese, is in particular strongly associated with Sicily worldwide. Biancomangiare, biscotti ennesi (cookies native to Ennamarker), 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, 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 introducted by the Arabs. Parsley is used abundantly in many dishes. Although Sicilian cuisine is commonly associated with sea food, meat dishes, including goose, lamb, goat, rabbit, and turkeymarker, are also found in Sicily. It was the Normans and Hohenstaufen 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 Notomarker.

Arts

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 Syracusemarker native who has gone on to become renowned as one of the greatest mathematicians of all time. Gorgias and Empedocles are two other highly noted early Sicilian-Greek philosophers, while the Syracusan Epicharmus is held to be the inventor of comedy. The golden age of Sicilian poetry began in the early 13th century with the Sicilian School, which was highly influential. Some of the most noted figures in the area of Sicilian poetry and writing are Luigi Pirandello, Salvatore Quasimodo, Antonio Veneziano and Giovanni Verga. On the political side notable Sicilian philosophers include: Giovanni Gentile who wrote The Doctrine of Fascism and Julius Evola.



Terracotta ceramics from the island are well known, the art of ceramics on 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. There are two prominent folk art traditions on Sicily, both draw heavily from Norman influence; Sicilian cart is the painting of wooden carts 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 or teatro dei pupi, which feature hand-made wooden marionettes, depicting Normans and Saracens, who engage in mock battles. this is especially popular in Acirealemarker. Famous Sicilian painters include Renaissance artist Antonello da Messina, Renato Guttuso and Greek born Giorgio de Chirico who is commonly dubbed the "father of Surrealist art" and founder of the metaphysical art movement.

Palermomarker hosts the Teatro Massimomarker, which is the largest opera house in Italy and the third largest in all of Europe. Sicilian composers vary from Vincenzo Bellini, Sigismondo d'India, Giovanni Pacini and Alessandro Scarlatti, to contemporary composers such as Salvatore Sciarrino. 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", Rosi's "Salvatore Giuliano", Marco Risi's "Mery per sempre" and "Ragazzi fuori", and Antonioni's "L'avventura".

Sports

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.

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. Other noted Sicilian 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 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'Orlandomarker 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 Floriomarker sports car race that took place in the Madonie Mountains, with the start-finish line in Cerdamarker. 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.

Sicilian lifestyle and folklore

The family is at the heart of Sicilian culture as it has always been for generations. Family members often live close together, sometimes in the same housing complex, and sons and daughters usually remain at home with their parents until they marry, which tends to occur later than in previous decades. Couples today have fewer children than before, yet babies and children are much revered in Sicilian culture and almost always accompany their parents to social events.

Sicilian weddings are lavish, expensive, and traditional. They are normally held in church. The Catholic church is an important feature in Sicilian life. Almost all public places are adorned with crucifixes upon their walls, and most Sicilian homes contain pictures of saints, statues, and other relics. Each town and city has its own patron saint, and the feast days are marked by gaudy 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 Ephiphany, 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. The most important laic event in Sicily is the carnival. Famous carnivals are in Acirealemarker, Misterbiancomarker, Regalbutomarker, Paternòmarker, Sciaccamarker, Termini Imeresemarker.

See also



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References

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