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 Mediterranean climate.
Sicily has a roughly triangular shape, earning it the name Trinacria.To the north-east, it is separated from Calabria and the rest of 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 Region of Sicily (which includes smaller surrounding islands) has an area of 27,708 km2 (10,698 sq mi).
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 Enna and 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 volcanoes. Mount Etna is the largest active volcano in Europe and 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.
Sicily has a typical Mediterranean climate with mild and wet winters and hot, dry summers with very changeable intermediate seasons. On the coasts, especially in the south-west, the climate is affected by the African currents and summers can be scorching.
Sicily is seen as an island of warm winters.
Snow falls above 900–1000 metres, but it can fall in the hills. The interior mountains, especially Nebrodi, 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 a water crisis can happen occasionally.
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)).
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, in the 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 (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.
Recent discoveries of dolmens on the island (dating to the second half of the third millennium BC) seem 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.[need quotation to verify]
No evidence survives 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[by whom?] to have originated in Liguria; they arrived from mainland Italy in 1200 BC and forced the Sicanians to move back across Sicily and to settle in the middle of the island. Other minor Italic groups who settled in Sicily included the Ausones (Aeolian Islands, Milazzo) and the Morgetes of Morgantina.
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 Sicani and 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.
Greek Syracuse controlled eastern Sicily while Carthage controlled the West. The two cultures began to clash, leading to the Greek-Punic wars. Greece had begun to make peace with the Roman Republic in 262 BC, and the Romans sought to annexe 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 the 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".
As the empire's granary, Sicily was an important province, divided into two quaestorships: Syracuse to the east and Lilybaeum to the west. Some attempt was made under Augustus to introduce the Latin language to the island, but Sicily was allowed to remain largely Greek in a cultural sense. The once prosperous and contented island went into sharp decline when Verres became governor of Sicily. 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, Constantine the Great finally lifted the prohibition on Christianity, but not before a significant number of Sicilians had 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.
The Western Roman Empire began falling apart after the great invasion of Vandals, Alans, and Sueves across the Rhine on the last day of 406. Eventually the Vandals, after roaming about western and southern Spain for 20 years moved to North Africa in 429. They occupied Carthage in 439 (The Franks moved south from Belgium. The Visigoths moved west and were eventually settled in Aquitaine in 418; the Burgundians were settled Savoy in 443). This put the in a position to threaten Sicily only 100 miles away. After taking Carthage the Vandals personally led by King Gaiseric laid siege to Palermo in 440 as the opening act in an attempt to wrest the island from Roman rule personally. The Vandals made another attempt to take the island one year after the sack of Rome in 455, at Agrigento, but were defeated decisively by Ricimir in a naval victory off Corsica in 456. The island remained under Roman rule until 469. The Vandal possession of the island was lost 8 years later in 477 to the East Germanic tribe Ostrogoths who were in control of Italy and Dalmatia. The island was returned for payment of tribute to Odoacer, king of the Ostrogoths. He ruled Italy from 476–88 in the name of the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Emperor. The Vandals kept a toehold in Lilybaeum, a port on the west coast. They lost this in 491 after making one last attempt to conquer the island from this port. The Ostrogothic conquest of Sicily (and Italy as a whole) under Theodoric the Great began in 488. He had been appointed viceroy of the emperor to rule in Italy. The Goths were Germanic, but Theodoric was supportive of Roman culture and government and allowed freedom of religion. In 461 from the age of seven or eight until 17 or 18 he was a hostage; he resided in the great palace of Constantinople and was favored by Leo I and where he to read and write and do arithmetic.
After taking areas occupied by the Vandals in North Africa, Justinian decide to retake Italy as an ambitious attempt to recover the lost provinces in the West. The re-conquests marked an end to over 150 years of accommodationist policies with tribal invaders. His first target was Sicily (known as the Gothic War (535–554) began between the Ostrogoths and the Eastern Roman Empire, also known as the Byzantine Empire). His general Belisarius was assigned the task. Sicily was used as a base for the Byzantines to conquer the rest of Italy, with Naples, Rome, Milan. It took five years before the Ostrogoth capital Ravenna fell in 540. However, the new Ostrogoth king Totila counterattacked, moving down the Italian peninsula, plundering and conquering Sicily in 550. Totila was defeated and killed in the Battle of Taginae by Byzantine general Narses in 552 but Italy was in ruins.
At the time of the reconquest Greek was still the predominant language spoken on the island. Sicily was invaded by the Arab forces of Caliph Uthman in 652, but the Arabs failed to make any permanent gains. They returned to Syria with their booty. Raids seeking loot continued until the mid-8th century.
The Eastern Roman Emperor Constans II decided to move from Constantinople to Syracuse in 660. The following year he launched an assault from Sicily against the LombardDuchy of Benevento, which 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 was quickly suppressed by this emperor. Contemporary accounts report that the Greek language was widely spoken on the island during this period. In 740 Emperor Leo III the Isaurian transferred Sicily from the jurisdiction of the church of Rome to that of Constantinople, placing the island within the eastern branch of the 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.
The Muslim conquest of Sicily was a see-saw affair and met with fierce 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.
A description of Palermo was given by Ibn Hawqal, an Arab merchant who visited 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. During the reign of this dynasty revolts by Byzantine Sicilians continuously occurred especially in the east where Greek-speaking Christians predominated. Parts of the island were re-occupied before revolts were being quashed. During Muslim rule agricultural products such as oranges, lemons, pistachio and sugarcane were brought to Sicily. Under the Arab rule the island was divided 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 in the southeast. As dhimmis, that is as members of a protected class of approved monotheists the Eastern Orthodox Christians were allowed freedom of religion, but had to pay a tax, the jizya (in lieu of the obligatory alms tax, the zakat, paid by Muslims), and were restricted from active participation in public affairs.
The Emirate of Sicily began to fragment as intra-dynastic quarrelling fractured the Muslim regime. During this time, there was also a small Jewish presence.
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. Maniakes was killed in a Byzantine civil war in 1043 before completing a reconquest and the Byzantines withdrew. The Normans invaded in 1061. After taking Apulia and Calabria, Roger occupied Messina with an army of 700 knights. In 1068, Roger was victorious at Misilmeri. Most crucial was the siege of Palermo, whose fall in 1071 eventually resulted in all Sicily coming under Norman control. The conquest was completed in 1091 when they captured Noto the last Arab stronghold. Palermo continued to be the capital under the Normans.
The Norman Hauteville family, descendants of Vikings, appreciate and admired the rich and layered culture in which they now found themselves. They also introduced their own culture, customs, and politics in the region. Many Normans in Sicily adopted the habits and comportment of Muslim rulers and their Byzantine subjects in dress, language, literature, even to the extent of having palace eunuchs and, according to some accounts, a harem.
Roger died in 1101. His wife Adelaide ruled until 1112, when their son Roger II of Sicily came of age. Having succeeded his brother Simon as Count of Sicily, Roger II 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.
Roger II appointed the powerful Greek George of Antioch to be his "emir of emirs" and continued the syncretism of his father. 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 the Kingdom of England.
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, at the time when the culture was still heavily Arab and Greek. Governance was by rule of law which promoted justice. Muslims, Jews, Byzantine Greeks, Lombards, and Normans worked together fairly amicably. During this time many extraordinary buildings were constructed.
However this situation changed as the Normans under Papal pressure to secure the island imported immigrants from Lombardy, Piedmont, Provence and Campania. 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 religion the island became completely Roman Catholic (bearing in mind that until 1054 the Churches owing allegiance to the Pope and the Patriarch of Constantinople belonged to one Church); Sicily before the Norman conquest was under Eastern Orthodox Patriarch. After Pope Innocent III made him Papal Legate in 1098, Roger I created several Catholic bishoprics while still allowing the construction of 12 Greek-speaking monasteries (the Greek language, monasteries and 1500 parishes continued to exist until the adherents of the Greek Rite were forced in 1585 to convert to Catholicism or leave; small pocket of Greek-speakers still live in Messina).
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 the 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 to undertake the guardianship of her son. Frederick was four when, at Palermo, he was crowned 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 as 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 remaining Muslim presence in Sicily, estimated at 60,000 persons, moving all to the city of Lucera in Apulia between 1221 and 1226.
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 (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 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 1347, in Messina, Sicily, the Black Death first arrived in Europe.
Following this, Sicily joined the Napoleonic Wars, and subsequently the British under Lord William Bentinck established a military and diplomatic presence on the island to protect against a French invasion. 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 resulted in a short period of independence for Sicily. However, in 1849 the Bourbons retook control of the island and dominated it until 1860.
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 Italy was 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 system.
In the 1920s, the Fascist regime began a stronger military action against the Mafia, which was led by prefectCesare 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 during World War II starting on 10 July 1943. In preparation for the invasion, the Allies revitalised the Mafia to aid them. The invasion of Sicily contributed to the 25 July crisis; in general, the Allied victors were warmly embraced by Sicily.
The Cosa Nostra has traditionally been the most powerful group in Sicily, especially around Palermo. A police investigation in summer 2019 also confirmed strong links between the Palermo area Sicilian Mafia and American organised crime, particularly the Gambino crime family. According to La Repubblica, "Off they go, through the streets of Passo di Rigano, Boccadifalco, Torretta and at the same time, Brooklyn, Staten Island, New Jersey. Because from Sicily to the US, the old mafia has returned".
Since the Italian unification, Sicily, along with the entire south of the Italian peninsula has been strongly marked by coerced emigration, partly induced by a planned de-industrialization of the south in order to favour the northern regions.After Italian unification most of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies's former National Bank, the Banco delle Due Sicilie's assets were transferred to Piedmont. During the first decades of the Risorgimento, a rising number of Sicilian and South Italian manufacturies were driven into ruin due to high taxation imposed by the central government. Furthermore, an embargo imposed on goods coming from South Italian manufacturers, that effectively barred them from exporting to the north and abroad, were also key factors that led to a further impoverishment of the entire region. South Italian and Sicilian emigration started shortly after the Unification of Italy, and has not stopped ever since. By the beginning of the 1900s, less than 40 years after the Unification, what was formerly known as the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, one of Europe's most industrialised countries, became one of the poorest regions in Europe.
Today, Sicily is the Italian region with the highest number of expatriates: as of 2017, 750,000 Sicilians, 14.4% of the island's population, lived abroad. For lack of employment, every year many Sicilians, especially young graduates, still leave the island to seek jobs abroad. Today, an estimated 10 million people of Sicilian origins live around the world.
As in most Italian regions, Christian Roman Catholicism is the predominant religious denomination in Sicily, and the church still plays an important role in the lives of most people. 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, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Sikhism. There are also a fair number of Evangelical Church members and practitioners who live on the island.
Administratively, 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 (Agrigento).
Thanks to the regular growth of the last years, Sicily is the eighth largest regional economy 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 heritage. Today Sicily is investing a large amount of money on structures of the hospitality industry, in order to make tourism more competitive. However, Sicily continues to have a GDP per capita below the Italian average and higher 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.
Highways have been built and expanded in the last four decades. The most prominent Sicilian roads are the motorways (known as autostrade) in the north of the island. Much of the motorway network is elevated on pillars due to the island's mountainous terrain. Other main roads in Sicily are the Strade Statali, such as the SS.113 that connects Trapani to Messina (via Palermo), the SS.114 Messina-Syracuse (via Catania) and the SS.115 Syracuse-Trapani (via Ragusa, Gela and Agrigento).
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, Messina-Palermo (Tyrrhenian) and Messina-Catania-Syracuse (Ionian), which are the main lines of this region. 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, Rome and Milan; this is achieved by the trains being loaded onto ferries which cross the Strait.
International connections: From Palermo and Trapani there are weekly services to Tunisia and there is also a daily service between Malta and Pozzallo.
Commercial and cargo ports: The port of Augusta is the fifth-largest cargo port in Italy and handles tonnes of goods. Other major cargo ports are Palermo, Catania, Trapani, Pozzallo and Termini Imerese.
Touristic ports: Several 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, Portorosa, Syracuse, Cefalù and Sciacca. In Sicily, Palermo is also a major centre for boat rental, with or without crew, in the Mediterranean.
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 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.
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 several Hollywood and Cinecittà films were shot in Sicily. This increased the attraction of Sicily as a tourist destination.
Valle dei Templi (1997) is one of the most outstanding examples of Greater Greece art and architecture, and is one of the main attractions of Sicily as well as a national monument of Italy. The site is located in Agrigento.
Necropolis of Pantalica (2005) is a large necropolis in Sicily with 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.
Arab-Norman Palermo and the cathedral churches of Cefalù and Monreale; includes a series of nine civil and religious structures dating from the era of the Norman kingdom of Sicily (1130–1194)
Because many different cultures settled, dominated or invaded the island, 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:
Most existing towers were built on architectural designs of the Florentine architect 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.
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 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 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 the Baroque architecture brought to Sicily.The 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.
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 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". It is in this language that appeared the first sonnet, whose invention is attributed to Giacomo da Lentini himself.
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 (Palermo botanical gardens) is home to the university's Department of Botany and is also open to visitors.
Cannoli, a 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 (e.g. Cassata is typical of Palermo although 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.
Like the cuisine of the rest of southern Italy, pasta plays an important part in Sicilian cuisine, as does rice; for example with arancine. 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. Parsley is 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 Normans and 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.
The most popular sport in 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 Italy are from Sicily: the three most successful are Palermo, Catania, and Messina, which have played 29, 17 and 5 seasons in the Serie A respectively. No club from Sicily has ever won Serie A, but football is still deeply embedded in local culture and all over Sicily most towns have a representative team.
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 boats that took part in the 2007 America's Cup.
Sicilian arrotino at a living nativity scene wearing traditional Sicilian clothing
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 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 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 Marionette Antonio Pasqualino and at the Museo Etnografico Siciliano Giuseppe Pitré in Palermo. Other elaborate 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.
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) head of 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 Palermo and Corleone, at those times an agricultural city of renown. Palermo and 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 in 1808. 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 Iliad xviii.
The 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.
^Davis-Secord, Sarah (2017). "Sicily in the Early Medieval Mediterranean". Where Three Worlds Met: Sicily in the Early Medieval Mediterranean. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. p. 79. ISBN9781501704642. 10.7591/j.ctt1qv5qfp.
^Johns, Jeremy (2002). Arabic Administration in Norman Sicily: The Royal Diwan. Cambridge studies in Islamic civilization. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. pp. 249–250. ISBN978-0-521-81692-2.
^Takayama, Hiroshi (1993). The Administration of the Norman Kingdom of Sicily. Leiden, the Netherlands: E.J. Brill. p. 123. ISBN978-90-04-09920-3.
^ abLoud, G. A. (2007). The Latin Church in Norman Italy. Cambridge University Press. p. 494. ISBN978-0-521-25551-6. ISBN0-521-25551-1" "At the end of the twelfth century ... While in Apulia Greeks were in a majority – and indeed present in any numbers at all – only in the Salento peninsula in the extreme south, at the time of the conquest they had an overwhelming preponderance in Lucaina and central and southern Calabria, as well as comprising anything up to a third of the population of Sicily, concentrated especially in the north-east of the island, the Val Demone.
^"Palazzo" (pl. palazzi): is any large building in a town, state or private (often much smaller than the term palace implies in the English-speaking world). While palazzo is the technically correct appellation, and postal address, no Sicilian aristocrat would ever use the word, instead referring to his or her own house, however large, as "casa". "Palazzo" followed by the family name was the term used by officials, tradesmen, and delivery men. Gefen, p. 15.
^Dagmar Reichardt, Das phantastische Sizilien Giuseppe Bonaviris. Ich-Erzähler und Raumdarstellung in seinem narrativen Werk, edited and with a foreword by Heinz Willi Wittschier, (Grundlagen der Italianistik no. 2), Frankfurt a.M./Berlin/Bern et al.: Peter Lang, 2000, ISBN978-3631362402.
^Dagmar Reichardt (Ed.), L'Europa che comincia e finisce: la Sicilia. Approcci transculturali alla letteratura siciliana. Beiträge zur transkulturellen Annäherung an die sizilianische Literatur. Contributions to a Transcultural Approach to Sicilian Literature, edited and with a preface by Dagmar Reichardt, in collaboration with Anis Memon, Giovanni Nicoli and Ivana Paonessa, (Italien in Geschichte und Gegenwart, no. 25), Frankfurt a.M./Berlin/Bern et al.: Peter Lang, 2006, ISBN978-3631549414.
Alio, Jacqueline (2018) Sicilian Studies: A Guide and Syllabus for Educators (Trinacria Editions, New York, ISBN978-1-943-63918-2).
Bonacini, Elisa (2007) Il territorio calatino nella Sicilia imperiale e tardoromana (British Archeological Reports, International Series: 1694) Archaeopress, Oxford, England, ISBN978-1-4073-0136-5, in Italian with abstract in English
Chaney, Edward. (2000), "British and American Travellers in Sicily from the eighth to the twentieth century", The Evolution of the Grand Tour, Routledge.
Leighton, Robert (1999) Sicily before History (Duckworth, London; Cornell University Press, Ithaca).
Mendola, Louis; Alio, Jacqueline (2013) The Peoples of Sicily: A Multicultural Legacy (Trinacria Editions, New York, ISBN978-0-615-79694-9).