Sicily is 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
, one of the tallest active volcanoes 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
The earliest archaeological evidence
of human activity on the island dates from as early as 12,000 BC.
By around 750 BC, Sicily had three Phoenician
and a dozen Greek colonies
and it was later the site of the Sicilian Wars
and the Punic Wars
. After the fall of the Roman Empire
in the 5th century AD, Sicily was ruled during the Early Middle Ages
by the Vandals
, the Ostrogoths
, the Byzantine Empire
, and the Emirate of Sicily
. The Norman conquest of southern Italy
led to the creation of the County of Sicily
in 1071, that was succeeded by Kingdom of Sicily
, a state that existed from 1130 until 1816.
Later, it was unified under the House of Bourbon
with the Kingdom of Naples
as the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies
. The island became part of Italy
in 1860 following the Expedition of the Thousand
, a revolt led by Giuseppe Garibaldi
during the Italian unification
, and a plebiscite. Sicily was given special status as an autonomous region
on 15 May 1946, 18 days before the Italian institutional referendum of 1946
Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts
, and architecture
. It is also home to important archaeological
and ancient sites, such as the Necropolis of Pantalica
, the Valley of the Temples
rule over Sicily has led to a blend of cultural influences.
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
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. This is due to the fact Sicily is geographically on the northern edge of the African continental plate
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.
Mount Etna rising over suburbs of Catania
From a geographical perspective, also forming a part of Sicily is the Maltese Archipelago, the islands home to the republic of Malta
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
, and Etna
, enjoy a full 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)).
Flora and fauna
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
) 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.
Sicily has a wide variety of fauna. Species include european wildcat
, red fox
, least weasel
, pine marten
, roe deer
, wild boar
, crested porcupine
, European hedgehog
, common toad
, Vipera aspis
, golden eagle
, peregrine falcon
, Eurasian hoopoe
and black-winged stilt
Dolmen of Avola
, east Sicily
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.
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 
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
) and the Morgetes
The Sicilian province within the Roman Empire
settlements in the western part of the island predate the arrival of Greek
From about 750 BC, the Greeks began to live in Sicily (Ancient Greek
: Σικελία – Sikelia
), establishing many significant settlements. The most important colony was in Syracuse
; others grew up at Akragas
The native Sicani and Sicel peoples became absorbed
into the Hellenic culture
with relative ease, and the area became part of Magna Graecia
- along with the coasts of the south of the Italian peninsula
, which the Greeks had also colonised. Sicily had very fertile soils, and the successful introduction of olives
and grape vines
fostered a great deal of profitable trading. Greek culture
significantly included Greek religion
, and the settlers built many temples
throughout Sicily, including several in the Valley of the Temples
Politics on the island became intertwined with those of Greece; Syracuse
became desired by the Athenians
who set out on the Sicilian Expedition
(415–413 BC) during the Peloponnesian War
. Syracuse gained Sparta
as allies and, as a result, defeated the Athenian expedition. The victors destroyed the Athenian army and their ships, selling most of the survivors into slavery
In the Second Punic War
(218 to 201 BC), the Carthaginians attempted to recapture Sicily. Some of the Greek cities on the island sided with the Carthaginians. Archimedes
, who lived in Syracuse, helped the Carthaginians, Roman troops killed him after they invaded Syracuse in 213 BC.
The Carthaginian attempt 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 Roman Republic's granary
, Sicily ranked as an important province, divided into two quaestorships
: Syracuse to the east and Lilybaeum
to the west.
Some attempt was made[by whom?]
(Roman Emperor from 27 BC to 14 AD) 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 (73 to 71 BC). In 70 BC noted figure Cicero
condemned the misgovernment of Verres in his oration In Verrem
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 Hispania
) for 20 years, moved to North Africa in 429. They occupied Carthage in 439. (The Franks moved south from present-day Belgium. The Visigoths moved west and eventually settled in Aquitaine in 418; the Burgundians settled in present-day Savoy in 443). The Vandals found themselves in a position to threaten Sicily - only 100 miles away from their North African bases.
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.
The Vandals made another attempt to take the island one year after the 455 sack of Rome, at Agrigento, but were defeated decisively by Ricimir
in a naval victory off Corsica
The island remained under Roman rule until 469. The Vandals lost possession of the island 8 years later in 477 to the East Germanic tribe
of the Ostrogoths, who then controlled Italy and Dalmatia.
The island was returned[to whom?]
for payment of tribute to Odoacer
, king of the Ostrogoths. He ruled Italy from 476 to 488 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.
conquest of Sicily (and of Italy as a whole) under Theodoric the Great
began in 488. The Byzantine Emperor Zeno
had appointed Theodoric as a military commander in Italy. The Goths were Germanic, but Theodoric fostered Roman culture and government and allowed freedom of religion.
In 461 from the age of seven or eight until 17 or 18 Theodoric had become a Byzantine hostage; he resided in the great palace of Constantinople, was favored by Emperor Leo I
. 457–474) and learned to read and write and do arithmetic.
Byzantine period (535–965)
After taking areas occupied by the Vandals in North Africa, Justinian decided 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
in 660. The following year he launched an assault from Sicily against the Lombard Duchy 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
, 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
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 quarreling fractured the Muslim regime.
During this time, there was also a small Jewish presence.
Norman Sicily (1038–1198)
The cathedral of Cefalù
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
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
, 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
, appreciated 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.
Kingdom of Sicily
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 to secure the island imported immigrants from Normandy
, 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; a 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.
Sicily under Aragonese rule
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
recognized as the king of the Isle of Sicily, while Charles II
was recognized 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 characterized 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
) 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 the mafia and local government and also because of the weakness of the Italian judicial system.
20th and 21st centuries
In the 1920s, the Fascist
regime began a stronger military action against the Mafia, which was led by prefect Cesare Mori
, who was known as the "Iron Prefect" because of his iron-fisted campaigns. This was the first time in which an operation against the Sicilian mafia ended with considerable success.
There was an allied invasion of Sicily
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 organized 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".
About five million people live in Sicily, making it the fourth most populated region in Italy
. In the first century after the Italian unification
, Sicily had one of the most negative net migration rates
among the regions of Italy because of the emigration of millions of people to Northern Italy, other European countries, North America, South America and Australia. Like the South of Italy and Sardinia, immigration to the island is very low compared to other regions of Italy because workers tend to head to Northern Italy
instead, due to better employment and industrial opportunities. According to ISTAT
figures from 2017,
show around 175,000 immigrants out of the total 5,029,615 population; Romanians
with more than 50,000 make up the most immigrants, followed by Tunisians
, Sri Lankans
, and others mostly from Eastern Europe.[failed verification]
As in the rest of Italy, the official language is Italian and the primary religion is Roman Catholicism
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 manufactories 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 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 industrialized 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.
These are the ten largest cities of Sicily:
As in most Italian regions, 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
Christians who live on the island.
Provinces of Sicily
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
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 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.
Sicily has long been noted for its fertile soil due to volcanic eruptions. The local agriculture is also helped by the pleasant climate of the island. The main agricultural products are wheat, citrons
, oranges (Arancia Rossa di Sicilia IGP)
, lemons, tomatoes (Pomodoro di Pachino IGP)
, olive oil
, prickly pear (Fico d'India dell'Etna DOP)
, pistachios(Pistacchio di Bronte DOP)
and wine. Cattle and sheep are raised. The cheese productions are particularly important thanks to the Ragusano DOP
and the Pecorino Siciliano DOP
is noted for its honey
) and chocolate (Cioccolato di Modica IGP
Industry and manufacturing
Improvements in Sicily's road system have helped to promote industrial development. The region has three important industrial districts
A table showing Sicily's different GDP (nominal and per capita) growth between 2000 and 2008:
After the table which shows Sicily's GDP growth,
this table shows the sectors of the Sicilian economy in 2006:
The unemployment rate stood at 21.5% in 2018 and was one of the highest in Italy and Europe.
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
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
; this is achieved by the trains being loaded onto ferries
which cross the Strait.
Mainland Sicily has several airports that serve numerous Italian and European destinations and some extra-European.
By sea, Sicily is served by several ferry routes and cargo ports, and in all major cities, cruise ships dock on a regular basis.
- Mainland Italy: Ports connecting to the mainland are Messina (route to Villa San Giovanni and Salerno), the busiest passenger port in Italy, Palermo (routes to Genoa, Civitavecchia and Naples) and Catania (route to Naples).
- Sicily's small surrounding islands: The port of Milazzo serves the Aeolian Islands, the ports of Trapani and Marsala the Aegadian Islands and the port of Porto Empedocle the Pelagie Islands. From Palermo there is a service to the island of Ustica and to Sardinia.
- International connections: From 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.
- Fishing ports: Like all islands, Sicily also has many fishing ports. The most important is in Mazara del Vallo followed by Castellamare del Golfo, Licata, Scoglitti and Portopalo di Capo Passero.
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 criticized by environmental associations and some local Sicilians and Calabrians, concerned with its environmental impact, economical sustainability and even possible infiltrations by organized 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
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
, Castellammare del Golfo
, 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.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
One of the mosaics in Villa Romana del Casale
- 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.
- Villa Romana del Casale (1997) is a Roman villa built in the first quarter of the 4th century and located about 3 km (2 mi) outside the town of Piazza Armerina. It contains the richest, largest and most complex collection of Roman mosaics in the world.
- Aeolian Islands (2000) are a volcanicarchipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea, named after the demigod of the winds Aeolus. The Aeolian Islands are a tourist destination in the summer, and attract up to 200,000 visitors annually.
- Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto (2002) "represent the culmination and final flowering of Baroque art in Europe". It includes several towns: Caltagirone, Militello in Val di Catania, Catania, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo Acreide, Ragusa and Scicli.
- 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)
Cathedral of San Giorgio in Modica
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:
- Sicels/Sicans/Elymians/Greeks: Segesta, Eryx, Cava Ispica, Thapsos, Pantalica;
- Greeks: Syracuse, Agrigento, Segesta, Selinunte, Gela, Kamarina, Himera, Megara Hyblaea, Naxos, Heraclea Minoa;
- Phoenicians: Motya, Soluntum, Marsala, Palermo;
- Romans: Piazza Armerina, Centuripe, Taormina, Palermo;
- Arabs: Palermo, Mazara del Vallo.
In Sicily there are hundreds of castles, the most relevant are:
Castello di Donnafugata near Ragusa
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. The decline of Mediterranean piracy caused by the Second Barbary War
led to a smaller number of coastal towers built during the 19th Century.
To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is to not have seen Italy at all, for Sicily is the clue to everything.
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
are two other highly noted early Sicilian-Greek philosophers, while the Syracusan Epicharmus
is held to be the inventor of comedy.
Art and architecture
The Sicilian Baroque
has a unique architectural identity. Noto
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 characterize in words.
Music and film
The golden age of Sicilian poetry began in the early 13th century with the Sicilian School
of Giacomo da Lentini
, which was highly influential on Italian literature
. Some of the most noted figures among writers and poets are Luigi Pirandello
(Nobel laureate, 1934
), Salvatore Quasimodo
(Nobel laureate, 1959
), Giovanni Verga
(the father of the Italian Verismo
), Domenico Tempio
, Giovanni Meli
, Luigi Capuana
, Mario Rapisardi
, Federico de Roberto
, Leonardo Sciascia
, Vitaliano Brancati
, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
, Elio Vittorini
, Vincenzo Consolo
and Andrea Camilleri
(noted for his novels and short stories with the fictional character Inspector Salvo Montalbano
as protagonist). On the political side notable philosophers include Gaetano Mosca
and Giovanni Gentile
who wrote The Doctrine of Fascism
. In terms of academic reflection, the historical and aesthetic richness as well as the multi-layered heterogeneity of Sicilian literature and culture have been first grasped methodologically and coined with the term of transculturality
scholar of Italian studies Dagmar Reichardt
who, after having published an extensive study on the literary work of Giuseppe Bonaviri
was awarded the International Premio Flaiano
("Italianistica") for a trilingual (English, Italian, German) collection about the European liminality
of Sicily, Sicilian literature and Sicilian Studies.
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 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.
Sicily has four universities:
, 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). 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
(including olive oil
, onions, beans
commonly coupled with seafood, freshly caught from the surrounding coastlines, including tuna
, sea bream
, sea bass
, and others.
, rice balls fried in breadcrumbs
The most well-known part of Sicilian cuisine is the rich sweet dishes including ice creams
), a tube-shaped shell of fried pastry dough filled with a sweet filling usually containing ricotta
, is strongly associated with Sicily worldwide.
Biancomangiare, biscotti ennesi (cookies native to Enna
), braccilatte (a Sicilian version of doughnuts
, Biscotti Regina
, frutta martorana
(a variety of fig cookie; also known as buccellati) and cuccìa
are some 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 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
Spices used include saffron
, 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
, goat, rabbit, and turkey
, are also found in Sicily. It was the Normans
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
, 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
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
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
, 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
; 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 Pitrè
in Palermo. Other elaborate marionettes are on display at the Museo Civico Vagliasindi in Randazzo
The Sicilian cart
is an ornate, colourful style of a 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.
Flag and emblem
The Flag of Sicily
, regarded as a regional icon, was first adopted in 1282, after the Sicilian Vespers
. It is characterised by the presence of the triskeles
in the middle, depicting the head of Medusa
and three wheat ears representing the extreme fertility of the land of Sicily.[additional citation(s) needed]
In early mythology, when Medusa was slain and beheaded by Perseus, the Medusa head was placed in the centre of Athena's shield.
Palermo and Corleone were the first two cities to found a confederation against the Angevin
rule. The triskeles symbol came to be on the Sicilian flag in 1943 during World War II
when Andrea Finocchiaro Aprile
led an independence movement, in collaboration with the allies. Their plan was to help Sicily become independent and form a free republic. The colours, likewise introduced in the 1940s, respectively represent the cities of Palermo
. The separatist behind the movement used a yellow and red flag with the Trinacria in the center of it. When World War II
ended, Sicily was recognized as an autonomous region in the Italian Republic.
The flag 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
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. In the case of Sicily, the triskelion symbol is said to represent the three capes
of the island of Sicily, namely: Pelorus
(Peloro, Tip of Faro, Messina: North-East); Pachynus
(Passero, Syracuse: South); and Lilybæum
(Lilibeo, Cape Boeo, Marsala: West), which form three points of a triangle.
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