Sicily

Sicily

[sis-uh-lee]
Sicily, Ital. Sicilia, region (1991 pop. 4,966,386), 9,925 sq mi (25,706 sq km), S Italy, mainly situated on the island of Sicily, which is bounded by the Mediterranean Sea on the west and south, by the Ionian Sea on the east, and by the Tyrrhenian Sea on the north, and which is separated from the Italian mainland by the narrow Strait of Messina. The region also includes the Egadi Islands, the Lipari Islands, the Pelagie Islands (see Lampedusa), Pantelleria island, and Ustica island. Palermo is the capital of Sicily, which is divided into the provinces of Agrigento, Caltanisetta, Catania, Enna, Messina, Pallermo, Ragusa, Syracuse, and Trapani (named for their capitals).

Geography

The largest Mediterranean island, Sicily is triangular and formerly was sometimes called Trinacria [Gr.,=triangle]; capes Boeo (or Lilibeo), Passero, and Punta del Faro (or Peloro) are the vertices of the triangle. The island is almost entirely covered by hills and mountains (continuations of the Apennines); Mt. Etna (10,700 ft/3,261 m), in the east, is the highest point. The only wide valley is the fertile plain of Catania in the east, mostly located along the lower Simeto River. There are also narrow coastal strips in the south and west, and a small fertile plain (the Conca d'Oro) near Palermo in the northwest.

Economy

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

The chief agricultural products are wheat, barley, corn, olives, citrus fruit, almonds, wine grapes, and cotton; cattle, mules, donkeys, and sheep are raised. There are important tuna and sardine fisheries. Sicily's manufactures include processed food, chemicals, refined petroleum, fertilizers, textiles, ships, leather goods, wine, and forest products. There are petroleum fields in the southeast, and natural gas and sulfur are also produced. Improvements in Sicily's road system have helped to promote industrial development. The chief ports of the island are Palermo, Catania, and Messina.

History

Sicily has had a varied and colorful history. The first known inhabitants of the island were the Elymi, Sicani, and Siculi. Phoenicians later settled on the west coast, notably at Panormus (now Palermo); Carthaginians founded Lilybaeum and Drepanum (now Trapani); and on the east and southeast coasts Greeks founded (8th-6th cent. B.C.) such cities as Syracuse, Catania, Zancle (now Messina), Gela, and Selinus and settled in older towns like Segesta. The Greek cities flourished and in turn founded such cities as Acragas (now Agrigento) and Himera. Their originally democratic governments were gradually replaced by tyrannies, particularly those of Phalaris at Acragas and of Gelon, Hiero I, and others at Syracuse.

In the 5th cent. B.C., Syracuse gained hegemony over the other cities. Phoenician influence was reinvigorated by Carthaginian expansion; although Hamilcar was repulsed at Himera in 480 B.C., later Carthaginian invaders gained control (by c.400 B.C.) of more than half of the island. Interlopers from mainland Greece seized the remainder, and Sicily became a battleground for rival empires. A century of antagonism between Greeks and Carthaginians was followed by strife between Romans and Carthaginians, which flared (264 B.C.) in the first of the Punic Wars. Rome was victorious by 241 B.C., and after the death (c.215) of Hiero II of Syracuse, virtually all of Sicily came under Rome.

The Romans completed the enriching Hellenization of Sicilian culture. However, the resources of the island—known as the Breadbasket of Rome—were depleted by the Romans, who also founded the large estates (latifundia) that subsequently greatly hampered the economic development of Sicily. Roman rule was often corrupt, and corruption reached a peak under governor Caius Verres (73-71 B.C.). Slave revolts (135-132 B.C. and 104-100 B.C.) were cruelly suppressed. Many remains of the Greek and Roman periods have been found on Sicily, especially at Agrigento, Syracuse, Segesta, and Selinunte.

After the fall of Rome, Sicily passed from the Vandals (mid-5th cent. A.D.) to the Goths (493) and then to the Byzantines (535). The Arabs conquered the island in the 9th cent. after raiding it for two centuries. They promoted agriculture, commerce, and the arts and sciences. The Arabs were displaced by the Norman conquest of Sicily (1060-91), led by Roger I. Roger II became (1130) the first king of Sicily; he forced (1139) Pope Innocent II, who claimed suzerainty over Sicily, to invest him with the kingdom, which included the Norman holdings in S Italy. The brilliant court of Roger II did much to introduce Arabic learning to Western Europe. Roger's last direct descendant, Constance, married Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI; their son and heir, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, was more interested in the kingdom of Sicily (where he reigned as king from 1197 to 1250) than in the Holy Roman Empire.

After Frederick's death and the failures of the last Hohenstaufen claimants (Conrad IV, Manfred, and Conradin), Pope Clement IV crowned (1266) Charles I (Charles of Anjou) king of Naples and Sicily as his vassal. The unpopular French government brought on the Sicilian Vespers revolt (1282) and the Sicilians chose Peter III of Aragón as king. The resulting war between the Angevin line and the Aragonese ended temporarily in 1302, with Frederick II (see also Aragón, house of) becoming king of Sicily and Charles II of Anjou keeping S Italy (see Naples, kingdom of). In 1373, Joanna I of Naples formally renounced Sicily. After the Sicilian branch of Aragón became extinct, Sicily reverted (1409) to the main branch.

Under Aragonese rule local liberties were maintained, and the Sicilian national assembly enjoyed wide powers. With the accession of the Hapsburgs to the Spanish throne (early 16th cent.), there was more centralization, and Spanish governors arrived to tighten the imperial bonds. Corruption increased, and the island came under the control of a few powerful nobles and church officials.

In 1713 the Peace of Utrecht assigned Sicily to Savoy, which in 1720 exchanged it with Emperor Charles VI for Sardinia. However, as a result of the War of the Polish Succession, Sicily and Naples came under (1735) the rule of Don Carlos of Bourbon (later Charles III of Spain). The Bourbon kings resided at Naples, except in 1799 and from 1806 to 1815, when Naples was held by the French. The centralizing policies of the Bourbons were resisted by the Sicilian nobles, who welcomed British intervention (1811-14). Feudal privileges were renounced in 1812 but in practice continued much longer.

Naples and Sicily were merged, despite Sicilian protests, in 1816, when Ferdinand I styled himself officially king of the Two Sicilies. Revolts occurred in 1820 and 1848-49 and were mercilessly suppressed; the bombardments of Messina (1848) and Palermo (1849) earned Ferdinand II the nickname "King Bomba." In 1860, Garibaldi conquered the island, which then voted to join the kingdom of Sardinia.

Even after Italian unification, Sicily was neglected by the central government, and the island's economic and social problems long remained unattended. In World War II a large-scale amphibious landing was carried out by the Allies on July 9-10, 1943. After heavy fighting, the Allied conquest was completed on Aug. 8, 1943. Sicily was given limited autonomy under the Italian constitution of 1947. The assassination of two prominent anti-Mafia prosecutors in 1992 prompted the central government to send in the military. The operation ended in 1998 after many organized crime figures were jailed.

Bibliography

See A History of Sicily: Vol. I by M. I. Finley (1968), Vol. II-III by D. M. Smith (1968).

Italian Sicilia

Island, Italy. Sicily is separated from the mainland by the Strait of Messina. The largest island (9,830 sq mi [25,460 sq km]) in the Mediterranean Sea, it is also the site of Europe's highest active volcano, Mount Etna. The capital is Palermo. Sicily's strategic location at the centre of the Mediterranean has made the island a crossroads of history. The Greeks colonized it in the 8th–6th centuries BC, and in the 3rd century BC it became the first Roman province. It came under Byzantine rule in the 6th century AD and fell in 965 to Arabs from North Africa. It was taken in 1060 by the Normans. In the 12th–13th centuries and again in the 18th century it formed part of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. During the 19th century it was a major centre of revolutionary movements; in 1860 it was liberated from the Bourbons, and in 1861 it was incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy. Agriculture is its economic mainstay; industries include oil refining, food processing, wine making, and shipbuilding. Together with the islands of Egadi, Lipari, Pelagie, and Panteleria, Sicily forms an autonomous region of Italy (pop., 2001 prelim.: 4,866,202).

Learn more about Sicily with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Sicily (Italian and Sicilian: Sicilia) is an autonomous region of Italy. Of all the regions of Italy, Sicily covers the largest land area at 25,708 km² and currently has five million inhabitants. It is also the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. In addition, several much Islands of Sicily surrounding it are also considered to be part of Sicily. Along with Sardinia, the island is officially classified as a region of Insular Italy.

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

Although a region of Italy today, Sicily was once its own country as the Kingdom of Sicily, ruled from Palermo. The kingdom originally ruled over the island, the southern Italian peninsula and Malta before the Sicilian Vespers. It later became a part of the Two Sicilies under the Bourbons, with the capital in Naples rather than Sicily. Since that time the Italian unification has taken place and Sicily is now an autonomous part of Italy.

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

History

Ancient tribes

The original inhabitants of Sicily were three defined groups of the Ancient peoples of Italy. The most prominent and by far the earliest of which was the Sicani, who according to Thucydides arrived from the Iberian Peninsula (perhaps Catalonia). Important historical evidence has been discovered in the form of cave drawings by the Sicani, dated from the end of the Pleistocene Epoch, around 8000 BC. The Elymians, thought to be from the Aegean Sea, were the next tribe to migrate to join the Sicanians on Sicily. Although there is no evidence of any wars between the tribes, when the Elymians settled in the north-west corner of the island, the Sicanians moved across eastwards. From mainland Italy, thought to originally have been Ligures from Liguria came the Sicels in 1200 BC; forcing the Sicanians to move back across Sicily settling in the middle of the island.

Greek and Roman period

About 750 BC, the Greeks began to colonise Sicily, establishing many important settlements. The most important colony was Syracuse; other significant ones were Akragas, Gela, Himera, Selinunte, and Zancle. The native Sicani and Sicel peoples were absorbed by the Hellenic culture with relative ease, and the area was part of Magna Graecia along with the rest of Southern Italy, which the Greeks had also colonised. Sicily was very fertile, and the introduction of olives and grape vines flourished, creating a great deal of profitable trading; a significant part of Greek culture on the island was that of Greek religion and many temples were built across Sicily, such as the Valley of the Temples at Agrigento. Politics on the island was intertwined with that of Greece; Syracuse became desired by the Athenians, who during Peloponnesian War set out on the Sicilian Expedition. Syracuse gained Sparta and Corinth as allies, as a result the Athenian army and ships were destroyed, with most of the survivors being sold into slavery.

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

Sicily served a level of high importance for the Romans as it acted as the empire's granary, it was divided into two quaestorships in the form of Syracuse to the east and Lilybaeum to the west. Although under Augustus some attempt was made to introduce the Latin language to the island, Sicily was allowed to remain largely Greek in a cultural sense, rather than a complete cultural Romanisation. When Verres became governor of Sicily, the once prosperous and contented people were put into sharp decline, in 70 BC noted figure Cicero condemned the misgovernment of Verres in his oration In Verrem. Christianity first appeared in Sicily during the years following AD 200, between this time and AD 313 when Constantine the Great finally lifted the prohibition, a significant number of Sicilians became martyrs such as Agatha, Christina, Lucy, Euplius and many more. Christianity grew rapidly in Sicily during the next two centuries, the period of history where Sicily was a Roman province lasted for around 700 years in total.

Early Middle Ages

As the Roman Empire was falling apart, a Germanic tribe known as the Vandals took Sicily in AD 440 under the rule of their king Geiseric. The Vandals had already invaded parts of Roman France and Spain, inserting themselves as an important power in western Europe. However, they soon lost these newly acquired possessions to another East Germanic tribe in the form of the Goths. The Ostrogothic conquest of Sicily (and Italy as a whole) under Theodoric the Great began in 488; although the Goths were Germanic, Theodoric sought to revive Roman culture and government and allowed freedom of religion. The Gothic War took place between the Ostrogoths and the Eastern Roman Empire, also known as the Byzantine Empire. Sicily was the first part of Italy to be taken under general Belisarius who was commissioned by Eastern Emperor Justinian I. Sicily was used as a base for the Byzantines to conquer the rest of Italy, with Naples, Rome, Milan and the Ostrogoth capital Ravenna falling within five years. However, a new Ostrogoth king Totila, drove down the Italian peninsula, plundering and conquering Sicily in 550. Totila, in turn, was defeated and killed in the Battle of Taginae by the Byzantine general Narses in 552.

Byzantine Emperor Constans II decided to move from the capital Constantinople to Syracuse in Sicily during 660, the following year he launched an assault from Sicily against the Lombard Duchy of Benevento, which then occupied most of Southern Italy. The rumours that the capital of the empire was to be moved to Syracuse, along with small raids probably cost Constans his life as he was assassinated in 668. His son Constantine IV succeeded him, a brief usurpation in Sicily by Mezezius being quickly suppressed by the new emperor. Contemporary accounts report that the Greek language was widely spoken on the island during this period.

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

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

Kingdom of Sicily

Palermo continued on as the capital under the Normans. Roger's son, Roger II of Sicily, was ultimately able to raise the status of the island to a kingdom in 1130, along with his other holdings which included the Duchy of Apulia and Calabria and the Maltese Islands. During this period the Kingdom of Sicily was prosperous and politically powerful, becoming one of the wealthiest states in all of Europe; even wealthier than England. Significantly, immigrants from Northern Italy and Campania arrived during this period. Linguistically, the island became Latinised. In terms of church, it would become completely Roman Catholic; previously, under the Byzantines, it had been more Eastern Christian.

After a century the Norman Hauteville dynasty died out, the last direct descendent and heir of Roger; Constance married Emperor Henry VI. This eventually led to the crown of Sicily been passed on to the Hohenstaufen Dynasty who were Germans from Swabia. Conflict between the Hohenstaufen house and the Papacy, led in 1266 to Pope Innocent IV crowning Angevin Dynasty duke Charles I as the king of both Sicily and Naples. Strong opposition of the 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, son-in-law of the last Hohenstaufen king, of the Kingdom of Aragon for support after being rejected by the Pope. Peter gained control of Sicily from the French though the French retained control of the Kingdom of Naples. The wars continued until the peace of Caltabellotta in 1302, which saw 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.

The Spanish Inquisition in 1492 saw Ferdinand I decreeing the expulsion of every single Jew from Sicily. The island was hit by two very serious earthquakes in the east in both 1542 and 1693, just a few years before the latter earthquake the island was struck by a ferocious plague. There were revolts during the 17th century, but these were quelled with significant force especially the revolts of Palermo and Messina. The Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 saw Sicily assigned to the House of Savoy, however this period of rule lasted only seven years as it was exchanged for the island of Sardinia with Emperor Charles VI of the Austrian Habsburg Dynasty.

While the Austrians were concerned with the War of the Polish Succession, a Bourbon prince, Charles from Spain was able to conquer Sicily and Naples. At first Sicily was able to remain as an independent kingdom under personal union, while the Bourbons ruled over both from Naples. However the advent of Napoleon's First French Empire saw Naples taken at the Battle of Campo Tenese and Bonapartist Kings of Naples were instated. Ferdinand III the Bourbon was forced to retreat to Sicily which he was still in complete control of with the help of British naval protection. Following this Sicily joined the Napoleonic Wars, after the wars were won Sicily and Naples formally merged as the Two Sicilies under the Bourbons. Major revolutionary movements occurred in 1820 and 1848 against the Bourbon government with Sicily seeking independence; the second of which, the 1848 revolution was successful and resulted in a sixteen month period of independence for Sicily, until the armed forces of the Bourbons regained control by May 1849.

Italian unification

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

The Mafia, a loose confederation of organised crime networks, grew in influence in the late 19th century; the Fascist regime began suppressing them in the 1920s with some success. There was an allied invasion of Sicily during World War II starting on July 10, 1943. The invasion of Sicily was one of the causes of the July 25 crisis; in general the Allied victors were warmly embraced by the Sicilian population. Italy became a Republic in 1946 and as part of the Constitution of Italy, Sicily was one of the five regions given special status as an autonomous region. Both the partial Italian land reform and special funding from the Italian government's Cassa per il Mezzogiorno (Fund for the South) from 1950 to 1984, helped the Sicilian economy improve.

Politics

Geography

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

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

The island of Sicily is drained by several rivers, most of which flow through the central area and enter the sea at the south of the island. The Salso River flows through parts of Enna and Caltanissetta before entering the Mediterranean Sea at the port of Licata. To the east the Alcantara in the province of Messina, it exits at Giardini Naxos. The other two main rivers on the island are to the south-west with Belice and Platani.

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

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

Climate

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

Transport

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

Plans for a bridge linking Sicily to the mainland have been around since 1865. In the modern age, there are plans to link the railway to the mainland via the world's longest suspension bridge, the Strait of Messina Bridge, however planning for the project has been started, stopped and re-started during the 2000s; as of 2008 it is currently on course for planning. Some have criticised the plans particularly environmentalist Sicilians, leftists who argue the money should be spent elsewhere and the local ferry operators. In two of the main cities there are underground railway services; these feature in the cities of Palermo and Catania.

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

Society

Demographics

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

Throughout history Sicily has had various different rulers, from various different cultures, who have contributed elements to the overall culture of the island, especially from a gastronomical and architectural point of view. Sicilian people tend to most closely associate themselves with other southern Italians, who they have the most common history with. Of the ethnicities outside of Italy itself, Sicilians and other southern Italians tend to associate most closely with the Greeks, especially due to the Magna Græcia and Greco-Roman cultures. This is exemplified in the saying "una faccia, una razza", meaning "one face, one race", a phrase Greeks and Southern Italians sometimes use in reference to each other. Modern methods of genetic testing show that aside from other Italians, Greeks are indeed the closest genetically. while other former rulers gene flows are very limited. The genetic contribution of Greek chromosomes to the Sicilian gene pool is estimated to be about 37% whereas the contribution of North African populations is estimated to be around 6%.In particular, the presence of a modal haplotype coming from the southern Balkan Peninsula and of its one-step derivates associated to E3b1a2-V13, supports a common genetic heritage between Sicilians and Greeks.

The island of Sicily itself has a population of approximately five million, and there are an additional ten million people of Sicilian descent around the world, mostly in North America, Argentina, Australia and other European countries. Like the rest of Southern Italy, immigration to the island is very low compared to other regions of Italy because workers tend to head to Northern Italy instead, due to better employment and industrial opportunities. The most recent ISTAT figures show around 74 thousand immigrants out of the total five million population; Tunisians with 14 thousand make up the most immigrants, followed by Moroccans, Sri Lankans, Albanians and other Eastern Europeans.

Major settlements

In Sicily there are fifteen cities and towns which have a population level above 50,000 people, these are;
 
Comune Population (2006 est.)
Palermo 665,434
Catania 300,701
Messina 244,573
Siracusa 123,494
Marsala 82,378
Gela 77,239
Ragusa 72,419
Trapani 70,635
 
Comune Population (2006 est.)
Vittoria 61,424
Caltanissetta 60,369
Agrigento 59,158
Acireale 52,830
Bagheria 55,283
Modica 54,008
Mazara del Vallo 51,412

Culture

Cuisine

The island has a long history of producing a variety of noted cuisines and wines, to the extent that Sicily is sometimes nicknamed God’s Kitchen because of this. The ingredients are typically rich in taste while remaining affordable to the general populace. The savory dishes of Sicily are viewed to be healthy, using fresh vegetables and fruits, such as tomatoes, artichokes, olives (including olive oil), citrus, apricots, aubergines, onions, beans, raisins commonly coupled with sea food, freshly caught from the surrounding coastlines, including tuna, sea bream, sea bass, cuttlefish, swordfish, sardines and others.

Perhaps the most well known part of Sicilian cuisine is the rich sweet dishes including ice creams and pastries. Cannoli, a tube-shaped shell of fried pastry dough filled with a sweet filling usually containing ricotta cheese, is in particular strongly associated with Sicily worldwide. Biancomangiare, biscotti ennesi (cookies native to Enna), braccilatte a Sicilian version of doughnuts, buccellato, ciarduna, pignoli, bruccellati, sesame seed cookies, a sweet confection with sesame seeds and almonds (torrone in Italy) is cubbaita, frutta martorana, cassata, pignolata, granita and cuccìa are amongst some of the most notable sweet dishes.

Like the cuisine of the rest of southern Italy, pasta plays an important part in Sicilian cuisine, as does rice; for example with arancini. As well as using some other cheeses, Sicily has spawned some of its own, using both cows and sheeps milk, such as pecorino and caciocavallo. Spices used include saffron, nutmeg, clove, pepper, and cinnamon which were introducted by the Arabs. Parsley is used abundantly in many dishes. Although commonly associated with sea food cuisines, meat dishes including goose, lamb, goat, rabbit, and turkey are also found in Sicily, it was the Normans and Hohenstaufen who first introduced a fondness for meat dishes to the island. Some varieties of wine are produced from vines which are relatively unique to the island, such as the Nero d'Avola made near the baroque of town of Noto.

Arts

Sicily has long been associated with the arts; many poets, writers, philosophers, intellectuals, architects and painters have roots on the island. The history of prestige in this field can be traced back to Greek philosopher Archimedes, a 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 golden age of Sicilian poetry began in the early 13th century with the Sicilian School, which was highly influential. Some of the most noted figures in the area of Sicilian poetry and writing are Luigi Pirandello, Salvatore Quasimodo, Antonio Veneziano and Giovanni Verga. On the political side notable Sicilian philosophers include: Giovanni Gentile who wrote The Doctrine of Fascism and Julius Evola.

Give me a lever and a place to stand and I will move the Earth!|20px|20px|Archimedes

Terra cotta ceramics from the island are well known, the art of ceramics on Sicily goes back to the original ancient peoples named the Sicanians, it was then perfected during the period of Greek colonisation and is still prominent and distinct to this day. There are two prominent folk art traditions on Sicily, both draw heavily from Norman influence; Sicilian cart is the painting of wooden carts with intricate decorations of scenes from the Norman romantic poems, such as The Song of Roland. The same tales are told in traditional puppet theatres or teatro dei pupi, which feature hand-made wooden marionettes, depicting Normans and Saracens, who engage in mock battles. this is especially popular in Acireale. Famous Sicilian painters include Renaissance artist Antonello da Messina, Renato Guttuso and Greek born Giorgio de Chirico who is commonly dubbed the "father of Surrealist art" and founder of the metaphysical art movement.

Palermo hosts the Teatro Massimo, which is the largest opera house in Italy and the third largest in all of Europe. Sicilian composers vary from Vincenzo Bellini, Sigismondo d'India, Giovanni Pacini and Alessandro Scarlatti, to contemporary composers such as Salvatore Sciarrino. Many award winning and acclaimed films of Italian cinema have been filmed in Sicily, amongst the most noted of which are; Visconti's "La Terra Trema" and "Il Gattopardo", Rosi's "Salvatore Giuliano" and Antonioni's "L'avventura".

Language

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

The Sicilian language was an early influence in the development of the first Italian standard, although its use remained confined to an intellectual élite. This was a literary language in Sicily created under the auspices of Frederick II and his court of notaries, or Magna Curia, which, headed by Giacomo da Lentini also gave birth to the Sicilian School, widely inspired by troubadour literature. Its linguistic and poetic heritage was later assimilated into the Florentine by Dante Alighieri, the father of modern Italian who, in his De Vulgari Eloquentia claims that "In effect this vernacular seems to deserve a higher praise than the others, since all the poetry written by Italians can be called Sicilian". It is in this language that appeared the first sonnet, whose invention is attributed to Giacomo da Lentini himself.

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

Sports

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

Palermo and Catania have a heated rivalry and compete in the Sicilian derby together: to date Palermo is the only Sicilian team to have played on the European stage, in the UEFA Cup. The most noted Sicilian footballer is Salvatore Schillaci who won the Golden Boot at the 1990 FIFA World Cup with Italy. Other noted Sicilian players include Giuseppe Furino, Pietro Anastasi, Francesco Coco, Christian Riganò and Roberto Galia. There have also been some noted managers from the island, such as Carmelo Di Bella and Franco Scoglio.

Although football is by far the most popular sport in Sicily, the island also has participants in other fields. Amatori Catania compete in the top Italian national rugby union league called Super 10, they have even participated at European level in the European Challenge Cup. Competing in the basketball variation of Serie A is Orlandina Basket from Capo d'Orlando in the province of Messina, the sport has a reasonable following. Various other sports which are played to some extent includes volleyball, handball and water polo. Previously, in motorsport Sicily held the prominent Targa Florio sports car race, that took place in the Madonie Mountains, with the start-finish line in Cerda. The event was started in 1906 by Sicilian industrialist and automobile enthusiast Vincenzo Florio, and ran until it was cancelled due to safety concerns in 1977.

Sicilian lifestyle and folklore

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

Sicilian weddings are lavish, expensive, and traditional. They are normally held in church. The Catholic church is an important feature in Sicilian life. Almost all public places are adorned with crucifixes upon their walls, and most Sicilian homes contain pictures of saints, statues, and other relics. Each town and city has it's own patron saint, and the feast days are marked by gaudy processions through the streets, with marching bands, and displays of fireworks.

In Sicily today, many women are employed outside the home, and are to be found in nearly every occupational sphere. However, a Sicilian woman's primary role remains that of a casalinga or housewife, occupied with child-rearing, cooking, and other domestic chores. This is especially true in the smaller villages and towns.

Other aspects of Sicilian culture include the presepe vivente, or animated crib, which takes place at Christmas time. Deftly combining religion and folklore, it is a constructed mock 19th century Sicilian village, complete with a nativity scene, and has people of all ages dressed in the costumes of the period, some impersonating the Holy Family, and others working as artisans of their particular assigned trade. It is normally concluded on Ephiphany, often highlighted by the arrival of the magi on horseback. These attract many visitors, and some have been nationally televised by RAI, including the animated crib at Santa Maria La Stella, a small community, in the Comune of Aci Sant'Antonio, in the province of Catania

Sicilians also enjoy outdoor festivals, held in the local square or piazza where live music and dancing is performed on stage, and food fairs or sagras 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.

Like her Italian counterparts, young Sicilian females are very concerned with their physical appearance, and spend large sums of money on clothing, shoes, jewelry, hair and beauty products. The current (as of 2008) Miss Italy winner is a Sicilian girl Miriam Leone from Acireale.

Religious events:

Laical events:

The most important laic event in Sicily is the carnival. Famous carnival are in Misterbianco, Regalbuto, Paternò, Sciacca, Acireale, Termini Imerese.

World Heritage Sites

Noto, Catania, Ragusa, and particularly Acireale contain some of Italy's best examples of Baroque architecture, carved in the local red sandstone.

References

Further reading

See also

External links

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