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1.the largest island in the Mediterranean
2.the Italian region on the island of Sicily
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Sicily (n.) [MeSH]
État membre de la Communauté Européenne (fr)[Classe...]
relatif à une île (fr)[Classe...]
mer et océan (fr)[Classe]
les mers fermées (fr)[Classe...]
Descripteurs EUROVOC (fr)[Thème]
Sicily (pr. n.)
État membre de la Communauté Européenne (fr)[Classe...]
Sicily (pr. n.)
|— Autonomous region of Italy —|
|• President||Raffaele Lombardo (MpA)|
|• Total||25,711 km2 (9,927 sq mi)|
|Population (31 December 2011)|
|• Density||200/km2 (510/sq mi)|
|Time zone||CET (UTC+1)|
|• Summer (DST)||CEST (UTC+2)|
|GDP/ Nominal||€ 84.5 billion (2008)|
|GDP per capita||€ 16,600 (2008)|
Sicily (Italian and Sicilian: Sicilia, [siˈtʃiːlja]; [sɪˈɕilja]) is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea; along with surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana (Sicilian Autonomous Region).
Sicily is located in the central Mediterranean. It extends from the tip of the Apennine peninsula from which it is separated only by the narrow Strait of Messina, towards the North African coast. Its most prominent landmark is Mount Etna, which is at 3,320 m (10,890 ft) the tallest active volcano in Europe and one of the most active in the world. The island has a typical Mediterranean climate.
The earliest archeological evidence of human dwelling on the island dates from 8000 BC. At around 750 BC, Sicily became a Greek colony and for the next 600 years it was the site of the Greek-Punic and Roman-Punic wars, which ended with the Roman destruction of Carthage. After the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century AD, Sicily often changed hands, and during the early Middle Ages it was ruled in turn by the Vandals, Ostrogoths, Byzantines, Arabs and Normans. Later on, the Kingdom of Sicily lasted between 1130 and 1816, subordinated to the crowns of Aragon, Spain, the Holy Roman Empire, and finally the Bourbons, as the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. It was united with the rest of Italy in 1860, but a subsequent economic collapse led to a wave of emigration, separatism, and the emergence of the Mafia, whose criminal activities pose problems to this day. After the birth of the Italian Republic in 1946, Sicily was given special status as an autonomous region.
Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature, cuisine, architecture and language. Sicily also holds importance for archeological and ancient sites such as the Necropolis of Pantalica, the Valley of the Temples and Selinunte.
The Sicilian economy is diversified. The agriculture sector is significant with citrus fruits, olives and olive oil, grapes and wine. Tourism and real estate are economically important for the island. Still, with the gross domestic product per capita at around €17,000, it stands at only two-thirds of the European Union average and is one of the least developed regions of Italy.
Sicily has roughly triangular shape, which earned it the name Trinacria. It is separated to the east from the Italian region of Calabria through the Strait of Messina. The distance between the island and mainland Italy by the Strait of Messina is about 3 km (1.9 mi) wide in the north, and about 16 km (9.9 mi) in the south of the Strait.
The terrain of inland Sicily is mostly hilly, and intensively cultivated wherever it was possible. Along the northern coast, 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), represent an extension of mainland Appennines. The cone of Mount Etna dominates over the eastern coast. In the south-east lie lower Hyblaean Mountains, 1,000 m (3,300 ft). The mines of the Enna and Caltanissetta district were a leading sulfur-producing area throughout the 19th century, but have declined since the 1950s.
Sicily and its small surrounding islands have some highly active volcanoes. Mount Etna, located in the east of mainland Sicily with a height of 3,320 m (10,890 ft), is the tallest active volcano in Europe and one of the most active in the world. The Aeolian Islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea, to the northeast of mainland Sicily, exhibit a volcanic complex including Stromboli. Currently active also are the three volcanoes of Vulcano, Vulcanello and Lipari, usually dormant. 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 underwater Phlegraean Fields of the Strait of Sicily.
The island is drained by several rivers, most of which flow through the central area and enter the sea at the south of the island. The Salso flows through parts of Enna and Caltanissetta before entering the Mediterranean Sea at the port of Licata. To the east, there is the Alcantara in the province of Messina, which exits at Giardini Naxos; and the Simeto which exits into the Ionian Sea south of Catania. Other important rivers on the island are to the southwest with Belice and Platani.
Sicily has a typical Mediterranean climate with mild and wet winters and hot, dry summers.
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), which is the highest temperature ever recorded in Europe by the use of reliable instruments. The official European record – measured by minimum/maximum thermometers – is recognized to Athens, Greece, as communications reported a maximum of 48.0 °C (118 °F) in 1977.
Sicily is an often-quoted example of man-made deforestation, which was practiced since Roman times, when the island was made an agricultural region. This gradually dampened the climate, leading to decline of rainfall and drying of rivers. Today, entire central and southwest provinces are practically without any forests. That also affected the island's wild fauna, of which is little left in the pastures and crop fields of the inland.
The Nebrodi Mountains Regional Park, established August 4, 1993, with its 86,000 hectares (210,000 acres) is the largest protected natural area of Sicily, here is the largest forest of Sicily, called forest Caronia, that is also the second name of Nebrodi Mountains. A number of bird species are found in Sicily. In some cases Sicily is a delimited point of a species range. For example, the subspecies of Hooded Crow, Corvus cornix ssp cornix occurs in Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica, but no further south.
The Hundred Horse Chestnut (Castagno dei Cento Cavalli), located on Linguaglossa road in Sant'Alfio, on the eastern slope of Mount Etna is the largest and oldest known chestnut tree in the world, dated between 2000 and 4000 years.
The original inhabitants of Sicily were three defined groups of the Ancient peoples of Italy. The most prominent and by far the earliest of these 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 arrival of the first humans is correlated with extinction of dwarf hippos and dwarf elephants. 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. Other minor Italic groups who settled in Sicily were the Ausones (Aeolian Islands, Milazzo) and the Morgetes (Morgantina). There are many studies of genetic records which show inhabitants of various parts of the Mediterranean Basin mixed with the oldest inhabitants of Sicily. Among these were Egyptian, Phoenician, and Iberian. The Phoenicians also were early settlers before the Greeks.
About 750 BC, the Greeks began to live in Sicily (Sikelia), establishing many important settlements. The most important colony was Syracuse; other significant ones were Akragas, Selinunte, Gela, Himera, 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 the Peloponnesian War set out on the Sicilian Expedition. Syracuse gained Sparta and Corinth as allies, and as a result the Athenian expedition was defeated. The Athenian army and ships were destroyed, with most of the survivors being sold into slavery.
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 Greek-Punic wars erupted, the longest wars of antiquity. Greece began to make peace with the Roman Republic in 262 BC and the Romans sought to annex Sicily as its republic'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 murdered, saw Carthage trying to take Sicily from the Roman Republic. 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.
The island was used as a base of power numerous times, being occupied by slave insurgents during the First and Second Servile Wars, and by Sextus Pompey during the Sicilian revolt. Christianity first appeared in Sicily during the years following AD 200; between this time and AD 313 when Constantine the Great finally lifted the prohibition on Christianity, a significant number of Sicilians became martyrs such as Agatha, Christina, Lucy, Euplius and many more. Christianity grew rapidly in Sicily during the next two centuries. The period of history during which Sicily was a Roman province lasted for around 700 years in total.
As the Western 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, asserting 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.
In the 6th century, 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, this campaign being part of an ambitious project of restoring the whole Roman Empire, uniting the Eastern and the Western halves. 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.
In 535, Emperor Justinian I made Sicily a Byzantine province, and for the second time in Sicilian history, the Greek language became a familiar sound across the island. As the power of the Byzantine Empire waned, Sicily was invaded by the Arab forces of Caliph Uthman in 652. The Arabs failed to make any permanent gains, and returned to Syria after gathering some booty.
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 rumors that the capital of the empire was to be moved to Syracuse, probably cost Constans his life as he was assassinated in 668. His son Constantine IV succeeded him, a brief usurpation in Sicily by Mezezius being quickly suppressed by the new emperor. Contemporary accounts report that the Greek language was widely spoken on the island during this period.
By 826, Euphemius the commander of the Byzantines killed his wife in Sicily and forced a nun to marry him. Emperor Michael II caught wind of the matter and ordered that general Constantine end the marriage and cut off Euphemius' head. Euphemius rose up, killed Constantine and then occupied Syracuse; he in turn was defeated and driven out to North Africa.
He offered rule of Sicily over to Ziyadat Allah the Aghlabid Emir of Tunisia in return for a place as a general and safety; a Muslim army of Arabs, Berbers, Spaniards of Al-Andalus (which was then an Islamic region), Cretans and Persians was sent. The conquest was a see-saw affair and met with much resistance. It took over a century for Byzantine Sicily to be conquered. Syracuse held out for a long time, Taormina fell in 902, and all of Sicily was eventually conquered by Arabs in 965.
The Arabs initiated land reforms which in turn, increased productivity and encouraged the growth of smallholdings, a dent to the dominance of the landed estates. The Arabs further improved irrigation systems. A description of 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 center of Palermo to this day, with the great Friday mosque on the site of the later Roman cathedral. The suburb of Al-Khalisa (Kalsa) contained the Sultan's palace, baths, a mosque, government offices, and a private prison. Ibn Hawqal reckoned 7,000 individual butchers trading in 150 shops.
Throughout this reign, revolts by Byzantine Sicilians continuously occurred, especially in the east, and parts of the island were re-occupied before being quashed. Agricultural items such as oranges, lemons, pistachio and sugar cane were brought to Sicily. Under the Arab rule the island was aligned 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, the native Christians (Eastern Orthodox) were allowed freedom of religion, but had to pay a tax, Jizya, and had limitations placed on their occupations, dress and ability to participate 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 minor Jewish presence.
By the 11th century, mainland southern Italian powers hired Norman mercenaries, who conquered Sicily from the Arabs under Roger I. After taking Apulia and Calabria, he occupied Messina with an army of 700 knights. In 1068, Roger was victorious at Misilmeri, but the most crucial battle was the siege of Palermo, which in 1072 led to Sicily coming under Norman control.
The Normans, the Hautevilles, who were descended from the Vikings, came to appreciate and admire the rich and layered culture in which they now found themselves. Many Normans in Sicily adopted some of the attributes of Muslim rulers in dress, language, literature, and even in the presence of palace Eunuchs and according to some accounts, a harem. Like the multi-ethnic Caliphate of Córdoba, then only just eclipsed, the court of Roger II became the most luminous center of culture in the Mediterranean, both from Europe and the Middle East. This attracted scholars, scientists, poets, artists and artisans of all kinds. In Norman Sicily, still with heavy Arab influence, laws were issued in the language of the community to whom they were addressed: the governance was by the rule of law so there was justice. Muslims, Jews, Byzantine Greeks, Lombards and Normans worked together to form a society that historians have said has created some of the most extraordinary buildings the world has ever seen.
Palermo continued on as the capital under the Normans. Roger's son, Roger II of Sicily, having succeeded his brother Simon of Sicily as Count 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 the Kingdom of 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 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 was one of the greatest and most cultured men of the Middle Ages, Frederick II, the only son of Constance. His mother's will had asked Pope Innocent III to undertake the guardianship of her son. The pope gladly accepted the role, as it allowed him to detach Sicily from the rest of The Holy Roman Empire, thus ending the specter of the Papal States being surrounded. 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 there, such as Arabic and Greek, and learned some of the lore of the Jewish community. He grew familiar with different peoples, garb, customs and faiths, so that he became unusually tolerant for that period. 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.
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 though the French retained control of the Kingdom of Naples. A crusade was launched in August 1283 against Peter III and the Aragon Kingdom by Pope Martin IV (a pope from Île-de-France), but it failed. The wars continued until the peace of Caltabellotta in 1302, which saw Peter's son Frederick III recognised as king of the Isle of Sicily, while Charles II was recognised as the king of Naples by Pope Boniface VIII. Sicily was ruled as an independent kingdom by relatives of the kings of Aragon until 1409 and then as part of the Crown of Aragon. In October 1347, in Messina, Sicily, the Black Death first arrived in Europe.
The onset of the Spanish Inquisition in 1492 led to Ferdinand II decreeing the expulsion of all Jews from Sicily. The island was hit by two very serious earthquakes in the east in 1542 and 1693, just a few years before the latter earthquake the island was struck by a ferocious plague. The earthquake in 1693 took an estimated 60,000 lives. There were revolts during the 17th century, but these were quelled with significant force especially the revolts of Palermo and Messina. Pirate raids discouraged settlement along the coast until the 19th century. 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 period of independence for Sicily.
In 1860, as part of the risorgimento, the Expedition of the Thousand led by Giuseppe Garibaldi captured Sicily. The conquest started at Marsala, and native Sicilians, lured by Garibaldi's promises of an Italian republic and equality for Sicilians, joined him in the capture of the southern Italian peninsula. Garibaldi's march 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. Sicily then became part of the Kingdom of Italy. With the imposition of a monarchy, Sicilians got neither the promised republic, nor equality, since important police, judicial and political positions were filled by northern Italians. An anti-Savoy revolt pushing for Sicilian independence erupted in 1866 at Palermo; it was quelled brutally by the Italians within a week.
Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa wrote in his book Il Gattopardo that the Sicilians viewed the unification of Italy as a conquest of the south by the north. The Sicilian (and the wider mezzogiorno) economy collapsed, leading to an unprecedented wave of emigration. Organizations of workers and peasants known as the Fasci Siciliani, who were leftist and separatist groups, rose and caused the Italian government to impose martial law again in 1894. The Messina earthquake of 28 December 1908 killed over 80,000 people.
The Mafia, a loose confederation of organized crime networks, emerged in the middle of the 19th century initially in the role of private enforcers hired to protect the property of landowners and merchants from the groups of bandits (briganti) who frequently pillaged the countryside and towns. The Fascist regime began suppressing them in the 1920s with considerable success. There was an allied invasion of Sicily during World War II starting on 10 July 1943. In preparation of the invasion of Sicily, 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 the Sicilian population. The Mafia continues to run rampant in Sicily and provides many problems for the government of Italy.
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, though the imposition of northerners in important administrative positions continued.
Sicily has long been noted for its fertile soil due to the volcanic eruptions in the past and present. The island is still known for its pleasant climate and natural beauty. It has a long, hot growing season, but summer droughts are frequent. Agriculture is the chief economic activity but has long been hampered by absentee ownership, primitive methods of cultivation, and inadequate irrigation. The establishment (1950) of the now-defunct Cassa per il Mezzogiorno (Southern Italy Development Fund) by the national government led to land ownership reforms, an increase in the amount of land available for cultivation and the general development of the island's economy. However, the Mafia, which is still influential, has hindered governmental efforts to institute reforms in the region, and Sicily continues to have an extremely low per capita income and high unemployment, although many work under the table, or have unreported jobs with no pension. Billions of euros have been infused in Sicily to bring the region up to current times. Prices rose 500% and many families decided to move back to the family residences to be able to afford to live. Although policies have begun to change, there is a large group of people that also rely on the revenue from NAS Sigonella, the American naval air station that is situated near Catania.
Sicily produces more wine than New Zealand, Austria and Hungary combined, but was previously known mainly for fortified Marsala wines. In recent decades the wine industry has improved, new winemakers are experimenting with less-known native varietals, and Sicilian wines have become better known. The best known local varietal is Nero d'Avola, named for a small town not far from Syracuse; the best wines made with these grapes come from Noto, a famous old city close to Avola.
There are important tuna and sardine fisheries.
In addition to wine, Sicily manufactures processed food, chemicals, refined petroleum, fertilizers, textiles, ships, leather goods, and forest products. There are petroleum fields in the southeast, and natural gas and sulfur are also produced. Improvements in Sicily's road system have helped to promote industrial development. The chief ports of the island are Palermo, Catania, Augusta and Messina.
|Gross Domestic Product
(Millions of Euros)
|GDP (PPP) per capita
After the table which shows Sicily's GDP growth, this table shows the sectors of the Sicilian economy in 2006:
|Economic activity||GDP (mil. €)||% sector
|Agriculture, farming, fishing||2,923.3||3.52%||1.84%|
|Commerce, hotels and restaurants, transport, services and (tele)communications||15,159.7||18.28%||20.54%|
|Financial activity and real estate||17,656.1||21,29%||24,17%|
|Other economic activities||24.011,5||28.95%||18.97%|
|VAT and other forms of taxes||10,893.1||13.13%||10.76%|
|GDP of Sicily||82,938.6|
Highways have recently been built and expanded in the last four decades. The most prominent Sicilian roads are the motorway (known as autostrada) running through the northern section of the island. Much of the motorway network is elevated by columns due to the mountainous terrain of the island. Other main roads in Sicily are the Strade Statali like the SS.113 that connects Trapani to Messina (via Palermo), the SS.114 Messina-Syracuse (via Catania) and the SS.115 Syracuse-Trapani (via Ragusa, Gela and Agrigento).
|A18 Messina-Catania||76 km (47 mi)||Yes||Yes|
|RA15 Catania's By Pass (West)||24 km (15 mi)||free||Yes|
|Motorway Catania-Siracusa||25 km (16 mi)||free||No|
|A18 Siracusa-Rosolini||40 km (25 mi)||free||No|
|A19 Palermo-Catania||199 km (124 mi)||free||Yes|
|A20 Palermo-Messina||181 km (112 mi)||Yes||Yes|
|A29 Palermo-Mazara del Vallo||119 km (74 mi)||free||No|
|A29dir Alcamo-Trapani/Marsala||38 km (24 mi) and 44 km (27 mi)||free||No|
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). 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 and Rome; this is achieved by the trains being loaded onto ferries which cross to the mainland. In two of the main cities there are underground railway services; these feature in the cities of Palermo and Catania whilst Messina is served by a light rail service.
Mainland Sicily has several airports which 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.
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 EUR as a contribution to the bridge's total cost, estimated at 6.1 billion EUR. 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.
|Source: ISTAT 2010|
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.
Sicily received a variety of different cultures, including the original Italic people, the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Saracens, Normans, Arberesh, and Spaniards, each contributing to the island's culture, particularly in the areas of cuisine and architecture. Ethnic Sicilians are descended from the native Sicani people, early Greek settlers, Romans, and Northern Italians. Sicilian people tend to most closely associate themselves with other southern Italians, with whom they share a common history. The island of Sicily 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 and Latin American countries. Like the rest of southern Italy, immigration to the island is very low compared to other regions of Italy because workers tend to head to Northern Italy instead, due to better employment and industrial opportunities. The most recent ISTAT figures show around 100 thousand immigrants out of the total five million population, that is nearly 2 percent of the population; Romanians with more than 17 thousand make up the most immigrants, followed by Tunisians, Moroccans, Sri Lankans, Albanians, and others mostly from Eastern Europe.
In Sicily there are only two metropolitan areas, Palermo that has a Larger Urban Zone of about 900.000 people and Catania whose LUZ is of 650.000 people. Overall on the island there are fifteen cities and towns which have a population above 50.000 people, these are:
|Comune||Population (May 2011)|
|Mazara del Vallo||51,413|
Y-Dna haplogroups were found at the following frequencies in Sicily: R1 (30.09%), J (29.65%), E1b1b (18.21%), I (7.62%), G (5.93%), T (5.51%), Q (2.54%). R1 and I haplogroups are typical in West European populations while J and E1b1b consist of lineages with differential distribution within Middle East, North Africa and Europe. According to two recent studies in 2008 and 2009, Greek male influence was estimated at 37% while North African male influence was estimated between 6% and 7.5%.
|236||1.27%||5.93%||3.81%||0.42%||2.12%||4.66%||5.93%||7.62%||3.81%||25.84%||5.51%||0.42%||2.54%||5.51%||24.58%||Di Gaetano et al. (2009)|
20 most common surnames in the region of Sicily are:
The politics of Sicily takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democracy, whereby the President of Regional Government is the head of government, and of a pluriform multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the Regional Government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Sicilian Regional Assembly. The capital of Sicily is Palermo.
The Sicilian Independence Movement (Movimento Indipendentista Siciliano, MIS) was a separatist Sicilian political party active in on the island from 1943 to 1951. Its best electoral result was in 1947, when it won 8.8% of the votes and nine regional deputies were elected.
The party was supported by Sicilians from a very wide of political stances: both conservatives and socialists were involved at some point. The purpose was first to gain independence for Sicily. Once this was accomplished MIS planned to sort out the politics of the island themselves, with the movement splintering to found new Sicilian political parties with their own personal stances.
In the 1946 general election, MIS obtained 0.7% of national votes (8.8% of votes in Sicily), and four seats, including its leader Finocchiaro Aprile. During the 1947 congress, Antonino Varvaro, former secretary and leading member of the left wing, was expelled from the party by a majority. The reasons remained unknown. Following these events, Varvaro founded a rival independentist movement, MISDR, which did not achieve much success and disbanded soon. In the first Sicilian elections held in 1947, MIS obtained circa 9% of votes, and eight seats. However, the movement lost all its seats following the 1948 general election and the 1951 regional election. Soon after the latter, Finocchiaro Aprile and several other members resigned from MIS and the movement entered into a sort of political hiatus, never being formally disbanded.
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: Aeolian Islands of Messina, isle of Ustica (Palermo), Aegadian Islands (Trapani), isle of Pantelleria (Trapani) and Pelagian Islands (Agrigento).
|Province||Area (km2)||Population||Density (inh./km2)|
|Province of Agrigento||3,042||453,594||149.1|
|Province of Caltanissetta||2,128||271,168||127.4|
|Province of Catania||3,552||1,090,620||307.0|
|Province of Enna||2,562||172,159||67.2|
|Province of Messina||3,247||652,742||201.0|
|Province of Palermo||4,992||1,249,744||250.3|
|Province of Ragusa||1,614||318,980||197.6|
|Province of Syracuse||2,109||403,559||191.3|
|Province of Trapani||2,460||436,240||177.3|
Sicily's sunny, dry climate, scenery, cuisine, history, and architecture attract many tourists from mainland Italy and abroad. The tourist season peaks in the summer months, although people visit the island all year round. Mount Etna, the beaches, the archeological sites, and the two major cities of Catania and Palermo are the favourite tourist destinations, but the old town of Taormina and the neighbouring seaside resort of Giardini Naxos draw visitors from all over the world, as do the Aeolian Islands, Erice, Cefalù, Syracuse, and Agrigento. The latter features some of the best-preserved temples of the ancient Greek period. Many Mediterranean cruise ships stop in Sicily, and many wine tourists also visit the island.
The Sicilian Baroque has a unique architectural identity. Noto, Caltagirone, Catania, Ragusa, Modica, Scicli and particularly Acireale contain some of Italy's best examples of Baroque architecture, carved in the local red sandstone. Noto provides one of the best examples of the Baroque architecture brought to Sicily.
The Baroque style in Sicily was largely confined to buildings erected by the church, and palazzi built as private residences for the Sicilian aristocracy. The earliest examples of this style in Sicily lacked individuality and were typically heavy-handed pastiches of buildings seen by Sicilian visitors to Rome, Florence, and Naples. However, even at this early stage, provincial architects had begun to incorporate certain vernacular features of Sicily's older architecture. By the middle of the 18th century, when Sicily's Baroque architecture was noticeably different from that of the mainland, it typically included at least two or three of the following features, coupled with a unique freedom of design that is more difficult to characterise in words.
Because many different cultures settled, dominated or invaded the island, Sicily has a huge variety of archeological sites. Also, some of the most notable and best preserved temples and other structures of the Greek world are located in Sicily.. Here is a short list of the major archeological sites:
The excavation and restoration of one of Sicily's best known archeological sites, the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, was at the direction of a native Sicilian, Domenico Antonio Lo Faso Pietrasanta, Fifth Duke of Serradifalco, known in archeological circles simply as "Serradifalco". He also oversaw the restoration of ancient sites at Segesta, Selinunte, Siracusa, and Taormina.
|Castelluccio di Gela||Gela|
|Castello di Aci||Aci Castello|
|Messina||Forte dei Centri||Messina|
|Castello di Milazzo||Milazzo|
|Castello di Sant'Alessio Siculo||Sant'Alessio Siculo|
|Castello di Pentefur||Savoca|
|Castello di Schisò||Giardini Naxos|
|Castello di Caccamo||Caccamo|
|Castello di Carini||Carini|
|Castello dei Ventimiglia||Castelbuono|
|Ragusa||Castello di Donnafugata||Ragusa|
|Castello Dei Conti||Modica|
|Trapani||Castello di Venere||Erice|
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.
|“||To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is to not have seen Italy at all, for Sicily is the clue to everything||”|
Terracotta ceramics from the island are well known, the art of ceramics on Sicily goes back to the original ancient peoples named the Sicanians, it was then perfected during the period of Greek colonisation and is still prominent and distinct to this day. There are two prominent folk art traditions on Sicily, both draw heavily from Norman influence; Sicilian cart is the painting of wooden carts with intricate decorations of scenes from the Norman romantic poems, such as The Song of Roland. The same tales are told in traditional puppet theatres or teatro dei pupi, which feature hand-made wooden marionettes, depicting Normans and Saracens, who engage in mock battles. this is especially popular in 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 and Silvio Amato. Many award winning and acclaimed films of Italian cinema have been filmed in Sicily, amongst the most noted of which are; Visconti's "La Terra Trema" and "Il Gattopardo", Rosi's "Salvatore Giuliano", Marco Risi's "Mery per sempre" and "Ragazzi fuori", and Antonioni's "L'avventura".
Many Sicilians are bilingual in Italian and Sicilian, a distinct Romance language which has a sizeable vocabulary, with at least 250,000 words. Some of the words are loan words from Greek, Catalan, French, Arabic, Spanish, and other languages. 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, Sicilian is now a secondary language amongst much of the youth, especially in some of the urban areas.
The Sicilian language was an early influence in the development of the first Italian standard, although its use remained confined to an intellectual elite. This was a literary language in Sicily created under the auspices of Frederick II and his court of notaries, or Magna Curia, which, headed by Giacomo da Lentini, also gave birth to the Sicilian School, widely inspired by troubadour literature. Its linguistic and poetic heritage was later assimilated into the Florentine by Dante Alighieri, the father of modern Italian who, in his 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 several less common, unofficial languages spoken on the island. In and around three countries, the Arbëresh language has been spoken since a wave of Arbereshe refugees settled there in the 15th century; these people are predominantly Byzantine rite and chant Greek at local Byzantine liturgy. The language of this community is an ancient Albanian language closely related to the one spoken especially in southern Albania, and is recognized by national law 482 of December 15, 1999 for the protection of minority ethno-linguistic in Italy. As one might expect, the language bears the marks of 15th century grammar and diction. In some cases, the Church itself encouraged the Arbereshe to settle on formerly monastic lands, particularly in western Sicily. In others, feudal lords welcomed the new residents. In Sicily the Arbereshe communities in Italy, in which it's commonly spoken Arbereshe language as their mother tongue, are: Piana degli Albanesi, Contessa Entellina and Santa Cristina Gela. The Arbereshe literature of Piana degli Albanesi is very important, because here began the story in a literal version Toskë Albanian. In more than five centuries of history have achieved significant levels Arbëreshë the cultural and literary Albanian.
There are also several towns in Province of Enna and Messina where dialects of the Gallo-Italic family are spoken by Lombard ethno-linguistic minority coming from the Northern Italy, during the Norman conquest of Sicily. Much of these two groups of people are tri-lingual, being able to also speak Italian and Sicilian.
As in most Italian regions, Christian Roman Catholicism is the most diffused religious denomination in Sicily, and the church still plays an important role in most Sicilians' lives. Before the invasion of the Normans, Sicily was predominantly Eastern Orthodox, which few adherents still remain today. Most still attend church weekly or at least for religious festivals, and many people get married in churches. However, there was a wide presence of Jews in Sicily. There has been a Jewish presence in the insular region 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. Since there was also a strong Arab presence in Sicily, the Islamic faith was also significant for many centuries. Today, due to notably African and Eastern European immigration to the island, there are also several other religious minorities, such as Jehovah's Witnesses, Islam, Judaism, and Sikhism. There are also a fair number of Evangelist Church members and practitioners who reside on the island.
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 (for example Cassata is typical of Palermo, even if available everywhere in Sicily, as is Granita, a Catania speciality). The ingredients are typically rich in taste while remaining affordable to the general public The 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, cuccidati (a variety of fig cookie; also known as buccellati) and cuccìa are amongst some of the most notable sweet dishes.
Like the cuisine of the rest of southern Italy, pasta plays an important part in Sicilian cuisine, as does rice; for example with arancini. As well as using some other cheeses, Sicily has spawned some of its own, using both cow's and sheep's milk, such as pecorino and caciocavallo. Spices used include saffron, nutmeg, clove, pepper, and cinnamon, which were introduced by the Arabs. Parsley is used abundantly in many dishes. Although Sicilian cuisine is commonly associated with sea food, meat dishes, including goose, lamb, goat, rabbit, and turkey, are also found in Sicily. It was the Normans and Swabians who first introduced a fondness for meat dishes to the island. Some varieties of wine are produced from vines that are relatively unique to the island, such as the Nero d'Avola made near the baroque of town of Noto.
The best known and most popular sport on the island of Sicily is football, which was introduced in the late 19th century 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, where the sport has a reasonable following. Various other sports that are played to some extent include volleyball, handball, and water polo. Previously, in motorsport, Sicily held the prominent Targa 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.
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 fixture in Sicilian life. Almost all public places are adorned with crucifixes upon their walls, and most Sicilian homes contain pictures of saints, statues, and other relics. Each town and city has its own patron saint, and the feast days are marked by gaudy processions through the streets with marching bands and displays of fireworks.
Sicilian religious festivals also include the presepe vivente (living nativity scene), which takes place at Christmas time. Deftly combining religion and folklore, it is a constructed mock 19th century Sicilian village, complete with a nativity scene, and has people of all ages dressed in the costumes of the period, some impersonating the Holy Family, and others working as artisans of their particular assigned trade. It is normally concluded on Ephiphany, often highlighted by the arrival of the magi on horseback.
Oral tradition plays a large role in Sicilian folklore. Many stories passed down from generation to generation involve a character named "Giufà". Anecdotes from this character's life preserve Sicilian culture as well as convey moral messages.
Sicilians also enjoy outdoor festivals, held in the local square or piazza where live music and dancing are performed on stage, and food fairs or sagre are set up in booths lining the square. These offer various local specialties, as well as typical Sicilian food. Normally these events are concluded with fireworks. A noted sagra is the Sagra del Carciofo or Artichoke Festival, which is held annually in Ramacca in April. The most important laic event in Sicily is the carnival. Famous carnivals are in Acireale, Misterbianco, Regalbuto, Paternò, Sciacca, Termini Imerese.
There are several cultural icons and regional symbols in Sicily, including flags, carts, sights and geographical features.
The Sicilian flag is the flag of Sicily, and is regarded as a regional icon. It was first adopted in 1282, after the Sicilian Vespers of Palermo. It is characterized by the presence of the triskelion (trinacria) in its middle, the (winged) head of Medusa and three wheat ears. The three bent legs are supposed to represent the three points of the island Sicily itself.
The colours, instead, respectively represent the cities of Palermo and Corleone, at those times an agricultural city of renown. Palermo and Corleone were the first two cities to found a confederation against the Angevin rule. It finally became the official public flag of the Autonomous Region of Sicily in January 2000, after the passing of an apposite law which advocates its use on public buildings, schools, city halls, and all the other places in which Sicily is represented.
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 BCE). In Sicily, the first inhabitants mentioned in history are the tribes of the Sicani (Greek Sikanoi) and the Sicels (Greek Sikeloi), who gave Sicily its more familiar modern name. 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. The actual name "Trinacria" was also occasionally used in the Kingdom of Sicily after 1302 (the English equivalent word of Trinacria is the Triangle).
The symbol dates back to when Sicily was part of Magna Graecia, the colonial extension of Greece beyond the Aegean. Pliny the Elder attributes the origin of the triskelion of Sicily to the triangular form of the island, the ancient Trinacria, which consists of three large capes equidistant from each other, pointing in their respective directions, the names of which were Pelorus, Pachynus, and Lilybæum.
The coppola is a traditional kind of flat cap typically worn in Sicily. First used by English nobles during the late 18th century, the coppola 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, the coppola is widely regarded, at least in Italy, as a definitive symbol of Sicilian heritage.
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 metal components. Carts are used for hauling miscellaneous light loads, such as produce, wood, wine, and people, called "Carretto del Lavoro" (cart for work) and also carts for festive occasions such as weddings and parades called "Carretto de Gara'. The Carretto is like the 'taxi' or 'truck' of today. In modern-day Sicily, the tradition continues in small, three-wheeled motorized vehicles (called lapa). They are often painted in the traditional way.
Mount Etna is the largest active volcano in Europe and still plagues the island with black ash with its ever current 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 this mountain by Zeus, the god of the sky, and Mount Etna is widely regarded as a cultural symbol and icon of Sicily.
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