It's more than an island! Discover Sicily and discover the world. The world's first multicultural society, Sicily is Italy's (and Europe's) most historically cosmopolitan region, having been ruled by Asians, Africans and Europeans. Sicily is black and white and a million shades of gray. There's no other place on Earth like Sicily. Our island is a unique place full of art, archeology, history, folklore and breathtaking scenery. And, of course, great food. Sicily is almost a nation unto itself. The enchanting land where Archimedes taught and Saint Paul preached was a Greek colony, a Roman province, an Arab emirate and a Norman kingdom. The Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Swabians, Angevins and Aragonese made Sicily their own, leaving behind an eclectic history that you can still touch today. And Sicily will touch you. Sicily is Europe, Africa and Asia on one island. Greek tyrants, Arab emirs, Norman knights, Byzantine bishops and Holy Roman Emperors made Sicily the place it is. Experience their legacy in Phoenician settlements, Punic cities, Greek temples, Roman amphitheatres, Norman Arab castles and Aragonese churches. Thirty centuries of history expressed in the Classical, the Romanesque, the Gothic, the Baroque...
Sikania to its most ancient peoples, Sicily was Sikelia, Plato's utopian society, to the ancient Greeks. Later, the sonnet was created at the Court of Frederick II, and Sicily found her place in the literature of Dante and Boccaccio. Sunny Sicily is Punic Palermo, towering Taormina, ancient Agrigento, splendid Siracusa, and medieval Monreale and Cefalù.
And God created Sicily. The place where the mountains meet the sea. Sicilia, the island in the sun, is home to Heavenly beaches, majestic mountains and Europe's greatest natural wonder, Mount Etna. Sicily's coasts are gold with orange and lemon orchards. In northeastern Sicily you'll find lush forests. In the central regions you'll encounter rugged land and rolling hills. Dignified vineyards, ancient olive groves, hardy almond orchards and endless wheat fields complete the picture. Summer is amber land under a sky of blue. Winter finds palm trees dusted with snow in a surreal symphony. Spring is a rainbow of wild flowers set against greenest fields...
If you could choose just one place to visit where you could witness everything from the culture of Hellenic antiquity to the glories of the Middle Ages and the wonders of the Renaissance, shaped by a dozen civilizations, Sicily would be that place.
Yes, our island is Italian. And French and Spanish and Greek, with a few German and Arab nuances in the cultural mix. Sicily is the world's island. A place where time and tradition have been forged by peoples and faiths from the north and south, from the east and west. Timeless beauty in eclectic diversity: Europe, Africa and Asia in one magical moment...
Sicily has the highest average hours of sunshine in Europe: 2000 hours per year. The Sicilian climate is typical of the Mediterranean. Winter is mild, fall and spring are pleasantly warm and summer is hot. The temperature tends to be higher especially close to the coastline. Rainfall is minimal from April to September. From May to September, the average temperature is around 22°. Rarely, does the temperature go below 10°. July and August are the hottest months with temperature reaching up up to 40°. It is particularly warm when the wind Scirocco from Africa blows toward the island. Inland, the mountains have a typically cooler climate than the coasts and can be covered with snow during the winter.
Sicily, the largest island of the Mediterranean Sea has a vaguely triangular shape and is surrounded by the Tyrrhenian Sea on the North and the Ionic Sea on the East. The Canal of Sicily on the southwest is about 140 km from the African continent. The straight of Messina about3 km divides the island from the mainland, Italy, on the Northeast. Its territory is mostly hilly.
The Sicilian coastline surpasses 1.000 km and 1.500 km, if the smaller islands are included. The Northern coastline stretches from Capo Peloro near Messina to Capo Lilibeo near Marsala. In the West, it extends from Marsala to Trapani and changes landscape completely turning into the white of the salt water (saline). The Southern coastline, sandy and low, reaches Capo Passero the extreme southern part of Sicily in the province of Ragusa. Still, the Eastern coastline is characterized by the presence of numerous gulfs: Noto, Augusta and Catania. North of Catania, tall hills of calcareous stones from the Peloritan Mountains and lava stones from Mount Etna distinguish the surroundings with spectacular breathtaking views.
*MOUNTAINS AND VOLCANOES
The Sicilian Apennines can be considered in part as a continuation of the Calabrian Apennines and are divided in three different sections: the Peloritan Mountains between Messina and Patti (northeast); the Nebrodi Mountains (northwest) and, further West, the Madonie Mountains.
Mount Etna is not only the highest mountain in Sicily 3.323 m) but also the highest active volcano in Europe. Sicily is made up of three volcanic districts: the Aeolian Islands, Etna and the Canal of Sicily.
*ISLANDS AND ARCHIPELAGOES
Small islands and archipelagoes are to be found around the island: the Aeolian Islands and Ustica north of Sicily in the Tyrrhenian Sea; the Aegadian Islands off the coast of Trapani on the West side; and Pantelleria and the Pelagie Islands with Lampedusa in the Southwest of the Canal of Sicily.
The Mediterranean Sea has played a crucial role in the development of the most ancient civilities since the XIV century BC and so has Sicily, with its fascinating and bloody history of dominations that have shaped the character of its people, as well as its territory and architecture throughout the centuries.
- Prehistoric Sicily (1270-735 BC) - Archeological remains have been found in the necropolises of Pantalica and Cassibile (nearby Syracuse). Siculi, Sicani and Elymi were the original populations of the island, but were not native peoples. The Siculi lived in the south centeral part, northwest of Syracuse; the Sicani, probably not an Indo-European population, lived on the western side; and the Elymi founded Erice and Segesta. The Carthaginians, coming from the northern African coasts, colonized Solunto, Panormo (now Palermo), Mozia and Lilibeo.
- The Greek Colonization (735-212 BC) - Naxos was the first Greek colony in Sicily, founded in 735 BC. Syracuse was funded a year later in 734 BC. The former populations (Sicani, Siculi and Elymi) completely ousted the Carthaginians in 480 BC. The battle of Himera marked the beginning of Greek supremacy on the island. It is during this period that culture and architecture flourished leaving to the island the richest archeological heritage in the Mediterranean of classical Greece. There is no village in Sicily that does not have some archeological evidence of the influence by Magna Grecee.
- Roman Sicily (212 BC-468 AC) - Sicily became a Roman province in 227 BC. The Romans built large feudal estates and imposed taxes. It was during this period that the island made its name as Rome’s “bread basket”, since it provided about 1/5 of the wheat necessary to the city. Syracuse resisted against the Roman dominion, but it finally surrendered after a long and brutal assault in 211 BC. The conditions under the Romans fueled two slavery revolts that ended in bloody massacres in 131 BC and 99 BC. In spite of the continuous turmoil, Sicily managed to be one of the most important economic drivers of the Roman supremacy in the Mediterranean. In II AC, Christianity spread out in the island. With the fall of the Roman Empire, Sicily was conquered by Genserico, King of the Vandals, in 468 AC.
- Arab Sicily (827-1061) - Starting in 827, Sicily became a target for frequent Arab raids. However, only in 902 did the Arabs take total control of the island. During this period, Palermo and its surroundings turned into a prosperous symbol of Arab Sicily. The local aristocracy assisted the Emir through an assembly called Giama’a. Economy and agriculture were organized in an efficient and productive way; while arts and science were also particularly vibrant, thanks to close contact with other Mediterranean regions such as Andalusia, Maghreb and Egypt.
- Norman Sicily (1091-1190) - The Christian crusade against the Arabs began in 1061 and Roger I conquered Sicily in 1091. In 1130 Roger II obtained the title of King of Sicily and extended his jurisdiction to Naples and Capua. Palermo became the capital. Eventually, William I and William II succeeded Roger II. William II participates in the third crusade and gives to his aunt, Costance of Altavilla, the right to succession.
- Svevians and Angevins (1186-1282) - In 1186, Constance of Altavilla married Frederick I’s son, Enrich VI, in Milan. Four years later, the Svevian family obtained the right to the Kingdom of Sicily and Enrich VI became Emperor and King of Sicily. After his death in 1197, his son Frederick II, only three years old, was crowned King. Constance remained his regent until he became of age. Frederick was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 1209. Known as stupor mundi, he was an extremely modern ruler for the times: he spoke nine languages, wrote manuals, and, unlike most Roman emperors, he spent most of his life just outside Germany. He died in 1250 and his son Conrad IV succeeded him. He is defeated and killed by the Guelphs lead by Carlo of Anjou in 1268.
- Sicilian Vespers and the Aragoneses (1282-1416) - In 1282, the Sicilian Vespers, a rebellion against Carlo of Anjou and the Angevin French in the island, broke out in Palermo. An assembly of barons asked Peter III of Aragon to intervene against the French. Thus began a ttwenty year war, which finally ended with the coronation of Frederick of Aragon, Peter III's son, as King of Sicily. The Aragonese dynasty ruled Sicily until 1416.
- The Bourbons (1735-1859) - Charles III of Bourbon acquired Sicily from Austria (1734) and became King of Naples and Sicily in 1735. He was a beneficent ruler. His half-brother, Frederick VI, succeeded him to the Spanish throne and passed Naples and Sicily on to his son, Ferdinand I, in 1759. The French conquered Naples in 1799 and 1806 and Ferdinand flees to Sicily where he reigned under English protection. In 1816, Naples was restored to him and he then declared himself King of the Two Sicilies. His government fueled a revolt in 1820, forcing him to grant a constitution. With the help of Austria, he was able to restore monarchy in 1821. His successors, Francis I, Ferdinand II and Francis II, continue the ruthless policy of his regime until 1860.
- The Savoias (1860-1946) - Victor Emmanuel II of Savoy, King of Sardinia, favors Garibaldi's expedition to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in 1860. Thus, King Francis II was overthrown and, after a plebiscite for the annexation in 1861, Sicily became part of the new unified Kingdom of Italy and Victor Emmanuel of Savoy becomes King of Italy. The unification signified a further economic and social decline for Sicily. Between 1890 and 1930, more than a million Sicilians left the island , mostly to migrate to the United States. The new century also starts with the quake in Messina in 1908. Excluded to the process of modernization happening in Northern Italy, Sicily succumbed to an increasingly influential mafia. The Fascist regime, which came to power in 1920 managed to partly suppress it, but the mafia returned more powerful than ever after the invasion of the Allies during the II World War in 1943.
- Contemporary Sicily - Heavily bombed during the II World War, Sicily voted for the republic in 1946. Ten percent of voters dreamed of a separation of the Island from the motherland. Salvatore Giuliano, who lead a small group of bandits with close ties to the mafia, longed for the annexation of Sicily to the United States. However, he was killed in 1950. The mafia intensified its relationships with politics and the politicians of the Christian Democratic Party, spreading its power and influence beyond the island. Nowadays, thanks to the dedication and lives of public servants, the state is gaining an ever-growing control over the mafia and the problem is tackled more effectively.
Feasts represent one of the most important parts of Sicilian social life, mixing pagan myth, religious events and country fairs. The most celebrated feasts are Easter, Carnival, and the patron saints’ day.
*Palermo celebrates Saint Rosalia on 14th July;
*Catania celebrates Saint’Agata for 3 days in February (3-4-5).
Other events are: the Palio dei Normanni in Piazza Armerina (Enna province), which commemorates the arrival of Roger II; the Festival of Spiga in Gangi that goes back to ancient pagan rituals dedicated to the Goddess Cerere; the Festival del Mandorlo in Agrigento and the Sagra della Ricotta in Vizzini.
*Carts - The painted carts of Sicily (carretti) have been around for nearlythan two centuries. Once there were several thousands of them, carrying the products of the island and participating in its celebrations. The carts were fashioned from beautifully carved wood and intricately wrought metal. All visible parts were colorfully painted with religious, chivalric, historical, or other culturally symbolic designs and figures. They carried passengers, foodstuffs, wine barrels, minerals, and other cargo from place to place. Described as ungainly and awkward, they were pulled over less than satisfactory roads by horses, mules or donkeys decorated themselves in colorful harnesses and feathers.
*Sicilian Puppets - The Sicilian Puppets Theater was defined "Masterpiece of the Oral Intangible Heritage of Humanity" by UNESCO. Sicilian puppets portray epic sagas, but scene dialogues are often improvised. Puppets (from the Latin pupus: little child) are the characteristic armored marionettes of the epic popular theater, brought probably from Spain of Don Quixote to Sicily, where it reached its full development. Italy boasts three main puppet schools, two of which are in Sicily: 1) Palermitan; 2) Catanese; and 3) Campanian. The puppets differ in their armor and dimensions. For example, Palermitan puppets are smaller and more mobile than the Catanese ones.
FOOD & WINE
Sicily enjoys a fine tradition of food and wine. All the outside dominations throughout the centuries left their traces in the island’s gastronomy. The Ancient Greeks started producing refined flours and whole grain. They planted the Malvasia and Moscato vines which are still predominant in the island today. The ancient Greeks also seem to have used the snows of Mount Etna to make ices based on fruits and honey, they also introduced the first olive trees.
Sicily became the "granary of the Italic peninsula" during the ancient Roman times and still produces some of the best durum wheat in Italy. Bread and pasta continue to be important to the daily diet, and are of excellent quality.
- The Romans introduced the fava beans, from which it derives a typical soup called "favi a maccu".
- Arabs imported rice, sugar and almonds, and while couscous clearly draws origin from the couscous in North Africa, it differs just for the use of fish. Of Arabic derivation also come the two most famous desserts of the island: cassata and sorbetto.
- The Normans introduced stockfish, to the island's cuisine.
- The Angevins, Aragonenses and Bourbons also left their sign. The "farsumagru", a roll of meat with filling, is derived from the French. The Spanish introduced diverse dishes and ingredients such as the pan of Spain, chocolate, tomato and, above all, eggplant. From the fusion of these products and local traditions originated some of the most typical Sicilian recipes we know today: pasta with sardines, caponata, racines, and orange salad.
- The Sicilian dessert table is a delight for the eyes as well as the palate. Beautiful and delicious desserts include marzipan fruits; ricotta-filled cannoli; spectacular cakes decorated with candied fruits; cookies filled with dried fruits, nuts, and honey; and perhaps the best known dessert, granita, a smooth and refreshing fruit ice.
*Appetizers: Swordfish carpaccio, Tuna fish carpaccio, Seafood salad
*Chicken: Chicken cacciatore, Chicken breast with saffron and Marsala, Lemon chicken cutlets
*Fish: Cod sautéed, Sicilian style, Sarde a beccafico (stuffed sardines)
*Pasta : Bucatini with cauliflower, Bucatini with eggplant, Lasagna, Pasta alla Norma (pasta with eggplants), Pasta with sardines, Tuna and pasta Sicilian style
*Couscous: Couscous with fish
*Desserts: Cannoli, Cassata,Ricotta pie
*Beef: Falsomagro (stuffed beef roll)
*Snacks: Arancini (Sicilian rice balls) but many others depends which places you visit!!!
Sicily counts more vineyards than any other Italian region and boasts one of Italy's most progressive wine industries. Noted mainly in the past for strong bulk wines and often sweet Moscato and Marsala, the island has switched its emphasis toward lighter, fruitier white and red wines. Sicily is divided into three main producing wine districts:
- Trapani province in the west
- Etna in the east
- Ragusa on the southern tip
In the last weekend of may it is possible have a free-visit in several wineries around Sicily!
GREAT SICILIAN WINES:
This is the classic Sicilian wine: ruby red in color with intense aromas of vanilla and spice. On the palate it is bursting with bright cherry fruit, balanced acidity and exotic spices. It is produced in the southeastern side of the island, but also in the Palermo province where Duca di Salaparuta is located.
This wine is produced from white catarratto grapes (up to 80%) and damaschino, grecanico, and trebbiano (up to 20%). It is considered the classic Sicilian white; it is fruity to the palate and has a straw-yellow with greenish highlights color.
Made from 85% Malvasia grapes, this sweet wine is made with techniques that have changed little over the centuries. The grapes are gathered when they are extremely ripe. The wine is amber-gold in color with an unusually alcoholic content.
*Cerasuolo di Vittoria.
Made from 100% Nero d'Avola grapes grown 1,600 feet above sea level. The grapes are fermented for 18 days in temperature controlled, stainless steel tanks and then aged for 4 months in Allier barrique. The wine is ruby red in color with intense aromas of vanilla and spice. On the palate it is bursting with bright cherry flavor, balanced acidity and exotic spices.
The wine is made from the must of very well ripened grapes, to which are added naturally dried grapes in the sunny and windy climate of Pantelleria. Fermentation at controlled temperature lasts until the end of October.
Made from Nerello Mascalese (80%) and Nerello Capuccio (20%), the resulting wine is a pleasant surprise to the palate. Etna Rosso wine combines a rich and warm bouquet with hints of spice and green bell pepper on the nose. In the mouth it is medium-bodied, with a smooth texture, ripe and forward fruit, soft tannins, mild acidity, and a surprisingly long finish.
This wine is made from the Carricante and Cataratto grapes and other varieties from Milo. Straw-yellow with green reflexes in color, Etna Bianco wine possesses a fruity aroma and fresh taste.
Made with white grapes among others, Marsala wine is characterized by its intense amber color, and its complex aroma that shows hints of strong alcohol flavor. Marsala wines are classified according to their characteristics and the duration of their aging
Some Sicilian Wine Producers
Planeta; Cusumano; Tasca d’Almerita; Tenuta di Donnafugata; Feudo Principi di Butera (Zonin); Morgante; Duca di Salaparuta; Benanti; Palari; Firriato; Marco De Batoli; Salvatore Murana.
ITINERARIES: (under construction)
A Culinary Tour of Sicily
Sicily is a crossroads of the Mediterranean, so expect hints of exotic spices like saffron and cinnamon paired with local ingredients—lemons, blood oranges, fresh citron, almonds, capers, and wild mountain oregano. Palermo's markets, located on the northern coast, are reminiscent of an Arabian bazaar, with three-wheeled trucks piled high with produce, vendors hawking goods in sicilian dialect, and street foods for sale (like panelle—fried chickpea flour—gristle sandwiches, and boiled octopus with a squirt of lemon). The Vucceria market draws the most tourists (even if nowdays it is smaller than in the past), so head to Ballaro' or Capo, as the natives do. The market in Catania is also well worth a visit if you're on the island's eastern coast. You'll find swordfish with swords, silvery blue sardines in mounds, live shrimp in shells, and whole hunks of tuna that look more like beef than fish.
Sicily's western coast (south of Trapani) is decorated with windmills, flamingos, rectangular saltpans, and mounds covered with terra cotta roof tiles. Another Sicilian specialties: capers, caper paste, zibibbo raisins, raisin jelly, and vegetables.
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