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discovering Sicily

 
Tindari

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, Siracusa 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; 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 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 3.460 mts, 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 and 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.

 

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; there is also a daily service between Malta and Pozzallo.

Caltagirone
 
Ragusa

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 gene flows are very limited. In a very recent and thorough study the genetic contribution of Greek chromosomes to the Sicilian gene pool was estimated to be about 37% where as the contribution of North African populations was estimated to be around 6%.
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.

 

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, citrus, aubergines, 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, braccilatte (a Sicilian version of doughnuts), sesame seed cookies, frutta martorana, cassata, pignolata and granita 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, such as pecorino and caciocavallo.
Spices used include saffron, clove and cinnamon which were introducted 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 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.

 

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 and Giovanni Verga. On the political side notable Sicilian philosophers include: Giovanni Gentile who wrote The Doctrine of Fascism and Julius Evola. 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, 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: Francis Ford Coppola's " The Godfather Trilogy", Visconti's "La Terra Trema" and "Il Gattopardo", Rosi's "Salvatore Giuliano" and Antonioni's "L'avventura".

 

Language
All 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 DDe 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, Arboereshoe 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.

 
Toto' Schillaci

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 and Roberto Galia.
Although football is by far the most popular sport in Sicily, the island also has participants in other fields.
Amatori Catania competes 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 motosport, 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.
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 Ephifany, often highlighted by the arrival of the Re 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 their Italian counterparts, Sicilian females are very concerned with their physical appearance, and often spend large sums of money on clothing, shoes, jewelry and beauty products.

 

Religious events:
Festivity of Santa Rosalia in Palermo
Sant'Agata in Catania

Madonna della lettera, a procession from Vara in Messina
Santa Lucia in Siracusa
San Giorgio in Ragusa
Processions of Good Friday in Enna and Trapani
San Sebastiano in Acireale
San Pancrazio in Giardini Naxos, a procession by water to Cape Taormina


Laical events:

The most important laic event in Sicily is the carnival. Famous carnivals are in Regalbuto, Paterno', Sciacca, Acireale and 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
.
Also, some of the most notable and best preserved temples and other structures of the Greek World are located in Sicily:
Siracusa
the Valley of the Temples in Akragas (the actual Agrigento)
Gela
Himera (now called Termini Imerese)
Selinunte
Zancle (nowdays Messina)
Segesta show all the greatness of the Greek colonies, the Magna Graecia.

 
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