The most prominent
Sicilian roads are the motorways (known as
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.
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
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
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
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
The island has a long
history of producing a variety of noted cuisines and
wines, to the extent that Sicily is sometimes
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
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
Like the cuisine of the rest of southern Italy,
pasta plays an important part in Sicilian cuisine,
as does rice; for example with
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.
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
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
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
which was highly influential. Some of the most noted
figures in the area of Sicilian poetry and writing
Salvatore Quasimodo and
Giovanni Verga. On the political side
notable Sicilian philosophers include:
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
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;
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,
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
which is the largest opera house in Italy and the
third largest in all of Europe.
Sicilian composers vary from
to contemporary composers such as Salvatore
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
Godfather Trilogy", Visconti's "La
Terra Trema" and
Rosi's "Salvatore Giuliano" and Antonioni's
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.
a literary language in Sicily created under the
auspices of Frederick II and his court of notaries,
Magna Curia, which, headed by
Giacomo da Lentini also gave birth to the
Sicilian School,, widely inspired by troubadour
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
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
Much of these two groups of people are tri-lingual,
being able to also speak Italian and Sicilian.
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
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
The most noted Sicilian footballer is
who won the Golden Boot at the
1990 FIFA World Cup
Other noted Sicilian players include Giuseppe
Furino, Pietro Anastasi, Francesco Coco and Roberto
Although football is by far the most popular sport
in Sicily, the island also has participants in other
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
San Pancrazio in Giardini
Naxos, a procession by water to Cape Taormina
The most important laic
event in Sicily is the carnival. Famous carnivals
are in Regalbuto, Paterno', Sciacca, Acireale and
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:
Valley of the Temples
in Akragas (the actual Agrigento)
Himera (now called Termini Imerese)
Zancle (nowdays Messina)
show all the greatness of the Greek colonies, the