Surrounded by water, Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean and, along with her surrounding islands, Regione Siciliana is the largest region of Italy.
As with every island, Sicily is defined by her relationship to the sea and how it has defined and shaped her history and character. With the Mar Mediterraneo (Mediterranean Sea) to the south and southwest, Mar Ionio (Ionian Sea) to the east, and Mar Tirreno (Tyrrhenian Sea) to the north, she is simultaneously protected and vulnerable.
“My favorite scent memory is the scent of the Sicilian sea!”
– Domenico Dolce
Rich in contrasts, with its magnificent seascapes, rich and bounteous farmlands, and rugged mountainous interior, Sicily is unique, enigmatic, and seductive.
Sicilians are distinctly and stubbornly Sicilian! Separated from the toe of Calabria and mainland of Italy, across the Straits of Messina by only 3 km, it may as well be a thousand! Sicilians consider themselves Sicilians first, Italians second. And to this day, 70% of Sicilians speak Sicilian, not Italian.
‘Sicily has suffered 13 dominations from which she has taken both the best and the worst. The sequence of different cultures has made Sicily a fascinating place, quite unlike any other.”
– Andrea Camilleri
And unlike any other, only in Sicily…
Sicily’s strategic location and bounty of land and sea have been its blessing and its curse. She has been invaded, conquered, looted, cheated, deceived, labeled, misunderstood and, to this day, stereotyped. Never the victim, she is resilient, proud and I would even say fiercely independent.
The crazy confluence of influences over the centuries includes waves of domination by Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, the Hohenstaufen monarchs, Angevin and Aragonese dynasties, and finally the Spanish viceroys and the Bourbons…until the unification of Italy in 1861. It’s enough to make your head spin!
“L’Italia, senza la Sicilia, non lascia alcuna immagine nell’anima: qua è la chiave di tutto.”
“To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is to not have seen Italy at all for Sicily is the clue to everything.”
– Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
◊ Palermo, the capital of Sicily, is rich in historic and cultural treasures including Teatro Massimo, the largest opera house in Italy.
In February 2017, it was announced that Palermo will be 2018 Italian Capital of Culture and will be awarded €1 million, “allowing it to carry out investments to promote cultural activities and increase the value of its artistic heritage”. In addition, Palermo is also designated as the European Capital of Street Food!
◊ The ancient mythical symbol, the trinacria, can be seen everywhere including on the regional flag. The trinacria, which comes from comes from Greek “thrinakia”, island of three capes”, is a 3-legged mermaid in the same triangular shape of the island.
◊ Rich in UNESCO sites – Sicily can boast of 7!
- Palermo: Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalú and Monreale.
- Valley of the Temples: The splendid archeological area of Agrigento.
- Villa Romana del Casale: Located near Piazza Amerina, this magnificent Roman villa with its magnificent mosaic carpets consisted of 63 rooms, courtyards, galleries, latrines and hallways covered approx 7000 square meters (that’s over 75,000 square feet or approx 1.7 acres!) With 120 million small pieces this was probably the summer villa of a very wealthy Roman noble.
- Isole Eolie (Aeolian Islands): The Aeolian Islands are located north of the coast of Sicily. The 7 islands which compose the archipelago (Panarea, Stromboli, Vulcano, Alicudi, Filicudi, Lipari and Salina, more 5 small islets) are all of volcanic origins and are separated from the land of Sicily by deep waters.
- Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto: Caltagirone, Militello Val di Catania, Catania, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo, Ragusa and Scicli -are a treasure trove of picturesque towns rich in stunning Baroque architecture and allure.
- Syracuse and the Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica: Syracuse, in addition to Roman ruins in the center of town, the Greek Theatre and the Ear of Dionysius in the archeological park, has many attractive treasures to share.
- Mt. Etna: The largest active volcano in Italy and Europe and the highest peak in Italy, Mt. Etna is 2-1/2 times height of Mt. Vesuvius.
◊ Sicily is home to spectacular Greek and Roman ruins. In addition to several mentioned above:
– Selinunte Archeological Site, which is the largest archeological park in Europe.
– Greek-Roman Theatre in Taormina.
– The temple and archeological park of Segesta.
◊ Teatro dei pupi – puppet theaters: Pupi are large Sicilian rod puppets dating from the 16th century. Although there are others in Italy, the teatro dei pupi in Palermo (Museo delle Marionette and Cuticchio Puppet Theatre), Siracuse (Teatro dei Pupi Siciliana) and well as Taormina and Acireale are among the finest.
◊ Sicilian cuisine is also a delicious potpourri of multi-ethnic influences. Be sure to indulge in: arancini, cannoli, cassata, granita, sfinche, marzipan, Bronte pistachios (think gelato!), blood red oranges, fiche d’India (prickly pears), anything made from their lemons and, of course, olive oil and seafood!
◊ Wines: From Marsala to Moscato and Grillo to Alicante and Nero d’Avola, Sicily has long been a region blessed with the perfect climate and conditions for producing excellent wines.
◊ Spectacular Ceramics! Caltagirone, Taormina, Scicli, Scaccia…a dazzling display found on stairways, fountains, restaurants, and, of course, in shops…
◊ Carreto Siciliano are the elaborately decorated and colorfully covered Sicilian carts (drawn by a lavishly-adorned donkey or horse!) that communicated Sicilian history and folklore.◊ Luminaries, besides Don Corleone, the fictional godfather…
…and Commissario Salvo Montalbano, the popular fictional inspector, include legends and celebrities from Archimedes to Lucky Luciano:
– Yes, the “Mafia”, “Cosa Nostra” originated in Sicily. And so did “addiopizzo”, a grassroots group against paying Cosa Nostra kickbacks.
– Frank Capra
– Giuseppe Tornatore, Sicilian director filmed Cinema Paradiso, Academy Award winner for best foreign film (1990), in Palazzo Adriano
– Luigi Lo Cascio, well known Italian actor and native of Sicily, including “The Best of Youth” (2003) and “Human Capital” (2013).
Literature and Art:
– Giacomo da Lantini, poet who invented the sonnet
– Luigi Pirandello, 20th century Nobel prize winner
– Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, author of the classic, Gatopardo (The Leopard)
– Leonardo Sciascia, 20th century author wrote about post-war Italy
– Andrea Camilleri, creator of Inspector Montalbano
– Antonello da Messina, 15th century artist
– Renato Guttuso, 20th century artist
◊ My Roots! My paternal grandparents were from Castelvetrano and Nicosia. They, along with millions of Italians, immigrated to America, where my father was born.
It is through this blood relationship with my grandfather that I was eligible for and gained my dual citizenship. I am proud and honored to be one-half Sicilian and to have roots in this land.
And, of course, the warm and wonderful people of Sicily…
♥ Wouldn’t you LOVE to experience Sicily? Of course you would!
♥ And YOU can! ♥
Once again, I have collaborated with a local expert from Sicily to offer YOU the most authentic, delicious “once-in-a-lifetime” small group experience possible!