Sicily, Italy: The most beguiling island in the Mediterranean (2023)

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This was published 4 years ago

By Ute Junker

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Sicily, Italy: The most beguiling island in the Mediterranean (1)

The best thing that ever happened to the town of Noto was its total destruction. The great earthquake of 1693, which devastated much of south-western Sicily, flattened Noto so completely that a decision was taken to rebuild the town on a new site, 14 kilometres away. The architects assigned to the task did more than just bring a city back to life; they created a baroque masterpiece. On an island filled with picturesque towns, Noto takes the prize.

Noto might be small but it is a town conceived on a grand scale. It has just three main streets, but no fewer than three grand squares, along with an array of churches and palazzi that would do many a larger town proud. All the buildings are made of the local volcanic rock, tufa, which glows warmly in the sunlight. No wonder that the entire town centre has been recognised with a UNESCO World Heritage listing.

The town's centrepiece, its monumental cathedral – accessed via a grand triple-tiered staircase – is famous throughout Italy because of another stroke of bad luck. During a thunderstorm in 1996, the cathedral's mighty dome collapsed. It took 10 years to restore the building to its current pristine condition.

Sicily, Italy: The most beguiling island in the Mediterranean (2)

The cathedral is not the only building worth a closer look. The church of Santa Chiara, located across the way, is more compact than its neighbour but its unusual oval interior and its ornate decorations, done in a restrained black and white palette, are eye-catching. However, the most remarkable thing about Santa Chiara can be found by heading up the staircase that is tucked into one corner of the church. It leads to an unexpected roof terrace that offers a magnificent panorama of the town centre.

Noto's beauty extends well beyond the town's main drag. Take a stroll down some of the side streets and you will find palazzi and townhouses richly decorated with Sicilian baroque. Doors and windows are framed with elaborately carved scrolls, cupid heads and abundant piles of stony fruits and flowers. Wrought iron balconies are supported by stone brackets carved to resemble lions heads, or ancient gods, or rampant horses.

Noto may do a nice line in grandeur – it even has its own triumphal arch – but its small-town feel is an integral part of its charm. Life here unfolds at an unhurried pace. Priests stop in at the local cafe for a cappuccino, where they are greeted by black-clad nonnas snacking on pistachio tarts; locals stop for a chat with the shopkeepers who are keeping a proprietary watch on the goings-on in the street.

Sicily, Italy: The most beguiling island in the Mediterranean (3)

MEET THE BIG GAME HUNTERS

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Noto's phoenix-from-the-ashes tale is not Sicily's only great survival story. Its renaissance was shared by other nearby towns that also suffered in the earthquake; Ragusa, Modica, Catania were all also rebuilt as baroque beauties. In fact, death and rebirth seem to be constant themes in Sicily, an island where, over 3000 years, many of the Mediterranean's great civilisations set up new towns and cities, or reinvigorated old ones. The Phoenicians, the Greeks, the Arabs and the Normans were just some of those who settled in Sicily, drawn by the island's fertile soils and strategic position.

Naturally, the Romans also made their way here. The island was one of Rome's most important provinces, supplying much of the grain that fed the world's greatest city. Compared with mainland Italy's wealth of theatres, temples and baths, Sicily has a surprisingly small trove of Roman ruins. However, at least one of its Roman sites rivals anything on the mainland. The Villa Romana del Casale, outside the town of Piazza Armerina, has scored a World Heritage listing for its extraordinarily vivid and well-preserved mosaic floors. Like Noto, the mosaics were saved by a disaster: a landslide covered the villa 900 years ago, preserving the floors beneath the tons of soil.

Sicily, Italy: The most beguiling island in the Mediterranean (4)

These are not your average mosaics. Dating back to the 4th century AD and stretching across 3500 square metres of floor, these dazzling images have no equal anywhere in the Mediterranean. Every room is different. Perhaps the most surprising images are the so-called bikini girls. Clad in two scanty pieces of fabric, their midriffs and limbs bare, these young women are not bathing beauties, but athletes practising a range of sports, including discus throwing and ball throwing. Despite countless trips to Italy and plenty of time spent visiting Roman ruins, I've never seen anything like them.

The bikini girls are not the highlight, however. That honour goes to the spectacular mosaic known as the Great Hunt. It is a detailed depiction of hunters capturing exotic animals, including a hippo, an elephant, tigers and leopards, all animals typically used in gladiatorial spectacles.

The mosaic is as action-packed as an Avengers movie. We see a boar trussed to a pole, carried by two hunters, and a rhinoceros being dragged out of the swamp. Elsewhere, leopards and tigers savage their prey. A range of creatures are captured and taken aboard a ship, some in crates, while one man carries an ostrich in his arms.

Sicily, Italy: The most beguiling island in the Mediterranean (5)

The identity of the villa's owner remains a mystery. Clearly, he was immensely wealthy. "He may have been an entertainment impresario who exported African animals to Rome, a Roman Bernie Ecclestone," explains our guide, John McNeill. McNeill has a way with words. His day job is at Oxford University's Department of Continuing Education, but he also leads a number of itineraries for Martin Randall Travel, including our 13-day Civilisations of Sicily, and has insights to offer into every remarkable sight that we encounter.

TAKING THE SLOW ROAD

John McNeill's commentaries are one of the great delights of this tour. Another is the relaxed pace. Over 13 days we base ourselves in just three towns: Palermo, Taormina and Siracusa. Not only does that slash the amount of unpacking and repacking involved, it also keeps the touring pace fairly relaxed. And if you are interested in one particular civilisation – say, the ancient Greeks – there is something new to discover at every stop.

Sicily, Italy: The most beguiling island in the Mediterranean (6)

From Palermo, we visit the Greek temples at Segesta and at Selinunte, with its atmospheric coastal location, as well as the World Heritage-listed collection of temples at Agrigento, which date back to the 6th century BC.

At Agrigento, the temples stand in splendid isolation outside the town. Elsewhere on the island, Greek ruins are surrounded by newer settlements that have grown up around them. Take the city of Siracusa, the mightiest of the Greek states' many colonies. At its peak, Siracusa challenged the power of Athens herself. Centuries later, under the Romans, the city was still flourishing; Cicero described it as one of the largest and the fairest cities. Today Siracusa remains one of Sicily's key centres, but ancient theatres and quarries can still be found amid the modern roads and high-rises.

Perhaps Siracusa's most interesting Greek relic, however, is hidden in plain view. Head to the atmospheric Ortygia district, the oldest part of the city, and stand in front of the cathedral. Deciphering this enigmatic building is an exercise in peeling back layers. Look beyond the ornate baroque facade – a late addition – and you discover an ancient masterpiece, a 1000-year-old building dating back to the Norman period. However, the cathedral has further surprises in store.

Sicily, Italy: The most beguiling island in the Mediterranean (7)

"Come around this way," says McNeil, leading us to the Duomo's northern wall, facing the Via Minerva. From this angle, a hidden truth is revealed: the cathedral's Norman walls are supported by massive Doric columns, remains of an ancient Greek temple. That is not the only clever bit of re-purposing engaged in by the Duomo's builders. Inside the cathedral, McNeil points out that the baptismal font is actually a Greek marble krater, or wine jug.

While Siracusa's scenic streets are packed with gems – in addition to Greek ruins and Norman cathedrals, there are Swabian forts, baroque fountains, and even a canvas by Caravaggio – Sicily's most atmospheric city must surely be Palermo. Here more than anywhere else you can follow the intertwining traces left behind by successive civilisations: from the narrow medina-style warren of the old Arab quarter, Kalsa, to the eye-catching Quattro Canti square, an extraordinarily elegant example of baroque city planning.

GARDEN OF EARTHLY DELIGHTS

Among Palermo's most intriguing relics is something wholly unexpected: 800-year-old pleasure gardens laid out in typical Islamic style. Our visit to what remains of La Zisa, a pleasure garden that sits near the heart of today's city centre, is a revelation. The walled hunting park where Sicily's rulers relaxed in summer, holding banquets in tented pavilions, was a tranquil retreat, with a central fountain fed by a series of canals, alive with the aromas of scented plants.

Just one building still stands. Centuries of abandonment have eroded much of its decorative detailing, but what is left gives an idea of how glorious it must once have been. The walls boast glittering mosaics featuring peacocks picking dates from palms and archers taking aim at birds in a tree; the doorways are crowned with exquisite muqarnas, the typically Islamic vaulting shaped like a honeycomb.

The most remarkable thing about these pleasure gardens is that they were not built by the Arabs who ruled Sicily for more than 200 years; rather, they were the work of the Norman invaders who chased them from the island. The Normans, who ruled Sicily from 1091, first as counts and then as kings, are among the most colourful rulers of medieval Europe, and early multiculturalists. Having taken over an island that consisted of a patchwork of cultures – including Muslim Arabs, Byzantine Greeks and Jews – they decided to make the best of what they had. Arab bureaucrats retained their jobs, and Arabic remained one of the languages of the government, along with Latin and Greek.

This was more than just pragmatism at work. The Normans had a genuine appreciation for Islamic aesthetics, as the existence of pleasure gardens such as La Zisa – commissioned by the Norman King William I – suggests. At a time when Islamic and Christian forces were clashing everywhere from Spain to the Holy Land, Sicily's rulers developed a distinctive Arab-Norman aesthetic. This unique visual culture has been recognised by UNESCO, with no fewer than nine separate buildings included in the World Heritage Listing for Arab-Norman Palermo.

Perhaps most astonishingly, the Normans even used Islamic techniques in their own Christian churches. One of the loveliest examples is the Palatine Chapel in the Palazzo Reale, Palermo's ancient power centre.

WHERE EAST MEETS WEST

The Palatine Chapel is a jewel box of a building, one that draws on Byzantine as well as Islamic influence. It seems to glow from within thanks to the shimmering Byzantine mosaics wrapped around the walls. Set against a glittering golden backdrop, the mosaics depict haloed saints and multi-winged angels, as well as Biblical figures from Adam and Eve to Noah on his ark.

By comparison, the chapel's wooden ceiling appears, at first glance, to be almost drab. "Take a closer look," McNeil urges us. When we do, we see each of the star-shaped polygons set into the ceiling is decorated with vividly painted scenes. There are dancing girls, hunting scenes, musicians, gamblers: all images with a decided Middle Eastern influence. Those same influences can be seen in the muqarnas that surround the wooden ceiling.

The Palatine Chapel is just the teaser for what may be Sicily's most dazzling building: the cathedral of Monreale, located 15 kilometres outside Palermo. Built in the 12th century by King William II, the cathedral's mosaics have no equal, according to McNeil: "They are better than those in [Venice's] St Mark's," he says. With more than 6000 square metres of mosaics slathered over almost every surface, it is hard to know where to look first. From the vaulted ceilings, myriad saints and images gaze down; along the walls, beautifully crafted scenes from the Old and New Testament unfold. What is striking is the vividness of the depiction, from a guilty-looking Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to the reluctant animals being coaxed onto a very crowded Ark by Noah and his family.

Don't leave without stopping by the lovely Benedictine cloister right next door. The lush garden is surrounded by an arcaded portico, each of its 228 columns a minor masterpiece. Again, Islamic influences are evident in the elaborate patterns of stripes and stars that decorate many of the columns; the richly carved capitals, featuring plants, animals and Biblical scenes, are just as arresting.

Ute Junker travelled as a guest of Finnair and Martin Randall Travel.

SICILY MUST-SEES

Make sure your Sicily itinerary includes these highlights.

PALERMO

From grand palazzi and elegant squares to warren-like neighbourhoods, from the ornate cathedral to the macabre Capuchin catacombs, Palermo is a city of many moods.

SIRACUSA

​This ancient seaside city is packed with sights, but nothing beats the joy of wandering its pretty streets at random just to see what lies around the next corner.

PIAZZA ARMERINA

​Just outside this small inland town lies an ancient Roman villa that boasts some of Europe's most magnificent mosaic floors.

MONREALE

​Cathedrals don't come any more dazzling than the Norman cathedral at Monreale, which features glittering mosaics and a lovely cloister.

NOTO AND CATANIA

A baroque building frenzy followed the devastating earthquake of 1693, with exquisite towns such as Noto and Catania arising from the ashes.

FEAST ON THESE

From arancini to cannoli, many so-called Italian classics trace their origins back to Sicily. Sink your teeth into some of these tastes of Sicily.

INVOLTINI SICILIANI

Sicilian cuisine features a number of rolls; these veal rolls, filled with onions, tomatoes, raisins and pine nuts, are a favourite.

PASTA ALLA NORMA

A Sicilian classic, this pasta is topped with fried eggplant, tomatoes, basil and ricotta salata.

SFINCIONE

​Just like pizza only different, sfincione has a thicker, focaccia-style base, and is traditionally topped with tomato sauce, onions and caciovallo cheese.

PANE E PANELLE

​This classic street food, chickpea fritters loaded onto a sesame bun, dates back to the days of Arab rule.

SICILIAN WINE

Red wine fans are likely to enjoy the fruity nero d'avola, while white wine drinkers should try the distinctive grillo and Greco varietals. If you enjoy a dessert wine, the honey-coloured passito is exquisite.

TRIP NOTES

MORE

traveller.com.au/italy

visitsicily.info

FLY

Finnair offers connections to more than 100 European destinations and was named Best International Airline – Offline in the prestigious 2017 Australian Federation of Travel Agents National Travel Industry Awards for the fifth consecutive year. See finnair.com/au

STAY

The Hotel Villa Belvedere in Taormina is a charming family hotel set in verdant gardens, quietly situated just a short stroll from the city centre. The best rooms have a sea view. From $US185, villabelvedere.it

TOUR

Martin Randall's 13-day Civilisations of Sicily itinerary covers the entire island and visits Greek, Roman, Norman, Renaissance and baroque sites. Each tour is accompanied by an expert lecturer and a tour manager. From £4470, see martinrandall.com

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FAQs

What is the island of Sicily known for? ›

What is Sicily Most Famous For? Italy's largest island, Sicily offers exceptional beaches, charming villages and towns, as well as an abundance of ancient ruins and archeological sites. aces the warm waters of the Mediterranean. Throughout history, Sicily has been at the crossroad of cultures, landscapes and cuisine.

What is the most beautiful region in Sicily? ›

Taormina is undoubtedly a city with the most beautiful view of Sicily and at the same time one of the most beautiful in Europe. Ruins of the Greco-Roman theater, Etna and the sea in the background. Taormina was admired by writers, poets, and painters. It is well-deserved delight.

What is the best month to visit Sicily? ›

A great time to visit Sicily is between April and October when the temperatures are mild and the chances of rainfall are lower. However, if you're looking for fewer crowds and have plans to visit cities, towns, archaeological sites and museums , then November to March is also a good time to visit.

Who owns Sicily islands? ›

The island became part of Italy in 1860 following the Expedition of the Thousand, a revolt led by Giuseppe Garibaldi during the Italian unification, and a plebiscite. Sicily was given special status as an autonomous region on 15 May 1946, 18 days before the Italian institutional referendum of 1946.

What makes Sicily special? ›

Sicily's volcanic soil and Meditteranean climate make it ideal for growing wine grapes, and the island is home to several wine regions, most notably Mount Etna, Noto, Faro, and Vittoria.

How are Sicilians different from Italians? ›

One of the biggest difference between Sicilians and Italians is that the former is an autonomous region while the latter is comprised of 20 different regions. In other words, Sicily is its own country within a country.

What is the most luxurious part of Sicily? ›

North-Eastern Sicily – Taormina

It's impossible to talk about luxury holidays in Sicily without mentioning the glamorous hilltop town of Taormina, nicknamed the Pearl of the Ionian Sea.

What is the wealthiest part of Sicily? ›

Menfi-Porto Palo

This part of Sicily is one of the richest archaeological areas in all of Italy, and its alternating planes and hills make for a picturesque vista where they slope gently downward to a breath-takingly beautiful white, sandy beach.

Which side of Sicily is better? ›

Overall the east side is marginally better than the west side of Sicily. It is the most beautiful side and easier to get around without a car. It also has more water activities for summer, a wide array of day trips and more family-friendly activities.

How many days in Sicily is enough? ›

Sicily can be experienced in as little as 3 to 5 days if you are short on time and interested in a quick coastal retreat. However, it's much better to spend at least a week discovering this Mediterranean paradise. If you have 7 days you can explore a meaningful section of the island.

Is Sicily cheaper than the rest of Italy? ›

Is Sicily expensive to visit? Generally speaking, no it is not. Sicily can be quite an affordable destination to visit in Italy and you can get a great feel for the culture, cuisine and history without breaking the bank.

Is Sicily an expensive place to visit? ›

As a whole Sicily is inexpensive for a holiday. Hotels are on average €109 per night whereas holiday rentals are around €128 per night. An average meal is around €14 with a drink and a coffee, but around €18 for a meat dish. Public transport is €2 for inner city travel and up to €23 to travel across the country.

What is Sicily known for food? ›

Sicily is home to world-famous foods like the cannoli, artichokes, rustic Italian breads, and all things citrus. There are many lesser-known but equally taste-tantalizing delicacies such as the world-famous and largely sought after Gambero red prawns, and the chocolate made in the town of Modica.

What language is spoken in Sicily? ›

Sicilian, or its dialectal offshoots, is still spoken by many people on a daily basis, though Italian is, of course, the official language common to all.

Why is Sicily not considered part of Italy? ›

In 1848, a revolution took place which separated Sicily from Naples and gave it independence. In 1860 Giuseppe Garibaldi and his Expedition of the Thousand took control of Sicily and the island became a part of the Kingdom of Italy. In 1946, Italy became a republic and Sicily became an autonomous region.

Do they speak English in Sicily? ›

In popular tourist destinations, Italian is spoken (not the Sicilian dialect that I found in other places) and English is often spoken as well.

What celebrities are Sicilian? ›

Italian–American crooner, Frank Sinatra, has his roots in Sicily, while Domenico Dolce (of Dolce & Gabbana) and footballer Mario Balotelli call the island home. Then, there's a fair share of Hollywood legends that call Sicily home too – like Maria Grazia Cucinotta and Frank Capra.

What is the coldest month in Sicily? ›

February

Who are Sicilians genetically related to? ›

Autosomal studies

Genetically, Sicilians cluster the closest to Southern Italians, and especially to Calabrians.

What are the physical characteristics of Sicilian people? ›

You would find that there are many Sicilians with brown hair and dark eyes but a significant number having red or blondish hair and blue eyes - albeit rather few with extremely light blonde locks. Fashion is fickle and highly individualistic, even among young people.

Why did so many Sicilians leave Italy? ›

Italian emigration was fueled by dire poverty. Life in Southern Italy, including the islands of Sicily and Sardinia, offered landless peasants little more than hardship, exploitation, and violence. Even the soil was poor, yielding little, while malnutrition and disease were widespread.

Where do celebrities stay in Sicily? ›

On the South West coast of Italy is a luxury hotel that is known for accommodating some of the biggest names from Hollywood, all who come for some R&R from the busy life of Tinseltown - it's called the Verdura Resort.

Why is Sicily so beautiful? ›

A superb all year round climate with an emphasis on everything that is Italian helps make Sicily a country of distinctive fascination and intrigue. This is an island where luminous volcanoes lit the night sky with a backdrop of mountain ranges and a magnificent coastline.

Where do most American expats live in Sicily? ›

Trapani. The towns and villages of Trapani are popular locations for expats buying property in Sicily. Trapani sits on the far west of Sicily. The city itself is a beautiful, ancient town, full of grand old buildings in the local honey-coloured stone.

Is Sicily a good place for Americans to retire? ›

There are several benefits to living in Sicily, whether you are a digital nomad, a remote worker, or looking for a place with a beautiful climate all year to spend your best retirement years.

What is the White city in Sicily? ›

Ostuni is commonly referred to as "the White Town" (La Città Bianca in Italian) for its white walls and its typically white-painted architecture.

What city in Sicily has the best food? ›

Palermo. Palermo is the commercial and culinary capital of Sicily. The traditional cuisine of Palermo adheres to the local and fresh ingredients of the Mediterranean diet, utilizing fruits, vegetables, breads, cereals, potatoes, and legumes, pork, sheep, beef, cheeses, and olive oil.

What is the safest town in Sicily? ›

Ragusa can be recommended as a first-come on the list of the safest cities in Sicily. Milazzo, Messina, Siracusa and Noto are famous destinations that a solo female traveler could visit without trouble.

Is Catania or Palermo better? ›

In general, Palermo has more tourist attractions and markets to explore as well as being a better base for exploring Western Sicily. Catania has fewer visitors and is a better base for visiting Etna and Eastern Sicily.

Do you need a car in Sicily? ›

Should You Rent a Car in Sicily? Yes – Renting a car in Sicily is the best way to see all the island has to offer. Having your own car on the island gives you freedom, flexibility, and access to many destinations that are difficult (or impossible) to visit with public transport.

Can you do Sicily without a car? ›

If you plan on visiting Sicily, you should prepare to stay here for at least a week to do justice to its attractions. Although exploring it via car is one of the most convenient options, it is not the only one. Thanks to multiple alternate options available, like buses and trains, you can visit Sicily without a car.

Is driving in Sicily difficult? ›

Driving in Sicily is a complicated affair. It requires special driving skills and nerves of steel! One thing to keep in mind is that driving in big cities like Palermo, or Catania is worse than anywhere else in Sicily. But the good news is that you won't need a car in either of these cities.

Is Amalfi Coast or Sicily better? ›

Whilst the Amalfi Coast's history is fascinating, and there are plenty of remains that show traces of past civilizations, Sicily is the better choice if you're a fan of history and want to see a huge range of ancient monuments, archaeological sites and ruins.

Is Sicily cheaper than Amalfi? ›

Is Sicily cheaper than the Amalfi Coast? On average, Sicily is cheaper than the Amalfi Coast. Expect to spend less on hotels and meals in Sicily. However, you may choose to rent a car in Sicily, which will add to the overall cost of the trip.

What time of year is cheapest to fly to Sicily? ›

Top tips for finding cheap flights to Sicily

High season is considered to be January, November and December. The cheapest month to fly from the United States is February. Enter your preferred departure airport and travel dates into the search form above to unlock the latest Sicily flight deals.

Can you use credit cards in Sicily? ›

Important note: Make sure that the PINs on your bank cards and credit cards will work in Sicily. You'll need a four-digit code (six digits won't work). Credit and debit cards are a safe way to carry money. They generally offer relatively good exchange rates.

How much is an average meal in Sicily? ›

Average Daily Costs

While meal prices in Sicily can vary, the average cost of food in Sicily is €33 per day. Based on the spending habits of previous travelers, when dining out an average meal in Sicily should cost around €13 per person. Breakfast prices are usually a little cheaper than lunch or dinner.

Where do you fly into for Sicily? ›

The most popular airport to fly into is Catania–Fontanarossa (CTA), which is located just outside the city of Catania in eastern Sicily, near Mount Etna. British Airways, Norwegian Airlines and TUI Airways fly here from London Gatwick (LGW) in summer, and easyJet covers the route year-round.

What is a Sicilian breakfast? ›

Of course hotels and bed and breakfasts across Sicily provide a feast for breakfast, mostly consisting of hams, salamis, cheeses, cornetti, pastries, cakes and fresh fruit.

How do you say hello in Sicilian? ›

Greetings
  1. Ciau.
  2. Salutamu.
  3. Assa binidica.
  4. Sabbinidica.
Apr 9, 2023

Is Sicilian closer to Spanish or Italian? ›

Is Sicilian Language different from Italian? Yes, it is, just like the other romance languages (French, Spanish, or Portuguese) are different from Italian. The Sicilian grammar shares the same fundamentals as the other Latin language and, in my opinion, has a closer relation to Spanish grammar.

What is a Sicilian last name? ›

The most common surnames in Sicily are:
  • over 5000: Russo;
  • 3,000-4,000: Caruso, Lombardo, Marino, Messina, Rizzo;
  • 2,000-3,000: Amato, Arena, Costa, Grasso, Greco, Romano, Parisi, Puglisi, La Rosa, Vitale;
  • 1,500-2,000: Bruno, Catalano, Pappalardo, Randazzo.
  • See also Wikipedia's page.

Is Sicily close to Italy or Africa? ›

Sicily, Italian Sicilia, island, southern Italy, the largest and one of the most densely populated islands in the Mediterranean Sea. Together with the Egadi, Lipari, Pelagie, and Panteleria islands, Sicily forms an autonomous region of Italy. It lies about 100 miles (160 km) northeast of Tunisia (northern Africa).

Why are Sicilians so different from other Italians? ›

While both Italy and Sicily have Italian as their official language, Sicilians have their own regional dialect that includes influences from Greek, Arabic, Norman French, and Spanish. This is due to Sicily's unique history and position as a crossroads between Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

Why is Sicilian so different from Italian? ›

The Sicilian language has been shaped by many years of foreign influence, occupation, and conquest. Unlike Italian, which is almost entirely Latin based, Sicilian has elements of Greek, Arabic, French, Catalan, and Spanish.

Why are all mobsters from Sicily? ›

The Mafia's genesis began in the 19th century as the product of Sicily's transition from feudalism to capitalism as well as its unification with mainland Italy. Under feudalism, the nobility owned most of the land and enforced the law through their private armies and manorial courts.

What is Sicily most popular food? ›

Arguably Sicily's most famous culinary export, caponata is now seen on menus across Europe. But it's the perfect example of external influences over the island's cuisine. The recipe can change from household to household, but it must always contain aubergines, pine nuts, raisins and plenty of vinegar.

What is the national dish of Sicily? ›

Pasta con le Sarde (pasta with sardines) is the national dish of Sicily, in which the tradition of Italian pasta meets the Mediterranean island's seafood-focused cuisine.

What is one fact about Sicily? ›

One of the top Sicilian facts is that it is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. That is because Sicily has a land area of more than 9,900 square miles, also making it the largest island in Italy. There are more than five million people living in Sicily.

What language do they speak in Sicily? ›

Sicilian, or its dialectal offshoots, is still spoken by many people on a daily basis, though Italian is, of course, the official language common to all.

What do they drink in Sicily? ›

What to drink in Sicily? 10 Most Popular Sicilian Alcoholic Beverages
  • Wine Variety. Grillo. Sicily. ...
  • Wine Variety. Carricante. ...
  • Wine Appellation. Passito di Pantelleria. ...
  • Wine Variety. Frappato. ...
  • Wine Variety. Muscat of Alexandria (Zibibbo) ...
  • Wine Variety. Inzolia. ...
  • Wine Variety. Nerello Mascalese. ...
  • Wine Variety. Catarratto.
Dec 28, 2022

Do Sicilians eat spaghetti with a fork and spoon? ›

Sicilians are very exact about how long to cook their beloved noodles. ONLY A FORK! Forget the Italian chain restaurants that think it's “authentic” to provide a spoon with your order of spaghetti. Using a spoon to help guide the pasta strands is considered unrefined or backwards, akin to eating peas with a knife.

What fish is Sicily known for? ›

Fishing in Sicily is amazing! Here we have many kind of fish such as tuna, Amberjack, Sea bass, Barracuda, Bluefish, Mediterranean Snapper, Swordfish, Grouper and many others. From shore the best is Bluefin Tuna, here called ”Tonno Rosso”, but also a Sea Bass or a big Barracuda fight can give a great shot of adrenalin!

What are 3 interesting facts about Sicily? ›

But most people in Sicily regularly speak in their own dialect: there are around 9 dialects of Sicilian. There are very few plains in Sicily, and they make for only 14% of the island. Most of the island is covered with hills which make for 62% of Sicily; the rest of the island is made of mountains (24%).

Who owned Sicily before Italy? ›

Greek period

Sicily began to be colonised by Greeks in the 8th century BC. Initially, this was restricted to the eastern and southern parts of the island. The most important colony was established at Syracuse in 734 BC.

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