Sicily is the largest and one of the most densely populated islands in the Mediterranean Sea. Together with the Egadi, Lipari, Pelagie, and Pantelleria islands, Sicily forms an autonomous region of Italy. It lies about 160 km northeast of Tunisia.
The island is separated from the mainland by the Strait of Messina. The capital of Sicily is Palermo.
Sicily was inhabited already 10,000 years ago. Its strategic location at the centre of the Mediterranean has made the island a crossroads of history, a pawn of conquest and a melting pot for different ethnic groups whose warriors or merchants sought its shores.
At the coming of the Greeks, three peoples occupied Sicily: the Siculi, or Sicels, who gave their name to the island, the Sicani and the Elymians. We know that the Siculi spoke an Indo-European language; but there are no remains of the languages the other peoples spoke.
In the 3rd century BC the island became a Roman province. The Byzantine general Belisarius occupied Sicily in AD535, at the beginning of hostilities with the Ostrogoths in Italy, and after a short time Sicily fell under Byzantine rule. In 965 the island fell to Arab conquest from North Africa, in 1060 to Normans, who progressively Latinized the island. In the 12th and 13th centuries the island was a part of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (or Naples), and in the 18th century the island was ruled by the Bourbons. During the 19th century Sicily was an important centre of revolutionary movements: in 1860, as a result of Giuseppe Garibaldi’s revolt, it was liberated from the Bourbons and in the following year it was incorporated into the united kingdom of Italy. In 1947, after the birth of the Republic of Italy, Sicily was given special status as an autonomous region.
Sicily has a rich culture, in literature some of the most important figures among writers and poets are Luigi Pirandello (Nobel Prize for literature in 1934), Salvatore Quasimodo (Nobel Prize for literature in 1959), Giovanni Verga (the father of the Italian Verismo), Luigi Capuana, Federico de Roberto, Leonardo Sciascia, VitalianoBrancati, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, ElioVittorini and Andrea Camilleri (world famous for his novels and short stories with the Inspector Salvo Montalbano).
Sicily is also famous for its architecture as it is home of an incredible selection of authentic masterpieces, which date from ancient Greek and Roman times to Baroque cathedrals and monasteries. Historic and archaeological sights, such as the Val di Noto, the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, Selinunte and the Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica attract visitors from all over the world. As a matter of fact, Sicily can boast five of the largest archaeological UNESCO sites.
As far as music is considered, Palermo hosts the Teatro Massimo which is the largest opera house in Italy and the third largest in Europe. The Teatro Massimo Belliniin Catania is considered one of the best European opera houses for its acoustics.
Sicilian recipes are the perfect blend of several cultures and today Sicily has 11 Michelin-starred restaurants. And what’s the best -in Sicily you can always enjoy “slow food km 0” strolling around the narrow medieval streets and buying local food from the street markets.
The tourist season peaks in summer, although people visit Sicily all year round. Mount Etna, the excellent Blue Flag-rated beaches, UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the major cities such as Palermo, Catania, Syracuse and Ragusa are international visitors’ favourite destinations, but also the old town of Taormina and the seaside resort of Giardini Naxos draw tourists from throughout the world. The Aeolian Islands, Erice, Cefalù, Agrigento, the Pelagie Islands and Capo d’Orlando definitely belong to the top places to visit in Sicily.