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HISTORY OF SICILY
Sicily has been inhabited since the Paleolithic and Mesolithic by the Sicani from the Iberian peninsula (8th century BC.), Elimians (the Trojan exiles) who came from Libya and settled in the area between Erice and Segesta and the Siculi (Sicels), from the north, which settled in the eastern part of the island.
From 735 BC the first Greek settlers arrived in Sicily and caused the retreat of the Phoenicians, who had placed their base in western side of the island, between Mozia and Cape Lilibeo.
In 265 BC the Romans occupied Messina. By the end of the second Punic War (212 BC) and for the next 6 centuries all of Sicily was in Roman hands and was a province of the Roman Empire. It was a rural backwater, important chiefly for its grain fields which were a mainstay of the food supply of the city of Rome.
By the end of the Gothic-Byzantine war (552) Sicily became part of the Eastern Roman Empire. In 827 the Arabs invaded the island and it took over a century to complete the conquest (in 902 with the fall of Taormina). The Muslim conquest was the golden age for Sicily's art and culture and also a period of peace. The Arab ruled western Sicily; in the rest of the island (Val di Noto and Val Demone) Greek and Latin civilization continued. In 831 Palermo became the capital of the Emirate. The Norman conquest of the island began in 1061, when Roger de Hauteville was crowned King of Apulia, Calabria and Sicily.
Henry VI, husband of Constance of Hauteville, had as his successor Frederick II, who was crowned by the Pope in 1212 and retained the rights to the throne of the family of Swabia.
In 1266 the heir to the throne Manfred was defeated by Charles of Anjou and Sicily was back in the hands of the barons (Chiaramonte and Ventimiglia ruled until the 16th century). That was a period of deep depression.
In 1415 the Spanish occupied Sicily: their rule was firm despite numerous revolts in the main centres.
In 1656 Sicily suffered a ferocious outbreak of the Black Death, followed by a terrible earthquake in the east side in 1693.
In 1713, with the Treaty of Utrecht, Sicily passed to the House of Savoy.
In 1812, Ferdinand IV of Bourbon, King of Naples, takes refuge in Sicily, unifying the two states in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies; he abolished the feudal privileges.
1848 is the year of the Sicilian Revolution that locked the island under the control of a reactionary government.
In 1860 Giuseppe Garibaldi landed at Marsala and defeats the Bourbon troops. Social tensions lead to the birth of the Fasci Siciliani Movement which was repressed in 1894 by Francesco Crispi, then head of the Italian government. That is a period of a deep crisis in the agricultural economy and the beginning of a large-scale migration of Sicilians away from the island, mostly to the Americas.
Sicily became an autonomous region in 1947 with his own parliament and elected President.
Thanks to its unique cultural, artistic and archaeological heritage and its splendid natural beauties, the Sicilian economy is now based on tourism, and the island attracts every year a growing number of foreign tourists.
This is just a short Sicily Travel Guide...If you are interested in Sicilian Heritage (History, Culture and Sicilian Archaeology) and you want to experience some guided Sicily Walking Tours and Guided City Tours in the best Sicilian towns and archaeological sites, please visit the page Sicily Walking Tours.
Sicily has a roughly triangular shape, which earned it the name of Trinacria (in Greek “three promontories”).
Sicily is in the middle of Mediterranean Sea and it is the largest of its islands (the total area is 25.460 square kilometers).
Sicilian small surrounding islands are: Ustica and the Aeolian Islands (Alicudi, Filicudi, Salina, Lipari, Vulcano, Panarea and Stromboli) in the Tyrrenian Sea north of Sicily, the Aegadin Islands (Favignana, Levanzo e Marettimo) in the west, Pantelleria and Pelagie Islands (Linosa e Lampedusa) in the south.
Total Sicilian coast lenght is estimated at 1000 miles/1600 km. Northern coastline is mostly rocky, southern coastline is sandy.
Sicily's interior offers a wide variety of landscapes: mountains, hills and two fertile large plains around Catania and Palermo (“Conca d'Oro” that means Golden Basin).
Mount Etna (10900ft/3348 meters) is the largest and the tallest active volcano in Europe. It is also the tallest mountain in Sicily.
The most important mountain chains are located in the north side: Madonie, Nebrodi and Peloritani. Southern Sicily is hilly.
Sicily climate is a typical Mediterranean climate with dry and warm summers and mild, wet winters.
August tends to be the hottest month of the year (average maximum temperature is 77°F/26°C). Sicily in winter is never so cold: February is the coldest month of the year (average minimum temperature: 50°F/ 10°C).
Sicily in October and in May is amazing: the water is warm enough for swimming and the cities are not so hot for a walking tour! The rainy season is from November to March.
Sicily became an autonomous region in 1947 with his own parliament and elected President. Palermo is the capital (population: 700.000). Total population is 5,000.000.
Overall on the island there are fifteen cities and towns which have a population above 50,000 people.
Italian is the official language but today in Sicily most people speak also the Sicilian dialect.
The Sicilian language was an early influence in the development of the first Italian standard during the 13rd century.
TRANSPORT: HOW TO GET TO SICILY, SICILIAN AIRPORTS, CONNECTIONS TO MINOR ISLES, ROADS AND HIGHWAYS IN SICILY
Sicily is a safe and exclusive destination just few hours by plane from almost anywhere in Europe.
Sicily has got 6 airports. 4 of them are international airports and connect Sicily to many countries by direct flights: Palermo Falcone e Borsellino airport (PMO), Catania Fontanarossa airport (CYA), Trapani Vincenzo Florio - Birgi airport (TPS), Comiso airport (CIY); they are are well served by international, national and low cost airlines. Lampedusa Island (LMP) and Pantelleria Island (PNL) are connected by direct flights to Rome, Milano and Palermo.
A direct flight connects Istanbul to Catania (Istanbul hub has an important transit role between Europe, the Orient and Asia. A direct flight connects New York City to Palermo and more than 20 direct flights from Rome to Sicily are available every day (flight time: about 55 minutes).
Ports connecting to the mainlands are Palermo, Trapani, Messina and Catania.
The port of Palermo serves Ustica Island and Sardinia, Milazzo serves the Aeolian Islands, Trapani serves Tunisia, the Aegadian Islands and Pantelleria, Porto Empedocle serves the Pelagie Islands (Lampedusa and Linosa).
Trenitalia (Italian train company) and the bus companies connect Sicily and the rest of Italy (trains and buses leave from the main Sicilian cities).
The most prominent Sicilian roads are the motorways running through the northern and the eastern section of the island: A19 Palermo-Catania, A20 Palermo-Messina, A18 Messina-Catania-Siracusa, A29 Palermo-Trapani-Mazara del Vallo.
Passport or identity card in the case of nationals of EU Member States.
MONEY AND TIPPING
The euro is Italy’s currency. If there is no service charge, the customer should consider leaving a 10% tip, but this is not obligatory.
Christian Roman Catholicism is the most predominant religious denomination in Sicily.
THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN SICILY AND THE BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN SICILY
The visitor who decides to deepen his knowledge of Sicily is immediately amazed by the wide variety of resources that the island offers. Sicily is the largest Italian region, a “little continent” rich in art, culture, archaeology, history (a list of 20 Unesco World Heritage Sites such as Palermo, Monreale, Syracuse, Ragusa, Catania, Agrigento and the Valley of the Temples), breathtaking sceneries, 4 National Parks (such as Nebrodi and Madonie National Park), 77 Nature Reserves (such as the Zingaro Nature Reserve from Scopello to San Vito lo Capo), 3 active volcanoes (Mt. Etna volcano, Stromboli and Vulcano Island), amazing minor isles and archipelagos (Lampedusa, Pantelleria, Ustica, the Aeolian Islands and the Aegadian Islands), crystal clear waters and a stunning coastline with coves, caves and pristine beaches (in Sicily you can find the best beaches in Italy), quiet medieval towns (such as Erice, Cefalù and Taormina), refined cuisine, great wines, important literary traditions, myths and legends.
If you want to customize your Sicily Holiday and experience a great Sicily Private Tour by private car, minivan or minibus with personal drivers, private tour guides and couriers, please visit the interactive page that we have created for you. You can choose the best things to do in Sicily by selecting some special tailored solutions. You will create your own Customized Sicily Private Tours.
SICILIAN FOOD: WHAT TO EAT IN SICILY
Sicily boasts a rich culinary tradition that is the result of many foreign cultures alternating in the island during its 2700 years of history. This cuisine has been preserved by expert homemakers who still use high quality raw materials. Many of them are now part of the "Sicily Slow Food Presidia"*, a list of excellent Sicilian foods, which are the "added value" of many recipes.
There's something for everyone: “pasta c'anciova" and “pasta with sardines and wild fennel” (Palermo housewives has been cooking both dishes for centuries), the typical Trapanese “Cous cous”, the “Caponata” made of eggplants, “pasta al forno”, pasta with sea urchins, “Beccafico sardines", “Walled octopus", the sausage of Caccamo, the black pig of Nebrodi, the "stoccu” of Messina, local fried fish, Palermo typical street food such as “arancine”, “calzoni”, "panelle e crocchè" and desserts including “cassate”, “sfinci“, “cannoli”, and "setteveli cakes".
*List of foods belonging to Sicily Slow Food Presidia: red garlic of Nubìa, "masculine anchovies", Ragusa donkey, Salina capers, Girgentana goat, Menfi artichoke, "Trunzo cabbage of Aci", Giarratana onion, "cuddridedda" of Delia (type of bread), Ustica lentils, "badda bean" of Polizzi Generosa, "cosaruciaru bean" of Scicli, tonka of Leonforte, strawberry of Sciacca and Ribera, “interdonato lemon” of the Ionian coast, Maiorchino (cheese), mandarin of Ciaculli, almonds of Noto, Madonie manna, "porceddu melon" of Alcamo, “olive minuta”, bread of Lentini, “black bread” of Castelvetrano, peaches of Leonforte, "piacentinu ennese” (cheese), pistachio of Bronte, “tomato siccagno” of Belice Valley, provola of Nebrodi and Madonie (cheese), cow Cinisara, sea salt of Trapani, “black pig” of Nebrodi, Monreale white plums, Vastedda del Belice (cheese).
If you are interested in Sicilian Cuisine and you want to attend a Cooking Class, a Show Cooking or customize a Sicily Cooking Tour, please visit the page Sicilian Cooking Classes.
SICILIAN WINE: WHAT TO DRINK IN SICILY
The most interesting cultivation areas involved in high quality wine production are essentially five: the territory between Palermo and Trapani, which gives some autochthon grape varieties such as Frappato, Inzolia, Cataratto, Grecanico and Grillo, the slopes of Mt. Etna, famous for Nerello Mascalese, the area between Siracusa and Ragusa, famous for Nero d'Avola and Cerasuolo, the smaller islands (first of all Aeolian and Pantelleria) with Malvasia, Zibibbo and Passito and last but not least the territory of Marsala, world famous for the cultivation of namesake fortified wine. Beside these historically Sicilian grape varieties, wine producers have recently planted non-native grapes such as Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Cabernet, Chardonnay, Muller Thurgau and more, that make excellent wine too.
If you are interested in Sicilian Wine and you want to visit a Sicilian Winery, taste the best Sicilian wines or customize a Sicily Wine Tour, please visit the page Sicily Wineries Tours.
SICILY SHOPPING: WHAT TO BUY IN SICILY
Sicilian handicraft is various and refined: ceramics from Caltagirone and Santo Stefano di Camastra have an important tradition and a great style.
Other items are handmade rugs and needleworks, typical carts and puppets, almond pastry Marzipan fruits or Martorana.
If you want to know Sicily's lesser known aspects (living, eating, and doing the things Sicilian people do), please visit the page Authentic Sicilian Experience.
Best things to do in Sicily
Sicilian Government – Department of Sicilian Culture
Sicilian Government - Museums and Archaeological Parks
Nightlife in Palermo and Sicilia
Connections to small islands (Pantelleria, Ustica, Aegadian, Aeolian and Pelagie Islands): SIREMAR
Connections to small islands (Pantelleria, Ustica, Aegadian, Aeolian and Pelagie Islands): USTICALINES
Trenitalia (Trains Italian Company)
Health Emergency 118
Fire Department 115
Coast Guard 1530
Ambient Emergency (State Forestry Service) 1515.
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