Sicily (Italian: Sicilia) is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. It constitutes an autonomous Region of Italy, along with surrounding minor islands, officially referred to as Regione Siciliana
Sicily is located in the central Mediterranean Sea, south of the Italian Peninsula, from which it is separated by the narrow Strait of Messina. Its most prominent landmark is Mount Etna, the tallest active volcano in Europe, currently 3,329 m (10,922 ft) high, and one of the most active in the world. The island has a typical Mediterranean climate.
The earliest archaeological evidence of human activity on the island dates from as early as 12,000 BC. By around 750 BC, Sicily had three Phoenician and a dozen Greek colonies and, for the next 600 years, it was the site of the Sicilian Wars and the Punic Wars, which ended with the Roman Republic's destruction of Carthage at the battle of Carthage (c. 149 BC).
Sicily frequently changed hands after the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century AD, and it was ruled during the early Middle Ages by the Vandals, Ostrogoths, Byzantine Empire, and the Emirate of Sicily. The Norman conquest of southern Italy led to the creation of the Kingdom of Sicily, which was subsequently ruled by the Hohenstaufen, the Capetian House of Anjou, Spain, the House of Habsburg, and then finally unified under the House of Bourbon with the Kingdom of Naples as the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.
It 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 after the Italian constitional referendum of 1946.
Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature, cuisine, and architecture. It is also home to important archaeological and ancient sites, such as the Necropolis of Pantalica, the Valley of the Temples, and Selinunte.
Sicily's sunny, dry climate, scenery, cuisine, history and architecture attract many tourists from mainland Italy and abroad. The tourist season peaks in the summer months, although people visit the island all year round. Mount Etna, the beaches, the archeological sites, and major cities such as Palermo, Catania, Syracuse and Ragusa are the favourite tourist destinations, but the old town of Taormina and the neighbouring seaside resort of Giardini Naxos draw visitors from all over the world, as do the Aeolian Islands, Erice, Cefalù, Agrigento, the Pelagie Islands and Capo d'Orlando. The last features some of the best-preserved temples of the ancient Greek period. Many Mediterranean cruise ships stop in Sicily, and many wine tourists also visit the island.
There are seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites on Sicily. By the order of inscription:
Valle dei Templi (1997) is one of the most outstanding examples of Greater Greece art and architecture, and is one of the main attractions of Sicily as well as a national monument of Italy. The site is located in Agrigento.
Villa Romana del Casale (1997) is a Roman villa built in the first quarter of the 4th century and located about 3 km (2 mi) outside the town of Piazza Armerina. It contains the richest, largest and most complex collection of Roman mosaics in the world.
Aeolian Islands (2000) are a volcanic archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea, named after the demigod of the winds Aeolus. The Aeolian Islands are a popular tourist destination in the summer, and attract up to 200,000 visitors annually.
Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto (2002) "represent the culmination and final flowering of Baroque art in Europe".It includes several towns: Caltagirone, Militello in Val di Catania, Catania, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo Acreide, Ragusa and Scicli.
Cathedral of San Giorgio in Modica
Necropolis of Pantalica (2005) is a large necropolis in Sicily with over 5,000 tombs dating from the 13th to the 7th centuries BC. Syracuse is notable for its rich Greek history, culture, amphitheatres and architecture. They are situated in south-eastern Sicily.
Mount Etna (2013) is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and is in an almost constant state of activity and generated myths, legends and naturalistic observation from Greek, Celts and Roman classic and medieval times.
Arab-Norman Palermo and the cathedral churches of Cefalù and Monreale; includes a series of nine civil and religious structures dating from the era of the Norman kingdom of Sicily (1130–1194)
Taormina and Isola Bella;
Motya and Libeo Island: The Phoenician-Punic Civilisation in Italy;
Scala dei Turchi.
Because many different cultures settled, dominated or invaded the island, Sicily has a huge variety of archeological sites. Also, some of the most notable and best preserved temples and other structures of the Greek world are located in Sicily.. Here is a short list of the major archeological sites:
Sicels/Sicans/Elymians: Segesta, Eryx, Cava Ispica, Thapsos, Pantalica.
Greeks: Syracuse, Agrigento, Selinunte, Gela, Kamarina, Himera, Megara Hyblaea, Naxos, Heraclea Minoa,
Phoenicians: Motya, Soluntum, Marsala.
Romans: Piazza Armerina, Centuripe, Taormina.
Arabs: Palermo, Mazara del Vallo.
The excavation and restoration of one of Sicily's best known archeological sites, the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, was at the direction of the archaeologist Domenico Antonio Lo Faso Pietrasanta, Fifth Duke of Serradifalco, known in archeological circles simply as "Serradifalco". He also oversaw the restoration of ancient sites at Segesta, Selinunte, Siracusa and Taormina.
In Sicily there are hundreds of castles, the most relevant are:
Castello Ursino in Catania
Zisa Castle in Palermo.
Castello di Donnafugata near Ragusa
Province Castles Commune
Caltanisetta Castello Manfredonico Mussomeli
U Cannuni Mazzarino
Castelluccio di Gela Gela
Catania Castello Ursino Catania
Castello Normanno Adrano
Castello Normanno Paternò
Castello di Aci Aci Castello
Messina Forte dei Centri Messina
Castello di Milazzo Milazzo
Castello di Sant'Alessio Siculo Sant'Alessio Siculo
Castello di Pentefur Savoca
Castello di Schisò Giardini Naxos
Palermo Zisa, Palermo Palermo
Castello di Caccamo Caccamo
Castello di Carini Carini
Castello dei Ventimiglia Castelbuono
Ragusa Castello di Donnafugata Ragusa
Torre Cabrera Pozzallo
Castello Dei Conti Modica
Syracuse Castello Maniace Syracuse
Trapani Castello di Venere Erice
To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is to not have seen Italy at all, for Sicily is the clue to everything.
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 Archimedes, 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.
Art and architecture
Terracotta ceramics from the island are well known, the art of ceramics on Sicily goes back to the original ancient peoples named the Sicanians, it was then perfected during the period of Greek colonisation and is still prominent and distinct to this day. Nowadays, Caltagirone is one of the most important centres in Sicily for the artistic production of ceramics and terra-cotta sculptures. Famous painters include Renaissance artist Antonello da Messina, Renato Guttuso and Greek born Giorgio de Chirico who is commonly dubbed the "father of Surrealist art" and founder of the metaphysical art movement. The most noted architects are Filippo Juvarra (one of the most important figures of the Italian Baroque) and Ernesto Basile.
The Sicilian Baroque has a unique architectural identity. Noto, Caltagirone, Catania, Ragusa, Modica, Scicli and particularly Acireale contain some of Italy's best examples of Baroque architecture, carved in the local red sandstone. Noto provides one of the best examples of the Baroque architecture brought to Sicily.
The Baroque style in Sicily was largely confined to buildings erected by the church, and palazzi built as private residences for the Sicilian aristocracy. The earliest examples of this style in Sicily lacked individuality and were typically heavy-handed pastiches of buildings seen by Sicilian visitors to Rome, Florence, and Naples. However, even at this early stage, provincial architects had begun to incorporate certain vernacular features of Sicily's older architecture. By the middle of the 18th century, when Sicily's Baroque architecture was noticeably different from that of the mainland, it typically included at least two or three of the following features, coupled with a unique freedom of design that is more difficult to characterise in words.