Sicily

For us Sicily is simply a little paradise.

A place you will never forget and that will always stay deep in your sweetest memories...

With our colorful history, so vivid still in our everyday life; with our carefree happiness, we love life and little things that make it wonderful; with our food and wines, so rich and captivating; with our living volcano, source of inspiration of countless poets and writers; with our beaches and picturesque towns, the heart of our island; with our traditions, that make us who we are...

They say one cries twice in the Sicily: when one arrives and when one has to leave...

What comes to your mind when you think about Sicily? Warmth, Joy and sun.

These are the main features of this wonderful island. The warmth of the locals which are very hospitable and make you smile with their spontaneity and pronounced gestures speech, they know how to be loved by everyone. Joy during the local festivals in the various municipalities of Sicily, which are infinite, and are one of the major attractions for travelers and those who like to have fun. And the sun, the warm sunshine even in winter, the many well-visited beaches during summer, and the pleasant mild climate that makes it possible to make excursions and trips even in winter.

To fully understand Sicily's history one must first know the land and its people.

Sicily was inhabited 10,000 years ago. Its strategic location at the center of the Mediterranean has made the island a crossroads of history, a pawn of conquest and empire, and a melting pot for a dozen or more ethnic groups whose warriors or merchants sought its shores, thus one of the world's most desirable patches of land.

Its central location and natural resources ensured that it has been considered a crucial strategic location due in large part to its importance for Mediterranean trade routes,especially with Syracuse and Palermo as the greatest and most beautiful cities of the Hellenic World and of the Middle Ages.

At the coming of the Greeks, three peoples occupied Sicily: in the east the Siculi, or Sicels, who gave their name to the island but were reputed to be latecomers from Italy; to the west of the Gelas River, the Sicani (who may have invented the wheel); and in the extreme west the Elymians, a people to whom a Trojan origin was assigned, with their chief centers at Segesta and at Eryx (Erice). The Siculi spoke an Indo-European language; there are no remains of the languages of the other peoples. There were also Phoenician settlements on the island. The Greeks settled Sicilian towns between the 8th and 6th centuries bc starting from Giardini Naxos. The mountainous center remained in the hands of Siculi and Sicani, who were increasingly Hellenized in ideas and material culture.

The history of Sicily has always been influenced by numerous ethnic groups.

Sicily has sometimes been controlled by external powers, for example by the Romans, Vandals and Ostrogoths, Angevins (French), Byzantines and Islamics, Austrians but also experienced important periods of independence, like under the Siceliotes of Greek origin and later as the autonomous Emirate then Kingdom of Sicily. The Kingdom of Sicily was founded in 1130 by Roger II, belonging to the Siculo-Norman family of Hauteville. During this period, Sicily was prosperous and politically powerful, becoming one of the wealthiest states in all of Europe. As a result of the dynastic succession, then, the Kingdom passed into the hands of the Hohenstaufen. At the end of the 13th century, with the War of the Sicilian Vespers between the crowns of Anjou and Aragon, the island passed to the latter. In the following centuries turmoil of rebellions and revolution continued until the Spanish Bourbons united Sicily with Naples in 1734 as the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, preserving however its substantial independence until 1816.

Little more than a century after the birth of the Kingdom, on 11 May 1860, Giuseppe Garibaldi planned his daring and dramatic unification of Italy from Marsala. Reeling from this catalogue of colonizers, Sicilians struggled in poverty-stricken conditions. Unified with Italy, but no better off, nearly one million men and women emigrated to the USA between 1871 and 1914 before the outbreak of WWI.

At times, the island has been at the heart of great civilizations, at other times it has been nothing more than a colonial backwater. Its fortunes have often waxed and waned depending on events out of its control, in earlier times a magnet for immigrants, in later times a land of emigrants. Sicily is both the largest region of the modern state of Italy and the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Today, its architectural and artistic remains bear witness to its past grandeur, in the great series of Greek temples, or the Roman mosaics at Piazza Armerina. Although today part of the Republic of Italy, it has its own distinct culture.

Check these websites for more info and credits: Wikipedia, BestofSicily, Britannica.com, Lonelyplanet, eventproduzioni

Accustomed for centuries to the presence of innumerable foreign languages and cultures, Sicilians have absorbed such a myriad of uniquely blended traits, that writer Gesualdo Bufalino believed Sicilians suffered from an "excess of identity", whose core is the extravagant and funny belief that the world turns around Sicilian culture.

It is difficult to describe Sicilian culture in brief, because there are huge differences between modern-minded city dwellers and traditionally conservative countryside people. Still, modern attitudes have begun to erode conservative traditions. In the larger university cities such as Palermo, Catania, Syracuse and Messina you will find a vibrant youth culture and most middle-class families enjoy a liberal lifestyle. Improvements in educational opportunities and changing attitudes have brought more and more women to search for a successful career while trying to play all modern roles of workers, mothers and lovers.

Nevertheless, family and respectability are still a value for Sicilian people.

Credits and more info sicilianplaces.co.uk

Sicily's strong cultural traditions, mythology and legends passed through by the Greeks can also be seen in the development of Italian lyrical poetry. From the myth of Aci and Galatea or that of the source of the Aretusa nymph, this literary vocation was continued in the works of modern writers such as Giovanni Verga, Luigi Pirandello, Quasimodo and Leonardo Sciascia. Several examples of folk art such as embroidery, painting, and puppetry and popular religious festivals also mark Sicily's contribution to Italian culture.

The Sicilian Carry

Motorization has made the famous wooden carriages disappear from the streets. Born as agricultural wagons, they have become a typical example of Sicilian crafts and culture, true works of art.

The oldest ones date back to the eighteenth century, since, before that time, the bad state of the roads did not allow the use of cars and wagons and the only mean of transport was through carriages. Decorations and themes were commissioned by craftsmen who painted the wood. They often represented events of the paladins of Charlemagne or miraculous events, moments of family life, aspects of work and, rarely, crime stories that had Particularly impressed the local folk.

The few pieces that survived the wear of time have become precious items usually bought by art lovers or antique dealers, who sell them at a high price. It is difficult, but not impossible, to see them on the streets. They are sometimes shown during local festivals and traditional celebrations.

The Sicilian theater of puppets

One of the most characteristic traditions, but unluckily about to disappear, is the Opera of the Sicilian Pupi, typical puppets that reproduce the chivalric fights between Franks and Normans.

The advent and spread of mass media have made the decline of the most typical Sicilian show even worse. The puppets theater, has an indefinite year of creation. Some say it was born during the Spanish conquest, Certainly this show took off in Sicily between the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries and represented one of the few moments of escape and fun local people could enjoy. The puppet, armed with sparkling swords, comes to life thanks to the experience of songwriters combined with the precious craftsmanship.

Puppets are maneuvered by the "pupari" and tell the stories of ancient chivalrous poems. While inspired by epic stories, the intent is to represent everyday anecdotes or facts that recall Sicilian's way of life and thinking: for this reason the Puppet Theater has managed to survive for so many years. Today many artists have closed their theaters and sold the puppets, so it is difficult to attend such shows, but you can still see them in special occasion and in museums.