History and Traditions
“I do not envy God’s paradise because I am so satisfied to live in Sicily.”
― Federico II, Holy Roman Emperor, and King of Sicily
Sicily is simply a little paradise.
A place you will never forget and that will always stay deep in your sweetest memories…
With our colourful history, so vivid still in our everyday life;
With our carefree happiness, we love life and the little things that make it wonderful; With our food and wines, so rich and captivating;
With our living volcano, a source of inspiration for countless poets and writers;
With our beaches and picturesque towns, the heart of our island;
With our traditions, that make us who we are…
What comes to our mind when we think about Sicily? Warmth, Joy and sense of Belonging.
The Warmth of the locals which are very hospitable and make you smile with their spontaneity and a-bit-folkloristic gestures and speeches. You make new friends every day!
Joy during the local festivals in the various municipalities of Sicily, which are infinite, and are one of the major attractions for travellers and those who like to have fun. Joy on a Sunny or a Rainy day, because Sicily is beautiful 365 days a year…
Sense of Belonging, because Sicily takes you back to your roots, to the connection with nature, Earth.
Sicily can be elegant but it can also be rough, it can be fun and it can be melancholic.
It attracts your soul and heart, this is why you will fall in Love with her…
A little bit of History
To fully understand Sicily’s history one must first know the land and its people.
Sicily’s strategic location at the centre of the Mediterranean sea 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.
At the coming of the Greeks, three populations 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 are said to have invented the wheel); and in the extreme west the Elymians, a population with Trojan origin.
There were also Phoenician settlements on the island. The Greeks settled in Sicilian towns between the 8th and 6th centuries and started in Giardini Naxos.
The mountainous centre remained in the hands of Siculi and Sicani, who were increasingly Hellenized in ideas and material culture.
The inhabitants of Sicily have always been influenced by numerous ethnic groups also thanks to the multiple colonizations we faced, to name a few:
Romans, Vandals and Ostrogoths, Angevins (French), Byzantines and Islamics, Austrians etc. etc.
We luckily also experienced periods of independence under the Siceliotes (Greek origin), later as the autonomous Emirate and then as the 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. The Kingdom then passed into the hands of the Hohenstaufen and at the end of the 13th century, with the War of the Sicilian Vespers between the crowns of Anjou and Aragon, the latter won.
In the next 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.
This is when Sicilians and Sicily started to struggle in poverty-stricken conditions.
Unified with Italy, but no better off, nearly one million men and women decided to emigrate 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 still has its own distinct culture.
Check these websites for more info and credits: Wikipedia, BestofSicily, Britannica.com, Lonelyplanet, eventproduzioni (In Italian)
A little bit of Culture
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 the 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.
Nevertheless, family and respectability are still a value for Sicilian people.
More interesting and curious info about the Sicilian Identity on Identity Hunters
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, puppetry and popular religious festivals also mark Sicily’s contribution to Italian culture.
The Sicilian Carriage
The oldest ones date back to the eighteenth century, as at that time the inadequate 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 resell them at a high price.
Some aficionados still like to show them around and you might be lucky and spot them on the streets or during some local festival and traditional celebrations.
There is a very beautiful Museum in Aci Sant’ Antonio with free entrance where you can see some beautiful examples of Carretti Siciliani.
The Sicilian Puppets’ Theatre
The advent and spread of mass media have made the decline of the most typical Sicilian show even worse.
The puppets’ theatre, has an indefinite year of creation.
Some say it was born during the Spanish conquest but it surely took off in Sicily between the eighteenth and the nineteenth century 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 precious craftsmanship.
Puppets are manoeuvred 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 Puppets’ Theater has managed to survive for so many years.
Today many artists have closed their theatres and have sold the puppets, so it is difficult to attend such shows, but you can still see them on special occasions and in museums.