Sicily is an island region of southern Italy. Separated from the Italian peninsula by the Strait of Messina, bathed by the Tyrrhenian Sea to the north, By the Mediterranean Sea to the south and by the Ionian Sea to the east. Part of the Sicilian region including the Aeolian, Egadi and Pelagie archipelagos, and the islands of Pantelleria and Ustica.
Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Area and the largest Italian region. Hence the name, dating back to Roman times, the two main populations that lived in ancient times: the Sicani and Sicilians.
Sicily is (along with Valle d’Aosta, Trentino-Alto Adige, Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Sardinia), a region of “special status”, with more autonomy than other Italian regions “with an ordinary statute.”
Area: 25,711 km ²
Population: 5.089.386 inhabitants
Capital: Palermo (675,084 inhabitants)
Provinces: Agrigento, Caltanissetta, Catania, Enna, Messina, Palermo, Ragusa, Siracusa, Trapani
Rivers: Belice, Salso, Simeto
Mountains: Mount Etna (3323 m), Pizzo Carbonara (1979 m), Monte Soro (1847 m), Busambra Rock (1610 m)
Because of its triangular shape, the region was called by the Greeks Trinacria, meaning “land of the three heads.” The island forms an isosceles triangle almost perfect ending to the north-east by the Punta del Faro, near Messina, to the west by Cape Boeo (or Lilybaeum), near Marsala, to the south-east by the Capo Passero.
Sicily is mostly hilly and mountainous. The highest mountains are located in the northeast, where is the Sicilian Apennines, divided into three sections: the Nebrodi, the Peloritani and Madonie. Also in the north-east of the island, there is the highest active volcano in Europe: Mount Etna (3323 m). Aeolian islands also have high mountains, among which are the active volcanoes of Stromboli and Vulcano. Sicily is a seismic zone where earthquakes occur frequently.
Along the coast we can find the only plains of the island, as the Plain of Palermo (or Conca d’Oro) and the Plain of Catania, the largest one of the island.
The shape of the coastline is very different. The Tyrrhenian coast, which goes up from Messina to Trapani, is generally high and jagged, and there are several bays, including the ones to the east of Patti and Milazzo, and Palermo and Castellammare bays to the west side. The coast on the Sea of Sicily is mostly low and sandy, almost straight, and a hilly inland. The Ionian coast is the most diverse: tall and straight in the northern section, from Messina to Catania, where the mountains go down to the sea, the center includes the broad plain of Catania; to the south coast is mostly low, but with several enclosed bays from the extremes foothills of the mountains behind.
RIVERS AND LAKES
The rivers have a torrential, with high water flow in winter and dry periods in summer. The most important river of Sicily is the Simeto (113 kilometers), which rises in Nebrodi and is enriched by many tributaries torrents descending from Etna, bathing the Plain of Catania.
The longest river (144 kilometers), however, is the Imera-Salso, which originates in the Madonie and crosses the island from north to south, flowing into the Mediterranean Sea. The Belice flows in the most western part of the island (Val di Mazara). The lakes, due to drought, are mostly artificial, but they do not meet the water needs of the region.
The Mediterranean climate has long hot summers and dry, with temperatures often above 40 ° C, mild winters only in coastal areas, averaging about 10 ° C, but cold inside, with temperatures often fall below the zero. Rainfall, generally poor, increase in the hills, where temperatures are lower.
The natural environment has undergone significant changes to the work of man. Many areas have experienced a process of intense construction, especially along the west coast and in Palermo. The forests that once covered the island have disappeared, and today the forests are found only on mountain ranges.
The island has several areas of great natural interest, only partially protected. These include the marine reserve on the island of Ustica and Etna Regional Park.
FLORA AND FAUNA
The climatic differences between zones in the region allow the development of a varied vegetation. Along the coast, the flora is made up of shrubs of broom, lavender, rosemary, oleander and mastic, while in the mountains grow oaks, cork oaks, chestnuts and beeches. The man introduced agaves, mulberry and eucalyptus.
Among the many species of wild fauna we can find any protected animals: the porcupine, red kites, peregrine falcons, eagles, wild cats, weasels, and the snake leopard.
The economy of Sicily is based primarily on agriculture and the tertiary sector (mainly public sector and retail trade). Tourism is also important to both beach and art.
Agriculture, livestock, fisheries
In ancient times the region was called “the granary of Rome”. Today Sicily is still a major producer of cereals, especially in inland areas, even if the crops are facing drought and lack of adequate irrigation. In the coastal area are cultivated citrus (Sicily is the first in Italy for the production of oranges), eggplant, zucchini, olives, almonds and flowers. The vines also provide fine wines: Marsala wine, Passito, Corvo and Malvasia.
Breeding is not very important, while a major economic activity is fishing (mainly tuna and swordfish). Sicily provides 25% of the national need, Mazara del Vallo (Trapani in the province) is the main fishing port in Italy.
The industry has a great importance in the economy of the region and is mainly specialized in mining and energy. The presence of significant deposits of sulfur did take off in the past mining of sulfur, however, now abandoned due to high costs. In the fifties, the discovery of several oil fields allowed the development of the petrochemical industry, which today, however, refine almost exclusively imported petroleum. Big industry is not so never managed to succeed in Sicily, while there are many small and medium-sized manufacturing firms.
The tertiary sector is the most developed, thanks to public employment and tourism. Tourism is mainly concentrated in provinces of Catania, Siracusa and Messina (Taormina and the Aeolian islands). Sicily is famous for its archaeological and artistic heritage, which is a major tourist attraction. However, the lack of adequate reception facilities limit this sector of the economy.
The roads and land transport are still lacking in the interior of the island.
POPULATION AND CITIES
Sicily is the Italian region with the highest emigration rate. Within the island itself, shifts occur towards the coast and the cities, where there are more job opportunities.
Palermo, the regional capital, is located in the north-west, in the center of the Conca d’Oro.
Agrigento is situated near the site of an ancient Greek acropolis. The economy is based mainly on tourism, promoted by the archaeological heritage of the famous Valley of the Temples.
Caltanissetta is located in a hilly area along the Salso river. The city’s economy is based on agriculture and manufacturing.
Catania, in eastern region, was almost entirely destroyed by an earthquake in 1693. The economy is based on agriculture (the largest city is located in the plains of Sicily) and fishing, and is increasing the tourist influx.
Enna is situated on Erei Mountains, in the middle of the island. The extraction of sulfur, which was once the main economic activity, is now in crisis. Agriculture is not very productive.
Messina, overlooking the Strait, which separates Sicily from Calabria, in the course of centuries was struck by numerous earthquakes and epidemics. That of 1908 destroyed it almost completely. The economy is based on agriculture (wine, olive oil, walnuts) and tourism (Taormina).
Ragusa is the capital of the southernmost province of Italy, is located in the south-west of Sicily, in the foothills of the Monti Iblei.
Syracuse is located in south-eastern coast of Sicily. The city includes the island of Ortigia, linked to the mainland by a bridge. It is famous for the archaeological area of Latomie, the temple of Athena and the sanctuary of Apollo.
Trapani, located on a small peninsula in the north-west of the island, has extensive commercial fleet and has the oldest tuna traps in the Mediterranean Area.
Originally inhabited by the population of the Sicilians, the Sicans and the Elims, Sicily was occupied between the sixth and fourth centuries BC by the Phoenicians and the Greeks, who founded many colonies (Syracuse, Gela, Selinus). In the fourth century BC the Carthaginians settled in the western part of the island and quickly destroyed the organization of the colonies of Magna Graecia, who entered a phase of decline (except Syracuse). In the third century BC, with victory in the Second Punic War, the Romans expelled the Carthaginians and took possession of Sicily, which became a Roman province.
The decadence of the Roman Empire, the region was invaded by Vandals and Ostrogoths. With the war greek-Gothic it passed under Byzantine rule, and there it remained for three centuries, becoming a military bulwark against the advance of Arabs, but in the end it could not prevent that. The invasion of the Arabs in the ninth century, promoted the economic and cultural renaissance of the island. In the eleventh century Norman conquest of Sicily brought under the power of the Church of Rome and introduced feudalism.
In the late twelfth century, the Swabian domination succeeded the Normans. During the reign of Frederick II, Sicily became an important cultural center, open to the different cultures of that time. In 1246 the island came under the crown of Anjou, and remained there until 1282, when cause of the revolt of the Sicilian Vespers, led to the expulsion of French from the island and the establishment of Aragons in the throne of Sicily.
No foreign crown, however, never took care to eliminate or limit the power of local barons who, in fact, ruled the island. In 1735 Sicily was annexed to the Kingdom of Naples and came under the crown of the Bourbons.
In 1820, in Sicily broke out initial Risorgimento movement, which continues in the riots of 1848. A few years later, in 1860, Garibaldi landed at Marsala, with the Mille (one thousand Garibaldi’s troops), and in a few days, aided by the local people, defeated the Bourbon troops and liberated Sicily from foreign domination. That same year, Sicily became part of the Kingdom of Italy.