Sicily is the largest island of the Mediterranean Sea and at the same time an important part of Italy. Located near the very "toe of the Italian boot", he it is washed immediately by three seas - the Mediterranean, Tyrrhenian and Ionian.
The island is known for its magnificent nature, contributing to an excellent holiday, as well as ancient monuments of history, occupying a leading position among the attractions of Italy. Only the names of Sicilian cities are capable of evoking beautiful images from ancient legends in the head. One has only to listen to these names: Messina, Syracuse, Agrigento.
Origin of name
The ancient tribes that inhabited the island millennia ago called themselves Sikans, and their place of residence, respectively, Sikanii. Later, the name underwent a slight change, and the island began to be called Sikela (Sicily), retaining this name to this day.
Location and geography
The island is located in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea. An approximately equal distance separates it both from the Suez Canal and from the Strait of Gibraltar. Sicily is separated from the Italian peninsula by the Strait of Messina, the width of which in its narrowest part is about 3 km. And you can get to the island by ferry somewhere in 20 minutes.
The direct distance to the coast of Africa is 140 km. And the total length of the coastline of the island (including adjacent islets) is 1500 km. By and large, Sicily can be attributed to the mountainous countries. Its only fairly large plain is in the province of Catania. The most rocky terrain in the north, to the south it becomes sandy and hilly.
In the eastern part of the island is the highest of the active volcanoes in Europe - the mysterious Etna. The volcano itself and the adjacent territory of 1250 square meters are under state protection as a nature reserve.
Weather on the island
The climate in Sicily is typically Mediterranean, i.e. soft enough. In summer it is moderately hot, and in winter, by the way, quite short, the onset of subzero temperature would be an abnormal phenomenon. Most precipitation falls from October to March.
- Recommended: where to go in winter in Italy
Among the Italian resorts in Sicily, the largest number of sunny days per year (up to 2500 sunny hours per year). There are even more of them than in any other Mediterranean resort in Europe. The optimum temperature of sea water is exactly what allows you to significantly extend the holiday season on the island. Indeed, even in winter, the water temperature does not fall below + 16 ° C, and in summer it even reaches + 27 ° C. Those. You can swim in the Sicilian resort from May to November.
In the hills and small plains in the central and southern provinces, fruit crops prevail. Among them, mainly citrus fruits such as orange, lemon and mandarin. Vineyards, olive orchards, pomegranates, almonds and figs are also numerous.
In mountainous areas chestnuts, beeches, tamarisk grow, cork oak is found. Coniferous trees, on the contrary, are quite rare. Most of the mountainous slopes are covered with bushes of lavender, rosemary, oil pistachio, oleander and dwarf palm.
Since wild forests have been cut down for centuries, today you can enjoy corners of the wild only in special state reserves. Such legally protected areas of the wild forest are located around Mount Etna and on the coast in the provinces of Agrigento, Messina and some others.
Population, economics, administrative divisions
Sicily is the largest of the Italian islands and the entire Mediterranean Sea, not only in area but also in population. The total population is approaching 5 million inhabitants, and the area is 25,460 square kilometers.
Sicily is an autonomous region of Italy, with its own emblem, flag and parliament. Palermo is the capital of the island. The whole island is divided into nine provinces: Palermo, Caltanissetta, Catania, Messina, Agrigento, Ragusa, Enna, Syracuse, Trapani.
The main source of income for the island is tourism and agriculture. In recent times, authorities have begun to pay closer attention to environmental tourism. The directions of wine and gastronomic tours are actively developing.
The history of this ancient island began in the Paleolithic era. It was then that the first buildings appeared, as evidenced by finds during archaeological excavations in the caves of Levanzo and Pellegrino.
The most famous archaeological site in the form of tombs carved into the rock. They call it the Pantalik necropolis and date back to the 13th century BC. In addition, the necropolis is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Starting from the 8th century BC, colonies founded by the Greeks and immigrants from Carthage appeared in Sicily. The oldest of the Greek colonies were discovered in the eastern part of the island, right at the foot of the volcano. Later, it was the Greeks who founded Messina and Syracuse. The remains of Greek civilization to this day can be seen throughout the island in the form of destroyed cities, temples and just roads.
In 241 BC Sicily becomes one of the provinces of Rome, and continues to be so until 440 BC. The era of the early Middle Ages was marked for the island by alternate oppression of the Vandals, the Byzantine Empire, then the Arabs. In the 11th century AD the Normans seized the island, and already in the 12th century the kings of the Anjou dynasty seized power. A century later, the Aragonese dynasty ruled in Sicily.
Closer to our time, the rule of the island passed from Austria to Napoleon, and from it to the kings of the Habsburgs. The popular uprising of 1861, led by Giuseppe Garibaldi, delivered the island from the Bourbons. This allowed Sicily to become part of the Italian kingdom.
In 1947, Sicily became an autonomous part of Italy. It is distinguished from other areas by the presence of its own parliament.
Holidays on the island do not end all year. It can be fairs or carnivals, or festivals, or even religious processions. Each city has its own patron, which is mainly devoted to street processions.
In the summer (August 15) in Sicily celebrate the general Italian holiday - Ferragosto. The annual film festival and summer season of cinema, theater and music takes place in Taormina in July. On July 10-16, Palermo celebrates the feast of St. Rosalia, and on August 13-14, a procession of giant dolls Mata and Griffin takes place in Messina (according to legend, the founders of the city).
In autumn, the whole island celebrates the Harvest Festival.
Common winter holidays are Christmas and Epiphanius. In February, they celebrate the Blooming Almond Festival in Agrigento. February 3-5, all Catania honors Saint Agatha. On the eve of Lent, a carnival takes place in Acireal. At this time, huge wagons, whose height reaches 12 meters, move along the narrow streets of the ancient city. Each wagon presents some picture of Sicilian life.
Sicily celebrates Easter week in spring. April 25 in Ragusa celebrate the feast of St. Ragusa. The first Sunday of May is the day of Saint Lucia, the patroness of Syracuse. Third May Sunday in Noto - Flower Festival. On this day, the main street of the city (length 122, width 6 meters) is decorated with flowers. The end of May in Cefalалу - Holiday of merry inventors.
The coast of Sicily is simply strewn with excellent resorts. Everyone will be able to choose something for themselves. It combines the best beaches of the Mediterranean and local attractions, which are located fairly close.
For example, in the province of Agrigento, you can enjoy the beautiful sandy beaches and unspoilt nature of the islands of Linosa, Lampione and Lampedusa. Skiachcha resort will offer you relaxation on thermal waters. Lampedusa is considered to be the most popular of the islands of the province of Agrigento. On it you can just go fishing, go diving or ride a scooter. An unforgettable sight awaits you at Rabbit Beach - snow-white sand and clear turquoise water. And by renting a canoe, you can see the caves with large sea turtles.
Syracuse is associated with tourists with beautiful nature, varied relaxation and modern service. This is where diving enthusiasts strive to get here. Rocky shores with deep caves and the diversity of the underwater world attract them. For those who prefer to relax above the water, the resorts of Syracuse are ready to offer, protected from the wind, sandy beaches with beautiful views of the ancient fortress.
You can see the provincial life of Sicily and relax on the coast of Catania. Spacious beaches provide secluded relaxation and a relaxing atmosphere. If you get bored of lying on the beach, you can watch the fishing of local residents or visit a bird sanctuary.
For those who just crave movement, it is best to go to Palermo. The best resort in this province is Mondello. On weekends and holidays, except for foreigners, Sicilians themselves come here. After all, the best markets, restaurants and bars are located here.
The best resort in all of Sicily is considered Taormina. This city is located near Messina. And here you can try everything. And a classic beach holiday, and water sports, and a wide variety of SPA-salons, as well as a large selection of excursion programs. Thanks to such a variety and excellent service, you can even meet Hollywood stars here.
The volcano Etna is the main attraction of Sicily, created by nature itself. This is the largest active volcano in Europe located in the eastern part of the island.
Its dimensions exceed even Vesuvius. Etna is 3300 meters above sea level. On the slopes are hundreds of craters, periodically spewing lava. Every few months, small eruptions occur. And once every few years there is a major eruption. Each time there is a possibility of destruction and sacrifice, for those who live at the foot of the mountain. But the soil in these places is so fertile and rich in minerals, thanks to eruptions, that many take this conscious risk. After all, good soil guarantees an excellent harvest.
Cave "Ear of Dionysius"
The second natural attraction of Sicily is a cave called "Ear of Dionysius". A cave is located near the city of Syracuse.
According to one version, the cave got its name due to its shape similar to a human ear, as well as very good internal acoustics. Another version refers us to the ancient legend of Syracuse. According to the myth, on the orders of the ruler Dionysius I, a prison was set up in the cave for state criminals. The prisoners inside could not resist and continued to discuss their plans. However, the natural properties of the cave carried sound over long distances. And what was said deep inside was heard by the guards at the entrance. They transmitted valuable information to their ruler. Unfortunately, time does not spare anyone. Due to soil erosion, part of the cave was destroyed, and its amazing property was lost.
Palermo Botanical Garden
Another attraction of the island can be attributed to the natural. it Palermo Botanical Garden. It is worth seeing not only to lovers of the plant world.
Beginning once with several beds planted with medicinal plants, today the garden covers an area of 10 hectares. There you can see a huge variety of tropical plants, cactus groves, beautiful ponds, a variety of beautiful lilies and much more.
Sicily has always been attractive to various nationalities. It was because of this that she survived a huge number of conquests. Each invader left traces of his culture. Most of the monuments of cultural heritage left by the Greeks, but the remains of Arab, Norman and Phoenician cultures are also widely found.
World of Ancient Greece
Arriving in Agrigento or Selinunte, you can get into the world of Ancient Greece. In Selinunte, the ruins of an unknown temple are of most interest. It is assumed that once he was dedicated to the great Zeus and was similar to the Parthenon in Athens. Today, only one column has been preserved on the site of the temple. The city has many other remains of ancient temples. When each of them belonged to one of the gods of the Greek pantheon. But natural disasters and the great war with Carthage played a destructive role. Today, archaeologists can no longer determine in honor of which of the gods each particular temple was built. A little to the west of the city limits you can see the Santurio de Maloforos. This structure was built in 575 BC. It even preserved to this day the altar belonging to the goddess Demeter of Maloforos.
Valley of the Temples
The road between Selinunte and Agrigento is very picturesque. It is mainly surrounded by deserted beaches and rare settlements of fishermen. The most amazing place on this road is Valley of the Temples - An architectural complex composed of temple structures of 5-4 centuries BC The whole valley is divided into two parts - eastern and western. Once here, you forget about time. You are completely absorbed by the masterpieces of human hands - the temples of the ancient gods.
Temple of Tempio di Ercole
The oldest temple in Sicily - Tempio di Ercole located in the eastern part of the valley. Once upon a time it was a magnificent vault on 38 huge columns. Today it is only ruins. Much better able to survive Tempio de Concordia (Temple of Concord). And all thanks to the fact that the invaders turned it into a Christian cathedral, trying to destroy as many other monuments of paganism as possible.
Temple of Olympian Zeus
A striking detail of the western part of the valley is Temple of Olympian Zeus. The majestic temple is considered the pearl of the ancient Greek architecture of Sicily. The height of its columns was once 15 meters. However, due to rains and winds, they eventually began to grow into the ground. Nothing has survived from the giant statues that once propped up the vault of the temple. Unlike other structures, temple dedicated to Castor and Polluxlooks too new. And this is no accident. The construction was restored at the beginning of the 19th century. And despite the fact that this is not quite an original, it gives us the opportunity to enjoy a beautiful example of ancient Greek architecture.
The city of Agrigento itself was founded in the 6th century BC. and therefore in itself is an ancient cultural monument. Arriving in the city will undoubtedly be interesting to see Churches of San Lorenzo, St. Dominic, Santa Maria dei Grechi, Abbey of the Holy Spirit and Cathedral.
An important attraction of the island is city of palermo - The capital of Sicily and the main city of the province of the same name. The number of its attractions is such that it could well be enough for a small European state. Because of this, Palermo is often called an open-air museum. Representatives of the most ancient civilizations left their treasures in the city.
Royal Norman Palace
The main attraction of the city is considered royal norman palace. Looking at its western part, you will see the Norman fortress, and on the south side you will find a typical building in the Renaissance style. Previously, the palace was the seat of the kings, and today it houses the government of Sicily. An excellent example of Arab-Norman architecture is Palatine Chapel. It still has beautiful Byzantine frescoes.
Of Palermo's other most significant sights, it is worth mentioning Oratorio of San Lorenzo, Villa Giulia, Cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady, National Museum of Archeology. In international puppet museum A collection of 2 thousand dolls is kept. You will be impressed Capuchin Catacombs. These are the underground catacombs of an ancient monastery, in which mummies and skeletons of about 8 thousand inhabitants of the city, who died from the 17th to the 19th century, are represented.
City Taorminalocated in the province of Messina amazes tourists with fabulous beauty. Medieval palaces and monuments of Greco-Roman architecture can be found there at every step. What is only worth greek theaterdesigned for 10 thousand viewers. For its construction in the 3rd century BC it was necessary to level the mountain, for which 100 thousand meters of cubic limestone rock were moved. This is the second largest, after Syracuse, Greek theater. Here you can see church of St. Pankratiaruins temple of serapida and ancient aqueduct.
The capital of the province of the same name - Messina was founded by Greek settlers. The main attraction of the city is the oldest cathedral of Sicily - Duma Cathedral. The construction dates back to the 12th century and is made in the Norman style. On the bell tower of Cathedral Square you can see astronomical clock. Made in the 18th century, today they are considered the largest in the world.
Provincial capital Catania was founded by the Greeks in 729 BC The ruins are located in the city Roman theater. It will also be interesting to see St. Agatha Cathedraldating from the 11th century Ursino castledated 13th, and biscari palaceas a sample of Sicilian baroque.
Syracuse were founded by the Corinthians in 734 BC Since then, the city has preserved many historical monuments. It is also the largest in Sicily Greek theater, and Roman amphitheater, and Jeron's altar, and many others. Also of interest is the large castle of the period of antiquity - Eurialdating from four hundred years BC
No less interesting monuments of the Renaissance, antiquity and the Middle Ages have been preserved in the cities of the provinces of Caltanissetta and Ragusa.
Sicily is an almost perfect holiday destination for lovers of beach holidays and for fans to explore ancient monuments. But at the same time, do not forget about another important attraction of the island - Sicilian cuisine. Many different Sicilian dishes are traditionally Italian. Among them, of course, pizza, pasta, as well as various fish and cheese dishes.
Like all traditions and culture in this place, she learned for herself a little bit from every people who ever lived on these lands. From Arabs, for example, love came to saffron and rice, from Greeks to fresh fruits and vegetables, from Romans to pasta. The borrowed dishes include the traditional couscous for the province of Trapani. This dish has obviously Arabian roots. In the province of Ragusa, various meat dishes are more popular. The most famous is falsomagro - a roll stuffed with eggs, ham, meat and cheese, boiled in wine with tomato sauce.
In some Sicilian provinces, meat dishes are even more consumed than on the mainland. Locals especially love rabbit and pork dishes. Almost everywhere, kebab from young goat and mutton is popular. And absolutely all meat dishes are prepared with lots of spices.
And yet, despite the widespread use of meat in cooking, Sicily is still an island. Here, around almost every corner you can find a restaurant serving fish and other seafood. The richness and variety of fish dishes and seafood is simply amazing. Squids and cuttlefish, cod and mackerel, swordfish and mullet, spiny lobsters and much more. Even traditional Sicilian pasta is served with sardines. The paste itself is made from durum wheat grown here.
As throughout Italy, it is customary to use local products during cooking. Such as olives and olive oil, lemons and, well, a lot of spices and seasonings. By the way, olive oil from Sicily is considered one of the best in the world.
A special place among the culinary delights of Sicily is ice cream and pastry. Anyone who came to rest in Sicily is simply obliged to pamper himself a little with some delicacy. Undoubtedly, the king of Sicilian desserts is ice cream. This culinary attraction is especially loved by tourists from all over the world.
Hundreds of varieties of delicious cold treats. Pure creamy taste or with a variety of additives, sweet sorbet with chocolate or pieces of fresh fruit. Or maybe you like a little bite with a croissant. Whatever you choose, in any case, incomparable pleasure is guaranteed to you. It is worth paying attention to popsicles with the addition of almonds, jasmine, pistachios, watermelon or cinnamon.
Sicily leads Italy in wine production. Tasting this national product will also leave you the most pleasant experience.
You should definitely try the famous Sicilian Marsala. This tart red wine tastes like port wine. However, it is used as an aperitif and additives in the preparation of confectionery. Other varieties of Sicilian wines are no less famous around the world. Among them are Cerazuolo di Vittoria, Moscato, Nero D'Avola and Alcamo.
By the way, Sicily is on the list of 10 places recommended for tourists to visit. And if you still have not visited this hospitable island, be sure to include this trip in your immediate plans.