The Greek Theatre in Taormina. Ph. mariocutroneo on flickr (flic.kr/p/9ELUwg)

Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean, and one of the most beautiful regions in the world. It is multi-cultural; many different races and religions have found home throughout the millennia. From Greeks to Arabs, from French to Spaniards, from Italians to Americans, this incredible island has shaped an identity of its own with amazing cities, great food and fantastic people who are proud of being Sicilians and Italians. This pride comes through in the art, music, and literature – in fact, some of the highest forms of art have been produced in Sicily.

Let’s go step by step and examine some of the things that make Sicily great.

 

Sicily has many independent cities, all of which have had their own historical journeys. Palermo and Catania are the most important, and they share the economy and the finance of the island. Then there is Agrigento with the fabulous Greek temples and Syracuse. Caltagirone is the site of the first university, Noto has unique Baroque palaces, churches, and houses. Modica, too, has unique and beautiful Baroque architecture, and Piazza Armerina contains lovely Roman mosaics, featuring the first bikini in history. And we cannot forget the jewel of them all, Taormina.

The west coast is represented by Palermo and its regal layout, the east coast is instead more about the myth of Ulysses and the Odyssey, an epic journey in Mediterranean history. Of course, the star of the east coast is Mount Aetna volcano, still very active and the tallest and largest in Europe. In the early spring it is possible to ski in the snow on the mountain, and then lie or swim on the beach at its feet. This is one of the unique activities that Sicily offers.

A snow capped Mount Etna, Sicily. Ph. Nello Anastasio on flickr (flic.kr/p/baCQM2)

Culturally Sicily has produced some of the finest art, but it has been very strong in literature and science as well. In the past century some of the most brilliant Italian writers came from there, such as Leonardo Sciascia, Luigi Pirandello, and more recently Augusto Camilleri. Music is well represented as well, with people of the caliber of Franco Battiato, the DeNovo group and of course Carmen Consoli. The sound of Sicilian music is a great mix of Arab and Mediterranean meeting Latin rhythms.

Sicily has a very interesting scent that comes from the fruit that grow there. Tomatoes, lemons, oranges and eggplants bring an atmosphere and taste that it is very hard to beat. And of course the island has quite tasty olive oil.

The unique taste of such ingredients with some of the best seafood in the world allow the making of tasty dishes. One is the famous “pasta alla Norma,” where fresh eggplants are laid on the top of a very sweet tomato sauce – and no sugar added. Ice creams and granite (ices) are another tasty item of Sicilian cuisine, and we must not leave out the very famous cassata and cannoli.

Last but not least is the political aspect of the island. Due to its historical and cultural influence, Sicily has been part of the major turning points of the history of the Western world from the beginning of time through the Roman Empire, all the way to being a key player in World War II. This shaped the minds of Sicilians in a very particular way; they can be taciturn and yet wise and knowledgeable. Two of the most important Italian parties were founded in Sicily, the Democrazia Cristiana (Christian Democracy) and the Partito Socilaista (Socialist Party). The right wing party also has strong ties with Sicily. These facts clearly show that despite the general perception, Sicilians are very active and extremely diverse in terms of ideas and ideologies. One last point that must be clarified as well is the fact that Sicily is rich both in land and currency. Sicilians traditionally are hard savers, but prominent companies are doing extremely well generating a very competitive GDP. This makes Sicily a very active area of commerce and trades, especially considering its convenient logistical position right in the middle of the EU, Africa, and the Middle East. In other words it is the heart of the world.

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