Sicily an introduction

Sicily is the largest island of the Mediterranean sea. It is not very distant from Italy, separated from the mainland only by the narrow Street of Messina. Sicily counts 50377799 inhabitants (2009) which is more than three times Sardinia and it's size is 25710 square kilometers 1. The capital of the region Sicilia is Palermo (latin Panormus) which is located on the northwest side of the island. Palermo has the largest harbour and the largest airport (Punta Raisi, now known as the Falcone-Borsellino airport in honour of the two judges anti-mafia).

Map of Italy with Sicily
Map of Italy with Sicily

Sicily has the status of an autonomous region with special benefits. Apart from the main island there are a large number op smaller islands that belong to the region; Ustica, the Liparian archipel, the Egadian archipel and Pantelleria and Lampedusa. The region counts nine provinces; Palermo, Agrigento, Caltanisetta, Catania, Messina, Ragusa, Siracusa, Trapani and Enna, this last province is the only province that does not border on the sea.

TrapaniPalermoMessinaAgrigentoCaltanisettaEnnaCataniaSiracusaRagusaSicily

Geologically Sicily is part of the African tectonic plate and only a small share is part of the Eurasian plate, which explains the relatively high mountainranges and the volcanic activity. In fact the volcano the Etna is one of the largest and most active volcanoes in Europe, the smaller ones are those of the Stromboli and Vulcano, two islands north of Sicily. Sicily's surface is covered for 24,4% with mountains, 61,4% hills and 14,2% plains and lowlands 2. The climate is mediterranean with warm summers and mild winters, in december there have been measured frequently temperatures around 20 degrees Celsius. Like Sardinia Sicily suffers from the shortage of water due to the hot summers and the lack of large rivers, this has determined the limited possibilities for agriculture. Still Sicily is reknowned for a rich variety of mediterranean products; the wine, the oliveoil, oranges, tomatoes (Pachino), almonds and pistache to name but a few.

Undoubtedly Sicily appeals to the imagination because of it's very rich cultural-historic past. Not only the ancient Greeks colonized the east and south side of the island in antiquity, leaving behind an impressive heritage that can still be admired in Siracusa and Agrigento (Valle dei Templi), but also the Arabs and the Normans in medieval times and the Spanish in more recent history have contributed to the great variety of cultural heritage in Sicily. This cultural heritage has attracted many travellers and tourists to the island, mainly to the south and the east, from the 18th century into our own modern times, the most famous of these travellers being Goethe. However on the westside of Sicily where the province of Trapani lies, there are other likewise important historical places to be seen. In antiquity this part of the island was visited by the Phoenicians where they founded a number of settlements on the westcoast. The most important Phoenician foundation is that of Mothia (Mozia). The Phoenicians, and later the Punics, maintained friendly relations with the Elymians. The Elymians had Segesta as their capital, and of this town remains a magnificent temple and a beautiful theatre. In fact the Elymians competed with their Greek neighbours in Selinus (Selinunte) that is located on the southside of the province of Trapani (Castelvetrano). The town of Selinunte was first founded by the Greeks who built their great temples just outside the city walls, one of these is considered to be the largest Greek temple ever built. But then Selinunte fell into the hands of the Carthaginians who transformed part of the town center to meet their own needs. Most remarkable place in the province is Eryx, the solitary mountain on the westcoast with on top the town of Erice, in antiquity the sanctuary of Astarte (Venus). This remarkable mountain hovers behind the city of Trapani.

West-Sicily, the province of Trapani

For the most part the province of Trapani consists of lowland and low hills. It has a rich production of grapes for the production of wine, in fact the province ranges among the biggest producers of wine in the world. One special wine is that of Marsala, the second largest town of the province. Along the coast from Marsala to Trapani there are a number of salt-works (saline) where seasalt is produced from seawater using ancient natural methods. On this side of Sicily several factories were active where tunafish was worked (tonnara), and although the tunafishing has almost disappeared from Sicily, at Trapani you can still find one working factory that produces tins of tuna.

In 2006 we went to the West-Sicily to see where the Phoenicians had left their traces. We choose a central location to stay, at agriturismo Vultaggio which turned out to be about the best place to stay. From there we could reach the various places like Trapani, Erice, Segesta, the Egadian islands, Marsala, Mazzaro del Vallo, Selinunte and the quarries of Cusa (Cave di Cusa), San Vito lo Capo and Castellamare, and ofcourse we visited more than once the saline and Mothia. We enjoyed the Sicilian kitchen, the pasta alle sarde, the pesto trapanese, all local products by the agriturism, and the arancini. On this site we show our impressions of this particular experience on that magnificent island that is Sicily.

Notes:

1 source: ISTAT (Istituto Nazionale di Statistica) data of 2009 demo.istat.it
2 source: www.comuni-italiani.it

Last updated 30/05/2016
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