Sicily – A Quick Primer

Siciliy is an autonomous region within Italy, the random shape being kicked by the boot of Italy.  (As the Czech ambassador recently pointed out, geography matters people.)  Of the 20 regions within Italy, Sicily is one of only six that are considered autonomous, with special privileges regarding taxes and legislative power among other things. Sicily was not part of the Italian Republic until 1860; prior to that the island was a kingdom for seven hundred years. 

Because of its location in the Mediterranean, Sicily was basically visited by anyone sailing the Mediterranean.  Not just Homer’s heroic Odysseus, but the Romans, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Vandals, Ostrogoths,  Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Bourbons, Borges, Medicis, and the Mafia have all visited and/or influenced culture on the island.  Sicilian culture is unique; it is, as the Blue Guide says, a “palimpsest” of these cultures on whose relics and ruins modern Sicily is beginning to build an economy of sustainable agriculture, light industry and tourism.

Sicily faces Greece across its eastern coast along the Ionian Sea, with Mount Etna, Europe’s tallest and most active volcano, peering dominatingly down at the coast.  Agriculture remains its primary industry, partly due to highly fertile soil from volcanic eruptions.  Fishing is also one of the top industries on the island.  Unlike Northern Italy, where developed industry thrives, Sicily counts on agriculture and tourism as its two largest industries.  But thanks to initiatives from mainland Italy there are dedicated industrial and commercial successes in Sicily, connected by an infrastructure boast in the mid20th century.  This has been so successful that between 1990 and 2005, unemployment decreased from 23% to 11%.

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