Most people from Sicily don’t necessarily consider themselves Italians. They are first and foremost Sicilians, they’ll tell you. They’ll even describe themselves as islanders before they say they’re Italian. The island, which at almost 26,000 square kilometers is the largest in the Mediterranean, has its own soul, its own rhythm, and its own language. Until the highly debated bridge across the Straits of Messina to the mainland is built, Sicily will remain a place unto itself in every respect. the wheel from a traditional Sicilian carriage Sicilians have good reason to feel attached to their land. It is like no other place in the country. It holds the only two active volcanoes in Europe, Stromboli and Mount Etna (though there are several dormant ones in Italy, such as Vesuvius), and is blanketed by lemon and almond trees, olive groves, and vineyards. The local mix of Arabic and Norman cultures gives a unique flavor to the architecture and food, and reflects the diverse ethnic background of the Sicilians themselves.
The Greeks were the first to leave their mark on the island. Their traces are found everywhere, from the well-preserved temples of Agrigento to the amphitheaters of Syracuse and Taormina, to the lonely temple of Segesta. Many of these ruins now provide the backdrop for performing arts, one of the many perks to living in Sicily. The other advantages are more obvious: a fine selection of beaches, nice weather, great wines, top-quality seafood, and more ancient archaeological sites than you can shake an olive branch at.
As a foreigner, you may find Sicily a little harder to get used to than other regions. The roads can be rugged, and seemingly simple services like water can be spotty. Although everyone can speak clear Italian if prompted, the dialect is very thick, as in Naples and Puglia. And, also as in Naples and (to a lesser extent) Puglia, there is organized crime. What separates Sicily from the rest of the South in this category is just how deeply rooted the Mafia is, and yet at the same time how much energy is now devoted to doing something about it. (Probably the best recent example is the arrest in 2006 of top Cosa Nostra boss Bernardo Provenzano, who had been in hiding for more than 40 years.) This is not quite the case with the Camorra in Naples or the Sacra Corona Unita in Puglia, where it’s still monkey business as usual. The newspapers in Palermo and Catania hit the subject hard, and many Sicilians now speak openly about the problem, whereas before there was only omertÃ , or fearful silence.