- The largest island in the Mediterranean and Italy’s largest region, Sicily is inhabited by slightly more than five million people. Its largest cities are Palermo, the regional capital, Catania, Messina, Syracuse (Siracusa), Enna, Agrigento, and Caltanisetta. Throughout its history Sicily has been the victim of wave after wave of foreign invaders; the ancient Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Moors, Normans, French, and Spaniards (Sicilian wits add that the Italians are the last in the list) all occupied the island over the centuries and left their genetic and cultural imprints. Sicily has some of the most remarkable remnants of Greek civilization in the whole Mediterranean (the Greco-Roman Theater in Taormina, the Greek Theater in Syracuse, and the majestic Valley of the Temples near Agrigento all prove this assertion).In economic terms Sicily is one of the poorest regions of Italy. The outskirts of the major towns are dominated by half-built projects, often without roofs, that were quickly flung up to house migrants from the countryside in the 1960s. Unemployment and drug abuse are rife, and foreign and mainland Italian investment is scared off by the ubiquitous intrusion of the mafia. Nevertheless, there are some success stories, particularly in the eastern part of the island. Messina and Syracuse, for instance, are bustling commercial cities. Politically the island is one of Italy’s five special autonomous regions. Its own elected assembly (whose members pay themselves generous salaries) and the regional government exercise considerable authority. For most of the postwar period, local government was firmly in the hands of the Democrazia Cristiana/Christian Democracy Party (DC), but the anticorruption and antimafia investigations of the 1990s ended this hegemony. In the elections of March 1994 Forza Italia emerged as the largest political force. Together with its allies in the Unione dei Democratici Cristiani e Democratici di Centro/Union of Christian Democrats and Democrats of the Center (UDC), Forza Italia remains the largest party today. Sicily has made a remarkable contribution to contemporary Italian and world culture. The writers Luigi Pirandello, Giovanni Verga, Leonardo Sciascia, Salvatore Quasimodo, Elio Vittorini, and Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa were all Sicilians, as was the painter Renato Guttuso. The island is craggy, in places arid, but of spectacular natural beauty. The eastern part of the island is dominated by Mount Etna, a 3,510-meter (11,000-foot) active volcano whose frequent eruptions are a regular source of disturbance.
Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. Mark F. Gilbert & K. Robert Nilsson. 2007.
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