is an autonomous region of Italy in Europe. Of all the regions of
Italy, Sicily covers the largest surface area with 25,708 km² and currently has five million inhabitants. It is also the largest
island in the Mediterranean Sea with several much
smaller surrounding islands also considered part of
much of its history, Sicily has been considered a crucial strategic
location due in large part to its importance for Mediterranean trade
routes. The area was highly regarded as part of Magna Graecia,
with Cicero describing Siracusa as the greatest and most
beautiful city in all of Ancient Greece.
today it is a region of Italy, it was once a country in its own, as the Kingdom of Sicily, ruled from Palermo. The
Kingdom of Sicily oversaw southern Italy, Sicily, and Malta.
It later became a part of the Two Sicilies under the Bourbons, when
the rule was centered in Naples rather than Sicily. Since that time,
the risorgimento has occurred and Sicily has been a fully
fledged part of Italy.
considered to be highly rich in its own unique culture, especially
with regard to arts, cuisine, architecture
and even language. The Sicilian economy is largely based on
agriculture (famous for orange and lemon orchards).
This same rural countryside has attracted significant
tourism in the modern age as its natural beauty is highly valued.
also a treasure of important archeological and ancient sites such as
the Necropolis of Pantalica.
Early Middle Ages
Kingdom of Sicily
World War II
4 Unesco World Heritage Sites
Agrigento: Temples Valley
Noto Valley: Baroque sites
Unesco Tentative Entry
Island & Lilibeo
name: Cosa Nostra
History of Cosa Nostra-Mafia
Structure of Cosa Nostra
The modern Mafia in Italy
inhabitants of Sicily were three defined groups of the Ancient
peoples of Italy. The most prominent, and by far the earliest, of
which was the Sicani, who, according to Thucydides arrived
from the Iberian Peninsula (perhaps Catalonia). Important historical
evidence has been discovered in the form of cave drawings by the
Sicani, dating from the end of the Pleistocene Epoch, around 8000 BC.
Elymians, thought to be from the Aegean, were the next tribe to
migrate and join the Sicanians on Sicily. Although there is no
evidence of any wars between the tribes, when the Elymians settled
in the north-west corner of the island, the Sicanians moved to the
eastern part of the island. In 1200 BC, the Sicels (from
mainland Italy), thought to originally have been
Ligures from Liguria, came to Sicily forcing the Sicanians to move back across Sicily settling in the middle of the
Around 750 BC, the
Greeks began to
colonize Sicily, establishing many
important settlements. The most important colony was
Syracuse; other significant ones
and Zancle. The native Sicani
and Sicel peoples were easily absorbed into the
Hellenic culture and the area became
part of Magna Graecia along with
the rest of Southern Italy (which the
Greeks had also colonized).
Sicily was very fertile, and the
introduction of olives and
grape vines flourished, creating a
great deal of profitable trading. A significant part of Greek
culture on the island was that of Greek
religion and many temples were built across Sicily, such as
the Valley of the Temples at
Agrigento. Politics on the island were intertwined with
that of Greece. Syracuse became
desired by the Athenians, who, during
Peloponnesian War, set out on the
Sicilian Expedition. Syracuse gained
Corinth as allies and, as a result, the Athenian army and ships
were destroyed with most of the survivors being sold into slavery.
While Greek Syracuse controlled much
of Sicily, there were a few Carthaginian
colonies in the far west part of the island. When the two cultures began
to clash, the Sicilian Wars erupted.
Greece began to make peace with the Roman
Republic in 262 BC and the Romans sought to
annex Sicily as its empire's first
province. Rome intervened in the First Punic
War, crushing Carthage so that by 242 BC Sicily had become
the first Roman province outside of the
Italian Peninsula. The Second Punic War,
Archimedes was killed, involved Carthage
trying to take Sicily from the Roman Empire. They failed and this
time Rome was even more unrelenting in the annihilation of the
invaders--in 210 BC, the Roman consul
M. Valerian told the Roman Senate that
"no Carthaginian remains in Sicily".
Sicily was of high
importance for the Romans as it acted as the empire's
It was divided into two
quaestorships with Syracuse
to the east and
Lilybaeum to the west. Although
Augustus some attempt was made to
introduce the Latin language to the
island, Sicily was allowed to remain largely Greek in a cultural
sense, rather than being subjected to complete
Verres became governor of Sicily,
the once prosperous and contented people went into despair due to
his poor ruling. In 70 BC, noted figure Cicero condemned
the misgovernment of Verres in his oration
The religion of
Christianity first appeared in Sicily between 200 AD and 313 AD when
Constantine the Great finally lifted
the prohibition and a significant number of Sicilians became
martyrs, such as
and many more. Christianity grew rapidly in Sicily during the next
two centuries, the period of history where Sicily was a Roman
province lasted for a total of about 700 years.
As the Roman
Empire was falling apart, a Germanic tribe known as the Vandals took
Sicily in 440 AD under the rule of their king Geiseric. The Vandals
had already invaded parts of Roman France and Spain, asserting
themselves as an important power in western Europe. However, they
soon lost these newly acquired possessions to another East Germanic
tribe known as the Goths. The Ostrogothic conquest of Sicily
(and Italy as a whole) under Theodoric the Great began in
488. Even though the Goths were Germanic, Theodoric sought to revive Roman
culture and government and allowed freedom of religion.
War took place between the Ostrogoths and the Eastern Roman Empire,
also known as the Byzantine Empire. Sicily was the first part of
Italy to be conquered under general Belisarius who was commissioned by
Eastern Emperor Justinian I.
used as a base for the Byzantines to conquer the rest of Italy,
with Naples, Rome, Milan and the Ostrogoth capital of Ravenna all falling
within five years. However, a new Ostrogoth king Totila,
battled his way down
the Italian peninsula, plundering and conquering Sicily in 550.
Totila, in turn, was defeated and killed in the Battle of Taginae by
the Byzantine general Narses in 552.
Emperor Constans II decided to move from the capital Constantinople
to Syracuse in Sicily during 660. The following year, he
launched an assault from Sicily against the Lombard Duchy of
Benevento, who then occupied most of Southern Italy. The rumors
that the capital of the empire was to be moved to Syracuse, along
with small raids, were probably responsible for the assassination of Constans in 668. His son, Constantine IV, succeeded him,
and quickly suppressed a brief
usurpation in Sicily by Mezezius. Contemporary accounts report that the Greek language was
widely spoken on the island during this period.
Euphemius, the commander of the Byzantine fleet of Sicily, forced a
nun to marry him. Emperor Michael II caught wind of the matter and
ordered that general Constantine end the marriage and cut off
Euphemius' nose. Euphemius fought back, killed Constantine and then
occupied Syracuse. He, in turn, was defeated and fled to North
Africa. He offered rule of Sicily to Ziyadat Allah the Aghlabid
Emir of Tunisia in return for a place as a general and safety.
Islamic army of Arabs, Berbers, Spaniards, Cretans and Persians was
disbanded. The conquest was a complicated tug-of-war hampered by considerable
resistance and internal struggles. It took over a century for
Byzantine Sicily to be conquered. Syracuse held for a long time,
Taormina fell in 902, and all of the island was eventually
conquered by 965. Throughout
this reign, Byzantine Sicilians continued to revolt,
especially in the east, and some of the lands were even re-occupied
before being quashed.
Agricultural items such as oranges,
lemons, pistachio and sugar cane were brought to
Sicily, and the native Christians were allowed freedom of
religion but had to pay an extra tax to their rulers. However, the
Emirate of Sicily began to fragment as inner-dynasty related
quarrels took place within the Muslim regime. By the 11th century, mainland southern Italian powers were
recruiting ferocious Norman merecenaries, who were Christian
descendants of the Vikings. It was the Normans, under Roger
I, who freed Sicily from the Muslims. After claiming Apulia and
Calabria, he occupied Messina with an army of 700 knights. In
1068, Roger Guiscard and his men defeated the Muslims at
Misilmeri. The most crucial battle, however, was the siege of Palermo,
which led to Sicily's total domination under the Normans by 1091.
remained the capital under the Normans. Roger's son,
Roger II of Sicily, ultimately elevated the status
of the island, along with his lands of Malta and Southern
Italy, to a kingdom in 1130. During this period, the Kingdom of
Sicily was prosperous and politically powerful, becoming one of the
wealthiest states in all of Europe--even wealthier than England.
Significant immigration from Northern Italy and Campania occured
during this period and, linguistically, the island became Latinized.
Religiously, Sicily became entirely Roman Catholic while it
had previously been mainly Eastern Orthodox Christian under
century, the Norman Hauteville family dynasty died out, the last direct
descendent and heir of Roger. Constance married Emperor Henry VI
which eventually led to the crown of Sicily being passed onto the
Hohenstaufen Dynasty (Germanic peoples from Swabia).
In 1266, conflict
between the Hohenstaufen house and the Papacy led to
Pope Innocent IV crowning Angevin Dynasty Duke Charles I as the
king of both Sicily and Naples.
opposition to the French rule due to mistreatment and
taxation resulted in resistance from local peoples of Sicily, leading to
an insurrection known as the War of the Sicilian Vespers in
1282, which eventually annihilated almost the entire French population on the
island. During the war, the Sicilians turned to Peter III of
the Kingdom of Aragon for support after being rejected by the Pope.
Peter gained control of Sicily from the French (though the French
retained control of the Kingdom of Naples). The wars continued until
the peace of Caltabellotta in 1302, which recognized Frederick III as king of the Isle of Sicily, while Charles II
was recognized as the king of Naples by Pope Boniface VIII.
Sicily was ruled as an independent kingdom by relatives of the
kings of Aragon until 1409 and then as part of the Crown of Aragon.
Inquisition in 1492 led to Ferdinand I decreeing the explusion
of every single Jew from Sicily. The island was hit by two very
serious earthquakes in the east in 1542 and 1693. A few
years before the second earthquake, the island was struck by a
ferocious plague. There were revolts during the 17th century, but
these were quelled with significant force (especially the revolts of
Palermo and Messina). The Treaty of Utrecht, in 1713,
resulted in Sicily's reassignment to the House of Savoy.
This period of rule
lasted only seven years as it was swapped with the island of
Sardinia by Emperor Charles VI of the Austrian Habsburg
Austrians were busy with the War of the Polish Succession, a
Bourbon prince, Charles from Spain, was able to conquer Sicily and
Naples. At first, Sicily was left as an independent kingdom, while the Bourbons ruled over both from Naples.
However, the advent of Napoleon's First French Empire
resulted in the capture of Naples at the Battle of Campo Tenese and Bonapartist Kings of Naples
were instated. Ferdinand III the Bourbon was forced to
retreat to Sicily (which he still controlled) with the
help of British naval protection. Shortly thereafter, Sicily joined the
Napoleonic Wars. At the wars' end, Sicily and Naples
formally joined as the Two Sicilies under the Bourbons. Major
revolutionary movements occurred in 1820 and 1848 against the
Bourbon government with Sicily seeking independence. The 1848 revolution was successful and resulted in a
sixteen month period of independence for Sicily, until the armed
forces of the Bourbons regained control in May 1849.
Expedition of the Thousand led by Giuseppe Garibaldi, Sicily
became part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1860 as part of the
conquest started at Marsala and was finally completed with
the Siege of Gaeta where the final Bourbons were expelled and
Garibaldi announced his dictatorship in the name of Victor
Emmanuel II of Sardinia. An anti-Savoy revolt, pushing for
Sicilian independence, erupted in 1866 in Palermo: this was quelled
brutally by the Italians within just a week. The Sicilian (and the
wider mezzogiorno) economy collapsed, leading to an
unprecedented wave of emigration. Organizations of workers and
peasants known as the Fasci Siciliani, who were
leftist and separatist groups, rebelled and caused the Italian government
to impose martial law again in 1894.
a loose confederation of organized crimal networks, grew in influence
in the late 19th century. The Fascist regime was
somewhat successful at
suppressing them in the 1920s. July 10, 1943,
allies invaded Sicily during World War II. This was one
cause of the
July 25 crisis (when Mussolini was ousted from power and King
Victor Emmanuel III regained power). Overall, the Allied victors were warmly embraced
by the Sicilian population. Italy became a Republic in 1946
and as part of the Constitution of Italy, Sicily was one of the five
regions given special status as an autonomous region.
Both the partial Italian land reform and special funding from the
Italian government's Cassa per il Mezzogiorno (Fund for the
South) from 1950 to 1984, helped the Sicilian economy improve.
directly adjacent to the Italian region of Calabria, via the
Strait of Messina to the east. The early Roman name for Sicily
was Trinacria, alluding to its triangular shape.
been noted for two millennia as a grain-producing territory.
Citrons, oranges, lemons, olives, olive
oil, almonds, and wine are among its other
The mines of
the Enna and Caltanissetta district became a leading
sulfur-producing area in the 19th century but have declined since
Sicily is divided into nine provinces; Agrigento,
Caltanissetta, Catania, Enna, Messina, Palermo, Ragusa, Syracuse and
Trapani. Also part of various Sicilian provinces are small
surrounding islands, including the Aeolian Islands, the
Aegadian Islands, Pantelleria, Ustica and the
The island of
Sicily is cut by several rivers, most of which flow through the
central area and enter the sea at the south of the island. The Salso
River flows through parts of Enna and Caltanissetta before entering
the Mediterranean Sea at the port of Licata. To the east, the
Alcantara in the province of Messina exits at Giardini-Naxos.
The other two main rivers on the island, Belice and Platani, are to the south-west.
its small surrounding islands are highly significant in the area of
volcanology. Mount Etna is the only volcano on mainland
Sicily located in the east. At a height of 3,320 m (10,900 ft), it
is the tallest active volcano in Europe and one of the most active
in the world. In addition to Etna, there are several non-volcanic
mountain ranges in Sicily: Sicani to the west, Eeri in the central
era and Iblei in the south-east. Across northern Sicily, there
are three other mountain ranges: Madonie, Nebrodi and Peloritani.
Islands to the north-east are volcanically significant with active
Stromboli. Dormant volcanos in the Tyrrhenian Sea include Vulcano, Vulcanello and
Southern coast of Sicily, the underwater water volcano
Ferdinandea, which is part of the larger Empedocles, last erupted
in 1831. It is located between the coast of Agrigento and the island
of Pantelleria (which itself is a dormant volcano), on the
Phlegraean Fields of the Strait of Sicily.
UNESCO- United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization
"Opera dei Pupi, Sicilian Puppet Theatre"
based in Palermo and Catania, the Opera dei Pupi had its heyday in
the nineteenth and early twentieth century. The puppeteers show
great mastery in bringing characters of medieval chivalric epics
alive. A few family-run theatres survive, thanks to safeguarding
activities that started a century ago.
The Puppet Theatre, known as the
Opera dei Pupi, emerged in Sicily at the beginning of the
nineteenth century and was highly popular among the island’s
working classes. The puppeteers told stories based on medieval
chivalric literature and other sources, such as Italian poems of the
Renaissance, the lives of saints, and tales of notorious bandits. The
dialogues in these performances were largely improvised by the
puppeteers. The two main Sicilian puppet schools in Palermo and Catania were distinguished principally by the size and shape of the
puppets, the operating techniques, and the variety of colorful stage
These theatres were often family-run
businesses. The carving, painting and construction of the puppets,
renowned for their intense expressions, were carried out by
craftspeople employing traditional methods. The puppeteers
constantly worked to surpass each other with their shows, and
they exerted great influence over their audience. In the past, these
performances took place over several evenings and provided
opportunities for social gatherings.
The economic and social upheavals
caused by the extraordinary economic boom of the 1950s had a
considerable effect on the tradition, threatening its very
foundations. At that time, similar forms of theatre in other parts
of Italy disappeared, some of them re-emerging some twenty years
later. The Opera dei Pupi is the only example of an uninterrupted
tradition of this kind of theatre. Thanks to current economic
difficulties, puppeteers can no longer make a living from their art,
prompting them to turn to more lucrative professions. Tourism has
contributed to the degradation in the quality of performances, which were
previously only for local audiences.
UNESCO- United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization
Agrigento (1997): Valley of the Temples
Founded as a Greek colony in the 6th
century B.C., Agrigento became one of the leading cities in the
Mediterranean world. Its supremacy and pride are demonstrated by the
remains of the magnificent Doric temples that dominate the ancient
town, much of which still lies intact under today's fields and
orchards. Selected excavated areas shed light on the
Hellenistic and Roman town and the burial practices of its early
Justification for Inscription:
The Committee decided to inscribe
this site on the basis of criteria, considering that Agrigento was
one of the greatest cities of the ancient Mediterranean world, and
it is well preserved and exceptionally intact. Its
great row of Doric temples is one of the most outstanding monuments
of Greek art and culture.
UNESCO- United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization
Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto (South-Eastern Sicily)
The eight towns in south-eastern
Sicily: Caltagirone, Militello Val di Catania, Catania, Modica,
Noto, Palazzolo, Ragusa and Scicli, were all rebuilt after 1693 on
or beside towns existing at the time of the earthquake which took
place in that year. They represent a considerable collective
undertaking, successfully carried out at a high level of
architectural and artistic achievement. Keeping within the late
Baroque style of the day, they also depict distinctive innovations
in town planning and urban building.
Justification for Inscription:
Criterion i This group of towns in
south-eastern Sicily provides outstanding testimony to the exuberant
genius of late Baroque art and architecture. Criterion ii The towns
of the Val di Noto represent the culmination and final flowering of
Baroque art in Europe. Criterion iv The exceptional quality of the
late Baroque art and architecture in the Val di Noto lies in its
geographical and chronological homogeneity, as well as its quantity,
the result of the 1693 earthquake in this region. Criterion v The
eight towns of south-eastern Sicily that make up this nomination,
which are characteristic of the settlement pattern and urban form of
this region, are permanently at risk from earthquakes and eruptions
of Mount Etna.
Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
and the Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica
The site consists of two separate
elements, containing outstanding vestiges dating back to Greek and
Roman times: The Necropolis of Pantalica contains over 5,000 tombs
cut into the rock near open stone quarries, most of them dating from
the 13th to 7th centuries BC. Vestiges of the Byzantine era also
remain in the area, notably the foundations of the Anaktoron (Prince’s
Palace). The other part of the property, Ancient Syracuse, includes
the nucleus of the city’s foundation as Ortygia by Greeks from
Corinth in the 8th century BC. The site of the city, which Cicero
described as ‘the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of
all’, retains vestiges such as the Temple of Athena (5th century BC,
later transformed to serve as a cathedral), a Greek theatre, a Roman
amphitheatre, a fort and more. Many remains bear witness to the
troubled history of Sicily, from the Byzantines to the Bourbons,
interspersed with the Arabo-Muslims, the Normans, Frederick II of
the Hohenstaufen dynasty (1197–1250), the Aragons and the Kingdom of
the Two Sicilies. Historic Syracuse offers a unique testimony to the
development of Mediterranean civilization over three millennia.
Justification for Inscription:
The sites and monuments which form
the Syracuse/Pantalica ensemble constitute a unique accumulation,
through the ages and in the same space, of remarkable testimonies to
Mediterranean cultures. The Syracuse/Pantalica ensemble offers,
through its remarkable cultural diversity, an exceptional testimony
to the development of civilisation over some three millennia. The
group of monuments and archeological sites situated in Syracuse (between
the nucleus of Ortygia and the vestiges located throughout the urban
area) is the finest example of outstanding architectural creation
spanning several cultural aspects (Greek, Roman and Baroque).
Ancient Syracuse was directly linked to events, ideas and literary
works of outstanding universal significance.
Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
Eolie (Aeolian Islands)
The Aeolian Islands provide an outstanding record of volcanic
island-building and destruction, and ongoing volcanic phenomena.
Studied since at least the 18th century, the islands have provided
the science of vulcanology with examples of two types of eruption (Vulcanian
and Strombolian) and thus have featured prominently in the education
of geologists for more than 200 years. The site continues to enrich
the field of vulcanology.
Justification for Inscription:
The islands' volcanic landforms
represent classic features in the continuing study of volcanology
world-wide. With their scientific study from at least the 18th
Century, the islands have provided two of the types of eruptions (Vulcanian
and Strombolian) to vulcanology and geology textbooks and so have
featured prominently in the education of all geoscientists for over
200 years. They continue to provide a rich field for volcanological
studies of on-going geological processes in the development of
Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
Properties submitted on the Tentative List:
The entire historic district of
Palermo can be considered a unique and exceptionally important urban
fabric, which has survived the long succession of various rules to
which the island was subjected over the centuries and that have left
extensive primary evidence.
"All-port" is the translation of the ancient name of the city,
Panormus, which was founded by the Phoenicians in the eighth
century BC, never conquered by the Greeks, but won by the Romans in
254 BC. The city was constituted by two fortified nuclei, the older
Paleopolis and the Neapolis, which occupied a
rocky headland bounded by two rivers - long since disappeared - that
flowed into the sea in a deep and sheltered natural harbour.
Palermo underwent great expansion beneath Arab rule (ninth-eleventh
centuries) that made the island's chief city and one of the leading
trading centres of the Mediterranean. The image handed down by the
Arab chroniclers is that of a mythical Oriental city, brimming with
mosques, sumptuous palaces and crowded markets packed with precious
goods, comparable in size and splendour to Cordoba and Cairo, and it
is claimed that it counted over 300,000 inhabitants.
While extensive traces of the Arab city can still be seen in
Palermo's urban fabric, which retains several Islamic urban features,
little remains of the buildings constructed during that period,
excepting the remains incorporated in the Norman architecture.
Indeed, the Normans, who conquered the city in 1072 and made it an
important trading hub between the Byzantine East, Muslim Africa and
the Catholic Empire, skillfully merged different artistic trends and
promoted an original architectural style, appropriately known as "Arab-Norman",
in which domes and Moorish decorative motives are superimposed on
the severity of basically Romanesque buildings. The old Arab castle
was extended and equipped with towers to become a fitting palace (Palazzo
dei Normanni) for the new sovereigns, who also created a
complex system of gardens on the plain beyond, as far as the
hillsides, dotted with palaces, pavilions, fountains and fish pools,
as testified by the Zisa, Cuba and
Cubola. The city too became a great building site,
with the purpose of consolidating the authority of the Crown and the
episcopal see, particularly through the construction of religious
buildings, such as San Giovanni degli Eremiti,
Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio (the Martorana)
and numerous other churches. The collaboration of Arab, Byzantine
and Latin craftsmen allowed the flourishing of that extraordinary
architectural synthesis which finds its highest expression in the
Palatine Chapel and Monreale Cathedral.
The monastic complex of Monreale, founded in 1174, was the
citadel of Norman power in Sicily. The church was flanked by the
royal palace, a building described by the chroniclers as "multa
dignum admiratione", i.e. worthy of great admiration, and
indeed no other king could boast anything similar. Each individual
culture of the heterogeneous Norman kingdom left its trace there:
the cathedral has a Norman plan and façade, Byzantine mosaics (over
6,000 square metres of them), Arab and Norman-style apsidal
decorations, classical columns, and a cloister that combines Lombard,
Islamic and French elements.
Although Palermo experienced a period of decadence under Angevin
rule, the city once again benefited from ambitious building schemes
and general urban reorganisation under Aragonese in a display of
power by the dominant aristocracy, despite having lost the title of
capital to Naples.
Palermo underwent another great transformation during the Baroque
period, with a process of renovation that celebrated the glories of
its ruling class in a burst of palaces, churches, monasteries and
oratories. The creation of the square known as Piazza
Quattro Canti dates to this period, following the
intersection of Via Maqueda, and features corners richly adorned
with fountains, decorative elements, windows, niches and statues,
which form a spectacular architectural complex.
The city fell under Bourbon rule in 1734, finally becoming Italian
Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
Properties submitted on the Tentative List:
& Isola Bella
Taormina's fortune in all times is
closely linked to its extraordinary location, lying on a narrow
terrace above the sea formed by typical variously coloured
calcareous rocks which ensured its fame in ancient times. Its
coloured marbles can still to be found in monuments and private
dwellings. Owing to its position, the town has always been
considered as a natural fortress of great
strategic and political importance, as it allowed the control over
the eastern coast of Sicily. As a proof of its important role as a
fortified town, parts of the walls surrounding the ancient built-up
area still remain.
At the beginning the site was inhabited by the Siculi, as
attested by the remains of a necropolis. The foundation of the Greek
polis is esteemed to date back to the year 358 B.C.; it was
built by Andromacus, who gathered the survivors of
the nearby Naxos, the first Greek colony in Sicily, up on
the hill. The tyrant Jerone II used the town in his fight
against the Italian Mamertini. The foundation of the
various temples, whose remains are still included in the basements
and parts of the walls of some Christian churches, as well as in the
Ancient Theatre, dates back to the Greek epoch, when the town
structure had been planned.
Under the Roman rule Taormina obtained privileges and it was one of
the three civitates federates of Sicily as mentioned by
Cicero. The town expanded southwards, also due to the
realization of the consular road Valeria, linking Messina
and Syracuse. It was embellished by remarkable buildings: the small
Odeon, the Gymnasium, the monumental tombs, the
public bath, the Theatre in its present structure and the
Naumachias, an important building of imperial epoch whose
function is still uncertain, due to the lack of similar structures.
In the last decades of the 1st century B.C. the town got
involved in the fight between Sestus Pompeus and
Octavianus; the latter founded a military colony for strategic
Then Taormina became one of the Byzantines' favourite centres after
the conquest of Sicily, and at the end of the 9th century
it became the capital of eastern Sicily after the Arabs' conquest of
Syracuse. The town was the last stronghold to fall under the Arabs'
rule. The latter caused so much damage that Taormina was brought
back to the state of a fortified village and it had to change its
name into Al-moetia.
In 1079 Roger d'Hauteville, conquered the town after a long siege;
under the Norman rule Taormina thrived again and became a borough.
Later it took part in the Sicilian Vespers and in the struggles
between Sicilian barons and the Aragonensis it took sides with the
King of Aragon. During the Spanish rule, the town was chosen by some
great families and this encouraged a remarkable building development.
Between the end of the 14th and the half of the 15th
centuries several churches and buildings were erected, characterised
by gothic elements mingled with Spanish ones; such buildings include
the Badia Vecchia (1372), the similar Palace of St. Steven's Dukes,
the Corvaja Palace, which was built on a pre-existent Arab tower and
housed the first Sicilian Parliament.
Under the Spanish rule Taormina underwent a period of decadence. It
still maintained its fame for being a locus refugi and so
several convents and monasteries were established.
During the 18th and the 19th centuries its
prestige grew and so Taormina became one of the most fascinating
destinations for the foreign travellers of the Grand Tour,
who were responsible for the diffusion of the special image of its
historical and natural treasures.
In the second half of the 19th century an Anglosaxon
community settled in Taormina; they were responsible for the gardens
and villas in the most charming spots of the town. The best example
is the garden created by Florence Trevelyan, now public gardens,
which includes eclectic pavilions of far-eastern inspiration, the "beehives",
very peculiar for their architecture and variety of materials.
Isola Bella is linked to the town of Taormina by a system of bays;
it is a typically Mediterranean spot, visited by men since
prehistoric times, and it is characterised by a spontaneous
vegetation mixed to numerous exotic plants introduced towards the
end of the 19th century. The islet is crossed by various
flights of steps, paths and small terraces and it represents, as a
whole, a park of relevant naturalistic and cultural importance,
whose for its flora and fauna, and has charmed visitors, artists and
poets of all times.
Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
Properties submitted on the Tentative List:
Island and Lilibeo
Mothia was founded at the end of VII
century B.C. on the island of San Pantaleo, situated at the centre
of a large lagoon, known today as 'Stagnone', or big pond. Thanks to
its location, particularly favourable to maritime trade, Mothia soon
became one of the most prosperous Western Phoenician colonies. The
more outstanding public works date back to the second half of VI
century B.C., namely the fortifications, a submerged road that used
to link the island to the mainland, near Birgi, the cothon (or
drainage basin and harbour) and the main sanctuaries, in particular
the tophet, where the burnt remains of offerings and sacrifices in
honour of the god Baal Hammon were collected. Over one thousand
carved steles where discovered here, undoubtedly the most
significant evidence of Phoenician Punic sculpture. The ancient
town’s industrial area features several omega-shaped furnaces, in
every way similar to the more ancient pottery furnaces used in
The more violent attacks of the Syracusan army took place not far
from the Northern Gate with the town’s most imposing monuments, and
ended in defeat and plunder in 397 B.C. The survivors of the
ransacked town later gathered in the nearby Capo Lilibeo, where the
Carthaginians built Lilibeo, a new town that developed into the most
important military stronghold in Punic Sicily.
Lilibeo covers a large square area partly bordered by the sea; the
sides facing the mainland were defended by a deep moat and strong
towered ramparts. A vast necropolis ran along the north-east wall,
beyond the moat. Thanks to its imposing fortifications and to the
natural canal of dunes and cliffs that linked the harbour to the
Stagnone making access difficult because of shallow waters, Lilibeo
withstood the attacks of the Syracusan tyrant, Dionysius I, in 368
B.C. and then Pirrus, in 277 B.C. During the first Punic War,
according to the historian Polibius, Lilibeo was the stronghold that
allowed Carthaginians to maintain their dominion in Sicily. Despite
years of siege and strict naval blockade, the town resisted Roman
conquest and the Punic troops were evacuated only after the peace
treaty that put an end to the war. Lilibeo prospered under Roman
rule as a commercial port and also as seat of one of the two
quaestores in charge of the administration of the whole of Sicily.
Cicero held this position and spoke of Lilibeo as civitas
splendidissima. The town’s economy further developed during the
Roman Empire because of its strategic position along the commercial
maritime routes from Northern Africa to Rome; the ruins of several
luxurious private dwellings, with a wealth of thermal baths and
polychrome mosaics, brought to light by during excavations in
Lilibeo, date back to that period.
The site maintained its role as a crucial maritime port also under
Arab and Norman rule: travellers of that period often referred to
Lilibeo and described the town. In fact, it was during the years of
the Arab domination that the was named Marsala, from the Arab Mars
el Allah, or 'God's Harbour.
MAFIA: General Information
The Mafia (also known as Cosa Nostra) is a Sicilian
criminal secret society which first developed in the mid-19th
century in Sicily. An offshoot emerged on the East Coast of the
United States and in Australia during the late 19th century
following waves of Sicilian and Southern Italian emigration. In
North America, the Mafia often refers to Italian organized crime in
general, rather than just traditional Sicilian organized crime.
According to historian Paolo Pezzino: "The Mafia is a kind of
organized crime being active not only in several illegal fields, but
also tending to exercise sovereignty functions – normally belonging
to public authorities – over a specific territory.."
The Sicilian Cosa Nostra is a loose confederation of about one
hundred Mafia groups, also called cosche or families, each of which
claims sovereignty over a territory, usually a town or village or a
neighborhood of a larger city, though without ever fully conquering
and legitimizing its monopoly of violence. For many years, the power
apparatuses of the single families were the sole ruling bodies
within the two associations, and they have remained the real centers
of power even after superordinate bodies were created in the Cosa
Nostra beginning in the late 1950s
observers have seen "mafia" as a set of attributes deeply rooted in
popular culture, as a "way of being", as illustrated in the
definition by the Sicilian ethnographer, Giuseppe Pitrè, at the end
of the 19th century: "Mafia is the consciousness of one's own worth,
the exaggerated concept of individual force as the sole arbiter of
every conflict, of every clash of interests or ideas."
Sicilians did not regard these men as criminals but as role models
and protectors, given that the state appeared to offer no protection
for the poor and weak. As late as the 1950s, the funeral epitaph of
the legendary boss of Villalba, Calogero Vizzini, stated that "his
'mafia' was not criminal, but stood for respect of the law, defense
of all rights, greatness of character. It was love." Here, "mafia"
means something like pride, honour, or even social responsibility:
an attitude, not an organization. Likewise, in 1925, the former
Italian Prime Minister Vittorio Emanuele Orlando stated in the
Italian senate that he was proud of being mafioso, because
that word meant honourable, noble, generous.
According to some mafiosi, the real name of the Mafia is "Cosa
Nostra" ("Our thing"). Many have claimed, as did the Mafia
turncoat Tommaso Buscetta, that the word "mafia" was a
literary creation. Other Mafia defectors, such as Antonio
Calderone and Salvatore Contorno, said the same thing.
According to them, the real thing was "cosa nostra". To men of
honour belonging to the organization, there is no need to name it.
Mafiosi introduce known members to other known members as belonging
to "cosa nostra" (our thing) or la stessa cosa (the same
thing), meaning "he is the same thing, a mafioso, as you". Only the
outside world needs a name to describe it, hence the capitalized
form "Cosa Nostra".
Cosa Nostra was first used, in the early 1960s, in the United States
by Joseph Valachi, a mafioso turned state witness, during the
hearings of the McClellan Commission. At the time, it was understood
as a proper name, fostered by the FBI and disseminated by the
media. The designation gained wide popularity and almost replaced
the term Mafia. The FBI even added an article to the term, calling
it 'La Cosa Nostra'. In Italy the article 'la' is never used when
the term refers to the Mafia.
Rituals of Sicilian Cosa Nostra
The orientation ritual in most
families happens when a man becomes an associate, and then, a
soldier. As described by Tommaso Buscetta to judge
Giovanni Falcone, the neophyte is brought together with at least
three "men of honor" of the family and the oldest member present
warns him that "this House" is meant to protect the weak against the
abuse of the powerful; he then pricks the finger of the initiate and
spills his blood onto a sacred image, usually of a saint. The image
is placed in the hand of the initiate and lit on fire. The neophyte
must withstand the pain of the burning, passing the image from hand
to hand, until the image has been consumed, while swearing to keep
faith with the principles of "Cosa Nostra," solemnly swearing "may
my flesh burn like this saint if I fail to keep my oath." Joseph
Valachi was the first person to mention that in court.
also have a law of silence, called omertà; it forbids the
common man, woman or child to cooperate at all with the police or
the government, upon pain of death.
It has long been debated whether the
mafia has medieval origins. Deceased pentito Tommaso
Buscetta thought so, whilst modern
scholars now believe otherwise. It is possible that the "original"
mafia formed as a secret society sworn to protect the Sicilian
population from the threat of Catalan marauders in the fifteenth
century. However, there is very little historical evidence to
suggest this. It is also feasible that the "Robin Hood"
origins, which are closely intertwined with the Sicilian outlaw
Salvatore Giuliano, were
perpetuated by the earliest known mafiosi as a means of
gaining goodwill and trust from the Sicilian people. This origin
states that the Mafia is a means for righteous rebels to defend the
people against oppression, Roman and Northern Italian control, and
Revolution of 1848 and the revolution of 1860, Sicily had
fallen to complete disorder. The earliest mafiosi, at that time
separate, small bands of outlaws, offered their guns in the revolt.
Author John Dickie claims that the main reasons for this were the
chance to burn police records and evidence, and to kill off police
and pentiti in the chaos. However, once a new government was
established in Rome and it became clear that the mafia would be
unable to execute these actions, they began refining their methods
and techniques over the latter half of the nineteenth century.
Protecting the large lemon groves and estates of local nobility
became a lucrative but dangerous business. Palermo was
initially the main area of these activities, but the Sicilian
mafia's dominance soon spread over all of western Sicily. In order
to strengthen the bond between the disparate gangs and so ensure
greater profits and a safer working environment, it is possible that
the mafia as such was formed at this time in about the mid-19th
Mafia after the unification of Italy
the year when the new unified Italian state first took over both
Sicily and the Papal States, the Popes were hostile to the state.
From 1870, the Pope declared himself besieged by the Italian state
and strongly encouraged Catholics to refuse to cooperate with the
state. Broadly speaking, in mainland Italy, this did not lead to
violence. Sicily was strongly Catholic, but in a strongly tribal
sense rather than in an intellectual and theological sense, and had
a tradition of suspicion of outsiders. The friction between the
Church and the state gave a great advantage to violent criminal
bands in Sicily who could claim to peasants and townspeople that
cooperating with the police (representing the new Italian state) was
an anti-Catholic activity. It was in the two decades following the
1860 unification that the term Mafia came to the attention of the
general public, although it was considered to be more of an attitude
and value system than an organization.
mention in official law documentation of the 'mafia' came in the
late 1800s, when a Dr. Galati was subject to threats of violence
from a local mafioso, who was attempting to oust Galati from his own
lemon grove in order to move himself in. Protection rackets, cattle
rustling and bribery of state officials were the main sources of
income and protection for the early mafia. Cosa Nostra also borrowed
heavily from masonic oaths and rituals, such as the now famous
Fascist period in Italy, Cesare Mori, prefect of Palermo,
used special powers granted to him to prosecute the Mafia, forcing
many Mafiosi to flee abroad or risk being jailed. Many of the
Mafiosi who escaped fled to the United States, among them Joseph
Bonanno, nicknamed Joe Bananas, who came to dominate the U.S.
branch of the Mafia. However, when Mori started to persecute the
Mafiosi involved in the Fascist hierarchy, he was removed, and the
Fascist authorities proclaimed that the Mafia had been defeated.
Though the mafia was weakened, it had not been defeated as claimed.
Despite his assault on their brethren, Mussolini had his admirers in
the New York Mafia, notably Vito Genovese (although he was
from Naples and not from Sicily).
The post-war revival
the Mafia did not become powerful in Italy again until after the
country's surrender in World War II and the U.S. occupation.
The United States used Italian connections of American Mafiosi
during the invasion of Italy and Sicily in 1943. Lucky Luciano
and other Mafiosi, who had been imprisoned during this time in the
U.S., provided information for U.S. military intelligence and used
Luciano's influence to ease the way for advancing troops.
Furthermore, Luciano's control of the ports prevented sabotage by
agents of the Axis powers.
Some say that
the U.S. Office of Strategic Services, precursor to the CIA,
deliberately allowed the mafia to recover its social and economic
position as the "anti-State" in Sicily, and with the U.S.-mafia
alliance forged in 1943, this became the true turning point of mafia
history and the new foundation for its subsequent 60-year career.
Others, such as the Palermitan historian Francesco Renda,
have argued that there was no such alliance. Rather, the mafia
exploited the chaos of post-fascist Sicily to reconquer its social
base. The OSS indeed, in its 1944 "Report on the Problem of Mafia"
by the agent W. E. Scotten, pointed to the signs of mafia resurgence
and warned of its perils for social order and economic progress.
additional benefit (from the American perspective) was that many of
the Sicilian-Italian Mafiosi were hard-line anti-communists. They
were therefore seen as valuable allies by the anti-communist
Americans, who allegedly used them to root out socialist and
communist elements in the American shipping industry as well as
wartime resistance movements and postwar local and regional
governments in areas where the Mafia held sway.
drug trade expert Dr. Alfred W. McCoy, Luciano was permitted
to run his crime network from his jail cell in exchange for his
assistance. After the war, Luciano was rewarded by being released
from prison and deported to Italy, where he was able to continue his
criminal career unhindered. He went to Sicily in 1946 to continue
his activities and according to McCoy's landmark 1972 book The
Politics of Heroin in South-East Asia, Luciano went on to forge
a crucial alliance with the Corsican Mafia, leading to the
development of a vast international heroin trafficking network,
initially supplied from Turkey and based in Marseille — the
so-called "French Connection".
Turkey began to eliminate its opium production, he used his
connections with the Corsicans to open a dialogue with expatriate
Corsican mafiosi in South Vietnam. In collaboration with leading
American mob bosses including Santo Trafficante Jr., Luciano and his
successors took advantage of the chaotic conditions in Southeast
Asia arising from the Vietnam War to establish an unassailable
supply and distribution base in the "Golden Triangle", which was
soon funneling huge amounts of Asian heroin into the United States,
Australia and other countries.
Maxi Trial and war against the government
Mafia War in the early 1980s was a large scale conflict within
the Mafia that also led to the assassinations of several politicians,
police chiefs and magistrates. Salvatore Riina and his
Corleonesi faction ultimately prevailed in the war. The new
generation of mafiosi placed more emphasis on "white-collar"
criminal activity as opposed to more traditional racketeering
enterprises. In reaction to these developments, the Italian press
has come up with the phrase Cosa Nuova ("the new thing", a
play on Cosa Nostra) to refer to the revamped organization.
major pentito (a captured mafioso who collaborated
with the judicial system) was Tommaso Buscetta who had lost
several allies in the war and began to talk to prosecutor
Giovanni Falcone around 1983. This led to the Maxi Trial
(1986-1987) which resulted in several hundred convictions of leading
mafiosi. When the Italian Supreme Court confirmed the convictions in
January 1992, Riina took revenge. The politician Salvatore Lima was
killed in March 1992; he had long been suspected of being the main
government connection of the Mafia (later confirmed by testimony of
Buscetta), and the Mafia was clearly displeased with his services.
Falcone and fellow anti-Mafia prosecutor Paolo Borsellino
were killed a few months later. This led to a public outcry and a
massive government crackdown, resulting in Riina's arrest in January
1993. More and more pentitos started to emerge. Many would
pay a high price for their co-operation usually through the murder
of relatives. For example, Cosa Nostra defector Francesco Marino
Mannoia's, mother, aunt and sister were murdered.
Known as the
Honored Society among Mafiosi, the chain of command is organized in
a pyramid similar to a modern corporate structure.
di Tutti Capi (the "Boss of All Bosses", namely Matteo
Messina Denaro for the Sicilian Mafia and Renato Gagliano for the
Sacra Corona Unita)
di Capi Re (a title of respect given to a senior or
retired member, equivalent to being a member emeritus,
literally, "King Boss of Bosses")
Crimine ("Crime Boss", known as a Don - the head of a
Bastone ("Club Head", known as the "Underboss" is second
in command to the Capo Crimine)
Consigliere (an advisor)
Caporegime ("Regime head", a captain who commands a "crew"
of around ten Sgarriste or "soldiers")
Sgarrista or Soldato ("Soldier", made
members of the Mafia who serve primarily as foot soldiers)
Picciotto ("Little man", a low ranking member who serves
as an "enforcer")
Giovane D'Onore (an associate member, usually someone not
of Italian ancestry)
Italian Mafia structure
Capofamiglia - (Don)
Consigliere - (Counselor/Advisor)
Capo - (Underboss)
Capodecina - (Group Boss/Capo)
Uomini D'onore - ("Men of Honor")
2007 Sicilian police reported to have found a list of "Ten
Commandments" in the hideout of mafia boss Salvatore Lo Piccolo.
Similar to the Biblical Ten Commandments, they are thought to be a
guideline on how to be a good mobster. The commandments are as
present himself directly to another of our friends. There must be
a third person to do it.
at the wives of friends
seen with cops.
Don't go to
pubs and clubs.
being available for Cosa Nostra is a duty - even if your wife's
about to give birth.
Appointments must absolutely be respected.
be treated with respect.
for any information, the answer must be the truth.
cannot be appropriated if it belongs to others or to other
can't be part of Cosa Nostra: anyone who has a close relative in
the police, anyone with a two-timing relative in the family,
anyone who behaves badly and doesn't hold to moral values.
The main split in the Sicilian Mafia at present is between those
bosses who have been convicted and are now imprisoned, chiefly Riina
and capo di tutti capi Bernardo Provenzano, and
those who are on the run, or who have not been indicted. The
incarcerated bosses are currently subjected to harsh controls on
their contact with the outside world, limiting their ability to run
their operations from behind bars under the article 41 bis prison
regime. Antonino Giuffrè – a close confidant of
Provenzano, turned pentito shortly after his capture
in 2002 – alleges that in 1993, Cosa Nostra had direct contact with
representatives of Silvio Berlusconi who was then planning the birth
of Forza Italia.
The deal that he says was alleged to have been made was a repeal of
41 bis, among other anti-Mafia laws in return for electoral
deliverances in Sicily. Giuffrè's declarations have not been
confirmed. The Italian Parliament, with the support of Forza Italia,
extended the enforcement of 41 bis, which was to expire in 2002 but
has been prolonged for another four years and extended to other
crimes such as terrorism. However, according to one of Italy’s
leading magazines, L'Espresso, 119 mafiosi – one-fifth of
those incarcerated under the 41 bis regime – have been released on
an individual basis. The human rights group Amnesty International
has expressed concern that the 41-bis regime could in some
circumstances amount to "cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment" for
In addition to Salvatore Lima, mentioned above, the politician
Giulio Andreotti and the High Court judge Corrado Carnevale have
long been suspected of having ties to the Mafia.
By the late 1990s, the weakened Cosa Nostra had to yield most of the
illegal drug trade to the 'Ndrangheta crime organization from
Calabria. In 2006, the latter was estimated to control 80% of
the cocaine import to Europe. The mafia also have a strong
business in extortion big companies as well as smaller ones. It
estimates that 7% of Italy's output is filtered off by organised
crime. The Mafia has turned into one of Italy's biggest business
enterprises with a turnover of more than US$120bn a year.
World War II
fight for North Africa ended, Roosevelt, Churchill, and their
top military advisors met at Casablanca in January 1943 to examine
the worldwide course of the war and decide on future strategy. In
the Mediterranean theater, they called for the conquest of
Sicily (Operation Husky) following a North African victory. The
Allies recognized the island of Sicily, located just south of the
Italian mainland, as a logical step on the road to Rome.
Tunisia and Sicily, Pantelleria and Lampedusa posed a threat to the
invading forces. With their radio direction finder stations, troops
on both islands could interfere with ship movements in the Sicilian
straits, and a modern airfield on Pantelleria gave the enemy an
interdiction capability. Capturing the bases would protect the
invasion forces and allow the Allies to deploy fighters to protect
ships and men during the first stage of Operation Husky. Reluctant
to invade, Eisenhower decided to bomb the defenders into surrender.
In late May,
NAAF and Allied naval forces began pounding Pantelleria. The airmen
unleashed a torrent of bombs using an array of aircraft, including
B-17s, B-25s, B-26s, P-38s, P-40s, A-36s, A-20s, and RAF Wellingtons.
On June 11, a battered Italian garrison eagerly surrendered. Enemy
forces on Lampedusa capitulated soon thereafter.
then turned their full attention on Sicily. During the latter part
of May, they bombed Sicilian and Sardinian airfields often and hard,
and when Axis bombers pulled out for southern Italy, Allied airmen
followed. In the last week of May, they struck heavy blows against
Axis airfield complexes at Naples and Foggia.
an effort to block enemy reinforcement of Sicily, NAAF flew hundreds
of medium- and heavy-bomber sorties during the latter half of June
against depots, ports, and marshaling yards along Italy's western
coast. As part of this effort, Messina, located on Sicily's
northeast tip, was struck especially hard.
Allied air forces also repeatedly hit airfields and landing grounds
on Sicily, putting many of them out of service before the invasion.
The Luftwaffe, however, still posed a threat. As Allied convoys
approached Sicily on the night of July 9/10, enemy aircraft spread
among bases in Sicily, Sardinia, Italy, and southern France still
numbered in the hundreds. Although Allied air forces had nearly five
thousand operational aircraft, they remained alert to possible
plan called first for British and U.S. airborne assaults, the former
by glider and the latter by parachute. The British began their
operation on the evening of July 9 when 147 tow planes, each pulling
a loaded glider, took off from Tunisia. The aircraft, nearly all
C-47s from the AAF's Troop Carrier Command, carried the British I
Airborne Division. Their mission focused on seizing a canal bridge
south of the city of Syracuse on Sicily's east coast. Regrettably,
strong winds, flak, and poor visibility caused most tow pilots to
release their gliders in the wrong areas. Only twelve came down in
the landing zone; at least forty-seven gliders crashed into the sea,
drowning many of the troops aboard. But the British managed to
engage the enemy at the canal bridge and captured it the next day.
phase of the operation paralleled that of the British. More than two
hundred C-47s carrying almost three thousand paratroopers of the 82d
Airborne Division left Tunisia on the evening of July 9. Delayed
because of high winds and a missed checkpoint over Malta,
they approached Sicily in almost complete darkness to discover that
fire and smoke from earlier Al lied bombing further obscured their
drop zones. As a result, the paratroopers came down over a wide
area. They carried out their mission, however, seizing and holding a
strategic road junction east of Gela.
had decided to invade Sicily at its southeastern corner, with the
U.S. Seventh Army under Lt. Gen. George Patton on the left and the
British Eighth Army under Montgomery on the right. As dawn, July 10,
approached, the amphibious phase of the operation began. At daylight,
Allied airmen, including the recently arrived African-American
troops of the 99th Fighter Squadron--popularly known as the "Tuskegee
Airmen"--established defensive air patrols over the beaches and
shipping. Night fall found Licata, Syracuse, and the airfield
at Pachino in Allied hands. The next day, the U.S. Seventh
Army held the beachhead against assaults by the German Hermann
Goering and Italian Livorno Divisions, sustain ing more than two
thousand casualties in the effort.
decided to reinforce the beachhead with paratroopers from his North
African reserves and he ordered a mission for the night of July II.
Not everyone got the word, however. Nervous antiaircraft gunners in
the Allied fleet and on shore mistook the arriving Allied transports
for the enemy and opened fire with devastating effect. The gunners
shot down twenty-three out of 144 aircraft, damaged thirty-seven
more, and inflicted 10 percent casualties on the paratroop force.
The surviving troopers joined the Seventh Army's fight to take the
coastal plain and move into the hills beyond.
On July 13,
the American and British armies linked up and the critical assault
phase was over. With the landings now secure, NAAF struck targets
farther afield. Medium and heavy bombers attacked Messina on July
14, and B-17s and Wellingtons bombed Naples on July 14-15, damaging
marshaling yards, rolling stock, and railroad tracks in both cities.
A week after
the invasion, the U.S. Seventh Army raced north and west toward
Palermo and the British Eighth Army moved against Catania. During
these drives, AAF's XII Air Support Command helped the Americans,
the RAF's Desert Air Force aided the British, and the Allied
Tactical Bomber Force supported both armies.
On July 22,
the Americans liberated Palermo, a swift action that required little
air support. But across the island, air power played a major role in
fighting for Catania. Airmen flew hundreds of missions in the last
ten days of July, bombing enemy communications centers, troop and
gun concentrations, ammunition dumps, roads, and bridges.
On August 1,
as the Sicilian campaign drew to a close, Libya-based B-24
Liberators of the Ninth Air Force struck Ploesti in the AAF's final
heavy-bomber, low-level attack of the European war. A navigation
error destroyed the daring plan's split-second timing, alerted Axis
air defenses, and created confusion over the target; but despite
very heavy losses, the crews grimly pressed home their attacks from
altitudes as low as one hundred feet. Bravery and heroism in the
attack on Ploesti resulted in five awards of the Medal of Honor. The
Germans, however, swiftly repaired the damage.
troops approached Messina from the south and west in early August,
enemy forces fled across the narrow straits to the Italian main land.
To slow their withdrawal, Allied aircraft targeted every means of
escape. A-36 dive-bombers struck merchant vessels, barges,
freighters, and other small craft; medium and heavy bombers pounded
supply points, marshaling yards, and beaches; and fighters attacked
harbor shipping. In spite of these efforts, the resourceful Germans
saved thousands of men and tons of equipment.
in Sicily successfully combined air, ground, and sea power in one of
the largest amphibious landings of World War II. Al though a tough
fight in torturous terrain followed, the eventual triumph secured
Allied lines of communication in the Mediterranean, forced the
Germans to transfer troops into southern France and the Balkans, and
pro vided a springboard for the invasion of mainland Italy.
Italian: lingua siciliana,
also known as Siculu) is a Romance language. Its dialects
comprise the Italiano Meridionale-estremo language group,
which are spoken on the island of Sicily
and its satellite islands; Some assert that Sicilian represents the
oldest Romance language derived from Vulgar Latin (Privitera, 2004),
but this is not a widely-held view amongst linguists. For instance,
Cipolla describes such a view as radical.
currently spoken by the majority of the inhabitants of Sicily and by
immigrant populations around the world. The latter are to be
found in the countries which attracted large numbers of Sicilian
immigrants during the course of the past century or so, especially
the United States, Canada, Australia and Argentina. In the past two
or three decades, large numbers of Sicilians were also attracted to
the industrial zones of northern Italy and indeed the rest of the
European Union, especially Germany.
not recognized as an official language anywhere in the world, even
within Italy. There is currently no central body, in Sicily or
elsewhere, that regulates the language in any way. The autonomous
regional parliament of Sicily has legislated to encourage the
teaching of Sicilian at all schools, but inroads into the education
system have been slow
Americans are a subset of Italian Americans from Sicily or of
Sicilian heritage, and number approximately 12 million. They are
sometimes treated as a separate group due to cultural and historical
differences between Sicily and the mainland.
Sicilians came to what is now the United States in the seventeenth
century as explorers and missionaries. Sicilian immigration to the
US then grew substantially in the period starting in the 1880s and
in 1906 as many as a 100,000 Sicilians came to the US. By 1924,
immigration restrictions had caused this to plummet. This period saw
political and economic shifts in Sicily that made emigration
desirable. A great portion of the Sicilian immigrants would settle
in New York City, New Jersey, Chicago, Boston, New Orleans, San
Diego and San Francisco.
Sicilian culture came with them such as theatre and music.
Giovanni De Rosalia was a noted Sicilian American playwright in
the early period and farce was popular in several Sicilian dominated
theatres. In music Sicilian Americans would be linked, to some
extent, to jazz. Many of the more popular cities for Sicilian
immigrants, like New Orleans or Chicago, are pivotal in the history
of jazz. In Chicago the predominately Sicilian neighborhood was
called "Little Sicily" and in New Orleans it was "Little Palermo."
One of the earliest, and among the most controversial, figures in
jazz was Nick LaRocca who is of Sicilian heritage.
Sicilian-Americans immigrants faced stereotypes and discrimination,
sometimes even from other Italians. Tensions between Italian regions
had not been entirely resolved with unification and so Northern
Italians had sayings that indicated Sicilians were untrustworthy and
ethnically different. With northern Italians having blonde hair and
blue eyes at a noticeably higher frequency than Sicilians, who, in
general, tend to display darker features. A more persistent
stereotype linked them to the
and continues to perpetuate through films such as The Godfather
that portray Sicilians in this light. As the mafia is of Sicilian
origin, Sicilian Americans were stereotyped as mafia-linked to an
even greater degree than Italian Americans in general. Even if
unfair the rationalization for it was that the Mafia itself is
traditionally stronger in Sicily than it is in the rest of Italy.
adjective mafiusu may derive from the Arabic mahyas, meaning
"aggressive boasting, bragging", or marfud meaning "rejected".
Roughly translated, it means "swagger", but can also be translated
as "boldness, bravado".
The Sicilian Mafia calls themselves Cosa
Nostra (meaning "thing of ours"), based in Sicily.
stereotypic pressures, Sicilian Americans have continued to thrive
in the cultural climate of America, with many actors, directors,
musicians, athletes, politicians, and intellectuals of notable
Famous Sicilian Americans
Artists, writers, and musicians
Armetta, (Palermo, Sicily, July 4, 1888 - San Diego,
California, October 21, 1945) was a movie character actor who
appeared in at least 150 films, starting in silents as early as
1915 to a movie released in 1946, after his death. In 1938 he
played in "Everybody Sing" with Judy Garland, Allan Jones, and
Fanny Brice. In 1941, he was hilarious as the father of an Italian
family shopping for beds in "The Big Store" with the Marx Brothers
and Tony Martin. He appeared in at least 24 films in 1934 alone,
Assante was born on October 4, 1949 in New York City, New York
to an Sicilian father and an Irish mother. Assante is an
accomplished character actor, with his big break coming in 1974 in
"The Lords of Flatbush". His sometimes sinister look has made him
a popular choice for movies and TV.
Barbera, born Joseph Roland Barbera (March 24, 1911 –
December 18, 2006), is an animator, cartoon artist, storyboard
artist, director, producer and co-founder, together with William
Hanna of Hanna-Barbera (now known as Cartoon Network Studios). The
studio produced well-known cartoons such as The Huckleberry
Hound Show, The Flintstones, The Jetsons, and
Bono, born Salvatore Phillip Bono (February 16, 1935 –
January 5, 1998) was an American record producer, singer, actor
and politician whose career spanned over three decades.
Argentina Brunetti, (August 31, 1907 — December 20, 2005) was
an actress and writer. She followed Mimi Aguglia, her famous
mother's footsteps in the theater. She began her movie debut in
the Frank Capra classic It's a Wonderful Life
(1946), as Mrs. Martini. Throughout her varied career she has also
written and performed in daily radio shows, became a member of the
'Hollywood Foreign Press Association', writing numerous articles
on Hollywood personalities, authored books, written music and
acted in over 57 television programs and 68 movies in which she
mainly played multi-ethnic roles. She hosted a weekly web log on
the Internet, called Argentina Brunetti's Hollywood Stories,
which her son plans to continue running, and has written a
biographical novel called In Sicilian Company.
Capra, (May 18, 1897 – September 3, 1991) was an American film
director and a major creative force behind a number of highly
popular films.Born Francesco Rosario Capra in Bisacquino,
Sicily, Capra moved with his family to America in 1903, settling
in Los Angeles, California.
S. Castellano, (September 4, 1933 – December 10, 1988). The
actor became famous as Pete Clemenza in The Godfather.
Chester (October 27, 1924 - August 17, 1987) (born Cesario
Gurciullo in Siracusa, Sicily-Italy) was one of the twentieth
century's busiest studio drummers. Gary is counted as one of the
greats when it comes to studio session drummers. His work appears
on thousands of tracks, including hundreds of hit records from the
'50s, '60s and '70s. He claimed to have logged some 15,000 studio
sessions over three decades. He is on the short list of 20th
Century Drummers' Hall of Fame.
Eyes Cody, (April 3, 1904 – January 4, 1999) was an actor born
in Kaplan, Louisiana. He was born Espera DeCorti, the son
of Sicilian immigrants Francesca Salpietra and Antonio
DeCorti. He was not born a Native American, but he claimed to
be part Cherokee and part Cree. Cody and his wife Bertha Parker
adopted children that were Native American. Cody began his acting
career at the age of 12 and continued to work until the time of
his death. In 1996, the New Orleans Times-Picayune exposed
his true heritage, but Cody denied it.
Cortese, (born September 14, 1967 near Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania) is an actor. Born in the Pittsburgh suburb of
Sewickley, Pennsylvania, Cortese first came to prominence as host
of MTV Sports from 1992 to 1993. He has had starring roles
in the 1993 remake of Route 66, Traps, Melrose
Place, The Single Guy, Veronica's Closet, and
Ball & Chain.
Dale, (July 9, 1926-April 20, 2002) was a singer of
traditional popular and rock'n'roll music. He was born Aldo
Sigismondi in the Brooklyn borough of New York, New York. His
father, Aristide Sigismondi, immigrated to the United
States from Abruzzi, Italy in 1904 at the age of 21, and became a
comedian in Italian language theater, with a radio program of his
own. His mother, Agata "Kate" Sigismondi, was born in
Messina, Sicily, and was 15 years younger than Aristide.
Di Modica is a New York City artist, born in Sicily, best
known for his sculpture Charging Bull (also known as the
"Wall Street Bull"), which he installed without permission in
front of the New York Stock Exchange in December 1989. The piece
is now on loan to the New York City Department of Parks and
Recreation who have placed it in nearby Bowling Green park. Di
Modica now lives in New York City.
Gazzara, (born Biagio Anthony Gazzara on August 28,
1930, in New York City), is an actor in television and motion
pictures. Born to Sicilian immigrants, Antonio Gazzara and
Angela Consumano, Gazzara grew up on New York's tough Lower
East Side. He found relief from his bleak surroundings in joining
a theater company at a very young age. Years later, he said that
the discovery of his love for acting saved him from the crime that
was all around him during his teenage years.
Graglia is the Dalton Cross Professor of Law at the
University of Texas specializing in antitrust litigation. He
obtained a BA from the City College of New York in 1952, and an
LLB from Columbia University in 1954. He worked in the United
States Department of Justice during the administration of
President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Graglia is an outspoken Catholic
conservative of Sicilian background. He is a well known critic of
affirmative action and racial quotas.
Laine, born Frank Paul LoVecchio on March 30, 1913, is
an influential American singer. Frankie's parents emigrated from
Monreale, Sicily to Chicago's "Little Italy". At 17 he sang before
a crowd of 5,000 at The Merry Garden Ballroom to such enthusiastic
applause that he ended up performing five encores on his first
night. But success as a singer was another 17 years away. Frankie
Laine's 70-plus year career spanned most of the 20th century and
has continued into the 21st. Laine was a key figure in the golden
age of popular music, and remains, quite possibly the greatest
singer of all time. On June 12, 1996, he was presented with a
Lifetime Achievement Award at the 27th Annual Songwriters’ Hall of
Fame awards ceremony at the New York Sheraton.
Lauper, (born June 22, 1953), Cynthia Ann Stephanie Lauper,
better known as Cyndi Lauper, is a singer whose melodic
voice and wild costumes have come to epitomize the 1980s, the
decade in which she first came to fame. She was born in Queens,
New York to Swiss German-American Fred Lauper and Sicilian
Italian-American Catrine Dominique.
LuPone, (born April 21, 1949 in Northport, New York) is an
American singer and actress of Sicilian descent. She is a graduate
of Northport High School. An important player in contemporary
American musical theater, she has performed on Broadway in works
by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Stephen Sondheim and others. She won a
Tony Award for Evita in 1980.
Martello, (1931-2000) was an author, lecturer, gay civil
rights activist, and an early voice in the American Neopagan
movement. He drew heavily on his Sicilian heritage, teaching the
Strega Tradition which was named after the Italian word for Witch.
As a founder of the Witches Anti-Defamation League (later the
Alternative Religions Education Network) he was known for his
lively and sometimes confrontational style. For example, in his
books he tried to popularize the "Witches' Curse" which was "I
wish you on yourself". He was profiled in Margot Adler's
Drawing Down the Moon.
Merchant, (born October 26, 1963 in Jamestown, New York, USA)
is a versatile musician. Merchant co-founded and fronted the
successful band 10,000 Maniacs in 1981, but left the band in 1993
for a solo career. Her father's original Italian name was
Mercante but was americanized into Merchant. Her
mother's side is Irish.
Mineo, born Salvatore Mineo, Jr. (January 10, 1939 -
February 12, 1976) was an American actor and theater director,
famous for his Academy Award-nominated performance opposite James
Dean in the film Rebel Without a Cause.Mineo, born in The
Bronx, New York City as the son of a Sicilian coffin maker, was
enrolled by his mother in dancing and acting school at an early
Pacino, born Alfredo James Pacino (born April 25, 1940
in The Bronx, New York, USA) is an American film actor. Pacino is
the son of Salvatore Pacino (who was born in Italy) and Rose
Gerard (the daughter of an Italian-born father and a New York-born
mother of Italian descent). His parents divorced while Pacino was
still a child. His grandparents originate from Corleone, Sicily.
Prima was born into a musical family of Sicilian descent in
New Orleans. He studied violin for several years as a child. His
older brother Leon Prima was a well regarded local bandleader.
Prima was proud of his heritage, and made a point of letting the
audience know at every performance that he was Italian-American
and from New Orleans. His singing and playing showed that he
absorbed many of the same influences as his fellow Crescent City
musician, Louis Armstrong, particularly in his hoarse voice and
Puzo, (October 15, 1920 – July 2, 1999) was an American author
known for his fictional books about the Mafia. Puzo was born into
a family of Sicilian immigrants living in the "Hell's Kitchen"
neighborhood of New York City. Many of his books draw heavily on
this Sicilian heritage.
Remini, (born June 15, 1970 in Brooklyn, New York) is an
actress. She is best known for her role as Carrie Heffernan on the
sitcom The King of Queens. Her father George Remini,
owner of an asbestos company, originates from Sicily. Her mother
Vicki Marshall, a high school principal, is Jewish.
Rugolo, (born December 25, 1915) is a Sicilian-born composer
and arranger. He was born in Patti, Sicily, but his parents
emigrated to the United States in 1920 and settled in Santa Rosa,
California. He started his musical career playing the baritone,
like his father, but he quickly branched out into other
instruments, notably the French horn and the piano. He is most
famous for his writing for the Stan Kenton Orchestra, although he
led a long and successful career as a composer and arranger based
in Los Angeles for many years. He has written for the Four
Freshmen (for whom he was musical director) and many others.
Scorsese, (pronounced as Scor-SEH-see) (born November 17, 1942
in Queens, New York, USA) is a multi-Oscar nominated film
director. Martin Scorsese came from a working class
Italian-American family, hailing from the Sicilian town of
Polizzi Generosa; his father Luciano Charles Scorsese
(1912-1993) was a pants presser in New York's garment district. He
struggled to earn enough money to attend university, but has shown
enormous gratitude to his parents for helping him realize his
dreams. His parents were the subject of Scorsese's documentary
Italianamerican and made numerous cameo appearances in his
films before their deaths. For years, his mother worked as the
official caterer for all of Scorsese's films and his father helped
in the wardrobe department.
Scala, born Giovanna Scoglio in Liverpool, England, to
an aristocratic Sicilian father, Pietro Scoglio, and an
Irish mother, Eileen Sullivan. Raised from infancy in
Sicily, she moved to the United States at age fourteen where she
studied and worked in New York City. She studied acting and in
1954 was signed to a contract by Universal Studios in Hollywood.
She received wide recognition for her performance of "Anna" in the
1961 film, The Guns of Navarone. She ended her life with a
drug overdose in 1972.Gia Scala is interred in the Holy Cross
Cemetery in Culver City, California.
Schiavelli, (November 10, 1948 - December 26, 2005) is a noted
character actor known for his work in film and on
television. He was born into a Sicilian-American family in
Brooklyn, New York. He studied acting through the Theater Program
at New York University and began working on the stage in the
1960s. Having a respected Sicilian chef for a grandfather rubbed
off on Vincent Schiavelli, as he is also the author of a number of
cookbooks and food articles for magazines and newspapers. He
received a James Beard Foundation Journalism Award in 2001 and has
been nominated on a number of other occasions. He succumbed to
lung cancer at age 57, passing away at his home in Polizzi
Generosa, Italy, the town in Sicily where his grandfather
emigrated from and which he wrote about in his 2002 book, Many
Beautiful Things: Stories and Recipes from Polizzi Generosa.
Sinatra, born Francis Albert Sinatra (December 12, 1915
– May 14, 1998) was an American singer who is considered one of
the finest vocalists of all time, renowned for his impeccable
phrasing and timing. Many critics place him alongside Bing Crosby,
Elvis Presley, and The Beatles as the most important popular music
figures of the 20th century. Sinatra launched a second career as a
dramatic film actor, and became admired for a screen persona
distinctly tougher than his smooth singing style. Sinatra also had
a larger-than-life presence in the public eye, and as "The
Chairman of the Board" became an American icon, known for his
brash, sometimes swaggering attitude, as embodied by his signature
song "My Way". He was born in Hoboken, New Jersey as the only
child of a quiet Sicilian fireman father, Anthony Martin
Sinatra (1894-1969). Anthony had emigrated to the United
States in 1895. His mother, Natalie Della Gavarante
(1896-1977), was a talented, tempestuous Ligurian, who worked as a
part-time abortionist. She was known was "Dolly", and emigrated in
Sirico, (born July 29, 1942 in Brooklyn, New York) is an actor
who is most famous for his role as Paulie Walnuts on the HBO TV
series, The Sopranos. Prior to becoming an actor, Sirico
spent some time in jail for holding up a number of night clubs in
the late 1960s and early 1970s. While in prison, he became
interested in acting from watching a theater group that came to
perform. When he got out of jail, Sirico played gangsters in a
number of films.
Sylvester Stallone, born Sylvester Enzio Stallone (July
6, 1946 in New York City) is an American film actor, director,
producer, and screenwriter. He is often referred to by his
nickname, "Sly". He achieved his greatest successes in a
number of action films, notably the Rocky and Rambo
series. He was born to Frank Stallone Sr. (a beautician who was an
immigrant from Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily) and Jacqueline
"Jackie" Labofish, an American astrologer of 1/4 Russian Jewish
Johnny Thunders, born John Anthony Genzale, Jr.,
rock and roll
guitarist and singer, first with the
New York Dolls, the proto-punk glam
rockers of the early '70s.
During the late '70s, he was a familiar figure on the
New York punk scene, both with
The Heartbreakers and as a solo artist. His guitar work was
highly influential in
punk rock music.
is an actress who is most well-known for playing
Janice Soprano, sister of
New Jersey mob boss,
Tony Soprano, on the HBO,
The Sopranos, a role which netted her an
Emmy Award nomination.
American actor. He
has appeared in over sixty movies, and is well known for his
ability to effortlessly change both his demeanour and physique.
Turturro was born in
New York to an
Catholic family. He completed his
MFA at the
Yale School of Drama.
He worked as an
Frank Vincent, (born Frank Vincent Gattuso on 4
Italian-American actor. He
was born in
North Adams, Massachusetts, but was raised in
Jersey City, New Jersey. His father was also called Frank. His
mother was Mary (nee Ricci). Frank has two brothers: Nick and
Jimmy. Frank's father was one of six children, all born in the USA
to Sicilian immigrants: Niccolo Gattuso and Francesca di
Peri. He was spotted by Martin Scorsese in a low-budget gangster movie called Death
Collector. Scorcese was impressed and hired Vincent to star in
Joe Pesci co-starred with Vincent in The Death Collector
and the two were re-united in several other movies; another
familiar co-star of Vincent is
Robert De Niro.
Emanuele Viscuso, (born
December 24, 1952
Palermo ), is the creator of the Sicilian Film Festival, a
showcase of Sicilian directors and movies founded in Miami on
2006. Viscuso lives in
Milano and in
Sicily. Besides his work as president of this festival,
Viscuso is a musician, a sculptor, a writer and a designer. His
most famous piece is the 45 feet large sculpture "Wave-bridge on
the imaginary" at the Milan Malpensa international airport. His
design is mostly expressed with his world famous trompe l'oeil
wall paper collection. Emanuele Viscuso has taken part to the
Esperia* STS-120/10A Mission, lauched on October 23rd 2007 from
the NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre, in Florida as delegate in Florida
of Accademia Italiana della Cucina, a Cultural Institution of the
Italian Republic. The City of Miami Beach, where he resides since
November 2000, recognized his cultural involvement in the
community with the "Key to the City" on October 17th 2007.
Frank Zappa, born Frank Vincent Zappa was a
satirist. In his 33-year musical career, Zappa proved to be
one of the most prolific musicians ever, releasing over 60 albums
during his life. His father, Francis Zappa was born in
Sicily. His mother Rose Marie Colimore was of half
Sicilian and 1/4
Frank Lentini, born Francesco A. Lentini
was born in
Sicily into a large family. He was born with three longer
legs, two sets of genitals and one rudimentary foot on his third
leg. His primary legs also grew into different lengths. At the age
of nine, Lentini moved to the
United States and entered the sideshow business.
Antonin Scalia (Sometimes known by the nickname "Nino") has been a
U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice since 1986.
He is widely considered the leading
originalist voice on the Court and one of the most outspoken
textualism. Antonin Scalia was born in
Trenton, New Jersey to his mother, Catherine, and his father,
S. Eugene. His mother was born in the
United States; his father, a professor of romance languages,
Sicily at age 15. When Scalia was five years old, his family
New York City,
New York, during which time his father worked at