Useful Notes / Sicily

"You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous of which is never get involved a land war with Asia, but slightly less well known is this: Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line!"
Vizzini, The Princess Bride

Kay:"This is dangerous for you. This is Sicily."
Michael:"I love this country."
Michael:"Well, all through history, terrible things have happened to these people. Terrible injustices. But they still expect good, rather than bad, will happen to them."
The Godfather, Part Three

OK, that's not true (it didn't work for Vizzini). If Italy is a boot, then Sicily is the football.

Once part of the Magna Grecia and of the Kingdom of Sicily, the island of Sicily has its own dialect, its own culture (like every other region in Italy) and special autonomous status in Republican Italy (like five other regions in Italy).

Ethnically, Sicily was the USA before there was a USA. A melting pot of Romans, Greeks, Arabs and barbarians (Germanic tribes, Goths, Vandals)... even the Vikings were down there for awhile (as the Frenchified Normans—yes, the same ones who conquered England in 1066, or at least their cousins—but still).

Historically, Sicily has a still more interesting history. On account of its geographical position at the "neck" of the hourglass-shaped Mediterranean Sea, it has frequently been the center of war and power struggles among different powers. Many of the key incidents in the history of Ancient Greece and Rome have taken place in Sicily. This includes the disastrous Sicilian Expedition in The Peloponnesian War, the Landing of Garibaldi's Thousand during the Risorgimento and in World War II, the Allied entry into the island was what caused Italy's Heel–Face Turn and Benito Mussolini getting booted out of power.

Sicily has the reputation of historically being close to the centre of gravity in Mediterranean geopolitics, but paradoxically, the Sicilian people feel that they have been neglected or marginalized by the North of Italy and all the European powers. They have been conquered by Greeks, Romans, Normans, Germans, Arabs and Spaniards. The constant foreign influx into the island nation has left its mark on regional politics, leaving a mess of grudges and feuds between villagers and classes who feel one or the other, at various times, has profitted under some earlier foreigner or the other. This vendetta culture was already present before the rise of Sicily's most notorious export The Mafia. For a long time, Sicilians have yearned for independence or something close to it and many continue to do so.


  • Sicilian culture has perhaps had a bigger role in shaping international stereotypes about Italy than the North. Because of increasing poverty, vast quantities of Sicilians counted among Italian Americans. The rise of The Mafia and the gangster films of Sicilian-American Martin Scorsese among others has certainly contributed greatly to it. Several of the most famous events in The Godfather take place in Sicily as the pagequote above shows. Notions people have about Italy, such as a homeland still mired in traditional vendetta culture, small villages, corrupt padrones and a strong Catholic presence have more to do with Sicily at the dawn of the 20th Century than other parts of Italy at the time.