THE LAND OF THOUSAND CULTURES
Sicily is the greatest island of the Mediterranean Sea and is the first region of Italy for surface (25,832 sqkm). It is located between the Tyrrhenian Sea to the north, the Ionian Sea to the East and the Sea of Sicily to the south. The Strait of Messina separates the island from the Italian peninsula. It is a specially ruled region and is among the first five regions of Italy for number of inhabitants (a bit over 5,000,000). Sicily is the southernmost region of Italy and has a triangular shape whose vertexes are occupied by Capo Peloro (Messina), Capo Boeo (Lillibeo) and Capo Passero (Siracusa).
The beauty of Sicily is constituted by extremely varied landscapes: from hills to mountains to the seaside. Around the main island are located several other minor islands (nineteen only are inhabited). The most important archipelagos are four:
- Aeolian Islands, located north of Sicily, are made up of Lipari, Salina, Vulcano, Stromboli, Filicudi, Alicudi and Panarea.
- Aegadian Islands, in western Sicily, are made up of three major islands (Favignana, Marettimo and Levanzo), two smaller islands and a whole series of rocks and Faraglioni.
- Pelagie Islands is the southernmost archipelago of Italian and is made up of Lampedusa, Linosa, Lampione and Isola dei Conigli.
- Cyclopean Islands are located east of Sicily and are totally uninhabited.
Sicily is crossed by two mountain chains: Monti Erei in the central part of the island and Monti Iblei to the south-east. The highest peak is of course Mount Etna, the biggest active volcano of the whole Eurasia with its 3,343 m (45 km in diameter). It is located in the province of Catania. Two other important volcanoes are located in Sicily: the islands of Stromboli and Vulcan, both part of the Eolie archipelago.
Sicilyis also rich in natural parks (Parco dei Monti Sicani, Parco dei Nebrodi, Parco dell’Etna, Parco delle Madonie, Parco Fluviale dell’Alcantara), wildlife reserves, protected marine areas and archaeological sites (among which the most important is the Valley of the Temples).
Leading activity is agriculture, with cereals, legumes, citruses (oranges, lemons, mandarins, bergamot, citron, grapefruit), fruits (Barbary figs, watermelons, persimmons, loquats, plums) and vegetables. Another important activity is fishing, living upon tuna, sardines, anchovies, oily fishes and swordfish. Because of this, Sicily is also rich in harbors (with an impressive 126).
Each year, the island is visited by an incredible number of tourists coming from every corner of the planet. Among the most sought locations one must recall, the Aeolian Islands, Erice, the Aegadian Islands, Cefalù, Monreale, Palermo, Mondello, Sferracavallo, Acireale, Caltagirone, Piazza Armerina, San Vito Lo Capo, Noto and Siracusa. The hinterland is rich of history, traditions, art, culture, theaters, fortresses, churches, palaces, castles, necropolis, woods and natural reserves. The province of Messina, with almost five million tourists per year, is the most visited province of Sicily and southern Italy.
Through Romolini Immobiliare – Christie’s International Real Estate it is possible to buy castles, Agriturismos, sea view villas, masserie and exclusive villas in the most beautiful areas of Sicily.
A BIT OF HISTORY…
Even Sicily, as many other Italian regions, was inhabited during prehistory by Indo-European peoples such as Sicels, Sicanians, Ausones and Elymians, however first historical evidences date back to no further than the 8th century BC with the Greek colonization. Magna Graecia hosted the biggest cities of the time in Italy: Naxos, Siracusa, Lentini, Catania and Messina are a few of the examples.
Soon the Greeks entered in conflict with the other Mediterranean superpower: Carthage. Led by Siracusa, they managed to resist the Carthaginians in the battle of Himera (480 BC) and then fought their war until Romans arrived in Sicily.
By taking the role of the Greeks, Roman civilization fought three great wars against Carthage until the final defeat of the enemy (210 BC) and the destruction of the African city. Under Roman government, Sicily developed a well-thought agricultural plan based on latifundiums and slave-labor which would be fundamental for Rome during its golden age.
With the fall of Rome, Sicily was ruled by the Herules first and the Ostrogoths then. The landing of the Byzantines led by Belisarius (535 AD) brought the island under the rule of Constantinople, with a tax-intensive government which led the majority of the population into poverty.
During the 7th century, the island became a target for the Muslims from Africa for its strategic position in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. The general Euphemius, after proclaiming independent of Constantinople in 823 and being exiled from the island, found an ally in the Tunisian emir Ziyadat I and with his help he managed to invade Sicily (before being assassinated in 828).
Arabs landed in Mazara del Vallo (827) to start the conquest of the whole island: Palermo (831), Messina (843), Siracusa (878) and Taormina (902). The conquest was completed in 965 with the siege of Rometta. A fiscal and commercial regime of the highest quality allowed the Arabs to keep hold of the island for a long time.
The arrival of the Normans in 1060, with the pope’s approval, marked the end of the Arab domination (1091) and the crowning of Robert Guiscard and his brother Roger I. Robert’s descendants reinforced their authority over southern Italy and set against the Byzantine empire but without ever managing to attack them.
The rise of Frederick II of Swabia (1198) started a period of cultural rejoice in Sicily bound to last till Frederick’s son’s death (1266). Given the bad relationship between Manfredi and the State of the Church, the pope gifted the kingdom to Charles I Anjou starting a period of unrest in Sicily.
People’s discontent exploded in the famous riot of the Sicilian Vespers(1282), supported by the Peter III of Aragon, almost immediately proclaimed king of Sicily. Dante recalled the riot in its Paradise with the verses: “if evil lordship that exasperated ever / the subject populations, had not moved / Palermo to the outcry of: death! death!”. The Aragonese domination survived, between riots and repressions, until the crowning of Charles V Hapsburg (1500), which marked the arrival of a new family ruling Sicily.
With the death of Charles II (1700) the crown had no heir and the Spanish succession war severed the linkage between Spain and Sicily, whose crown would be passed onto the Bourbons of Spain.
Obtained by Austria as war compensation, Sicily was conquered back by the Bourbons during the War of the Polish Succession (1734). The Bourbons managed to survive the Napoleonic period and on December 8, 1816 the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was born by official decree. It included Sicily and the lands of the peninsula up to Naples.
In 1848, following the revolutionary wave crushing Europe and Italy, the Sicilian parliament declared the Bourbons decayed and proclaimed its annexation to the Kingdom of Italy. Without the support of a regular army, however, Sicily was attacked by the Bourbons from Naples and the uprising repressed in blood. Freedom came in 1860 with the Expedition of the Thousand led by Garibaldi and the following official annexation to the Kingdom of Italy (October 21, 1860).
The region then followed the events of the Kingdom of Italy through the wars and the following economic boom.
THE CULTURAL HERITAGE OF SICILY
Sicily is a region of extraordinary beauty under both the environmental and architectonic point of view, from the beautiful beaches to the world-renowned archaeological sites.
Six sites obtained the title of World Heritage Site by UNESCO for their artistic, historic, archaeological and environmental prominence:
- The Villa del Casale in Piazza Armerina (Enna)
- The Valley of the Temples (Agrigento)
- The Isole Eolie (Messina)
- The late-Baroque city in Val di Noto
- Siracusa and the necropolis of Pantalica
- Mount Etna
The region also boasts two UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritages: the Opera dei Pupi and the “alberello” training of the Zibibbo di Pantelleria.
Sicily is dotted by archaeological sites, here is a list of the main ones: Valle dei Templi, Eraclea Minoa, monte Adranone, Vassallaggi, Sabucina, Gibil Gabib, Gela (acropolis, fortifications, thermal baths and the Greek emporia), the volcanic hill of Paternò, Pietralunga, Civita, Adranon, Occhiolà, mount Turcisi, Xiphonia, Morgantina, Villa del Casale, Centuripe, Fondaco Cuba di Catenanuova, terme di Bagnoli, Alesa Arconidea, Naxos, Patti villa, Tauromenium, Terme Vigliatore, Tyndaris, the Addaura cave, Gurfa caves, Iaitas, Entella, Himera, Hippana, Solunto, Cava d’Ispica, Cava Lazzaro, Castiglione, Kamarina, Kasmenai, Kaukana, Scornavacche, Akrai, Rivettazzo cave, Cozzo Collura, Eloro, Megara Hyblaea, Neapolis, Pantalica, Tellaro villa,Thapsos, Casmene, Leontinoi, Cusa caves, Uzzo cave, Lilibeo, Mozia, Segesta and Selinunte.
Most important is the seaside tourism: famous attractions are the beautiful sea and the wonderful islands. Many locations have been awarded the FEE Blue Flag: Lipari, Vulcano, Ispica-Santa Maria del Focallo, Marina di Ragusa and Menfi. Among the most beautiful lacations are Taormina, Punta Secca, Calamosche, l’Oasi di Vendicari, Capo Passero, San Vito lo Capo, Scopello, Terrasini, Mondello, Capo d’Orlando and Favignana (mainly Cala Rossa). Among the most breath-taking view are also Cava Grande del Cassibile, Oasi di Vendicari, Scala dei Turchi (a beautiful rocky cliff directly above the sea between Porto Empedocle and Realmonte) and Isola Bella (a short distance from Taormina). With Romolini Immobiliare – Christie’s International Real Estate you can rent sea view villas in the most beautiful locations of the Sicilian coast.
Very interesting are also the over two hundred castles scattered throughout the island. In the beginning they were unconquerable keeps, now they are touristic landmarks. Among the most famous are Milazzo (Messina), Ursino (Catania), Caccamo (Palermo), Venere (Erice), Mussomeli (Caltanissetta), Giuliana (Palermo), San Benedetto (Monreale), Falconara (Caltanissetta) and Sperlinga (Enna). In Sicily one can enjoy buildings in Byzantine, Gothic, Arab, Norman, Renaissant, Baroque and Neoclassical styles.
Romolini Immobiliare – Christie’s International Real Estate offers an ample selection of exclusive villas and luxury properties for sale in the beautiful Sicily.
CITIES IN SICILY
- Palermo is the fifth Italian municipality for number of citizens and is Sicily’s main city. The historic centre is entirely enclosed by the 16th century walls and is built around the crossroads created by the two main roads: Via Maqueda and Corso Vittorio Emanuele. The four resulting neighborhood are named Kalsa, La Loggia, Seralcadio and Albergheria. Its millenary history left an invaluable artistic and architectonic heritage: the remains of the Carthaginian walls, the many palaces and churches in Arab-Norman style, the Baroque basilicas, the Neoclassical theaters and the many Liberty-style villas. The city was initially founded by the Phoenicians in 743 BC as Zyz and has since been a fundamental crossroad for commerce in the Mediterranean Sea. The area surrounding Palermo encloses many historic villas, watch towers (among which the one on Isola delle Femmine), cave paintings, old churches and noble palaces. Among the religious monuments, the following are undoubtedly worth visiting: the Norman cathedral of the Vergine Maria Santissima Assunta in Cielo, San Giovanni degli Eremiti, Saint Francis’ Church, the Chiesa di Sant’Agostino and the Chiesa di Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio. Other landmarks include the (the oldest royal residence in Europe) and it Byzantine chapel, the Fontana Pretoria (by Francesco Camilliani), the Ponte dell’Ammiraglio, the Basilica della Santissima Trinità del Cancelliere (a hydraulic miracle built right below the city) and the Botanic Garden.
- Agrigento is known as the “city of the temples” because of the many Greek temples located in the area, which has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list and is one of the biggest archaeological sites in the world. The city is located over the ancient Akragas, founded in 581 BC along the homonym river, and has quickly become an important commercial center. Over the centuries, the city was renamed Agrigentum (Roman Empire), Kerken and Gergen (Norman Kingdom) and finally, in 1927, Agrigento. Among the landmarks worth citing are the Rupe Atenea (the old acropolis) and the Teatro Luigi Pirandello.
- Catania is located in the eastern coast of the island, just at the feet of Mount Etna. The baroque city center, with other seven municipalities in Val di Noto, has been awarded the title of UNESCO World Heritage Site (the others are Caltagirone, Militello in Val di Catania, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo, Acreide, Ragusa and Scicli). One of the most interesting monuments is Saint Agatha’s Cathedral, with its wonderful square. Right in front of it is located the Fountain of the Elephant, built to honor the animal which, following the legend, saved the city from the attack of many feral beasts. Catania is full of monuments: the Bonajuto Chapel, the Monastero di San Nicolò l’Arena, the Chiesa di Santa Maria di Gesù, Castello Ursino, Teatro Bellini and the Fontana dei Sette canali. The natural park of Etna is at the doorsteps of the city.
- Enna, originally known as Henna, became Castrogiovanni under the Byzantine and Norman rule and took its final name only in 1926. The city is located amidst the Monti Erei and with an altitude of 992 m is the highest Regional county seat. Several nicknames were given to the city: the Romans dubbed it “Urbs inexpugnabilis” for its location which made it impregnable, “Sicily’s belly-button” for its central location and the “Sicily Belvedere” for its breathtaking views. Landmarks worth visiting are the Castello di Lombardia, Palazzo Varisano, Palazzo Pollicarini, Frederick II’s Tower and Janniscuru’s Portal (the only surviving door of the six once existing).
- Messina is dubbed the “Door of Sicily” and is located on the north-eastern point of the island (Capo Peloro) right on the strait bearing the same name, between the Tyrrhenian and the Ionian Sea. Twice the city was destroyed by disastrous earthquakes (1783 and 1908) and twice it rose back to life. Among the religious buildings, two are worth mentioning: the Protometropolitan Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and the Chiesa della Santissima Annunziata dei Catalani. Much important and not to be overlooked are Palazzo Zanca, the Teatro Vittorio Emanuele II, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele III, Orion’s Fountain, Castello del Santissimo Salvatore, Castel Gonzaga, the Real Cittadella, the Forti Umbertini (built under the kingdom of Umberto I of Savoy to protect the strait) and Villa Mazzini, which hosts the aquarium of the city.
- Ragusa is located in the southern corner of the island and is often known with the nickname “the city of the bridges” for the three beautiful bridges crossing the river: the Nuovissimo (San Vito), the Vecchio (Cappuccini) and the Nuovo. The city boasts a marked division between the modern city and the medieval centre dotted by Baroque palaces. Following the disastrous earthquake of 1693 the city was completely razed, so there is almost no trace of buildings prior to this date. The rebuilt city has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list. Initially known as Hybla, the city took over centuries the names Hybla Heraea, Hereum, Hereusium, Reusia and Ragus until it finally became Ragusa in the 18th century. The Castello di Donnafugata is without any doubt the most fascinating building of the land. Other places worth visiting are the Duomo di San Giorgio, the St. John Baptist’s Cathedral, the Chiesa di Santa Maria dell’Itra, Palazzo Zacco, Palazzo Schininà di Sant’Elia and Palazzo Sortino-Trono.
- Siracusa is located on the south-eastern coast of Sicily. It was among the most important cities of the ancient world and among the biggest among the Greek poleis. Siracusa is split between the mainland and an island (named Ortigia). One can breathe history in every corner of the city and in 2005 UNESCO awarded the city with the title of World Heritage Site with the nearby necropolis of Pantalica. The most important churches are the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Nativity of Holiest Mary, the Chiesa di San Giovanni alle Catacombe with San Marzano’s crypt, the Chiesa di Santa Lucia al Sepolcro, the Santuario della Madonna delle Lacrime, Saint Martin’s Church and Church of the Holy Spirit. As much important are Apollo’s Temple, Zeus’ Temple, Athena’s Temple and Artemis’ Temple, while a bit more recent are the Greek Theater, the Roman Amphitheater, Vermexio Palace, Borgia Palace, Gargallo Palace, Greco Palace, Bonanno Palace and the Fountain of the Slaves. Right below the theater in Siracusa is located the famous Ear of Dionysius, an artificial cave linked to the homonym tyrant who ruled the city.
- Trapani is located in the western part of Sicily on the promontory of the ancient Drepanum and is also known as the “city between the two seas”. Trapani developed over its history a rich tradition linked to the extraction and sale of salt, but it became a great city mostly thanks to a tertiary system, fishing, marble quarrying, tourism and wine production (the province of Trapani produces alone 10% of the Italian wine). The most important religious buildings are the Chiesa e Collegio dei Gesuiti, the Chiesa di San Francesco d’Assisi, the Chiesa dei Cappuccini, Saint Peter’s Church, the Basilica Santuario di Maria Santissima Annunziata, Saint Lawrence’s Cathedral and the Chiesa delle Anime Sante del Purgatorio. Other landmarks include Saturn’s Fountain, Pepoli National Museum, the Salt Museum, the Biblioteca Fardelliana, Palazzo Riccio di Morana and the Mura di Tramontana.
By contacting Romolini Immobiliare – Christie’s International Real Estate it is possible to buy in the most beautiful Sicilia cities luxury villas, castles, Agriturismos, exclusive apartments and prestigious properties for unforgettable vacations in the most beautiful Italian island.
LAND OF WINE
Sicily competes with Puglia as far as wine production is concerned: it is the region with the greatest wine heritage (followed by Puglia and Veneto). 77% of vineyards are made up of white vines.
Several red and white grapes are native of the island:
- Zibibbo is the name of a grape and, by extension, the sweet wine obtained from it. Its name come from the Arab word zabńęb meaning “raisin”. It is also very important in the production of the DOC Pantelleria in its three variations.
- Nero d’Avola is a red wine produced all over Sicily and obtained from the homonym grape. The Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG is the oldest mix of grapes containing Nero d’Avola (with Frappato) and is produced in the southern coast of Sicily. This grape is usually exploited to “blend” other wines obtained from Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
- Marsala is a fortified wine, chronologically the first DOC wine in Italy.
- Syrah is a red grape with an intense flavor.
Among the native grapes the following are definitely worth mentioning: Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Mantellato, Nerello Cappuccio, Frappato, Perricone, Nocera, Catarratto, Grecanico, Carricante, Minnella Bianca, Malvasia delle Lipari, Inzolia, Passito di Pantelleria, Moscato di Pantelleria and Bianco D’Alcamo.
A stone‚Äôs throw from the Sicilian coastline (300 m, in one of the most beautiful sea of Italy, we find Isola delle Femmine. The remaining of the old watchtower (494 sqm) dominates the island (13.9 ha) and could be used as a starting point to rebuild a residence or a museum. The isle is then completed by a sandy gulf to be used as a mooring.
In the charming island of Pantelleria, in an exclusive seafront location, dammuso with garden of 1500 sqm for sale. The property is made up of a dammuso, the residential villa typical of Pantelleria, a garage and an annex used as a storage room. The dammuso is in excellent condition and boasts panoramic terraces, ideal for al fresco dining.
In Sicily, 5 km from Mount Etna Regional Park, farm with restored 17th century villa and 8 hectares of citrus, cherry and olive trees. Currently working as ‚ÄúAgriturismo‚ÄĚ (14 bedrooms), it lies on a slight hill 15-minute drive away from the beach. The lush garden includes a children's playground, a barbecue area and two swimming pools with sunbathing area.
In the natural reserve of the Saline of Trapani and Paceco, 8 km from Trapani and its airport and half an hour from Marsala, luxury Villa built in 19th Century and recently modernized, with pool and garden of 2000 square metres. The property has a surface of 350 square metres and includes 5 bedrooms with en suite bathroom. Beautiful view over the Egadi islands, reachable in half an hour by hydrofoil.
Nestled in the charming countryside of Sicily, a few kilometers from the center of Piazza Armerina, famous for its Roman mosaics in the UNESCO World Heritage Site Villa Romana del Casale, Agriturismo with 11 bedrooms for sale. Surrounded by a perfectly maintained garden with irregular-shaped swimming pool, it is completed by 17 hectares of land, of which 5 of olive grove and 12 of woodland.
A few kilometres from a small village, on a hilly and panoramic position, newly built Villa, surrounded by 7.5 hectares of land. The position where the property is located is excellent: we are halfway between Taormina, Catania and Acireale, towns rich of historical attractions. The Villa comprises eight bedrooms and sixteen bathrooms on three levels. The property is currently used as tourist accommodation and location for events.
Historical Luxury Villa of the 19th Century with private park. The villa is placed in a hilly position and offers a fantastic panoramic view on the hills around Siracusa. Totally restored in 2007, using modern techniques and ancient materials, it develops on two levels.
Tenuta del Barone is an active olive oil and Etna DOC grapes producing Estate with four beautiful villas. The estate is ideally situated to be both discretely isolated and close to everything. It overlooks the stunning Mount Etna, the highest active Volcano in Europe. All decorations, furnishings and fittings are of impeccable taste and quality combining Ralph Lauren and Philip Stark modern designs with antique furniture. The estate includes 6 hectares of vineyards and 2 hectares of olive grove
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