Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Sicily (classic Trinacria), an island of triangular shape in the Mediterranean at the extremity of the Italian peninsula, from which it is separated by the Strait of Messina, only 2-1/2 miles at its narrowest. From east to west the island measures about 185 miles the distance between extreme north and south being 120 miles and the total area 11,290 square miles. The interior is very mountainous, for the Peloric and Nebrodian ranges, extensions of the Apennines, rise to the height of several thousand feet, and there are detached masses such as Etna, the still active voloano (10,874 feet), in the south-east. Fine plains, however, spread here and there along the coast, possessing the deepest and richest alluvial soil, and each with a good harbour - eg. Palermo and Castellamare in the north, Catania, Syracuse, Lentini, and Terra-Nova in the south and east, Trapani and Marsala to the west. In these districts even tropical fruits will grow, and they served as the granary of ancient Rome. Wine is abundant. The uplands feed merino sheep, but the old pastoral habits have decayed. There are valuable forests on the flanks of the mountains, and the great mineral wealth remains almost unexplored, though sulphur, alum, nitre, rock-salt, and a few marbles are exported with the olive-oil, white wine, oranges, lemons, raw silk, barilla, and fish that form the staples of trade. Industries are paralysed by many years of past misgovernment, of brigandage, religious mendicancy, priestcraft, and by the recurrence of earthquakes. Recently serious troubles have arisen through the system of local administration, which presses severely on the agricultural classes, and from the pernicious system of land tenure, involving much sub-letting. Sicily first appears in history as the seat of early Greek colonies, and it played an important part in the struggle between Athens and Sparta and also in the history of Rome until reduced to a province at the end of the second Punic War. After the fall of the Empire it fell for two cehturies into the hands of the Saracens, from whom it was wrested by the Norman Crusaders in the 11th century, soon afterwards becoming incorporated with Naples in the kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Several times was this union dissevered, and many changes of dynasty occurred, but the Garibaldian movement of 1860 enabled the Sicilians to throw off the Bourbon yoke and join United Italy. The island is now divided into seven provinces - viz. Palermo, Messina, Catania, Siracusa, Caltanisetta, Girgenti, and Trapani, the Governor having his residence at Palermo.