Sicily was inhabited 10,000 years ago. Its strategic location at the centre of the Mediterranean has made the island a crossroads of history, a pawn of conquest and empire, and a melting pot for a dozen or more ethnic groups whose warriors or merchants sought its shores. At the coming of the Greeks, three peoples occupied Sicily: in the east the Siculi, or Sicels, who gave their name to the island but were reputed to be latecomers from Italy; to the west of the Gelas River, the Sicani; and in the extreme west the Elymians, a people to whom a Trojan origin was assigned, with their chief centres at Segesta and at Eryx (Erice). The Siculi spoke an Indo-European language; there are no remains of the languages of the other peoples. There were also Phoenician settlements on the island. The Greeks settled Sicilian towns between the 8th and 6th centuries bce. The mountainous centre remained in the hands of Siculi and Sicani, who were increasingly Hellenized in ideas and material culture.
The island is mostly mountainous, and seismic and volcanic activity is quite intense. Europe’s highest active volcano is Mount Etna (10,900 feet [3,220 metres]). The only wide valley is the fertile Plain of Catania in the east. The climate is subtropical and Mediterranean. Annual precipitation on the plains is 16–24 inches (400–600 mm), and in the mountains 47–55 inches (1,200–1,400 mm). Underground water and springs are plentiful. The natural vegetation of Sicily has been greatly reduced by human influence, and forests occupy only 4 percent of the territory.
Sicilians are a diverse people, having had contact with a great variety of ethnicities and physical types through the centuries. Despite its position at the crossroads of many Mediterranean civilizations, it retains many characteristics of more rural regions bred of its isolation and distance from mainland Italy. One peculiar feature of the separateness of Sicilian life is the persistence of the Mafia, an organization dating from the Middle Ages that gradually evolved into a paralegal criminal brotherhood. It gives certain parts of the island virtually a dual government, standard of conduct, and system of enforcement—one is the legitimate regime and the other a shadow, but a pervasive social, economic, and political network maintaining its powers through violence.
Sicily’s strong cultural traditions can be seen in the development of Italian lyrical poetry as well as in the works of modern writers such as Giovanni Verga, Luigi Pirandello, and Leonardo Sciascia. Several examples of folk art—such as embroidery, painting, and puppetry—and popular religious festivals also mark Sicily’s contribution to Italian culture.
The island’s economy has remained relatively underdeveloped, but heavy industrial activity, based on the oil-refining and chemical industries, expanded markedly in the latter decades of the 20th century. Large quantities of natural gas and sulfur are produced, although the latter has been declining. Other industries include food processing, salt extraction, wine making, textiles, and shipbuilding. The region is mainly agricultural. Wheat, barley, corn (maize), olives, citrus fruit, almonds, wine grapes, and some cotton are produced, and cattle, mules, donkeys, and sheep are raised.
Day 1: April 10 — Arrive Palermo
After arrival, check into the hotel and meet at 7PM for our welcome dinner
Day 2 - 10: May 11 - 21 Coming Soon
Day 11: May 22 — Palermo/Catch flights back home
End of tour
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Tour dates: April 10 - 22, 2019
Early Registration Deposit: $250
Single Supplement: $TBA
Max Group Size: 6
1 SPOT OPEN
Guides: Jeremy Woodhouse
A well-appointed, comfortable minibuses with plenty of luggage space.
The weather gradually begins to improve in Sicily in April when spring arrives. Temperatures can reach up to 64°F during the warmest part of the day, which is perfect for strolling around the streets and admiring the views. The evenings can still get cold, with temperatures dropping to around 52°F after dark.