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Personal Travel in Sicily
We like those other sites – especially that huge encyclopedia that anybody can edit – but if you want facts with context, this is the page for you.
Area - At 25,711 square kilometers (9,927 square miles), Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean and the largest of Italy's twenty political regions, slightly larger than Piedmont. For comparison, Wales is 20,780 square kilometers and Massachusetts is 27,340, while Albania is 28,750. In addition to the island of Sicily, the region includes a number of coastal and volcanic islands.
Population - 5,048,805 (in 2010), approximately 8.4 percent of Italy's population, being the fourth most populous of Italy's regions, surpassed by Lombardy (Milan), Lazio (Rome) and Campania (Naples), with Sicily's population density being less than that of any of those regions. For comparison, Denmark's population is around 5,574,000 and its land area is 43,090 square kilometers. Sicily's actual population is estimated to be as many as 300,000 beyond the official figure.
Government - Italy is a democratic republic based on a multi-party parliamentary system and a system of law rooted in arcane 19th-century legal codes as much as the Constitution of 1948. Since 1946 the Sicilian Region has been a semi-autonomous part of Italy, first as part of the Kingdom of Italy under Allied occupation and then as part of the Italian Republic. The governor and regional government exercise only limited control over certain public services and resources. (Who runs Sicily – in reality – is a much more complex issue than what many would have you believe.) The regional capital is Palermo. Sicily has nine provinces: Palermo, Catania, Messina, Siracusa, Ragusa, Enna, Caltanissetta, Agrigento, Trapani; all except Enna have a coastline.
Major Cities - The metropolitan areas (provinces) of Palermo and Catania each have around one million residents, though Palermo is the larger city, at around 870,000 versus 572,000 in Catania. Official local population figures are imprecise because many Italians fail to register their legal residency where they actually live, while there are many illegal aliens in the country.
Currency - Italy's currency is the euro.
Cell Network Coverage - TIM® approximately 92 percent and Vodafone® approximately 79 percent of the island with 3G service, while GPRS and EDGE coverage is more extensive. In remote areas outside cities the TIM network is highly recommended.
Economy - Sicily accounts for approximately 5.7 percent of Italy's gross domestic product (2012 figures provided by ISTAT, the Italian national statistical institute). The local economy is based almost entirely on the public sector (including taxation and subsidies), real estate (and finance) and retail commerce; there are very few manufacturing or high-technology firms in Sicily, and little industry at all. Petroleum (crude oil) is produced offshore in limited quantities for domestic consumption. Tourism and agriculture account for almost all of Sicily's international trade.
Climate - The weather & climate page presents more detailed information, but here are average data on precipitation and temperature:
Employment - Approximately 74 percent in real terms, i.e. defined as employment sufficient to support one person (able to work) between 21 and 65 over the course of at least 12 months. ISTAT figures contradict this statistic because their standard ascribes the status of "full employment" even to an adult who works only one day of the year and earns virtually nothing, while those not "actively" seeking employment are not considered "unemployed." Many Sicilians are "underemployed" on a part-time basis and Italy has no minimum wage. Italy has what is estimated to be the highest level of emigration for employment reasons of any G-8 nation, and suffers a Brain Drain because even jobs for highly-trained applicants are few. (See the jobs page for additional information.)
Highest Peaks - Mount Etna (western Europe's largest volcano) at 3,329 meters (10,922 feet) above sea level, followed by Pizzo Carbonara (or Principessa) at 1,979 meters and several other summits in the Madonie range, and Mount Soro (in the Nebrodi range) at 1,817 meters.
Longest Rivers - The Salso, rising in the Madonie Mountains and flowing southward past Enna to Licata, is Sicily's longest at 144 kilometers (89 miles), marking Sicily's continental divide. A tributary of the Simeto in western Sicily coincidentally shares the same name. To supply drinking water, there are several man-made lakes along rivers, but Sicily boasts very few natural ones, notably Pergusa near Enna and a few in the Nebrodi and Etna regions. None of Sicily's rivers is navigable today. Among the principal rivers – now little more than streams – are the Simeto (114 km), the Belice (107 km), the Dittaino (105 km) and the Platani (103 km).
Language - Italian (officially since 1861). Several dialects of the Modern Sicilian language are spoken in Sicily. After Tuscan (Italian), Sicilian is the most widely spoken language in Italy, followed by Neapolitan, French (in Aosta), German (in South Tirol) Arabic and Romanian – there are around 900,000 Arabic-speakers and some 700,000 Romanians in Italy. Until circa 1200 the principal spoken languages were Siculo-Arabic (similar to Maltese) and Byzantine-Greek, with documents published in Greek, Arabic and Latin. Medieval Sicilian, a Latin language, developed during the time of Ciullo of Alcamo, coinciding with the Normans' latinization of the island.
Religion - Italy has no state religion but the majority of Italians (around 73%) declare themselves to be Roman Catholic. Statistically, following these (often nominal) Catholics, the largest numbers consist of Eastern Orthodox (mostly Romanians), Muslims (mostly North Africans) and declared non-believers (atheists and agnostics).
Vital Statistics - In Italy life expectancy (at birth) is 79.2 years for men and 84.6 years for women; it is thought that it may be slightly longer in Sicily and Sardinia but the presumed difference is not significant statistically. Owing to the large number of foreign-born brides resident in Italy, and the high emigration rate of males, the national male/female gender ratio is estimated at approximately 48/52 percent. Marriage, though decreasing, is the norm and divorce is increasing. Births outside marriage account for around 15 percent of the total in Sicily; the national Italian average is 25 percent.
Principal Universities - Palermo and Catania, both public institutions.
Principal Opera Houses - Teatro Massimo and Teatro Politeama in Palermo, Teatro Massimo Bellini in Catania.
Principal Airports - Palermo, Catania, Trapani. There is a NATO air base at Sigonella near Catania.
And for the record...
Historic Government - Following Greek, Roman, Gothic and Byzantine rule, several Fatimid emirates in the century immediately preceding 1061, then a sovereign Norman county until 1130 when the Kingdom of Sicily was founded. This monarchical state existed until 1816 – though often ruled from afar after 1400. The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies ("Naples and Sicily") existed from 1816 until 1861, when it was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy, predecessor state of the Italian Republic established by popular referendum in June 1946. Until the 19th century when it was claimed by Britain, Malta was part of the Kingdom of Sicily.
The Catholic Church - In Italian law, the Catholic Church is considered a "state within a state," and the legacy of the Kingdom of Sicily survives in one interesting sense. The honorific title of the Cardinal Archbishop of Palermo as Primate of Sicily dates from the island's medieval status as a sovereign kingdom and very few bishops are accorded distinctions of this kind – the Patriarch of Venice and the Primate of All Ireland (Archbishop of Armagh) are rare examples. In Italy south of Rome only the archbishops of Naples and Palermo are elevated to the rank of Cardinal. As Sicily's highest-ranking cleric, the Archbishop of Palermo is head of the Sicilian Bishops' Conference.
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