What is the Difference Between Italy and Sicily?


Are you planning a trip to Sicily? You probably hear a lot of people saying that Sicily is entirely different than the mainland of Italy. Sicily has a significant cultural history and belonged to other countries before it became a part of Italy. We’re here to tell you all about it.

What is the Difference Between Italy and Sicily? Sicily belongs to Italy since 1860. Sicily is an island right at the toe of the Italian boot. Historically speaking Sicily is influenced by many countries. The influences are still visible today within cultural traditions and historical sites. The Sicilian language is also slightly different but can be considered more an Italian dialect.

Traveling to Sicily feels a bit different than traveling to the mainland of Italy. Traveling to an island is always different than the mainland. But in this case, there are some historical differences as well. Let’s found out what these differences are.

Difference between Italian and Sicilian Language

The biggest difference in the language is that Italian is a world-wide known language. It is the third-largest language spoken on the European continent. People speak Italian in Italy, Switzerland, Croatia, Slovenia, San Marino, and Vatican City.

There around 85 million people speaking Italian. And only about 5 million people that can speak Sicilian. Unesco Heritage Language lists the Sicilian language because of the less amount of people that can speak Sicilian.

Sicilian is a spoken language, and many will consider it more a dialect than a real language. There are no rules about how to speak or write Sicilian.

Whereas for Italian, there are proper rules on how to speak and write the language. Italian is considered a romantic language world-wide. Many people still learning the language, and the language develops over time.

This video shows a great example of the difference between Italian and Sicilian:

Italian and Sicilian: Language Differences

Italian vs Sicilian Cuisine

While Italian cuisine is one of the most famous in the world, Sicilian cuisine should be on that list too. In a way, they are, but there are slight differences between traditional Italian Cuisine and Sicilian Cuisine.

Italian cuisine is known for its tasteful but straightforward salads, and renowned pasta and pizza. There are so many ways in which Italians make their traditional food. Everywhere you go in the country a pizza or pasta is slightly different. That’s also the charm of this delicious cuisine.

Many world-famous dishes and recipes are originated in Italy, did you know Pesto alla Genovese is originated in Genoa? You can read all about in this article.

Sicilian food

The food in Sicily is a bit different. The kitchen is more seafood orientated, which is logical because Sicily is an island. Also, you can see the influence of the countries that played a big role in Sicilian history.

A few of the classic Sicilian dishes are:

  • Arancini
    Influenced by Spain
    Crispy fried risotto balls. The traditional filling contains a mixture of vegetables, cheese, beef, and several spices. But there are also vegetarian recipes. This is the perfect tasteful snack!
    You can find a traditional recipe here.
  • Cannoli
    Influenced by Italian
    Cannoli is a delicious meal, very simple to make. Outside is in the form of a crusty tube, and inside you’ll find the most delicious filling of ricotta cheese.
    When you order this, make sure it is freshly made. That’s the Sicilian way and keeps the tube crunchy 😉
  • Frutta Martorana
    Influenced by Arabs
    These delicious marzipan sweets come in the shape of different fruits.
    Marzipan is made of almonds so many consider it as a healthy snack, but that’s not the case. They use a lot of o sugar in it as well. So it’s not that healthy, but they’re delicious!
  • Brioche con Gelato
    This is simply a brioche filled with a thick layer of ice cream. Great treat in the hot summer months!
  • Caponata
    Influenced by Arabs
    A mixture of sweet and sour vegetables and spices, with eggplant as the main ingredient. It is simply the Sicilian Ratatouille
  • Sfincione
    Sicilian pizza. And it’s completely different than a traditional Italian pizza. Where the Italian pizzas are known for their thin crust and tomato sauce, are the Sicilian ones the complete opposite. They have a thick crust (like a sandwich), often filled with tomatoes, anchovies, and olives.

Sicilian vs Italian Traditions

Influenced by many different cultures, the traditions in Sicily are somewhat different than at the mainland of Italy. Think of it like this, throw all the Italian traditions in a mix and add a few typical elements of other cultures with it. That’s where you get the Sicilian traditions.

Typical Sicilian traditions are;

  • Music & Dance
    Music and dance play a big role in a lot of cultures, but in Sicily it is massive. Every birthday, wedding or other celebration there will be traditional music and people dancing.

    The Sicilians know how to have a good party. The music is typical folk music, influenced by the many different cultures, often played on a jaw harp called the marranzanu.
    Are you in for some Sicilian folk music? Then Start the video below!
I Mizzica Mizzica - ciuri ciuri internazionale folk sicilian music taormina
  • Painting & Pottery
    You’ll find paintings on every corner of a building. Potteries designed with the most beautiful paintings. Often telling a historical story or referring to an important figure of history.

    It is something we see a lot in Southern European countries. In Sicily, however, they mastered this form of art.

    The influence of the Arabs and Greek are still in display here. They brought their way of this artform to the island. Today the ceramic industry in Sicily is thriving because they still work in the traditional way.

History of Sicily

Sicily is largely influenced by other countries who at some point in history politically controlled the island, or had great influence in forms of trade and welfare. Countries and ethnic groups with the greatest influence in Sicilian history are;

  • Phoenician
    A civilization that was coming from what we know now as Lebanon, Isreal, and Syria. They spread out across the Mediterranean Sea between 1500 – 300 BC. Settlements of Phoenicians in Sicily dating back from the 11th Century BC
  • Greeks
    Sicily was colonized by the Greeks from the 8th century BC. But the Greeks only colonized the southern and eastern part of the island. The western part of the island still controlled by the Phoenicians.

    The influence of the Greeks grew rapidly on the island and its surroundings. The city of Syracuse started to develop as one of the biggest cities in the ancient world.

    The Greeks and Phoenicians were constantly in conflict with each other, which opened the doors for a Roman intervention during the Punic Wars around the 3rd century BC.
  • Romans
    Sicily became the first province that was acquired by the Roman Republic in 241BC. The island was mainly used as a food supplier for the Roman republic and remained Greek in their traditions and way of living.

Middle Ages

During the early middle ages the Roman Empire was falling apart, and the Germanic tribes took over the reign of Sicily.
During the Gothic War around 550 AD, the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire) took over control.

During the middle ages, there was a lot of change in who was controlling Sicily. Constant wars between different ethnic groups resulted in many different ethnical influences on the island.

  • Spain
    During the 14th century, Sicily became an independent kingdom. Relatives of Aragon (Spain/ Barcelona) ruled as Sicilian Kings. When Castille and Aragon’s crowns were unioned in 1479, Sicily came under the direct control of Spain.

Italian Unification

Since 1860 Sicily is an official part of Italy. First, the island was merged with the Kingdom of Sardinia. And later the Kingdom of Sardinia was merged with the Kingdom of Italy.
Since 1946 Sicily is an autonomic island withing Italy.

The Sicilian Way of Life

Sicily is the only island in the world that is influenced by so many different ethnic groups. Still today you can discover a lot of traces of this unique history while visiting the island.
Traditions are important for Sicilians and they love good food. Traditional Sicilians live in a close community and look after each other.

Stress is something that does not occur on this island, most Sicilians are laid back and the Spanish form of Siesta is a common thing in Sicily.

The way of life in Sicily is like on other islands, laid back and relax. Different than in big western cities. But with the influence of many different cultures, it makes Sicily a unique island to visit.

Related Questions

Is Sicily Dangerous? Sicily is a safe place to travel to. Every part in Italy is safe for travels. However, Mount Etna, the most active volcano worldwide, is located on Sicily, it is not causing any real danger, but something to take notice of.

What is the best time to visit Sicily? Best time to visit Sicily is between May and June. Weather is not to hot and tourist season is still in its pre-season. July and August are also favorable months to visit, but these months are considered high-season. So it can be much more busy and expensive in this period.

Léon Kopijn

Léon Kopijn works and lives as a Digital Nomad. He travels the world with the love of his life and writes about inspiring cultures and practical travel tips. Find out more about Léon on his about page!

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