Sicilia is located in the central Mediterranean and has a typical Mediterranean climate with mild and wet winters and hot, dry summers. The island of Sicilia extends from the tip of the Apennine peninsula from which it is separated only by the narrow Strait of Messina towards the North African coast. Its most prominent landmark is Mount Etna, which at 10,890 feet the tallest active volcano in Europe and one of the most active in the world.
Sicilia has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature, cuisine, architecture and language. Sicilia is also known for archeological and ancient sites such as the Necropolis of Pantalica, the Valley of the Temples, and Selinunte.
Sicilia has long been associated with the arts; many poets, writers, philosophers, intellectuals, architects and painters have roots on the island. The prestigious history can be traced back to Greek philosopher Archimedes, a Syracuse native who has gone on to become renowned as one of the greatest mathematicians of all time. The golden age of Sicilian poetry began in the early 13th century with the Sicilian School, which was highly influential at that time.
The island has a long history of producing a variety of noted cuisines and wines, to the extent that Sicilia is sometimes nicknamed God’s Kitchen. Every part of Sicilia has its specialty, for example true Cassata is only in Palermo. The savory dishes of Sicilia are viewed to be healthy, using fresh vegetables and fruits, such as tomatoes, artichokes, olives (including olive oil), citrus, apricots, aubergines, onions, beans, and raisins. Seafood, freshly caught from the surrounding coastlines, including tuna, sea bream, sea bass, cuttlefish, swordfish, and sardines are a constant delicacy. Although Sicilian cuisine is commonly associated with sea food, meat dishes, including goose, lamb, goat, rabbit, and turkey, are also found in Sicilia. The use of apricots, sugar, citrus, sweet melons, rice, saffron, raisins, nutmeg, clove, pepper, pine nuts, cinnamon (along with fried preparations) is a sign of Arab influences from the Arab domination of Sicilia in the 10th and 11th centuries. And in Trapani in the extreme western corner of the island, North African influences are clear in the use of couscous.
Perhaps the most well-known part of Sicilian cuisine is the rich sweet dishes including ice creams and pastries. Cannoli, a tube-shaped shell of fried pastry dough filled with a sweet filling usually containing ricotta cheese, is strongly associated with Sicilia worldwide.
Like the cuisine of the rest of southern Italy, pasta plays an important part in Sicilian cuisine, as does rice. Sicilia has spawned some of its own cheeses, using both cows’ and sheep’s milk, such as pecorino and caciocavallo. Some varieties of wine are produced from vines that are relatively unique to the island, such as the Nero d’Avola made near the baroque town of Noto.