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Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean sea, covering an area of just under 26,000km². The island resembles the shape of a triangle and awarded Sicily the name Trinakria in ancient times. Sicily is surrounded by the Tyrrenian sea in the North, the Ionian sea in the East and Mediterranean sea in the Southeast and -west. The total length of the island is around 1,000km and at its closest point to Italy, it is only 3km between Messina and mainland Italy. While you find steep coast interrupted by numerous small bays in the North, the Southern coast is rather flat and gentle with long sandy beaches.
Sicily is surrounded by small island groups like the Aeolian Islands in the North and the Egadi Islands in the West. Further, the two bigger islands of Ustica in the Northwest and Pantelleria in Southwest are also considered Sicilian.
Most of the landscape is shaped by mountains and hills, which cover around 80% of the mainland of Sicily. Plains are common in the South and in the area surrounding Catania. Several mountain ranges run along the Northern coastline, starting with the Peloritani Mountains in the East, the Nebrodi Mountains and the Madonie Mountains South of Cefalu. Further, you will find the Iblei Mountains in the Southeast and the Erei and Sicani Mountains in the center.
Especially the Eastern side of Sicily is dominated by the mighty Mount Etna (3345m), the highest and most active volcano in Europe. Other active volcanoes in Sicily include Stromboli and Vulcano on the Aeolian Islands. Pizzo Carbonara in the Madonie Mountains (1979m) is the highest non-volcanic mountain on the island.
Salso is the longest river on Sicily, originating from the Madonie Mountains and leading 144km into the sea at Licata. The 52km long Alcantara River is one of the most noted rivers in Sicily due to the deep gorges the river carved into the lava from Etna.
There is only one natural lake on Sicily, the Lago di Perdusa in the center of the island, which is of volcanic origin.
Sicily is one of the five autonomous regions of Italy with Palermo being the administrative capital. The regional parliament is the Regional Assembly with 90 members, presided by the parliament’s speaker. The assembly is elected for a five year term and is bound to the regional president by a relationship of confidence. The regional president is elected by popular vote and has fiscal power over public spending and oversees specific areas such as archaeological and historical sites, some schools and nature reserves. The parliament has autonomy on preparing their budget, but is bound to national levies on how to raise public income.
Sicily is divided into 390 municipalities, which are then grouped into larger regulating provinces consisting of six free associations of municipalities and three metropolitan cities.
Traditionally, agriculture has always been the largest sector in Sicilian economy and thanks to recent reforms and investments, the sector is growing and has become more competitive. There is large capital in fertile volcanic soil and climate conditions are favorable. Main agricultural products are citrus, wheat, tomatoes, olives, artichokes, almonds, grapes, pistachios and wine. The production of cheese, honey and chocolate also plays an important role.
Sicily is the third largest wine producer in Italy and is world renowned for the fortified Marsala wine and some strong red wines made from Nero d’Avola or Frappato grapes.
Seafood is another important agricultural resource for Sicily, including tuna, sardine, swordfish or anchovies.
Services have become the most important sector on the island and especially tourism is playing a vital role. Industrial production has always played a minor role in Sicily, but the island is home to several food, electronic and chemical industries as well as oil refineries and power stations. Palermo also hosts some important shipyards and publishing and textile industries.
Services have further developed over the last couple of years, including the growth of financial and telecommunications services, retail and especially tourism, an important source of income for the island, capitalizing on the natural, historical and cultural heritage.