Sicily (Sicilia ; Sicilia ) is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the 20 regions of Italy. It is one of the five Italian autonomous regions, in Southern Italy along with surrounding minor islands, officially referred to as Regione Siciliana.
Sicily is located in the central Mediterranean Sea, south of the Italian Peninsula, from which it is separated by the narrow Strait of Messina. Its most prominent landmark is Mount Etna, the tallest active volcano in Europe, and one of the most active in the world, currently 3329 m high. The island has a typical Mediterranean climate.
The earliest archaeological evidence of human activity on the island dates from as early as 12,000 BC. By around 750 BC, Sicily had three Phoenician and a dozen Greek colonies and, for the next 600 years, it was the site of the Sicilian Wars and the Punic Wars. After the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century AD, Sicily was ruled during the Early Middle Ages by the Vandals, the Ostrogoths, the Byzantine Empire, and the Emirate of Sicily. The Norman conquest of southern Italy led to the creation of the Kingdom of Sicily, which was subsequently ruled by the Hohenstaufen, the Capetian House of Anjou, Spain, and the House of Habsburg. It was finally unified under the House of Bourbon with the Kingdom of Naples as the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. It became part of Italy in 1860 following the Expedition of the Thousand, a revolt led by Giuseppe Garibaldi during the Italian unification, and a plebiscite. Sicily was given special status as an autonomous region on 15th May 1946, 18 days before the Italian constitutional referendum of 1946. Albeit, much of the autonomy still remains unapplied, especially financial autonomy, because the autonomy-activating laws have been deferred to be approved by the parithetic committee (50% Italian State, 50% Regione Siciliana), since 1946.
Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature, cuisine, and architecture. It is also home to important archaeological and ancient sites, such as the Necropolis of Pantalica, the Valley of the Temples, Erice and Selinunte.
Sicily has a roughly triangular shape, earning it the name Trinacria. To the east, it is separated from the Italian mainland by the Strait of Messina, about 3 km wide in the north, and about 16 km wide in the southern part. The northern and southern coasts are each about 280 km long measured as a straight line, while the eastern coast measures around 180 km; total coast length is estimated at 1484 km. The total area of the island is 25711 km2, while the Autonomous Region of Sicily (which includes smaller surrounding islands) has an area of 27708 km2. The terrain of inland Sicily is mostly hilly and is intensively cultivated wherever possible. Along the northern coast, the mountain ranges of Madonie, 2000 m, Nebrodi, 1800 m, and Peloritani, 1300 m, are an extension of the mainland Apennines. The cone of Mount Etna dominates the eastern coast. In the southeast lie the lower Hyblaean Mountains, 1000 m. The mines of the Enna and Caltanissetta districts were part of a leading sulphur-producing area throughout the 19th century, but have declined since the 1950s.
Sicily and its surrounding small islands have some highly active volcanoes. Mount Etna is the largest active volcano in Europe and still casts black ash over the island with its ever-present eruptions. It currently stands 3329 m high, though this varies with summit eruptions; the mountain is 21 m lower now than it was in 1981. It is the highest mountain in Italy south of the Alps. Etna covers an area of 1190 km2 with a basal circumference of 140 km. This makes it by far the largest of the three active volcanoes in Italy, being about two and a half times the height of the next largest, Mount Vesuvius. In Greek mythology, the deadly monster Typhon was trapped under the mountain by Zeus, the god of the sky. Mount Etna is widely regarded as a cultural symbol and icon of Sicily.
The Aeolian Islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea, to the northeast of mainland Sicily form a volcanic complex, and include Stromboli. The three volcanoes of Vulcano, Vulcanello and Lipari are also currently active, although the latter is usually dormant. Off the southern coast of Sicily, the underwater volcano of Ferdinandea, which is part of the larger Empedocles volcano, last erupted in 1831. It is located between the coast of Agrigento and the island of Pantelleria (which itself is a dormant volcano).
The autonomous region also includes several neighbouring islands: the Aegadian Islands, the Aeolian Islands, Pantelleria and Lampedusa.