The Key Differences Between Sicilians and Italians

Photo of Aubrey Martin
17 November 2017

The extensive culture of Italy unfurls from the bordering city of Aosta down to the jewel at the end of the boot in the rich seaside towns of Sicily. History traces back a manifold of invaders, interlopers, and wanderers that have influenced the varied architecture, education, and legacy of Italy. The merging of these varied ethnicities has resulted in slight differences in languages, customs, and traditions, especially between the idyllic island of Sicily and its mainland.

Speaking Sicilian vs Speaking Italian

Although the Sicilian language isn’t commonly used today except for in the more remote villages of Sicily, it is still blended in with formal Italian in the larger cities. Small Sicilian words are spliced into everyday speech and lingo depending on a person’s heritage. Sicilian incorporates a blend of words rooted from Arabic, Hebrew, Byzantine, and Norman, unlike Italian that sounds more like a blend of Spanish and French. Most Italians find full-blown Sicilian incredibly hard to understand and to be a total departure from traditional Italian. There are also minor differences in sentence structure, as well as a different accent.

Sicilian Locals | © Aubrey Martin

Ways of Life

Italy shares a plethora of traditions and customs that envelope the entire country but Sicily has had a few slight tweaks and differences that set it apart. For instance, the classic mafia is still alive and well in this part of Italy. They still play a role in local government, real estate, and other dealings in certain communities. Traditional elements are ingrained in Sicily as well, religious festivals occur often in cities and you will find that families are incredibly close-knit. Sicilians are also very laid back and relaxed in most areas, you’ll find many shops and restaurants close between 1pm and 4pm most days of the week for long lunches and people take their time dining and spending time with one another.

Sicilian Triskeltion | ©Kim/Flickr

Sicilian Cuisine vs Italian Cuisine

Although they are still masters of pizza and pasta, they are more commonly known for their produce and seafood. Tuna and swordfish are island staples and they are well known for their lunch-time delicacy, the arancino. This morsel is a fried rice croquette filled with a variety of meats, and veggies thrown in the mix. Sicilians also coined the creation of cannolis, and are well-known for their delicious granita dessert. As opposed to incorporating the more expensive beef option for protein in dishes, they often use lamb, pork, and horse which may seem unusual but is an incredibly popular ingredient throughout Sicily.

Arancino | ©Aubrey Martin

Sicilian Landscapes

Italy is noted for its colourful and culture-rich cities, rolling hillsides and vineyards, beautiful coasts and beaches. Yet Sicily possesses some truly unique landscapes and terrain that is hard to find anywhere else in the world. The island sits on the active boundary where the Eurasian and African tectonic plate meets, spurring a cluster of dormant and active volcanoes in and around it. Mt. Etna is one of the crown jewels of Sicily, remaining highly active throughout the year. There are also a number of volcanic islands encircling the mainland, a litany of pebble beaches, and lava rock coastlines around the perimeter of the island.

Mt. Etna | ©Aubrey Martin

Sicilian History

Sicily has retained a distinct history, leading to its broad range of architecture, particular cuisine, and amalgamation of traditions. Sicily was a crossroad for so many cultures, it is hard to find another place that has been impacted by Phoenicians, Greeks, Arabs, Normans, Romans, British, and French. All of these groups have left vestiges of their time in Sicily such as Norman palaces, Roman ruins, and Greek temples. Scattered across the beautiful island you will be able to find the pieces of a vast history of visitors and conquerors. All of these influences come together to form the unparalleled culture, society, and people that remain truly unique, even to their own country.

The Amphitheater of Catania | ©gnuckx/Flickr

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