by Daniela Di Benedetto. (Contemporary Fiction) First published in Italian asthis novel tells the story of a wealthy agricultural family whose fortunes change through personal tragedy, the threat of the Mafia and a touch of disloyalty. Told from the parallel perspectives of a husband and wife, the journey takes the reader along a path full of twists and turns. Antonio, the protagonist, must confront all kinds of challenges among his family and friends but, as is so often the case, his worst demons live within himself. Set late in the twentieth century and spanning two decades,reflects the stark realities of Sicily faced by many people during those times. It is their reactions, ranging from disillusion to denial, that make this an interesting psychological study. This is one of just a few mainstream novels by Sicilian women to find their way into hard copy in English, reaching an international readership (those by Lara Cardella and Melissa Panarello follow).
Italy and Its Monarchyby Denis Mack Smith. This masterful, eloquent account of who Italys monarchs were and what they got up to (usually something not very edifying) demonstrates once again why Mack Smith is widely viewed as the leading authority on Italy writing in the English language.
Open Doors and Three Novellasby Leonardo Sciascia. Translated by Sacha Ravinovitch and Marie Evans. (Fiction) He was one of Sicilys most eminent authors. Leonardo Sciascia, who died in 1989, wrote most of his fiction in the 1960s and 1970s. Much of it dealt with his longstanding fascination with important moral issues in politics, the law, and Fascism. Certain metaphysical themes appeared every now and then. Sciascia posed good moral questions that nobody will ever answer perfectly
Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroesby Edith Hamilton. An excellent, readable guide to the Greek myths, another reliable go to reference. This is a superb introduction to classical mythology.
Excellent Cadavers: The Mafia and the Death of the First Republicby Alexander Stille. Solid, if slightly dated, work dealing with organized crime and its connections to the Italian government into the mid-1990s (a few such connections probably remain and the government is still infamously corrupt). Good English treatment of the Mafia during that period and the murders of judges Falcone and Borsellino. At almost 500 pages, quite detailed.
Joanna: The Notorious Queen of Naples & Sicilyby Nancy Goldstone. Also published asThe Lady Queen,this is the story of brave, brillaint Joan Anjou of Naples (1326-1382), generally considered the first woman in Europe to rule in her own right. The title of book and queen are slightly misleading; for the most part JoannaclaimedSicily without ruling it, because the island was actually ruled by the House of Aragon after 1282. However, the text does describe the contested island kingdoms chaotic interregnum of the 14th century and the intrigues of the so-called Four Vicars including the cunning Chiaramonte clan. Joannas foray onto the island, at Messina in 1356, led to her brief control of a small piece of it.
The Pursuit of Italy: A History of a Land, Its Regions, and Their Peoplesby David Gilmour. Superlative history of Italy and its regions, with half the book dedicated to the centuries since 1800. Revealing.
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Death in Bagheriaby Susan Russo Anderson. (Historical Fiction) In this gripping tale of murder and deceit, a baroness is poisoned and a family in western Sicily in 1870 stands to have its darkest, most intimate secrets revealed. Serafina Florio is a midwife-turned-sleuth who seeks to unravel the mystery. (This is not, strictly speaking, native Sicilian fiction as it isnt a work in translation; the author, though descended from Sicilians, is American.
Carthage Must Be Destroyedby Richard Miles. For centuries, the Phoenicians and their descendants the Carthaginians ruled half of Sicily, a region contested by Greeks and then Romans. The Carthaginians nearly defeated Rome. Here is the story of the conflict that changed the course of ancient Mediterranean history, and the reason why the words you are reading are written in Latin characters rather than Phoenician ones.
The Pursuit of Italy: A History of a Land, Its Regions, and Their Peoplesby David Gilmour. Insightful general history of Italy and its regions, equally divided between the periods before and after 1800, with ample attention given to Sicily. Highly readable and very revealing, amustif you want to understand Italian history and the complex nation that exists today.
The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterraneanby David Abulafia. Like Norwichs book (above), a lengthy general survey by a highly popular author. While the topics and emphasis differ somewhat, Sicily is very present. An accomplished scholar, Abulafia wrote the definitive biography ofEmperor Frederick II(see below), among other well-received works dealing with medieval Italy and Spain.
The Greek Mythsby Robert Graves. The Greek myths, some of which are set in Sicily, are the earliest surviving Sicilian literature. This book, with its scholarly language, is the standard reference our writers consult
Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness Travel Guide: Sicily.We love competition, and as long as there are entries like this series, the authors of the other guides shouldnt plan on resting on their literary laurels. At 240 pages, full of practical information of every kind: Descriptions, history, culture, food, lodging.
The Normans in Sicily: The Normans in the South 1016-1130 and the Kingdom in the Sun 1130-1194by John Julius Norwich. If you thought the Norman conquerors of Sicily and England were long buried, this landmark work will bring them to life in vivid detail. Actually a recent omnibus edition combining two of Norwichs books written in the 1960s,chronicles the Conquest of Sicily (The Other Conquest) in breathtaking detail.Read more.The two separate volumes are in reprint:The Normans in the SouthandThe Kingdom in the Sun.
The Battle of Sicily: How the Allies lost their chance for total victoryby Samuel Mitcham and Friedrich von Stauffenberg. A fine analysis which supplements other histories of this subject, this work considers the strategy of the Allies and the effective defensive tactics of the German forces. Good military history
Sicilyby John Julius Norwich. Released in 2015 with slightly differing titles for the UK and US markets, this is one of the best general histories of our island published in the last twenty years. On finer points post-1800, one might beg to differ with a few of the authors observations about the unification movement and its aftermath. History is not always pretty, and scholars like Denis Mack Smith and Lucy Riall, among others, have written cogently about the effects of unification on Sicily (it seems difficult to ignore things like Nino Bixios massacre of civilians at Bronte or the kind of electoral fraud that results in a 99 percent majority). Aside from a (very) few details of that kind, this is a superlative volume. Norwichs Oxbridgian writing style is captivating, almost intoxicating, and his knowledge of the European and Mediterranean context of history is obvious. Having begun his writings about Sicily a half-century ago, he deserves kudos. This is the real deal..
Four Queens: The Provenal Sisters Who Ruled Europeby Nancy Goldstone. Fascinating parallel biographies of four 13th-century sisters who married the kings of France, England, Germany and Sicily (the island was then ruled from Naples). This very readable history traces many of the events leading to the Sicilian Vespers while providing a realistic glimpse of the Middle Ages. Frederick II, Manfred of Sicily, Peter of Aragon, Frances saintly Louis IX (whose heart reposes in Monreale Abbey) and his nasty little brother Charles Anjou of Naples all play a role in a magnificent tapestry that shatters the stereotype of medieval women as helpless damsels. A fine complement to Runcimans book. If Ms Goldstone didnt exist, wed probably have to invent her.
Sicilian Genealogy and Heraldryby Louis Mendola. First published in 2013, this is the only book about Sicilian family history research, and indeed the first book of its kind written in English with a focus on a specific Italian region. An excellent guide, and perhaps the cornerstone of a personal library dealing with Sicilian genealogical research. While all researchers will benefit, it is written for professionals or very dedicated amateurs. There are no pictures of actual records as the author presumes that most readers, being somewhat experienced, will have at least a perfunctory knowledge of Italian. Plenty of information packed into a 300-page book which, were it not for its rather small print, might have run to 500 pages.
Bitter Victory: The Battle for Sicily 1943by Carlo dEste. Detailed, definitive history of the Allied invasion of 1943 and the events leading up to it. A magnificent work.
Frederick II: A Medieval Emperorby David Abulafia. His death in the middle of the thirteenth century signalled the end of an era in Sicily. Frederick, grandson of Roger II, was the greatest monarch of the 13th century. This defining work, the best biography ever written of this unique monarch, is great but not always in print. Nevertheless, the only book you should think about reading if you want to learn more about Sicilys most famous monarch
The Norman Kingdom of Sicilyby Donald Matthew. Published by Cambridge University Press, this book is a useful complementary work to the Norwich and Runciman books reviewed here (and Houbens too). In just over 400 pages, Professor Matthew describes the economic, political and social development of the Kingdom of Sicily under the Normans.Read more.
Shouldnt your tailor-made vacation be arranged by your own travel expert in Sicily?will plan your trip from arrival to departure, whether its a one-day excursion or a one-week itinerary. You can expect real travel services from real travel agents.
Cavalleria Rusticana and Other Storiesby Giovanni Verga. Translated by G. H. McWilliam. (Traditional Fiction) A new translation of the greatest Italian short story writer since Boccaccio. Born into a well-to-do Sicilian family in Vizzini (near Catania), Giovanni Verga (1840-1922) became an active observer of Milanese salon society in the 1870s and 1880s but eventually found in the everyday lives of Sicilian peasants the inspiration for his finest narratives
Sicily Blue Guide.Wouldnt it be nice to have a travel guide that could be useful as a planning tool evenbeforeyou set foot in Sicily? This is it. Ellen Grady lives here and knows what shes talking about.Read more.
Phoenician Secrets: Exploring the Ancient Mediterraneanby Sanford Holst. A fine, pragmatic introduction to this unique civilization and its extensive influences on many societies, including an early presence in Sicily. An enjoyable history.
Midnight in Sicilyby Peter Robb. The title of this debut book by an Australian author who lived and taught in Italy for 14 years refers to the events which open and close its time frame – the hour the Allies landed on the Sicilian coast on a night in July 1943, and the sober trial of former Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti for Mafia association in Palermo from 1997 to 1999. The Andreotti prosecution was less successful than the Allies efforts; the lifetime politician was acquitted following this books publication. Insightful, even revealing, and Italian politics hasnt changed much in recent years.
Sicilian Shadowsby Francesco Scannella. (Memoir) Recounting the story of a ten year-old boy in a town in west-central Sicily during two years around 1970, this is without doubt the best childhood memoir set in Sicily ever published in English. Gritty, blunt and disquieting, it tells a tale of violence, backwardness and many other things that most of todays Sicilians would prefer to forget. Indeed, hardly anybody born in Sicily after 1980 has any sense that the place was so primitive so recently, with perhaps just a few telephones and televisions in the typical rural locality of several thousand residents. Not only is this disturbing account compelling, it makes most of the books that follow in this list and certainly most of the fiction mentioned on this page look, by comparison, like bland candy packaged for ignorant masses unprepared to learn about the real Sicily. Bizarre as it may occasionally seem, this book is the main course. The true story culminates in the murder of a Mafiosos teenage son which (though this is not made clear in the narrative) led to a succession of five brutal reprisal killings over the next few months. Scannellas insightful book works at so many subtle levels Sicilys relative poverty as part of the new Italy after 1860, the nobilitys exploitation of the poor, the effects of Fascism, bigotry against Italians living abroad in the 1960s, immigration and cultural assimilation, social class division, rampant illiteracy that it would take a team of anthropologists and historians to analyze it completely. Sure, you could read those cute, overly-praised slice-of-life books written by certain Siculo-American visitors about the same general region of Sicily who mistakenly thought they actuallyknewour island, but Scannellas personal story, told from a bicultural Italian/British perspective that permits accurate comparisons between two European societies, is the real deal. He is not writing to flatter anybody. More importantly, if you think this story is just about children, think again.Be warned:This book is not for the faint of heart
Operation Mincemeatby Ben Macintyre. Military history at its best. As lively as a spy novel, this book recounts the secret mission that preceded the invasion of Sicily in 1943 and inspired a young Ian Fleming, one of the naval officers who masterminded it, to create James Bond.
Under the Volcano: Revolution in a Sicilian Townby Lucy Riall. This opus details the ruthless massacre at Bronte, in eastern Sicily, by Nino Bixio in 1860. Based on masterful research, Professor Rialls book covers enough history to provide ample context. Published in 2012 by Oxford University Press (there is also an Italian edition), this is a sober and sobering account of what actually took place
Margaret, Queen of Sicily.by Jacqueline Alio. This 500-page biography is the longest historical work ever written in English by a Sicily-based scholar. Its also the first biography (in any language) about this remarkable woman. Margarets story should be required reading for anybody interested in medieval Sicily
Mattanza: Love and Death in the Sea of Sicilyby Theresa Maggio. (Memoir) This is a magnificent journey inside the world of a Sicilian fishing community and its thousand-year-old rituals. Every spring for untold centuries, great schools of giant bluefin tuna have swum through the Strait of Gibraltar to spawn in the Mediterranean Sea. And there, for untold centuries, men have been waiting for them. In this stunning debut, Th
Welcome to the webs best Sicily reading list (we also have a page dedicated toSicilian literature). If youre looking forrealinformation and not just tourist stuff or the superficial, youve come to the right page. This is the real deal accurate, reliable information about the worlds most eclectic island. These books treat subjects presented on this site in far greater detail than we can. Links are to the US site, but if youre in Britain or elsewhere, sign in with your password and get local delivery. Some of these titles are available as ebooks. We present only brief descriptions here (some from Amazon or the publishers) because the Amazon sites offer so many reader reviews, but our selections are the best books in print on these subjects, authored by experts whoknowSicily. Prices vary based on edition: hardcover, paperback, ebook. Some categories overlap a bit, and on the Amazon sites youll find a few Kindle books which are not published in hard copy. It is our policy to review only those books that we have read and regard as accurate, reliable or (in the case of fiction) entertaining. In other words, we choose not to publish negative reviews. If you were to read all the books recommended in the history, literature and biography sections, you would be a virtual expert on Sicily.Benvenuti in Sicilia!
Women of Sicily: Saints, Queens and Rebelsby Jacqueline Alio. Significantly, the first book about the historical women of Sicily mostly before 1500 written in English in the original by a Sicilian woman based in Sicily. (The author will be known to this sites more avid readers/followers.) While it is intended for a general readership, the breezy narrative reflects a scholarly perspective. An appendix is dedicated to the status of Sicilian women today, and an introductory chapter provides enough background for the reader to understand Sicilian history generally. This book is an uncommon entry into the fray.Read more.
Small group size, usually fewer than 16.
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Michelin Green Guide To Sicily.In typicalMichelin Guidefashion, this useful books authors are anonymous, but their very traditional British Oxbridge education in Greek classics shows through anyway.Read more.
The Peoples of Sicily: A Multicultural Legacy. Full of Greeks, Arabs, Normans, Germans and Jews, the most significant general history of Sicily ever published is about much more than an island in the sun. Can the eclectic medieval experience of the worlds most conquered island be a lesson for our times? Find out as you meet the peoples! (368 pages on acid-free paper, ebook available)
Palermo: City of Kingsby Jeremy Dummett. An eloquent follow-up to the authors book about Syracuse.
The Dark Heart of Italy: An incisive portrait of Europes most beautiful, most disconcerting countryby Tobias Jones. Fascinating look at todays Italy, though Sicily figures very little in this candid portrait of life in this fascinating country
Sicilys Rebellion Against King Charlestranslated by Louis Mendola.Lu rebellamentu di Sichilia contra Re Carluis the longest piece of literature written in Middle Sicilian (around 1290) to be translated into English. This work presents the orignal Sicilian text of this medieval chronicle, accompanied by notes by a scholar who knew Sir Steven Runciman, to whome the volume is dedicated
Time Travelers Guide: Norman Arab Byzantine Palermo, Monreale and Cefal.This is the kind of missing guide that just had to be published sooner or later for those who are really curious about these medieval monuments. Plenty of background history and maps in what may be the most complete guide of its kind ever published in English.
Six Characters in Search of an Author and Other Playsby Luigi Pirandello. Translated by Mark Musa. (Traditional Fiction) Sicilian-born Luigi Pirandello (1867-1936) is best known in the English-speaking world for his radical challenge to traditional Western theatre with plays such as Six Characters in Search of an Author. But theatre is just one aspect of this Nobel laureates experiments with language which constituted a distinguished collection of novels, short stories, and essays as well as his work for a film industry then in its infancy. Pirandello believed in the primacy of the literary character in a creative process fraught with internal conflicts.
Women of Sicily: Saints, Queens & Rebels. Meet a timeless sisterhood of pious Roman maidens, steadfast Sicilian queens, and a Jewish mother who faced the horrors of the Inquisition. Find an islands feminine soul in the first book about Sicilys historical women written in English by a Sicilian woman in Sicily. (224 pages on acid-free paper, ebook available)
. Castles in the clouds are just the beginning.
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Sicily: The Rough GuideLots of user-friendly information on Sicilian restaurants and hotels – more than Michelin which has the red guides for that. Here the authors provide details on a whole range of places, and of course descriptions of the most important sights.Read more.
The Peoples of Sicily: A Multicultural Legacyby Louis Mendola and Jacqueline Alio. Covering the periods to around 1500 especially 1060 to 1260 this is thought by at least three reviewers to be the best general history of ancient and medieval Sicily published over the last few decades (the outline and chronology actually begin in antiquity). Its focus is the Norman-Arab-Swabian era and the syncretic society that emerged from the fusion of Fatimid, Byzantine, Northern European and Judaic cultures during the Middle Ages. Unlike most Sicilian histories, this one has a message, though the authors leave its implications to the reader. It presents the longest Sicilian chronology (timeline) ever published, chapters on geography, religion and even cuisine, a reading list, sources and a series of clear maps, along with tips on places of historical interest to visit. Except for a few observations in the introduction and final chapter about multicultural societies, this is for the most part an informative conventional history, if an exceptionally insightful one, and probably the only general history of Sicily pre-1500 that most readers will ever need. (We know the authors, who have written for this website.)
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The Force of Destiny: A History of Italy Since 1796by Christopher Duggan. Detailed, sometimes disturbing, look at Italian unification, the controversialRisorgimento,by an eminent historian.
Sicilian Literature, Mythology & Contemporary Fiction
The Leopardby Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. (Historical Fiction) Translated by Archibald Colquhoun. (Fiction) Published in Italy in 1958 following its authors death,The Leopardrapidly climbed the international bestseller lists in 1961. The author, a Sicilian nobleman, weaves a fabulously rich tapestry of Sicilian aristocratic life around 1860, when the unification movement interrupts more than a century of Bourbon rule by the Kings of Naples. As the Kingdom of Naples (or the Two Sicilies) comes to an end, a new order arrives, but is it nothing more than the Old Order in new clothes? Read ourspecial reviewof this classic novel. (Read about the authors biography in the following section.)
Good Girls Dont Wear Trousersby Lara Cardella. Translated by Diana Di Carcaci. (Fiction) Living in a remote Sicilian town in the early 1960s, Annetta, barely thirteen years old, doesnt dream of the romantic prince who will carry her away from an eternal boredom. Instead, the young narrator dreams of wearing pants rather than the mandatory dress or skirt. She imagines that this will liberate her from the stifling atmosphere that permeates the village of her birth. But the Womens Movement is still years away.
Terroni: All that has been done to ensure that the Italians of the South became southernersby Pino Aprile. Italian bestseller that confronts the realities of (and reasons for) Italys regionalism
The Last Godfathersby John Follian. A very good overview, some biographies and up-to-date information, published in 2009. Follian does an exceptional job at analysis and explanation. This is one of the better studies of the Mafia as it is today, with a more-or-less complete cast of criminal characters, including a few infamous fugitives.
The Day of the Owlby Leonardo Sciascia. (Fiction) This might be described as early Italian Mafia fiction, circa 1961, a kind of metaphysical mystery set in rural Sicily, nothing like Mario Puzos stylized, AmericanGodfatherseries. At 140 pages, entertaining and fast-paced.
Sicily: A Cultural Historyby Joseph Farrell. A solid work which, though presented as a very general series of historical and cultural facts and observations, is a very good complement to guide books and even to more detailed histories of Sicily (see the following sections). It is also a usefulhistoriographyif you are seeking an outline indicating information relative to various historians, visitors and expert commentators.
The Kingdom of Sicily 1130-1860by Louis Mendola. Despite its title, this volume published in 2015 actually begins its account in antiquity and takes to about 1950. With Lord Norwichs book (in the entry above), the best general history of Sicily youll find
Octopus: The long reach of the international Sicilian Mafiaby Claire Sterling. Slightly dated (it was published in 1990) but a good general survey of organized crime in Sicily.
The Sicilian Vespers: A History of the Mediterranean World in the Later Thirteenth Centuryby Steven Runciman. Classic, defining work on the medieval revolution that changed European history. This erudite authors fluid prose style, at once scholarly and literary, makes this unique book as entertaining as it is informative, a measure by which other medieval studies are judged. Its sweeping European and Mediterranean context leaves nothing to be desired.