To understand the things that you see, and also those you don’t see, when travelling around Sicily, some background reading is a good preparation for your trip.
- Sicily destinations and practicalities: full menu (at foot of this page)
Midnight in Sicily
by Peter Robb
This episodic investigation into modern Sicily and the Mafia is a superb introduction to the complicated contexts of Sicily (and of Italy). Peter Robb lived for years in Italy, and this is an informed, anecdotal account of his personal journey to understand the webs of crime and politics which entangle every aspect of existence here.
by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
Il Gattopardo isa haunting account of Sicily’s politics and aristocracy at the time of Italy’s unification. The principal character, a cynical prince, observes the paradoxical change and inertia of his times, while offering weary comment on the Sicilian character. Lampedusa was from the same aristocratic background as his characters, and expounds convincingly and elegantly upon his theme. In the sixties, the story was beautifully and lovingly filmed by Luchino Visconti, who knew a thing or two himself about Italy’s faded aristocracy see the BFI’s gallery). The film, featuring Burt Lancaster, Claudia Cardinale and Alain Delon, has been expertly remastered and is available on DVD (apparently only in Italy, though, so buy it during your trip). The ballroom scene was filmed in Palazzo Valguarnera Gangi, Palermo.
The Rough Guide to Sicily
A decent guidebook is an essential tool for discovering Sicily, and the Rough Guide is about the most thorough you’ll find for this part of Italy. The guidebook focusses on practical advice and information, but it also has enough background and description to give you a feel for the places described and to provide a taster for more indepth explorations.
by Norman Lewis
A classic book by an accomplished writer, In Sicily is an account of Sicily over the second half of the twentieth century. Through family connections and friendships, Lewis has valuable insights into the island to which he keeps returning.
The Day of the Owl
(Il Giorno della Civetta)
by Leonardo Sciascia
Sparsely written, the novels of Sciascia put the author’s native Sicily under a microscope. At a time when the Mafia was rarely named, Sciascia wrote about Sicilian realities and attitudes. The Day of the Owl begins with the shooting of a man in front of a bus in a small Sicilian piazza. By the time the police arrive the bus passengers have melted away, and there are no witnesses to help with the investigation …