Sicily is surrounded by many smaller islands, such as Ustica, the Eolie or Lipari group (also called the Seven Sisters), comprising two active volcanoes, Stromboli and Vulcano, then the Egadi group, Pantelleria and the Pelagie Isles.
Sicily is a great producer of citrus fruit, almonds, vegetables, wine and oil, as well as a the first fishing region in Italy. Also the mineral resources are remarkable: sulfur, salt, natural gas, petroleum.
Tourism is a great resource, thanks to the magnificent coastal areas and beaches, the abundance of archeological sites and the art centers, where relics of the Greek, Norman and Saracen civilization are among the richest in Europe, and immersed in a Mediterranean landscape of colors and perfumes that always attracted visitors and poets, like the immortal Goethe who wrote of Sicily "Kennst du das Land, wo die Zitronen bluhm..." (do you know the land where lemon trees blossom...)
By the 11th century BC the Phoenicians had established in western Sicily flourishing trade centers, such as Palermo, Mezia and Solunto, which gradually came under the power of Cartage, the most powerful Phoenician colony, while in the east the glorious Greek colonization began with the foundation of such cities as Naxos, Catania, Megara Hyblaea, Syracuse, that soon were equal to the Greek cities in power, wealth, art and culture. After the defeat in the Punic wars, Cartage abandoned its colonies and soon the Romans conquered the also the whole island, making it a Roman Province.
In the early 11th century the Normans led by Roberto d'Altavilla invaded the island, and by 1091 the conquest was completed; the Norman rule was tolerant of the different cultures, and introduced the feudal system, while at the same time expanding throughout Southern Italy. The last Norman king, William II, died heirless, so the crown passed to his brother in law, husband to his sister Costanza, Henry VI of Swabia, who was succeeded by Frederick II, one of the most enlightened rulers in the whole Italian history, who made Sicily into the political center of Europe and a modern, model state. At his court art and literature flourished so much so that the Sicilian period is acknowledged as the birth of Italian literature.
In the following centuries Sicily was occupied by the Anjou and then after long wars by the Aragonese with Alphonse who in 1442 united under one crown the whole Southern Italy and had himself called "rex utriusque Siciliae" (King of the Two Sicilies). On the death of this king in 1458, Sicily became a colony of Spain, and a period of great decadence and riots began, which ended only in 1713 with the War of Spanish Succession, when it was given to the Savoy Duke Vittorio Amedeo II, who during his 16 years of power greatly improved the administration, trade and culture. Then in 1734 Sicily came back under the Spaniards with Charles Bourbon.
Unfortunately the Piedmontese rulers tried to impose their fiscal systems in a land which had a great administrative tradition, with a twofold negative consequence: rebellion, which took the form of brigandage, whose ruthless repression only engendered more hostility to the State, and later organized crime. The never resolved problems of Sicily then gave rise in the early 20th century to a massive exodus towards the American and later Australian continents.