The Sicilians aren't the only people to consider themselves, and their island, a separate entity.
As the largest island in the Mediterranean, and with a strategic location, Sicily's history is a list of foreign rulers, from the Greeks in the 8th century BC, through a dazzling array of Romans, Arabs, Normans, French and Spanish, to the Bourbons seen off by Garibaldi in 1860.
Substantial relics of these ages remain: temples, theaters and churches are scattered about the whole island. But there are other, more immediate hints of Sicily's unique past.
A hybrid Sicilian language is still widely spoken in the countryside; the food is noticeably different, spicier and with more emphasis on fish and vegetables; even the flora echoes is a little different, with oranges, lemons, olives and palms everywhere.
Most points of interest are on the coast. The capital Palermo is memorable, a bustling, noisy city with an unrivaled display of Norman art and architecture and Baroque churches, combined with a warren of medieval streets and markets.
From Messina, it’s an easy trip to Catania; Siracusa, once the most important city of the Greek world; or the chic resort of Taormina, from where you can visit the craters of Mount Etna.