Lexicon of Sicily, from Lampedusa to Lipari

Sicilian encyclopedia for travel and knowledge

Lampedusa e Linosa - Provincia di Agrigento. The Mediterranean island of Lampedusa is the largest of the Pelagie Islands and is situated 205 km from Sicily and 113 km from Tunisia. Its population subsists on fishing, agriculture and tourism. Lampedusa is the largest part of the comune of Lampedusa e Linosa, which also includes the smaller islands of Linosa and Lampione; the former is inhabited but the latter just hosts an automatic lighthouse. Now famous for landings of "boat people" evading from North Africa.

Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (December 23, 1896 - July 23, 1957), was an Italian writer. He is most famous for his only novel, Il Gattopardo (ISBN 88-07-81028-X, first published posthumously in 1958, translated as The Leopard, ISBN 0-679-73121-0) which is set in Sicily during the Risorgimento. A taciturn and solitary man, he passed a great deal of his time reading and meditating, and used to say of himself, "I was a boy who liked solitude, who preferred the company of things to that of people."

Lampione (Italian: Lantern) is a small rocky island located in the Mediterranean Sea, which belongs geographically to the Pelagie Islands and administratively to the comune of Lampedusa (Sicily region). It is 700 metre long and 180 metre across with the highest point on the island lying at 36 metres: the area is 1.2 km². The islet is uninhabited, the only building being an out of work lighthouse. According to a legend, the island was a rock which had fallen from the hands of a cyclops. Lampione is part of the Riserva Marina Isole Pelagie, and its vegetation and wildlife are strictly protected. Animal life include numerous migrating birds and the Armadillidium hirtum pelagicum, a land crustacean. The waters are populated by sharks, including the species Carcharhinus plumbeus, groopers, lobsters and varieties of yellow and pink coral.

Leoluca Orlando was born in Palermo in 1947, is married and has two daughters. A lawyer and Professor of Regional Public Law at the University of Palermo, he studied and lived for some years in Heidelberg, in the Federal Republic of Germany. Later he worked as international consultant for OECD in Paris and then, between 1978 and 1980, as legal advisor to Piersanti Mattarella, President of the Sicilian Region, until the latter was killed by the Mafia. In 1980 he was elected City Councillor for the Christian Democratic Party and in 1985 became Mayor of Palermo. During his five-year administration, Orlando headed a city government made up of movements and parties of the political Left, which constituted a severe break with the political practices of the past. In the same period, which became known as the “Palermo Spring”, he denounced the peril represented by the mafioso economy, the channel through which the Mafia families exercised their power with the complicity of public officials, and promoted a substantial growth of the antimafia movement within the local society. In 1990 Leoluca Orlando ran as top candidate for the Christian Democratic Party in the elections for the city government and, though boycotted by national leaders of his own party, he was elected with the largest number of votes (71,000) among all candidates. His efforts to renew his party from within met however an ever increasing resistance, and in 1991 he left it and found the Movement for Democracy “La Rete” (“The Network”). The main aim of the new political movement was to bring moral issues back into Italian politics through the so-called “transversality” (“multipartisanship”), i.e., the participation of all the positive forces of the various political parties in the struggle toward the creation of a more democratic society. As a candidate of this new movement, he was elected to the Sicilian Regional Parliament in 1991 and to the Italian National Parliament in 1992. In 1993, in the first direct mayoral elections ever held in Italy, he was elected Mayor of Palermo with 75% of the votes, and immediately got under way some reform to banish the economic interest of organized crime from the Municipality. Specifically, he brought to conclusion the process of rescinding all the contracts for the maintenance of public facilities that the City had assigned to companies suspected of belonging to the Mafia families. He had already started this process during his first term of office, but his action had been hampered by the fact that at that time the mayors were subject to the control and the veto power of political forces often conditioned by organized crime. Moreover, he gave impulse to a new multi-faceted project of civic renewal which, through a variety of programs including cultural and school-based initiatives for the promotion of a new culture of lawfulness, has effectively contributed to free the citizens from the cultural hegemony of the Mafia in a process which has become known as “The Palermo Renaissance”.
In 1994 he was elected Deputy to the European Parliament, where he was Vice President of the Committee for the entry of Malta into the European Union; member of the Committee for Public Liberties and Home Affairs; member of the Committee for Regional Politics; and substitute member of the Committee for Safety and Disarmament. He also worked extensively in favor of the Mediterranean playing a more important role in the European Union, and for the adoption of a EU project against organized crime which was inspired by newly adopted Italian antimafia legislation as well as by the Sicilian experience. On the mayoral direct elections of November 1997, Orlando was confirmed Mayor of Palermo with 58.57% of the total poll for a second (and last, according to the Italian electoral law) four-year term. In 1999 he joined “The Democrats”, a political party founded by Romano Prodi. In December 1999 he was appointed President of the newly created non profit organization ”The Sicilian Renaissance Institute”.
In December 2000 he resigned from his office as mayor in order to run for the regional elections of June 2001, where he received about one million votes and was elected member of the Sicilian Parliament and minority leader. Since November 2002 he is charged to do the responsible for “Human rights” and “Mediterranean” in the foreign department of the “Margherita’s” party. Starting from the Sicilian experience Leoluca Orlando has elaborated and promoted the model called “Culture and economy of human rights”. Since 2003 he has been engaged to foster with the involvement of many realities of several countries of the world a worldwide net of culture and economy of human rights. In April 2006 he is elected deputy of the National Parliament.

Lercara Friddi is in Palermo Provincia, 65 km. from Palermo, alt. 660 m. in the hills between the Rivers Torto and Platani, on the slopes of Pizzo Lanzone, area 37.3 sq. km., pop, over 7800, post-code 90025, tel. 091. Economy: agriculture (cereals), iron and wood handicraft, service industries. It was originally a trading post along the royal highway between Palermo and Agrigento. The present town was founded in 1605 by the Spanish nobleman D. Baldassare Gomez de Amescua, who acquired the fief following his marriage to Francesca Lercara. It then belonged at various times to a number of noble families (de Mayda, Villalba, Ventimiglia, Scamacca, and Gravina). This was an important sulphur mining center. All the mines have closed.

    Famous sons of this city
  • Lucky Luciano, Boss of the american Mafia
  • Frank Sinatra

The tiny island Levanzo has a surface area of 6 sqm, and is bristled with hills. The tallest, Pizzo dei Monaco (278m), tumbles its jaggedly rocky skirts down into the sea; the most beautiful part being a section of the southwest coast. Only one road bisects the island from south to north, making it a veritable haven of peace and serenity, beloved by nature-lovers and those who seek solitude and rhythms set by the breaking waves or by the sound of ones own feet on the stones. The northern part of the island consists of a succession of sheer drops, rocky outcrops and secluded little creeks. Between Levanzo and the coast of Sicily lie two minute islets: Maraone and Formica (on which there are the remains of an old tuna fishery). Cala Dogana – The only hamlet on Levanzo overlooks a bay of the clearest water on the south side of the island. From here, a well-kept path snakes its way to the bays that open out along the southwestern coast, each tightly embracing its very own miniature pebbled beach, as far as the Faraglione (a large rock). Grotta del Genovese – Accessible on foot (approx 2hr there and back), by jeep and then on foot along a steep slope, or by sea. Discovered in 1949, this excavated hollow in the side of a tall cliff bears traces of prehistoric man. Vestiges of wall-painting have been identified as dating from the Upper Palaeolithic era, while the incised drawings may be from the Neolithic period. The graffiti drawings, completed at a time when the island was still attached to the island of Sicily, represent a bison and a deer of the most pleasing proportions, elegance and foreshortening. The charcoal and animal fat paintings represent early attempts at fishing (both tuna and dolphins are discernible), animal husbandry (a woman leads a cow with a halter) and ritual images of men dancing and women with wide hips. These paintings are compatible with the Franco-Cantabrian cave paintings of Lascaux in southwest France and Altamira in Spain.

Licata - Provincia di Agrigento.with a population of 39,000, stands between the Salso river – Sicily’s second river – and the Licata Mount, in the Agrigento province. It was settled since the Paleolithic Age as relics discovered across the territory and researches by scholars have shown. Under the Romans, Licata became increasingly important thanks to its coast and commercial harbor. A number of cave-churches and worshipping places testify to the Byzantine presence in the area. Two castles, namely the Castel San Giacomo and the Castel Nuovo – both no longer existing now – were erected during the Middle Ages. A remarkable growth was recorded from the 16th century on. The visitors of Licata can enjoy numerous attractions. The Town Hall has a big room where relics of the Greek age are displayed. The Town Museum, divided into two broad sections, is particularly worthy of note. The archaeological section displays many interesting relics such as vases and lithic tools from the Copper Age. The second section, reserved to the Hellenistic Age, collects relics from the 7th-6th century BC, archaic artefacts from a shrine in the Casalicchio district and other material from the necropolis of Portella di Corso. A third, minor section is devoted to the Middle Ages; it includes five marble statues depicting the four Cardinal Virtues and the Virgin with Child. Among the city’s noble palazzi are the 1600’s Serrovira and Caro-Dominici palaces and the 1700’s Frangipane and Bosio Palaces. A number of religious buildings are as much interesting. The Mother Church, built in the 15th century, is dedicated to Santa Maria La Nova. It has three naves and houses the fine Chapel of the Crucifix with golden and wooden carved decorations, a wooden Crucifix and a remarkable 1600’s altarpiece. The 1600’s Chiesa di San Domenico, with the adjacent Convent, contains fine paintings among which are the 1600’s S. Antonio Abate and the Holy Trinity and the Saints by Filippo Paladino. Another religious complex, that goes back to the 1700s, is comprised of the Chiesa e Convento del Carmine. The church, refurbished at the end of the 18th century, preserves ten medallions illustrating events from the Old and New Testaments. The Chiesa di San Francesco, with adjacent a convent, dates from the 16th century. It has a single nave and contains a fine organ fron the 18th century. Among the minor religious buildings are the Church of the Charity with, adjacent, the Monastery of Saint Benedict; the 1600’s Church of the Angel and the Church of Santa Maria La Vetere, comprising a Benedictin convent that was requisitioned by the municipal board and tranformed into hospital. Later abandoned, it is today reduced to a very poor condition. Licata shore with its beautiful sand beaches is also very attractive.

Lipari. Just north-west of Sicily lie the Aeolian Islands, the largest of which, Lipari, has become a popular holiday destination with a concentration of tourist facilities in its main town.

The town of Lipari is dominated by a cliff-top citadel, built in the 1500s, and buffered by two beaches, the Marina Lunga on which the harbour is sited, and the Marina Corta. Lipari, with its hotels, restaurants and bars, makes a good base for exploring the other islands of the archipelago, including Salina, Filicudi, Stromboli, Panarea and Vulcano, all of which offer beautiful scenery, volcanoes, castles, thermal resorts, watersports, fishing and some lovely volcanic-black beaches. Most visitors get to the Aeolian Islands by ferry from Milazzo, in Sicily, but the more glamorous arrive on yachts.

Charles Lucky Luciano. was born in 1897 in Lercara Friddi, Sicily. The town was known for its sulfur mining and was short jaunt from the largest city of Sicily, Palermo. His parents worked hard as they could to provide for young Charles, but the long hours and chapped hands still didn't put enough food on the family dinner table. Not only that, little Charles had a penchant for hanging around older kids that contributed to his mischievous behavior. The Lucianos looked at their bleak surroundings long and hard. Should they continue to stay in an area that their ancestors lived for hundreds of years? What about their friends and other relatives, it would be difficult to part from them. But they knew they had to find a better way of life and fast because Charles wasn’t getting any younger. They heard about the promised land of America from friends. They were told about plentiful work and good schools. They would soon realize that this simply was not true. The Lucianos set sail for America in 1906 and arrived at New York harbor in November of that year. Mischief and mayhem were the key factors in describing Charles’ youth. He logged his first arrest in 1907 for shoplifting. During the same year, he started his first racket. For a penny or two a day, Luciano offered younger and smaller Jewish kids his personal protection against beatings on the way to school; if they didn’t pay, he beat them up. One runty kid refused to pay, a thin little youngster from Poland, Meyer Lansky. Luciano fought him one day and was amazed at how hard Lansky fought back. They became bosom buddies after that, a relationship that would continue long after Luciano was deported back to Italy years later. In his teens, Luciano became adept at various vices, most notably narcotics. At age eighteen he was convicted of peddling heroin and morphine and was committed to a reformatory for six months. Upon his release he resumed narcotics dealing. By 1916, Luciano was a leading member of the notorious Five Points Gang and named by police as the prime suspect in a number of murders. His notoriety grew as did his circle of underworld friends. By 1920, Luciano was a power in bootlegging rackets (in cooperation with Lansky and his erstwhile partner Benjamin "Bugsy Siegel), and had become familiar with Joe Adonis, Vito Genovese and most important among Italian gangsters, Frank Costello. It was Costello who introduced him to other ethnic gangsters like Big Bill Dwyer and Jews like Arnold Rothstein, Dutch Shultz and Dandy Phil Kastel. Luciano was impressed by the way Costello bought protection from city officials and the police, which his buddy Meyer Lansky had already told him was the most important ingredient in any big-time criminal setup. Luciano later joined forces with Joe "the Boss’ Masseria. He soon realized that Masseria didn’t see the future like he did.

Lupara is an Italian word used to refer to a side-by-side sawn-off shotgun, with external hammers for each barrel and two triggers, often homemade, and traditionally associated to Cosa Nostra, the Italian organised crime group dominant in Sicily, who uses it for vendettas, defense, and hunting. The word 'lupara' means literally 'wolf-shot', reflecting its lethal power and history of use in Mafia killings. Its one of the oldest Italian weapons originating in Sicily, these guns were also used by the mafioso to protect themselves from Mussolini's army when he decided to break the mafioso network in Sicily. When used in crime, the barrels of a lupara are cut short illegally to facilitate the shotgun being hidden under a coat or in a small space, but when used out in the field for hunting or protecting flocks of sheep, the longer legal barrels are kept as they are. From the word lupara, it originates the Italian expression lupara bianca (white lupara) which is used especially by journalists to refer to a mafia-style murder in which the victim's body is deliberately hidden. The word was popularised by the author Mario Puzo in his bestselling novel The Godfather.