Legends about Sicily: how much do you know?

legends about sicilySicily beyond history. A land rich in tradition and culture but not only. We have already told you some curiosities but now it’s time to learn more. Do you want to read some extra stories? Let’s discover a couple of legends about Sicily with Sicilian Secrets.

How much do you know about Sicily? Maybe you were there on holiday or are planning to visit it in the future. Maybe you looked at some pictures and read a guide to discover the main spots around the island. Perfect, but don’t miss a bunch of legends about Sicily too. Beyond history: myths, mysteries and incredible stories.

Fata Morgana: the mirage in the Strait of Messina

Once upon a time, there was a sorceress called Morgan le Fay, antagonist of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere in the Arthurian saga. She was very powerful but bad too and used to create false lands and fairy castles in the air in the Strait of Messina to mislead and kill the sailors. Her story is strictly related to Sicily because this legend inspired the scientists that gave her name to a mirage that is generally seen above the horizon. This optical illusion involves any kind of distant object both on the land or by the sea and characterizes the Strait of Messina…it’s an illusory appearance, so when you go through, pay attention because who knows, maybe if you see a boat or someone waving at you, you’re just another victim of the fairy!

legends about sicily
The Strait of Messina

It was summer, early in July, the morning calm and delightful; the winds were hushed and the face of the bay remarkably smooth—the tide at its full height, and the waters elevated in the middle of the channel. The sun had just surmounted the hill behind Reggio, and formed an angle of forty-five degrees on the noble expanse of water which extends before the city. Suddenly the sea that washes the Sicilian shores presented the aspect of a range of dark mountains while that on the Calabrian coast appeared like a clear polished mirror, which reflected and multiplied every object existing or moving at Reggio, with the addition of a range of more than a thousand giant pilasters, equal in altitude, distance, and degree of light and shade. […] This glorious vision continued in full beauty till the sun was considerably advanced in the heavens; it then vanished in the twinkling of an eye; and instead of pilasters, groves, and colonnades, nothing was to be seen but the mountains of Reggio, Messina, and a beautiful expanse of water, reflecting its cultivated shores, and the cattle that were grazing on its banks.

legends about sicily
Morgan le Fay

Was William Shakespeare Sicilian?

What?! Perhaps this was your reaction when you read the title of this paragraph! Well, we cannot be sure about Shakespeare’s identity but here is one the most famous legends about Sicily. Maybe it’s just a fantastic biographical reconstruction, in any case, according to the so-called Crollalanza theory, the famous bard was Italian, and his real name was Michelangelo Florio, aka Crollalanza.

legends about sicily
William Shakespeare

Who elaborated this theory assumed that Shakespeare was Italian maybe because of the heavy use of Italian settings in his plays. It’s a very long story but let’s go straight to the point: in 2002, an old Sicilian journalist called Martino Iuvara claimed to have traced a Calvinist called Michelangelo Florio who was born in the Sicilian city of Messina on April, 23rd 1564, the same date as is commonly given for William Shakespeare’s birth in Stratford-upon-Avon. Just a myth? Sicilian or not Sicilian: that is the question!

legends about sicily

The ear of Dionysius, when the tyrant was a spy

Have you ever been in Syracuse? If you want to know one of the legends about Sicily, go there and visit the ear of Dyonisius. It’s a limestone cave and its name comes from the similarity in shape to the human ear. Once you get there, walk inside, say your name and pay attention to the acoustic effect: it is told that people’s voice echoes up to 16 times…can you believe it? Dionysius I of Syracuse was the tyrant of the city and according to the legend he used the cave as a prison. When political dissidents were talking about their plans against the despot he had the chance to hear them and catch all their secrets. Another story (definitely crueler!) says that Dionysius enjoyed the acoustics to better hear the screams of prisoners being tortured in it. OMG!

legends about sicily
The ear of Dyonisius

If you have been fascinated by all of these stories, you have just one choice: to come to Sicily with Dimensione Sicilia and discover more in person. Sicilian treasures sometimes are hidden…learn more about new tours for winter and next summer, join us.


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