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Messina's economy relies prevalently on the service sector, with expansion also of port activities, important for cargo and passenger shipping (ferries to the mainland); employment in the public sector is significantly high, also in tourism related activities. There is little industrial development, the existing industries comprising small to medium-sized companies in the building trade, foods, engineering, boatyards and chemicals.
Messina was founded as "Zancle" in the second half of the 8th century BC. by Chalcidian Greeks; its name was changed to Messene in about 490 BC. with the arrival of settlers from Messenia. Later conquered by Syracusans, Mamertines and Carthaginians, it came under the influence of Rome in 264 BC. After the fall of the Empire, Messina was dominated by the Goths before passing to Byzantium in 553 and Arab rule in 843. It became a Norman possession in 1061. From this date, its history was that of the Kingdom of Sicily. Messina was on several occasions struck by an earthquake and the last, in 1908, almost destroyed it completely, claiming over 60,000 victims.
Messina's monuments include: the Duomo, rebuilt to its original 2nd century forms, of which something remains (portals, mosaics, tombs); the Orione fountain (16th century), the Church of the SS. Annunziata dei Catalani (Norman style, partly rebuilt) and many other churches rebuilt after the earthquake.
The town of Siracusa lies on a bay on the south-east coast of the island and consists of an old nucleus with medieval streets and a Baroque appearance, on Ortigia island, linked by a bridge to mainland Sicily, and the modern town characterized by a regular square urban layout, stretching inland.
Founded with the name of Akragas by the inhabitants of Gela in the 6th century BC., Agrigento quickly became an important centre in Magna Grecia, as can be seen from the massive remains still visibile near the town. Destroyed by Carthage in 406 BC., it rose again and about two centuries later was under Roman rule. After the fall of the Roman Empire, it was dominated by the Goths and then the Byzantines (6th century), under whose rule it sharply declined until, in 829, it was taken by the Arabs, who destroyed the town only to rebuild it on a higher site.
The economy of Agrigento is based on traditional agriculture (olives, almonds, sheep) and on a consistent proportion of tourism attracted to the nearby coast and especially to the city's exceptional archeological heritage. Industry is limited to the extraction of rock salt and potash and the transformation of agricultural products.
The principal town in one of the most impoverished provinces of Italy, Enna has an economy based principally on the service industries, employment in the public sector being of particular importance; the industrial sector is underdeveloped, apart from traditional mining activities (sulphur, potash) and now in difficulty.
Founded by the Chalcidians in the 8th century BC., Catania quickly attained a position of importance in Sicily, often warring with Syracuse. It was taken by the Romans in 263 and experienced periods of great prosperity under the Empire.
After the fall of the Western Empire, Catania was dominated by the Goths, and in 552 passed together with the whole island to Byzantium, who held it until the 9th century, when Sicily was conquered by the Arabs.
The Normans took possession in 1072 and its fortunes were those of the Kingdom of Sicily until unification with Italy in 1860. Catania was destroyed by an earthquake in 1693 and rebuilt several years later to an orderly layout on late Baroque lines.
Caltanissetta is a market town for agricultural (cereals and almonds) and animal products from the surrounding area, and a mining centre (potash and sulphur, though the latter is now declining). Of the other sectors, the industrial is of very modest proportions, and comprises traditional food manufacturing and building materials. Employment in the public sector is, however, extremely high. There is an active craft industry.
Caltinesetta was probably a Siculo-Greek settlement occupied by the Arabs in 829 (the name Kalat-Nissa: castle of Nissa dates back to this time) and its resultant prosperity continued under Norman rule, beginning in 1087. From then on, it shared the vicissitudes of the Kingdom of Sicily, though granted in feud by the Moncada family from the 15th to 19th century. It became part of Italy in 1860.
Siracusa's economy is based on traditional agricultural activities (table and wine grapes, citrus fruit, flowers and vegetables) including livestock (particularly cattle breeding), commerce (busy port) and an industrial sector which has developed considerably over the last few decades, attracting workforces also from other provincial centres. Industries present include chemicals, engineering, papermaking, construction materials.
Agrigento - located in SICILIA (Sicily)
The town lies 230 m. above sea level on a hill running parallel to the Ionian coast, some 3 km. away, in a position dominating the Valle dei Templi. The old nucleus still has a stepped medieval structure with steep narrow winding streets.
Considerable impetus was given to development of Ragusa's economy in 1953 with the discovery of hydrocarbon deposits in the vicinity, stimulating a certain degree of industrialization, including petrochemicals, building materials and food (pasta, oil, canning, wine producing and cakes etc.). The commercial sector, traditionally linked to the highly productive agriculture of the surrounding countryside (cereals, olives, grapes, vegetables), is still extremely prosperous.
With regards to Catania's economy, the extremely active traditional commercial sector based on the high productivity of agriculture on the surrounding Catania plain, is now supported by an industrial sector characterized by the presence of small to medium-sized units manufacturing chemicals, engineering products, food, electrotechnicals, electronical products, pharmaceuticals, textiles and construction materials. Port activities are now declining and little more than a service to industry, though tourism linked to the scenic attractions of the area (Etna, Riviera dei Ciclopi)is flourishing.
Catania has an interesting heritage of monuments and works of art, though few of the ancient buildings still retain their original forms: Ursino Castle, built by Frederick II (13th century), with its characteristic round towers, the Duomo (11th-12th century, rebuilt in the 18th century, fine Chapel of S. Agata), the Church of S. Maria del Gesù (15th century, Gothic, rebuilt), the Greek theatre (rebuilt in Roman times) and the Odeon, the remains of a Roman amphitheatre (2nd century BC.). Other interesting buildings include the Church of S. Nicolò (18th century) with a rich interior, the Collegiate Church (18th century), Palazzo Biscari, a fine example of Baroque, the Fontana dell'Elefante (1736) and many other 17th century churches and other buildings.
Palermo's economy is based principally on the service industries, employment in the public sector being particularly high, and indeed now superior to effective administrative requirements. The numerous commercial activities are carried out particularly by small units or involve only modest trade. There is a busy port, handling passengers and freight. Though the industrial sector has developed to some extent over the past few decades, it is unable to absorb the large available workforce (Palermo has a high rate of unemployment) and factories are mostly small to medium in size.
The most important branches of industry are: housing construction, linked to the high level of urban expansion, shipbuilding, engineering, food manufacturing and textiles.
Agriculture still provides employment for consistent numbers (citrus groves, horticulture in the Conca d'Oro) and the flow of tourists is attracted by the city's monuments and works of art as well as by the nearby beach at Mondello.
The historical centre of the city has a regular layout, which it gained over a period of time, at the behest of the Aragons, replacing the maze of narrow streets dating from Arab and Norman days. Founded by the Phoenicians (8th-7th century) with the name of Ziz (flower), it belonged to Carthage before coming under the domination of Rome in 254 BC., later becoming one of the most important centres on the island. After the fall of the Empire, it was ruled by the Goths before becoming a Byzantine possession in 552. Palermo was conquered by the Arabs in 831 became capital of the independent emirate of Sicily and entered a period of considerable prosperity. Ruggero d'Altavilla brought it under Norman rule in 1072 and made it the capital of his kingdom, a position it retained until the Angevins chose Naples as their capital city, causing Palermo to decline. Its fortunes were those of the Kingdom of Sicily until it became part of Italy in 1860.
The town lies 568 m. above sea level in the hilly region to the right of the Salso river, at the foot of San Giuliano (727 m.) in the middle of the island. The old centre is characterized by picturesque narrow winding streets, while the modern town has been built to a neat square plan.
Caltanisetta's monuments include: the Duomo (16th-17th century) with a richly ornamental interior, the Church of S. Agata dei Gesuiti (Baroque, 17th century), the Church of S. Domenico (Baroque, 17th century), the Church of S. Maria degli Angeli (13th century Gothic portal), the ruins of Pietrarossa castle (Norman), Palazzo Moncada (unfinished, 17th century Baroque). In the neighbourhood, the Badia di S. Spirito (a Norman foundation, 12th century).
The city of Ragusa lies in a dominant position (502 m.) on the south slope of the Iblei hills, to the right of the deeply gouged Irminio River valley, about 25 km. from the sea. A depression in the ground divides it into two sectors, Ragusa Ibla or Inferiore, of medieval origin with narrow twisting lanes, but seventeenth century in appearance, for it was rebuilt after an earthquake in 1693, and Ragusa Superiore, the modern area constructed on a regular squared layout.
Enna's monuments include: Castello di Lombardia, built by Frederick II of Swabia over previous constructions: 6 of its 22 towers are still standing (interesting interiors); the Duomo, of 13th century origins, rebuilt in the 16th century, richly frescoed; the Church of S. Francesco d'Assisi (14th century).
Siracusa has a number of most interesting monuments and works of art, including: the Greek theatre (3rd century BC.), the Roman amphitheatre (3rd century BC.), the Temple of Apollo (7th-6th century BC.), the Latomie (prisons hewn from the rock), the Duomo, built 7th century over a 5th century BC. Doric temple, Castello Maniace (13th century), Castello Eurialo (8 km. away, remains of Greek fortifications), Palazzo Bellomo (13th-15th centuries), Palazzo Montalto (end 14th century).
The principal ancient monuments in Agrigento are the Doric temples in the Valle dei Templi, dating to the 6th and 5th centuries BC., dedicated to Hercules, Olympian Jupiter, Juno, Castor, Pollux and Demeter, as well as the temple called `the Concordia', still in an excellent state of preservation. The Tomb of Terone, the Oratory of Phalaris and other small temples are also of great interest. Other monuments include the church of S. Nicola (Romanesque-Gothic, 13th century), the Duomo (14th century, with later alterations), the church of S. Spirito.
Trapani's monuments include: the Sanctuary of the Annunziata, 13th century with several later additions, housing various works of art including the Madonna and Child, statue by Nino Pisano; the Church of S. Agostino (several original Gothic elements), remains of Palazzo Ciambra (15th century), the Church of S. Maria del Gesù (inside, terracotta by Andrea Della Robbia), Palazzo del Governo (18th century).
Trapani is an important fishing centre, with a fishing fleet specialized in tunny fishing, on which the fish processing and canning industry depends. Commerce related to the port is also of some importance.
There is little industry, however, except for the traditional productions of wines and salt (salinas), in addition to construction materials, marble, textiles and engineering.
Trapani lies on the north-west coast of Sicily facing the Egadi archipelago, built partly on a narrow peninsula, with the rest of the town stretching into the low-lying hinterland as far as the slopes of Mount Erice, and is characterized by a regular urban street layout.
Palermo has innumerable fine monuments and works of art, including: the Cathedral (12th century, with 14th-15th and 18th century additions); the Martorana Church, dating to Norman times with beautiful Byzantine-style
Mosaics; the church of S. Giovanni degli Eremiti, Norman with Arab influence and its adjacent cloisters; the church of S. Giuseppe dei Teatini (17th century); the church of S. Cataldo, in Arab-Norman style; the 13th century churches of S. Francesco and S. Spirito; the Oratorio di S. Lorenzo (Baroque).
Non-ecclesiastical buildings include the Palazzo dei Normanni, of Arab origins, with Norman additions and decorations (outstanding Cappella Palatina, with wooden ceiling, mosaics and frescoes), and later renovation; the Palazzo Chiaramonte (medieval), Palazzo Abatellis (14th century, in Gothic-Catalonian forms), the 12th century Zisa, and Cuba, both Arab-style constructions, together with many other buildings and churches of various periods. The Parco della Favorita is an environment of considerable interest.