The Leopard, Giuseppe Di Lampedusa, 1958
The quintessential book about the last days of Sicilian aristocracy during the days of independence is set on a rural estate much like the one Lampedusa frequented in his youth. The book did not appear until a year after the author’s death but was an immediate success across Italy. It was later turned into a lush film by Visconti.
Six Characters in Search of an Author, Luigi Pirandello, 1921
The Sicilian-born Nobel Prize winner’s best-known play.
Montalbano Mysteries, Andrea Camilleri, 2003-2014
This series of detective/crime novels follows Inspector Montalbano around southern Sicily as he and his team solve murder, robberies and mafia crimes. Written in a witty mix of Italian and Sicilian, the books do not translate very fluidly into English, but you will endear yourself to any local if you say you are familiar with them. An incredibly popular TV series was made of the books; the production shoots in Ragusa and Sicily (you can even rent the inspectors gorgeous seaside villa).
Midnight in Sicily, On Art, Food, History, Travel and La Cosa Nostra, Peter Robb, 1996
At times the narrative comes across as a bit narcissistic, but overall this collection of essays, based on numerous Sicily visits and interviews, is a fascinating exploration into Sicilian culture. Robb’s in-depth exploration of the Cosa Nostra mafia sheds light on this complex organization whose bloody grip on Sicily has only recently been loosened.
On Persephone’s Island, Mary Taylor Simeti, 1986
In the 1960s, an American college student came to Sicily with the intention of staying one year; she ended up falling in love and making her home there. Taylor Simeti offers a very personal but interesting take on her adopted home, its seasons, customs and traditions. Her descriptions of food and cooking are especially glorious.
The Leopard, Luchino Visconti, 1968
Regarded as the Italian counterpart to Gone with the Wind, Burt Lancaster stars in this 1963 historical drama as an aristocrat trying to preserve his family amidst the Sicilian unification.
The Godfather (parts I and III), Francis Ford Coppola, 1972 & 1990
Widely regarded as one of the greatest films ever made, the Godfather tells the epic tale of the Corleone crime family and the power struggle that occurs when leadership transfers from an aging patriarch (Marlon Brando), to his reluctant son (Al Pacino).
Cinema Paradiso, Giuseppe Tornatore, 1990
Winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Cinema Paradiso is based on the life of director/writer Gisuppe Tornatore. The movie follows a filmmaker as he recalls his childhood in small-town Sicily, where he fell in love with movies at the small cinema in his village and formed a lifelong friendship with the theater’s projectionist.
Malena, Gisuppe Tornatore, 2000
Nominated for two Academy Awards, Malena stars Monica Belluci as a woman who inspires infatuation among a group of adolescent boys in World War II-era Sicily.
Respiro, Emanuele Crialese, 2002
On the impoverished, isolated island of Lampedusa, a free-spirited woman’s actions send the residents of her small fishing village into a tailspin.
Golden Door, Emanuele Crialese, 2006
Set at the beginning of the 20th century in Sicily, Golden Door follows a poor farmer and his family as they emigrate to the United States.