Sicily and Trinacria

Sicily (Sicilia) is the biggest island in the Mediterranean, separated from the mainland by the strait of Messina. Sicily was known by the Romans as Trinacrium, meaning “star with three points.”

The word Trinacria means triangle and refers to the shape of the island. The symbol is the head of Medusa (a head of snakes) surrounded by three bent running legs and three stalks of wheat. The triangular shape came to be in the center of the Sicilian flag during WWII and symbolized a plan to help Sicily become independent and a free republic. The symbol made its debut on syracusan coins in the fourth century B.C.

The three bent running legs represent the three capes of Sicily: Peloro (Punta del Faro, Messina – northeast), Passero (Syracuse – south) and Lilibeo (Marsala – west). The three stalks of wheat represent the fertility of the land (the breadbasket of Italy). The Medusa head in the middle of the Trinacria implies protection by Athena, the patron goddess of Sicily. 

Renowned is the story of Colapesce the boy from Messina who loved swimming so much he took on the characteristics of a fish. It is written that he retrieved the crown of King Fredrick II at the bottom of the sea but did not return to the surface because he chose to stay underwater to hold together a broken column that supported the island of Sicily. Sicilian legend is that when the island shakes, it is Colapesce moving the island on his shoulder because he is tired.