Each year many thousands of football fans make the 3km trip across the Strait of Messina to reach Italy.

That said its also true that many Juventus fans from Sicily head north each weekend to watch Juventus.

Such is the support for the Turin giants, Juventus chose to play a few home games in Palermo during the later years of the very unpopular Stadio delle Alpi.

Many Italians on the mainland still often think of their near neighbours in Sicily as foreigners. And with the journey from Milan to Palermo being a 1600km round trip its hardly surprising.  

Essentially seeing the Sicilians as ‘different’ is a generalization that many Sicilians themselves would not take any issue with and often rejoice in due to the stark cultural differences.

Sicily feels different to the main Italian peninsula in many ways from the daily way of life, to linguistic differences through to distinct forms of cuisine.  

The run down crumbling pavements in Palermo tell a tale of under investment and even neglect by the central Italian government yet this is a place with some of Italy’s best historical and natural landmarks.

Just about every classical empire over the last 3,000 years has spent time on Sicily from the Normans, Bourbons, Romans, Greeks, Saracens through to the Spanish.  As a consequence many ancient ruins define the island from ornate Arabic temples to mosaic filled churches that have been left behind over the centuries.

Despite sitting in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily is a very diverse land.  

The island is also the largest in the Mediterranean dwarfing other islands including nearby Malta.  It has a landscape of tall mountains, a charming if crumbling capital in Palermo and one of the most famous landmarks of all – Mount Etna.

Rivalry in Sicily

During Italia 90 the Renzo Barbera Stadium ‘La Favorita’ was home to the unfashionable Group F alongside Sardinia where England played its matches.  

Group rivals in the Irish Republic, the Dutch and the Egyptians played three group games each on Sicily.

A picturesque stadium that sits nearby Monte Pellegrino the 1989 stadium tragedy in Palermo meant that the Sicilians were entrusted with only three group matches. Yet the star of the Italian World Cup turned out to be a Sicilian footballer from Palermo.

Salvatore ‘Toto’ Schillaci had learned his goalscoring trade with little Messina.

The most popular team on the island continue to be U.S Palermo now once again a Serie A club following successful promotion in 2014.

Last season (2014-2015) saw a return to form with the club challenging for a European place thanks to the goals of Pablo Dybala.

Known for pink home shirts, colors which supposedly came about after the original red and blue shirts faded in the wash, Palermo are the only club from the island to do anything in UEFA football.

Little Trapani the Granata and some 100km west of Palermo have a team in Serie B at the moment.  This town, rather than Catania, is the location of the stadia that Palermo used during its period of stadium reconstruction.

Given the changes in the Italian football system it’s likely to be some time before the big Sicilian derby the Derby Di Sicilia is contested again.  Both are in separate leagues with Palermo a challenger for Serie A status once again.

Messina, the former club of Toto Schillaci, are also currently a Serie C Lega Pro club.  However, given the strategic position of the club on the far north east corner of the island its biggest rivals are those from the mainland in Reggio Calabria with whom they are separated by the Straits of Messina.