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Italy Travel

Sicily – Italy’s Only Friendly Place for Non-White Travelers?

  • March 17, 2023
  • 6 min read
Sicily – Italy’s Only Friendly Place for Non-White Travelers?

According to the accounts of many non-Whites who have traveled to Italy, going there can prove to be a disturbingly-racist experience. We all know that Western Europe has historically been racist, as this part of the world by and large got rich off the exploitation of non-White people, and there had to be some justification to rationalize treating their fellow man so. 

But while some of such nations, such as the British for instance, appear to be steadily progressing towards accepting foreigners as equals, others, like Italy, read more as if they’re stuck in time.

But this isn’t entirely Italy’s fault, in a manner of speaking. It just so happens that the southern part of the country – and most notably the island of Sicily – were amongst the centers of Moorish occupation of Europe. 

Basically, the term “Moor” was a name given to North Africans who, during a certain era in history, ruled certain parts of southwestern Europe, such as Malta, Iberia (i.e. Spain) and Sicily. So due to the strong Moorish presence as well as visitations from other groups throughout the millennia, Sicilians are known to be a distinct, darker people than mainland Italians. 

Sicilians also tend to be Victims of Racism

Based on the color of their skin, the Sicilians too are actually victims of racism. Some of their own countrymen to the north actually deem them as being racially inferior. In other words, even full-fledged Italians who are noticeably mixed deal with racism and, by the looks of things, have come to accept such incidents as the norm.

But this reality can come as a culture shock to non-Whites who visit or settle in Italy. For instance, African-American author Nicole Phillip recounted how, upon visiting the country, where some of her Italian associates had learned to live with the racism therein, she personally “couldn’t shrug it off so easily”

Then there are tales like those of TikToker @meg-lpz. Since mildly-dark complexions aren’t anything unusual in Italy she, an Iranian, didn’t have much of an issue living there – that is until some people discovered that she was in fact from Iran. Afterwards, the young lady went through what can only be described as systemic racism – or perhaps more accurately, comprehensive racism, i.e. being treated less-favorably when it came to education, housing, employment, etc., to the extent that she almost ended up homeless.

The Sicilians

If you’re a non-White person who is adverse to being a victim of racism, it would perhaps be best to avoid the Italian mainland. But as reported, the same is not true for Sicily, as that part of the country is notably less racist towards and more open to non-Whites. And Sicilians’ tolerance and love towards such outsiders may be attributable to three realities:

1.  This island is more or less at the center of the Mediterranean Sea and accordingly has regularly dealt with foreign incursions throughout the millennia.

2.   As such, a significant portion of Sicilian DNA traces its origins back to the Middle East and North Africa.

3.  As a result of being noticeably different from mainland (i.e. Northern) Italians, Sicilians actually know how it feels to be victims of racisms and can therefore sympathize.

Give Sicily a try

Even though Italy may be off the travel map, if you will, Sicily is not. For instance, TikToker q2travel – a Black, self-described “nomadic traveler” who has over 90,000 followers – spent a good three years residing on the island. And in her own words, she experienced “very little, if not any racism” while there. 

This was in contrast to her experiences on the Italian mainland, where she was subjected to racism even in Rome, i.e. the world famous capital of Italy.

And the comments – which are over a thousand in number – to that TikTok post for the most part verify what q2travel is putting forth. More specifically, most of the responses center around various users (including many Sicilians themselves) buttressing the idea that Sicilians are indeed friendly. 

The Black commenters also agree that Sicily is less racist than Italy proper or that Sicilians they have met elsewhere are cool and welcoming to non-Whites. And ultimately, it can be a pretty profound revelation for those who aren’t already in the know to discover that (to a notable degree) Sicily is considered a distinct location/people from the rest of Italy – to the point that even some Sicilians aren’t fond of being called Italian.

The Further Attraction of Sicily

Italy ranks as one of the 10 most-visited countries on earth. But Sicily, understandably, is known to have a more distinct Mediterranean flavor. This includes the island enjoying what can be classified as a tropical-like climate.

It also so happens that Sicily is the most-populated island in the Mediterranean (as well as being its largest). As such, there are a number of major cities found therein. And this is of course besides the natural and historical attractions of an island found smack-dab in the part of the world from which many consider modern civilization to have emerged from.

In Conclusion

In truth Italy, as a whole, has a strong tourism appeal. For instance, many people would like this country due to its rich culture, world-renowned culture. But unfortunately part of that culture, that most of us outsiders are not aware of, is the prevalence of racist attitudes. And some people learned of its existence the hard way, by actually visiting Italy and being subject to it.

But the good news is that racism doesn’t permeate throughout the entire country. Southern Italy in particular has had regular exposure to the likes of Middle Easterners and Africans, and the people there know how to behave accordingly, as if they are not repelled or intimidated by non-Whites. Or at least that has been the general conclusion amongst Black and Middle Eastern travelers we have come across who have been to Italy. 

Racist encounters in the mainland, including Rome, can be disheartening to the extent of encouraging some non-Whites to never go back again. But Sicily offers a different experience, one that inspires hope that perhaps one day all Italians will be rightfully accommodating to the outsiders in their midst.

About Author

GreetingsFromAbroad

GreetingsfromAbroad.com is a travel blog founded by keen traveler, writer and experienced digital nomad, Kojo Enoch. Currently Kojo lives on the beautiful, sunny island of Malta. This website is run by a solid team of expert digital nomads,  avid travelers, photographers and writers from all over the world.

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