The second and final part of Sicily: The Wonder of the Mediterranean airs on BBC Two on Tuesday 7 February at 9.00pm as historian Michael Scott examines how 3,000 years of conquest and settlement have shaped the identity of the island we see today and telling the story of how the Christian Byzantine Empire was swept aside by a Muslim Arab invasion from North Africa. He learns how the island’s new Muslim rulers didn’t force Christians and Jews to convert, and how new trade networks and agricultural techniques transformed Sicily.
When Sicily was later conquered by the Normans, it entered a golden age and all religions and cultures were granted equal rights. The later arrival of the Spanish Inquisition brought an end to that tolerance.
In the 19th century, Sicily was unified with Italy – and Sicilians were finally in charge of their own destiny. As Michael discovers, the greatest threat then came from within: the rise of the Mafia.
Now as Sicily emerges from the Mafia’s shadow it faces a new challenge. The island is on the frontline of Europe’s migrant crisis. But the Sicilian response, formed in part by their own turbulent history, may well surprise many North Europeans.
Our picture shows Michael Scott at a Sicilian Puppet Theatre in Palermo
Sicily: The Wonder Of The Mediterranean Episode 2 (of 2) airs on Tuesday 7 February 2017 from 9.00pm-10.00pm on BBC Two.