Sicily is one of the five regions with a special status in the Italian Republic and one of the two located on the islands (the other being Sardinia). Its territory includes the island of the same name, the largest in the Mediterranean, separated from the continental part of the country by the narrow Messina strait, and some small islands and archipelagos. Sicily is the most extensive province in Italy and one of the largest by population (more than 5 million people, 8.4% of the total population of the country).
Sicily traditionally belongs to the cultural-geographical macroregion of Southern Italy (Italy - Mezzogiorno), together with such regions as Campania, Calabria, and others, due to the significant similarity in historical development and socio-cultural characteristics that distinguish the region from Northern Italy. The most notable difference is a much lower level of economic development. By GRP per capita, Sicily is close to the least wealthy South Italian regions and inferior to all Italian entities with a special status. Compared to the most developed province of Bolzano (South Tyrol) it is 2.41 times less affluent as measured by GRP per capita (2015 Eurostat data).
Sicily became a part of Italian state in the course of the struggle for the unification of Italy in 1860. It received a special autonomous status in 1946 by the royal decree instituting the Statute for the region. The Constitution of the Italian Republic and the special constitutional law of 1948 confirmed the autonomy of Sicily. This status was linked to a complex of cultural, historical and geographic conditions, and particularly political factors, including the presence of notable separatist sentiments in the form of the Movement for the Independence of Sicily. The volume of preferences listed in the Statute of Autonomy is the most significant among all Italian autonomies, but some of them have not been implemented for 70 years.
It is disputable if the ethnic label can be applied to the Sicilian autonomy and there is no convention regarding the degree of Sicilians' "ethnicity". Sicilian language (officially it is considered a dialect of the Italian) is widespread. Also represented are the Gallo-Italian dialects of northern Italy and the Arberes dialect of the Albanian language. Standard Italian within the family circle is used by 26% of the population (National Institute of Statistics of Italy data). In the last electoral cycles, autonomist parties, which programs are based on the promotion of regional identity, received 15-20% of the votes.