The History of the Sicilian Cart – ‘U Carrettu Sicilianu

While a relatively recent addition to Sicily’s extensive history, the Sicilian Cart (Il Carretto Siciliano) has become an icon. These beautiful, crafted carts rose to popularity in the early 1800s as a means of transport, but were by no means simply utilitarian.

Sicilian cart - Wikiwand

Sicily was largely roadless until 1778, when the Sicilian Parliament put aside a budget for construction of the island’s roads. By 1830 the island’s main roads were established, and while not exactly comfortable to use, inspired the production of the first Sicilian carts.

The Sicilian Cart

The Sicilian cart soon became a common and useful means of transport across the island. While the Sicilian cart is famous for its large, sturdy wheels that were ideal for travelling on often uneven dirt roads, every region had its own signature style and even typology.

Carretto siciliano tipo palermitano - Opera d'arte di Gianfranco Fiore

Differences in Sicilian Carts

  • Parlemitan – Parlermo, Agrigento, Caltanissetta and some areas of Trapani all used the Parlemitano style, which was unique because it had a “casciafusu,” a small wooden beam usually carved and painted in blue that protected the wheel’s axis. Most were decorated with wrought iron arabesques and had side shelves attached to the body. The carts themselves had a trapezoidal shape and generally had a yellow base colour. The cart was often decorated with geometric designs.
  • Trapanese – In the majority of Trapani, carts had even larger wheels, and each side panel of the cart were divided into 4 panels.

Terrasini, al Museo d' Aumale tre giorni dedicati al carretto siciliano
  • Castelvetranese – In areas of Trapani away from the coast, this style of cart was used which was a combination of the Parlemitan and Trapanese.

  • Catanese – In Eastern Sicily this model was used, which looked largely like the Parlemitan. These carts usually had a rectangular shape with a red background.

Benefits of Sicily, Italy for Holiday Homes & Property Investments


All Sicilian carts are elaborately and artfully decorated in bright colours, and in almost all cases, in one of the 5 following styles:

  • Devotional: depicting saints and religious references on the side panels
  • Chivalric-Historical: depicting scenes of knights and battles 
  • Legendary: depicting fairytales and legends on the side panels
  • Operatic: depicting scenes from famous operas
  • Realistic: depicting scenes of daily life

Carretti Siciliani: The Painted Carts of Sicily - GRAND VOYAGE ITALY

These depictions were usually close-ups, not landscape scenes, and were a way to tell stories, share the stories the owner of the cart adored, feel protected by their faith, and advertise on commercial carts. While some were painted, these depictions were usually carved.

On the rest of the carts, vivid geometric patterns were popular, as well as intricate floral designs.


Building a carretto siciliano took approximately 3 months and involved several different craftsmen: woodworkers and carvers, metal workers, and of course, painters. When you see one of these beautiful carts, it is immediately clear why these carts took so long to make. The art of making the carretto was passed down through the generations, and finding craftsmen today with the skill to make a Sicilian cart is becoming harder and harder.

U Carretto SICILIANO montaggio Don Pino - YouTube

UNESCO World Heritage Recognition

Overtime, the carts became obsolete for practical use, but remained essential to the heritage and culture in Sicily. Today, the Sicilian Cart will soon be recognized by UNESCO to ensure it is not lost to history. The Museo Regionale di Terrasini recently hosted what they plan to be the first edition of a regional annual event that celebrates Sicilian identity, focusing on the Sicilian cart, which is a free event, so if you’re in the area, make sure you visit the museum to see their some 70 Sicilian carts.

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