The official flag of Europe’s main purpose is to represent the continent of Europe (obviously), and it is also used to indicate Eurozone countries. It was designed in 1955 by Arsène Heitz and Paul Lévy with the intention of becoming the symbol for the Council of Europe. Heitz came up with the initial idea for the 12 yellow stars on a dark blue background, and the design was later finalised by Lévy – both worked for the Council of Europe.
Despite the many rumours, there isn’t really any significance in the number of stars on the flag – when it was being created, there were argument over having a star for each member country of the Council of Europe, but then there were more arguments about the number of member ‘countries’. One rather interesting rumour is that the number of stars is inspired by the Virgin Mary’s star halo described in the Book of Revelations in the Bible. The authorities at the European Union have said all the rumours linking this with the flag are just myths, but they’re interesting nonetheless. The official European flag has even inspired the flags of newer countries like Kosovo (below left) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (below right), where the European Union has had a lot of involvement.
In all major towns in Sicily, the streets are filled with stalls selling the island’s traditional ceramics. One of the most common types is the symbol of Sicily: the trisceli. This is the (slightly creepy) head of Medusa surrounded by three wheat ears and three legs. The legs are said to represent the three points of the island of Sicily, and this symbol is present on the Sicilian flag. The ceramics are very popular with the many tourists who visit Sicily, and vary dramatically in price.
As well as the trisceli symbol, most stalls also have a variety of suns and moons with smiley faces on them…
Not only are the ceramics sold to tourists, but on every street corner you can find someone selling plastic vegetables hanging on a string – clearly something there’s a weird demand for… And it’s not just the touristic streets that are filled with colour: walking round, it’s striking how vibrant everything is. Even super simple things like street signs and market carts holding fresh vegetables are painted in amazingly bright colours and patterns.