The cart was a widespread means of transport in Sicily from the early 19th century, both for people and goods. The cart drivers, carrettieri, transported different types of goods around the island and the cart was for them not only a means of livelihood but also the symbol of their working status. At first, the paintings on the carts were mostly images of saints, intended to protect the journey and the transporters. Over time, the illustrations maintained sacred images, but were complemented by depictions from the chivalric cycle and novels that were dedicated to the carters, such as Giovanni Verga’s Cavalleria Rusticana.

The decorations on the cart refer to symbolic elements of a wide range of goods and items of the island’s intangible heritage. The cart itself and the decorations on it are the result of great craftsmen whose art represents the colours, images and stories of the different parts of the island. Blacksmiths, carpenters, carvers, painters and, of course, cart-makers contribute to the creation of proper artworks that are still exhibited in various museums today. One of the most important artists who gave their imagination to these vehicles is Domenico di Mauro. Di Mauro, in accordance with the cart-decorating tradition, used bright colours (green, red, orange and blue) to create images depicting characters from the chivalric sagas as well as island-related legends and myths. The depicted landscapes always remind us of Sicilian settings with their characteristic naturalistic symbols. Also other important decorators such as Nerina Chiarenza, a daughter of artists who was particularly passionate about painting, evoked these scenes. She used subjects from the chivalric sagas to create paintings on the sides of the carts.

Today carts or parts of them are collected and preserved in many places in Sicily, such as the museum of the Sicilian cart in Terrasini, to keep alive the memory of an important part of the island’s cultural and artistic history. It should also be noted that the cart is still the protagonist of festivals and traditional Sicilian events in various cities.


Buttitta, A., Introduzione a G. Capitò. Il carretto siciliano, Sellerio, Palermo, 1978
Carcasio, M. (a cura di), Il museo civico di Terrasini, Edizioni Ariete, Palermo, 1997
Cocchiara, G., La vita e l'arte del popolo siciliano nel Museo Pitrè, Palermo, Ciuni, 1938
Giacomarra, M.G., I beni demoetnoantropologici in Sicilia. Itinerari di documentazione e fruizione delle testimonianze di cultura popolare, Fondazione Ignazio Buttitta, Palermo, 2016
Todesco S., La pittura narrativa ed epico-cavalleresca in Sicilia: Nerina Chiarenza e dintorni, Dialoghi Mediterranei - Periodico bimestrale dell'Istituto Euroarabo di Mazara del Vallo, numero 40, novembre 2019
REIS - Libro dei Mestieri, dei Saperi e delle Tecniche - Arte del carretto siciliano Museo Regionale di Terrasini (last visited 10/10/2022)
REIS - Libro dei Tesori Umani Viventi -Domenico Di Mauro - Artista del carretto siciliano (last visited 09/10/2022)
REIS - Libro dei Tesori Umani Viventi - Nerina Chiarenza (last visited 10/10/2022)
“Carretto - Icona dell’Identità siciliana”, un progetto dell’Assessorato dei Beni culturali (last visited 10/10/2022)
La storia del carretto siciliano - Rai Teche (last visited 10/10/2022)
Parole di Sicilia - Maestro Domenico Di Mauro (last visited 20/06/2023)