Check out the absolutely wild and over the top Sicilian speech of the young boy in this short clip from an Italian movie called Respiro – Vieni a Casa. He is speaking in the dialect of Agrigento on the southwest coast of Italy. Even other Sicilians, especially those on the other side of the island by Messina, can’t make heads or tails out of this speech.
Sicilian, at least in this clip, doesn’t even sound like Italian to me. I don’t know what it sounds like! It sounds like a Romance language, but Italian? No. The intonation sounds almost French.
Sicilian is indeed a completely separate language from Italian. Although you might be a bit better understood south of Naples, if you go to the city of Naples and speak Sicilian, you simply will not be understood. That’s all there is to it. North of Naples to the north of Italy, things only get worse.
To some extent, there is a north-south split in Italian dialects (the major ones of which are to be honest full languages). People from the north, especially the Gallo-Italic region, can understand northern dialects better than southern dialects. With people from the south, it’s vice versa.
I have a friend who lives in Trieste. I told him that I had read an online entry from an Italian language professor who related that even in Tuscany, there are unintelligible dialects. The professor related how he was watching a segment of old men from Tuscany speaking hard Tuscan dialect, and he wished it had subtitles.
My friend said that he had been to Tuscany, and he could even understand the old men well. But he said that that was because he was from the north, and Tuscan is northern. He asked me where the professor was from, and I said Naples. My friend told me that Naples is southern, and this is why the professor had a hard time with the old Tuscan men. He then related the basic north-south divide in Italian dialects, which I think is accurate.