If you have always assumed that the best time to visit Sicily is in the summer, think again. Take a holiday in Sicily in September or October and you can enjoy the double delights of the last of the summer sun and delicious food found in Sicily in Autumn. If you holiday in Sicily in November and December, there are crowd-free museums, churches and archaeological sites and some spectacular Christmas nativity scenes. A trip to Sicily in winter may be all you need to get into the festive spirit.
Autumn in Sicily: a good season to go on holiday
With a longer warm-weather season than northern and central Italy, Sicily is a good bet in October. Taste your way round Sicily in October when the olive harvest is in full flow and towns and villages host ‘sagre’ to celebrate their local produce, such as honey, sausages and wine. Mushrooms are on many menus and chestnuts find their way into bread, cakes, soup, pasta sauces and risotto – not to mention roasted and sold at roadside stalls.
Holidays in November: what to do in Sicily
November is the ideal time for shopping and sightseeing as well as catching a little winter sun in Sicily. For a glimpse of street life in Palermo, Il Capo and Il Ballarò markets are slightly less touristy than La Vucciria. If you prefer something a little more upmarket, head for the glitzy shops in Viale Strasburgo or the pedestrianized shopping street of Via Principe di Belmonte. Via Della Libertà is the place to go for less high profile but equally enticing boutiques. Perhaps you can treat yourself to one of the chic Sicily winter coats on display.
When it comes to sightseeing, all the main historical and archaeological sites are open during November and are pleasantly queue-free. There are certainly plenty of things to do in Sicily in winter! Home to a magnificent Norman Palace which is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site (Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalù and Monreale), Palermo and nearby Monreale are both excellent places to start.
Sicily Holidays in December
If you’re wondering about winter weather in Sicily, you needn’t be worried. While winter temperatures in Sicily rarely rise above 14°C in December, winter sunshine is still a real possibility and certainly more likely than in other parts of Italy. Take a Sicily holiday in December and you will find that the weeks leading up to Christmas are packed with fun things to do. Nativity plays are taken very seriously, each with a unique perspective of the same theme. Visit the street-based play In Termini Imerese or the real-life nativity scenes (‘presepi viventi’) in the Parco Forza area of the Cava d’Ispica or in the Grotta Mangiapani at Custonaci near Trapani. These traditional displays offer a really special experience to those visiting Sicily for a winter holiday.
Sicilian sweet treats at Christmas such as ‘giuggiulena’ and ‘petrafennula’, made with almonds, honey and sesame seeds, are distinctly reminiscent of the former Arab rule of Sicily. Other traditional treats include panettone and panforte. Although December is just on the edge of prime citrus season, buy locally-grown oranges and mandarins at the market and boost your vitamin C intake with a ‘spremuta d’arancia’.
Some restaurants close at Christmas and over New Year so if you are in Sicily during the festive period, we recommend you check opening times and book early if you are hoping to feast on a traditional multi-course ‘cenone’ at a restaurant on New Year’s Eve. Find out more about Christmas, Sicily’s nativity scenes and Epiphany here.