Sicily events and festivals

For a small island, there’s a helluva lot happening...

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Ronnie McCluskey

Ronnie McCluskey
HomeAway travel expert

SicilySicily is one of those unique holiday destinations that attracts travellers for no single reason; rather, its multitude of attractions lures a diverse range of tourists to bask in its sunshine. The island’s appeal then, is – quite literally – greater than the sum of its parts. Walkers and hikers, art lovers, beach bums, foodies, devotees of opera and theatre, religious pilgrims: all head for this charming island off the southern coast of Italy. And regardless of your interests, there is a busy calendar of annual events to keep you entertained when you land on Sicilian turf. 

Given its modest dimensions, the volume of Sicilian festivals and fairs is considerable. From Acireale to Palermo, Sciacca to Syracuse, the processions – many of them religious in origin – wend, offering an insight into the spiritual life of the fiercely patriotic islanders. Food and drinks festivals are also commonplace, with most Sicilian towns claiming a patron saint or cherished local dish. If you’re keen to fill your belly at a religious feast, or leaf through the year’s finest Mediterranean novels at Palermo’s November book festival, you’re destined to have a good time.


Top five Sicily events


Events in Sicily: Festival of Santa Rosalia Events in Sicily: Festival of Santa Rosalia

Perhaps the most significant event in Sicily’s calendar is the festival of its patron saint, Santa Rosalia. Held for five days in mid-July, in Palermo, the tradition sees a relic of the Santuzza spirited along the wide thoroughfares of the city amid much fanfare. Santa Rosalia is said to have saved the Palermitani from the plague in the early 17th century. Appearing as an apparition, she instructed one citizen to convey her remains around Palermo; when he did so, it is said that those afflicted were cured. Today, shows, dance and music are on the menu for patriotic revellers.

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Festivals in Sicily: La Sagre del Mare Festivals in Sicily: La Sagre del Mare

La Sagre del Mare – or the Feast of the Sea – fuses exquisite gastronomy, lashings of local wine and traditional music. And if you like the idea of delicious, locally caught fish cooked before your eyes in huge frying pans, you’ve come to the right place. Held in Maraza del Vallo, on Sicily’s west coast, the festival typically kicks off in the third week of August. Meanwhile, local merchants sell their produce, including pasta, mussels and pastries. This is a festival where you really can expand your palate: seaweed pizza, anyone?

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Events in Sicily: Carnival week Events in Sicily: Carnival week

February is the month of the carnival in Sicily; in Acireale and Sciacca, major parties pop off with a series of colourful parades, elaborate allegorical floats and costume-clad roisterers. There are other carnivals all across Sicily, too, including in Palazzolo Acreide, Saponara and Taormina. Folk concerts, marching bands, majorettes: this is capital-C Carnival. All good parties must come to an end, though: the festivities burn out – literally – when the floats are torched on the Tuesday evening before Ash Wednesday. 

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Festivals in Sicily: Infiorata di Noto Festivals in Sicily: Infiorata di Noto

Located some 20 miles southwest of Syracuse, at the base of the Iblean Mountains, the Baroque town of Noto is the venue for the vibrant yearly Infiorata. Held in May, the town – named in 2002 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site – becomes awash with luxuriant floral arrangements, the product of weeks of work by talented artisans. Huge quantities of flowers, fed into a mechanical grinder, are transformed into confetti-sized shreds that are then arranged into spectacular mosaics that carpet the streets. Think you’ve seen a flower show? Think again.

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Events in Sicily: Palio dei Normanni Events in Sicily: Palio dei Normanni

Historical re-enactments usually mean a group of friends heading into the woodland, armed with plastic swords and swathed in chainmail armour. At the Palio dei Normanni, it’s a little more full-on. Held in mid-August, this festival sees participants don regal period costume and participate in age-old feats of strength and acumen on horseback. The event commemorates Roger I, the famous Saracens-conquering Norman ruler. Come along to the Piazza Armerina for a spot of jousting, or simply bask in the fanfare of the trumpets and drums. Hey, if you’ve always wanted to dress up as a chivalrous knight or 11th-century lady, there ain’t no better setting.

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Image 3 © Leandro’s world tour
Image 4 © Malega
Image 5 © Mire74



Sicily Holiday Rentals

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