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Sicily 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
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
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
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
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
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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Sicily Holiday Rentals
Garden with mediterranean plants, olive trees, palms and ornamental and fruit plants. Great view on the sea and archaeological park of the Ancient Roman Baths of Santa Venera al Pozzo, in the atmosphere of the gardens of the 'Lemon Riviera', in th...
In an outstanding panoramic position overlooking the bay of Palermo, framed by mountains, Villa Vittoria is an exceptional holiday home for a family or group of up to 8 people who appreciate comfort, style and sea views.
Set on a mountainside, V...
Terrazza Paradiso is perfectly placed in the heart of historic Cefalù’s old town, overlooking the idyllic marina and adjacent beach. The perfect place to take in an authentic slice of traditional Sicilian life, the apartment is also close to sever...
In an enviable setting on a hillside in the Madonie National Park, overlooking the dramatic northern Sicilian coastline and Cefalu, Villa dei Cipressi is for those who appreciate spectacular scenery, sea views and mountain trails from the privacy ...
A large and much loved family villa near Cefalu with enough room and privacy for everyone. Framed by palm trees and lush Mediterranean gardens, guests staying at Villa Provenza can enjoy stunning sea views while sun bathing, dining or lying in th...
Ideally situated near the Piazza Colombo, one of the main squares in the idyllic and historic centre of Cefalù, and within touching distance of the inviting blue sea, Balcone sul Mare is a simply gorgeous apartment with even better views.
Terrazza Lungomare is a pleasant and perfectly located apartment, with the beach on your doorstep and the historic centre of Cefalù just a few metres away. It’s the perfect base from which to enjoy this perfect Sicilian town. With its narrow stree...
This modern apartment has been recently renovated with good taste, is located in Via Bordonaro about 20 meters from the Old Marina, and a is a short walk to Lungomare. Approximately 70 square meters, it is on the third floor of a charming buildin...
A magnificent loft style open plan apartment for 4, Gabbiano di Sopra takes up the top two floors of a unique palazzo on the sea in Cefalu’s historic centre. Admire the endless sea views from the dining area or gaze over the rooftops of Cefalu’s...
Pleasant apartment of about 60 m2 inside a residence located in a suggestive rural setting, only 7 km from Cefalù, in the enchanting Madonie Park and 4 km from the beaches of Sant’Ambrogio.
The position is an excellent base from which to discove...