Festival Calendar of Sicily
Sicilians just love to celebrate, every reason will do – famous Sicilians, capers, almonds including their blossoming, squids, nasty Moors and good knights, Sicilian carts, cheese, saints (even some you’ve never heard of), Archimedes, swordfish, the holy cross, Spring, oranges, jazz, bread, medlars, the old Greeks, mushrooms – this is just a small selection!
If there is nothing special in the culinary or historical sector at their village they celebrate their patron saint – which is in doubt San Giuseppe. Every festivity includes folk music and something to eat, and ends with spectacular fireworks. Fireworks in hamlets usually do not impress because of their artistic execution but due to the noise – the noisier the better, they got to beat the neighbouring village.
Some things to keep in mind and plan for include the following annual events. Seasonal, actual and special events are listed here
Byzantine Epiphany Celebrations in Piana degli Albanesi and Martorana Church in Palermo.
06.01. Epiphany - celebrated throughout Sicily
20.01. Festa di San Sebastiano in Palazzolo Acreide. The festivities in honor of Saint Sebastian last for three days, there are masses, processions, concerts of light music and fireworks.
25.01 Festa di San Paolo in Palazzolo Acreide. The festivities in honor of Saint Paul last for three days, there are masses, processions, concerts of light music and fireworks.
Festa di Sant'Agata.
Agata is the patron saint of Catania and the festival to honour her is one of the best in Sicily. Sant' Agata was a teenager who received amorous advances from a Roman prefect. She rejected them so he tortured her for her faith, including severing her breasts. Every year up to a million people gather in Catania to honour the martyred woman with processions, shows and exhibits. These include a procession of wooden structures with images of the Saint's martyrdom, groups who sing in the Cathedral square, decorations on houses, barbecued meat, sweets stalls and fireworks.
Almond Blossom Festival in Agrigento. This folk festival, known locally as the Sagra del Mandorlo, celebrates all things almond with dance performances of folk groups from all over the world, parades of Sicilian carts, and people in historical costumes. There are shows, craft exhibits, concerts and fireworks.
Carnival in Acireale, Sciacca,Taormina and Termini Imerese. Carnival takes place 40 days before Easter, and the celebration sort of builds in the weeks before the actual Carnival which is on Mardi Gras or Shrove Tuesday with parades of people in masks, floats, games and holiday foods. The most famous place for Carnival in Sicily is considered Acireale.
Carnival in Taormina - Taormina also provides many celebrations every year for Carnival. As every year the talent in the creation of the floats and the ostentatious glitz is truly remarkable given that citizens are suitable for all what is possible to achieve these symbols will parade in a classic and cheerful procession on Sunday and Shrove Tuesday . The prizes for the best wagon are significant and represent a great stimulus to give the best of themselves in the creation of beautiful floats. But the citizens are involved in the celebrations also because, participating in mass to the various evening parties organized by the municipality in the central square of Taormina during the days of the canons of the party and which provide singing competitions , various games such as the greasy pole and line dancing .
Carnival in Sciacca is an event known in the whole of Italy. The origins of carnival in the province of Agrigento date back to Roman times, when they celebrated the Saturnalia. The floats which are followed by the masked groups, are made in the months preceding the festival, involving a lot of locals. The days of parades that follow two seperate routes are on Saturday, Sunday , Monday and Tuesday of the week preceding the beginning of Lent. The Carnival begins on Maundy Thursday with the delivery of the keys of the city to the king of Carnival Peppe Nappa, the local mask that opens and closes the festival . It ends on Shrove Tuesday when the Chariot of Peppe Nappa is burned in the square.
The Carnival parades in Acireale are famous throughout Sicily. From parades of floats, which evoke the Brazilian Carnival in Rio de Janeiro) to jokes, pictures, clothes and carnival costumes are present. The town of Acireale provides a rich program of events with concerts and folk music until Shrove Tuesday.
Saint Joseph's Day. On 19th of March San Giuseppe is credited in Sicily with saving people from famine and so his feast day is celebrated throughout the country with special pastries, breads and dinners.
Good Friday – the most impressive processions are in Trapani, Enna, Caltanissetta and Piana degli Albanesi. In Enna there are the silent processions of the various fraternities and Orthodox ceremonies in Piana degli Albanesi.
Processione dei Misteri in Trapani. Good Friday through Easter Saturday. This event begins on Good Friday and continues through to Easter Saturday. It is one of the longest running religious festivals in Sicily both in terms of from when it first originated (1612) but also in the length of the festival – always 16 hours but sometimes well over 24. It's well worth the effort if you're anywhere in the area. The "misteri" are wooden sculptures of the Passion that are carried around the town over the festival by members of the city's guilds. They date back to the 17th and 18th century.
Il Ballo dei Diavoli - Good Friday in Prizzi. The Dance of the Devils is a spectacular Sicilian Easter tradition, referring to the ancient pagan rite of the Spring Equinox, that has been interpreted by Christians signifying the triumph of the good (Jesus Christ) over the evil (the devil).
Sagra della Salsiccia in Chiaramonte Gulfi. Sausage Festival, held during Carnival, in Piazza Duomo. Sandwiches with the well-known pork sausages of Chiaramonte Gulfi, wine and dancing in the square.
Ricotta Festival in Vizzini on 25th. The Sagra della Ricotta in Vizzini is a celebration of the Ricotta cheese and is famous around Sicily. There are actually three days of celebrations with it culminating on the 25th. Beyond eating cheese there are also local plates available and plenty of cultural events and music.
Artichoke Festival in Cerda on 25th. It has been reported that artichokes have grown in Sicily as early as 287 BC and that they may have originated here. If you come for the festival you can also enjoy artichoke themed entertainment, live bands and parades.
Festival del Vento in Trapani (April/May). Concerts, dance, theatre, street artists, cooking show, tastings, sailing, kayaks, windsurf. kite and triathlon
World Festival on the Beach in Mondello. This event is usually held the second week of May (dates vary). Celebrated is everything from windsurfing to sailing, beach volleyball, music and golf.
Infiorata & Baroque Spring Festival in Noto – third weekend in May. Dates vary for the Primavera Barocca so check the schedule for the year you attend. As the name suggests it is a festival in which Noto greets the spring and is celebrated via music and exhibitions. Flowers are laid by artists along Nicolaci street on different themes, and there is a Baroque procession of people in 18th century costumes.
Festa di San Giorgio in Ragusa on the last Sunday of May. Dates vary for this event. This is a great time to visit the illuminated Ragusa-Ibla. There are processions taking the statue of St. George around the city, music and fireworks.
Greek Tragedies in Syracuse. In May and June the Greek dramas are performed in their original site, Syracuse’s Greek amphitheatre. You don’t have to understand something, it is the atmosphere that makes it!
Carretti Siciliani in Taormina on Fridays (also in September and October). You will probably notice the Carretto Siciliano (native horse cart) during your travels around Sicily, so this festival in May is a good way to see a lot of them at once and to enjoy some of the cultural events associated with the festival. The carts are brightly coloured, the horses decorated and even the drivers are theatrically dressed.
Taormina Film Fest. In the second week of June the Film Fest opens the summer season of the Greco-Roman amphitheatre. It starts with a world premiere and throughout the week you can enjoy some of the newest movies in the splendid scenery of the old theatre with views to the Med and to Mount Etna.
Taormina Arte – from June to September daily performances in Taormina’s ancient theatre. Rock, pop and classical concerts, opera, dance and theatre performances, national and international stars.
29.06. - Festa di San Paolo in Palazzolo Acreide. The festivities in honor of Saint Paul last for three days, there are masses, processions, concerts of light music and fireworks.
La Scala Illuminata in Caltagirone - 24-25 July and 14-15 August. This is one of the more famous festivals in Sicily whereby the renowned ceramic staircase of Caltagirone is lit with lanterns. The event is held in honour of St. James, the patron saint of the city.
Kals'Art Festival in Palermo – mid July to mid September. A two month long festival of young European artists: exhibitions, videos, paintings and installations. Performances in the streets, parks and piazzas of Palermo’s quarter Kalsa.
Sagra del Pesce in Giardini-Naxos - every weekend in July and August the Fish Festival takes place in the small port "Saja". Fishermen, music and folklore recreate the atmosphere of the small fishing village, that Giardini-Naxos once was, where you can enjoy the excellent fish of the area accompanied by local wine.
10.08. Festa di San Sebastiano in Palazzolo Acreide. The festivities in honor of Saint Sebastian last for three days, there are masses, processions, concerts of light music and fireworks.
Madonna della Luce in Cefalù - 13-14 August. Nighttime boat procession off the cost from Kalura to the old harbour.
I Giganti in Messina – 13-15 August. The Passeggiata di Giganti is Messina's biggest cause for celebration throughout the year with floats celebrating Mata and Grifone the Moor, the mythical founders of the city.
Palio dei Normanni in Piazza Armerina – 14-15 August. A must if you're in Sicily at this time of year. The Palio includes Medieval and Renaissance equestrian games and shows, costumed processions and parades. The event, a competition of horsemanship and knightly combat, records the Norman invaders who ousted the Arabs from Sicily. Participants in full costume act out the entrance of the Norman Count Roger I to the city. There's also plenty of colourful spectacle, music, dancing and horse trials for a great day's entertainment. The Palio dei Normanni is one of Sicily’s oldest events.
Madonna della Luce in Mistretta - 7-8 September. This religious event includes a procession of two enormous warriors following the statue of the Madonna around town. There are floats, plays and costumed participants.
Couscous Fest in San Vito Lo Capo – end of September, date can vary. This is a gastronomic exposition with plenty of opportunities to sample North African cuisine. One week music, dance and couscous, prepared by chefs from all over the world.
ViniMilo in Milo - first 2 weeks. Wine festival at the slopes ot Mount Etna - guided wine tastings, workshops, themed dinners, visits to wineries
Settimana di Musica Sacra in Monreale. During this festival music groups perform holy music or chants and hymns in the city's famous Medieval abbey. This international festival of holy music lasts for a week
Rally Etna (Etna region). An international event for vintage cars.
Ibla Buskers - festival of street artists in Ragusa Ibla
29.10.-02.11.. Fiera dei Morti. All Soul's Day in Sicily is very much felt a recurrence. Dating back to the tenth century, it is celebrated on November 2 to commemorate the dead. It is said that in ancient times in the night between first and second of November the deceased attend the alive loved ones by bringing gifts to children. Today these gifts are purchased by parents and relatives in the traditional fairs that take place in many parts of Sicily.
There are stalls of toys, miscellaneous items and typical sweets, like cookies “crozzi 'i mottu (bones of the dead), all sorts of almond and honey pastries, donuts covered in sugar icing, dried fruit, the marzipan fruit, chocolate, the Copper of Naples (filled biscuits covered with dark or white chocolate). Children’s will also find painted sugar puppets, depicting traditional figures as the Paladins, called Pupacena (puppets to dinner) because of a legend that tells of a noble Arab fallen into poverty, who offered them to guests to compensate for the lack of delicious food. In some parts of Sicily people prepare “Muffoletta” bread in the morning on the day of commemoration of the dead, with oil, salt, pepper and oregano, anchovy fillets and a few slices of Primosale cheese.
29.10.-02.11.. Fiera dei Morti. All Soul's Day festivities start in Sicily end of October - please see there.
Festival di Morgana in Palermo at the Museo Internazionale delle Marionette Antonio Pasqualino. Puppet theatre performed by national and international companies.
Festa di San Martino - St. Martin's Day. Held throughout Sicily.
On November 11, the bishop of Tours, known as San Martino, is celebrated throughout the whole of Sicily. Saint Martin has given rise to some legends, one of which is linked to the so-called Indian summer. The beginning of November is symbolically associated with the maturation of the new wine, and the "racking" - hence the proverb “At San Martino each must becomes wine” - is therefore an opportunity to celebrate. Wineries open their doors for tastings and the just matured wine will be uncorked. Another (Sicilian) proverb “s'ammazza porcu” is related to the traditional pig killing in some places of Sicily and to the making of hams, salamis and sausages.
The festivals and celebrations on this day are a good opportunity to enjoy the classic roast chestnuts and new wine, but also bread specialties and sweets like the cookies of San Martino
Nativity scenes (various). Exhibits of nativity scenes can usually be seen in most Sicilian cities at varying times in December.
I Presepi di Palermo. Nativity scenes in the streets and most importants monuments of Palermo - gastronomical routes
Christmas, 25th December.