As the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily has long had a magnetic pull for both settlers and sightseers. Separated from mainland Italy by the narrow Strait of Messina, the island is dotted with fine beaches and studded with historic stone townships and ancient ruins.
Humans settled this triangle of land as early as 12,000 BC, and the island saw the rise of great Phoenician and Ancient Greek civilizations. Later, the island was ruled by Byzantines, Vandals, Ostrogoths, Normans and Arabic conquerors, all of whom contributed to the island's rich and unique culture. The Sicilian dialect still includes words from the languages of the peoples who conquered the island, including Arabic, Greek, and Spanish.
Sicily enjoys a classic Mediterranean climate, with hot, sunny summers and mild winters with moderate rain. During the picture-perfect spring and summer, tourists flock to Sicily to swim, surf, and sightsee, but the fall and winter are excellent seasons for enjoying the island's food, architecture and culture. Despite the delightfully mild weather, the summit of Mount Etna, Sicily's landmark volcano, is typically snow-capped from October through May.
Here are our picks for the best times to visit Italy's crown jewel of an island.
Low season: November–April
Best for museum visits and touring historic palaces
The low season in Sicily, from November through April, brings reduced hotel rates and smaller crowds, but swimming in the sea isn't an option. The daytime temperature rarely drops much lower than 10°C (50°F) in coastal towns and villages, but inland temperatures can dip below freezing, especially at night. Sicily's interior mountains, including Etna, enjoy heavy snowfalls during winter, creating good conditions for skiing.
Cooler weather with grey days interrupted by a few days of sunshine makes the low season an excellent time to enjoy Sicily's museums and other indoor attractions. Visit Sicily's capital city, Palermo, and tour countless palaces and churches, like the gilded Cappella Palatina, and museums such as the Pinacoteca Villa Zito, which houses a collection of mainly Sicilian art spanning the 17th to 20th centuries.
Shoulder seasons: May–June and September–October
Best time for exploring Sicily's architectural and cultural gems
The late spring and early fall in Sicily see temperatures hovering around 20°C (68°F) to 25°C (77°F) – perfect for exploring Sicily's natural, architectural and cultural gems. Take advantage of the mild temperatures and sunshine and visit the incredible Valley of the Temples, the Ruins of Segesta, or the Parco Archeologico di Selinunte, Sicily's most significant archeological sites.
This is good walking weather too. Take a stroll along the coast or climb to the tip-top of the island's most active volcano, Stromboli, and observe its fireworks. For an easier volcano adventure, ride the cable car to the top of Mount Etna. You can comfortably swim in the Mediterranean until mid-September, and the beaches are a lot less crowded. Visitor numbers thin out from May to June and September to October, so you can count on finding more affordable accommodations too.
High Season: July–August
Best time to hit the beach
Summer in Sicily is all about the Mediterranean Sea. Visitors come in droves to hit the spiaggia (beach), soak up the sunshine and dive into the deep blue sea. Sicily is affected by Africa's currents, and summers can be sweltering: the Sirocco, a strong wind straight from the Sahara, periodically brings an extra blast of heat and dust from the south. Late summer is the very peak of the tourism season, so expect higher hotel prices as well as higher temperatures.
The hottest month is August when daytime temperatures range between 30°C (75°F) and 35°C (87°F). Many stay close to the sea for refreshing dips, but you'll find slightly lower temperatures inland, especially at night. Cool off with granita, a slushy, sippable summertime crushed-ice treat, often served with a warm brioche bun on the side.
January in Sicily can be brisk and rainy. Head to the inland mountains, where skiing is less expensive than in other Italian ski resort areas. You can even ski the slopes of Mount Etna, while steam rises from the summit!
Key events: Epifania (Epiphany), Carnevale
Average temperatures in February start to creep upwards across the island, and rain begins to lessen. Later in the month, spring starts to show itself in Agrigento as the iconic almond trees burst into bloom. Expect few fellow tourists in February, one of the best months to mingle with locals.
Key events: Almond Blossom Festival (Agrigento), Feast of Saint Agatha (Catania)
Temperatures rise, and the sun begins to shine again as March sees the arrival of springtime across Sicily. With temperatures becoming increasingly mild, less rain in the weather forecast, and wildflowers in bloom, March is a beautiful time to hike or bike Sicily's many hiking trails and cycling routes.
Key events: Festa della Donna, Festa di San Giuseppe (St Joseph's Day)
Plentiful sunshine and warmer temperatures make April an ideal month to explore Sicily's many ancient temples and archaeological sites without the maddening crowds. April's average daytime temperatures climb to comfortable levels for al fresco dining. The predominantly Roman Catholic island celebrates Holy Week, which typically falls during April, with religious re-enactments and processions featuring religious symbols and local saints.
Key events: Holy Week Observances
May is one of the best times to visit Sicily: it's warm and sunny, with daytime temperatures climbing towards 25°F (77°C) as the month wears on. The summer crowds still haven't hit the beaches, but sea temperatures may discourage all but the bravest of bathers. The two-month-long Greek Theater Festival kicks off in May in Syracuse, bringing Ancient Greek plays to the city's stunning ancient Teatro Greco.
Key events: Giro d’Italia, Infiorata (Noto), Festa del Muzzuni (Messina), Greek Theater Festival (Syracuse)
June kicks off the summer season in Sicily as ideal beach weather ensues. With an average daily high of 23˚C (74˚F), the summer heat hasn't quite arrived in full, but the sun shines bright. Don't miss the Taormina Film Fest, which kicks off in the second week of June with screenings in perhaps the most storied place to catch a flick in the world, Taormina's Greco-Roman amphitheater.
Key events: Taormina Film Fest, Taormina Art Fest
July is Sicily's most popular month for visitors thanks to hot, sunny weather and ideal sea temperatures. Though the average high is 30˚C (86˚F) across the island, delightful breezes off the Med make coastal towns a treat at this time of year. Many businesses shut down for an afternoon siesta from 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm, the hottest part of the day, during July and August.
Key events: Luglio Musicale (Trapani), The Feast of Santa Rosalia (Palermo)
Can you handle the heat of August in Sicily? Temperatures can reach a sweltering 44˚C (111˚F). August is all about the beach scene in Sicily, and you can expect teeming crowds everywhere on the coast. On August 14, the eve of Ferragosto (Assumption Day), locals light bonfires on the beaches and dance into the wee hours.
Key events: Ferragosto (Assumption Day)
In September, summer weather continues in Sicily, but temperatures dip to more manageable levels, and the crowds start to thin, making this one of the best months to visit. The harvest season calls for sagre – festivals dedicated to local, seasonal ingredients. One of the most popular is the Pistachio Festival, which takes place in Sicily's pistachio capital, Bronte, just west of Taormina.
Key events: Pistachio Festival (Bronte), Cous Cous Festival (San Vito Lo Capo)
The bounty of the harvest can be found at festivals and on tables at restaurants across Sicily in September, and the weather is still warm enough during the day to enjoy outdoor adventures. Mushrooms abound on menus and Castelbuono's Fungi Fest is a must-visit festival for mushroom lovers. Chocoholics will appreciate Modica's Chocomodica, a festival dedicated to the town's rich and storied chocolate-making tradition.
Key events: Ottobrata Zafferanese, Funghi Fest (Castelbuono), Chocomodica (Modica)
Despite the rainy weather, November is an excellent month to explore the island's many museums. November also ushers in the wine season in Sicily, following the autumn harvest, making this a great month to enjoy the island's rich culinary traditions.
Key events: Tutti i Santi (All Saints' Day), Festa di San Martino (St Martin's Day)
Expect cloudy weather with the occasional sunny day in December. Temperatures across the island drop off sharply, so pack warmer layers and an umbrella. Sicily's many Christmas markets kick off the holiday season, but keep in mind that many museums operate on a reduced holiday schedule.
Key events: Christmas Fair (Syracuse), Festa della Santa Lucia, Festa di Santo Stefano