In an island with such a complex and convoluted history as Sicily’s, it is perhaps no surprise to learn that the variety and number of cultural events and local festivals is huge. Whatever the season and no matter where you are, there will always be something going on.
Every town and village has its patron saint who is duly celebrated with processions through the streets, mammoth firework displays and plenty of devotional food and drink. Two of the most spectacular are in Palermo and Catania, where the deeds of Santa Rosalia and Sant’Agata are remembered with enormous celebrations. The masked processions on Good Friday are certainly some of the most moving expressions of Sicilian religious culture, and can be seen in towns, large and small, all over Sicily. The “Misteri” of Trapani, in which twenty wooden sculptures are carried through the town, attracts particular attention and gives an insight into the spiritual life of the islanders.
Man cannot live on religion alone, however, and even the most revered saint may be forgotten when a Sicilian’s stomach begins to rumble. As a result 'God Food' is celebrated with earnest devotion, and most small towns and villages in the hinterland spend a few days every year celebrating the fruits of their agricultural labours, whether it be artichokes in Cerda, pistachios in Bronte, Slow Food capers in Salina, cous cous in San Vito Lo Capo or sausages in Caccamo. These sagre - food festivals - offer an excellent excuse to visit places you might otherwise have neglected while having an excellent meal at the same time! While most Sicilian towns can claim a patron saint or a gastronomic speciality others prefer to celebrate their uniqueness in other ways.
While most Sicilian towns can claim a patron saint or a gastronomic speciality others prefer to celebrate their uniqueness in other ways.
Piazza Armerina, for example, celebrates its history with a Norman-Arab jousting tournament, Caltagirone annually illuminates the 142 ceramic-tiled steps of the Scala di Santa Maria del Monte, Sciacca, Acireale and other towns launch themselves into a good old pagan carnevale, San Vito Lo Capo puts on a kite festival, while Noto invites artists to cover one of its streets with petal mosaics - the Infiorata.
Culture with a capital C is also wonderfully varied and includes international opera seasons at the Teatro Massimo in Palermo and the Teatro Massimo Bellini in Catania, Greek theatre festivals and other events in the original theatres of Syracuse, Segesta and Tindari, and a WOMAD festival in Taormina.
So, if you really want to get under Sicily’s skin and learn what makes its people tick, just turn up to one of these events (or one of the hundreds we haven’t had space to mention here) and let yourself be swept along by the passion, the sense of fun and the hospitality of your fellow revellers.
Food and wine sagre and festivals in Sicily >>
The Infiorata in Noto >>