Sicily

Sicily: When to Go

Rural Sicily is at its best in spring (April-early June) and autumn (September-October) - though be aware that the interior can be chilly. The cities move to their own rhythm, but winter is certainly an option if you want to escape the crowds. Summer (July and August) can bring scorching temperatures and packed beaches.

FESTIVALS

As life moves outdoors from June to September, Sicily's squares, ancient theatres and gardens host all manner of concerts, shows and religious and folklore events…

World Festival on the Beach, Mondello (near Palermo), mid-May
Windsurfing, kite-surfing, beach volleyball, sailing, golf, jazz and classical music.

Greek Theatre Festival, Siracusa, May to June
Open-air performances of Greek plays and tragedies in Siracusa's vast amphitheatre.

Taormina Arte, Taormina, June to late August
A series of open-air performances in Taormina's ancient Greek theatre, including dance, theatre and rock, jazz and classical music concerts (past appearances include Sting and the Bolshoi Ballet). It kicks off in June with the star-studded Taormina Film Festival.

Kals'Art, Palermo, mid-July to mid-September
A 2-month open-air celebration in the city's Kalsa quarter, which has gone from strength to strength since its 2003 inauguration. It covers music (mostly ethnic, jazz and emerging local pop bands), cinema (open-air screenings, mostly in Italian), theatre (daily performances in Italian during the middle fortnight of the festival) and art (mostly modern). There's also an open-door policy on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings to all the churches and other historic buildings within the Kalsa quarter.

Verdura Festival, Palermo, July
Pop, rock and jazz gigs take over the Teatro Massimo during the summer months. Recent performers include Chick Corea, Caetano Veloso, Simple Minds and Gianna Nannini.

Santa Rosalia Festival, Palermo, 9-15 July
Huge parades and processions through the historical centre, in memory of Palermo's patron saint who saved the city from plague 400 years ago and has been honoured annually ever since. It culminates in an evening of music and fireworks.

Kals'Art Winter, Palermo, December to early January
Classical music concerts in churches around the city, plus fairy-tale street lighting.

Other events include 'Church Music at Monreale' (late October to early November), a pilgrimage to Monte Pellegrino (4 September) and 'Il Genio di Palermo' contemporary art exhibitions (late May).

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TRAVEL ESSENTIALS

Getting There

Note: flight, boat, train and bus timetables change constantly, and airlines come and go, so please do not rely solely on this information for your travel planning. Check with relevant companies, or a flight search engine like Skyscanner, first.

BY AIR

Sicily has 2 main airports - Palermo Falcone-Borsellino and Catania Fontanarossa. Both are served by frequent scheduled, budget and charter flights from the UK and elsewhere in Europe. There are also airports at Trapani on the island's west coast and at Comiso in the south west, both with some low-cost links.

From the UK:

British Airways flies from London Gatwick to Catania.
easyJet flies from London Gatwick to Catania and Palermo, and from Bristol to Catania.
Air Malta flies from London Gatwick to Catania (not daily).
Thomson flies from London Gatwick and Manchester to Catania (weekends only).
Ryanair flies daily from London Stansted to Palermo, and from London Luton to Trapani. It also operates flights from London Stansted to Lamezia in Calabria (not daily), which is 1 hour from the Messina ferry crossing. Ryanair flies twice weekly from London Stansted to Comiso.

From Europe:

There are various charter and low-cost flights to Catania and Palermo, including Meridiana, Germanwings, Aer Lingus, easyJet, Brussels Airlines, Transavia, Windjet, Lufthansa, Air Berlin, Lux Air and Helvetic. Most flights only operate in summer (typically April-October) and are not daily (many are weekends only). Alternatively, Alitalia flies from all major cities to Catania and Palermo via Milan or Rome, but connections are dodgy.

Ryanair flies to Palermo from Madrid, Marseille, Dublin, Olso, Seville and Venice, and to Trapani from Billund, Eindhoven, Maastricht, Stockholm, Krakow, Leipzig and Valencia. Ryanair also flies to Comiso from Brussels (twice weekly) and from Rome Ciampino (daily except Thursdays).

From Further Afield:

Aside from links with North Africa, there are no flights to Sicily from outside Europe. Your best bet is to fly via London or another European city with one of the airlines listed above, or via Rome or Milan with Alitalia.

Getting to Pantelleria:

There are twice-daily flights to and from Palermo with Fly Air One, and 3 daily flights to and from Trapani with Meridiana. In high season there are also flights from Milan, Venice, Rome and Bologna with La Cossira.

BY SEA

If you're coming from southern mainland Italy, there are regular ferries from Villa San Giovanni to Messina (every 20 minutes, with a 20-minute sailing time). There are also ferries from Genoa and Naples to Palermo.

Getting Around

By Car:

Driving is perhaps the easiest way to get around Sicily. You can hire a car from airports and city centres, and drop your vehicle back at a different location if you're touring around; see our car rental recommendations. Make sure you take out comprehensive insurance, as driving habits in Sicily can be unnerving, to say the least.

Sicily's road network has been expanded over recent years, and motorways and highways (often with a toll system) link most major towns and cities. Away from the main routes, though, you'll find many roads are poorly signed, so make sure you have a good map or GPS system.

By Public Transport:

Rail services link most larger towns and cities - the most useful for tourists are Palermo-Catania, Messina-Catania, and Catania to Siracusa and on to Modica and Ragusa. Note that services can be infrequent and slow. For more information see Seat 61.