Around the holiday season, I often yearn for my time spent in Sicily during a winter past. Most travelers visit the island in spring and fall, but seldom in winter or summer.
Summers soak with a humidity that captures everything in its path as though it’s out for revenge. Winters are bone chilling even for this Colorado native and mainly spent huddled around a space heater.
Despite the chills in the air, Sicily awakens just in time for the holidays, warming with colorful marzipan studded store windows and golden lights twinkling throughout nearly every town.
You may not be able to enjoy the beaches or dine in an outdoor café, but come winter, Sicily quiets for the adventurous traveler. As if you needed a push out the door, here are five reasons to head for the center of the Mediterranean this winter.
The Festivals — Throughout Sicily’s November, December and January, some of island’s biggest religious festivals take place. With those religious celebrations come countless opportunities for people watching, observing age-old traditions and endless parties. Specifically, Siracusa fills in December with those from all around the island, ready to celebrate the city’s patron, Santa Lucia and the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Statues are paraded through town as fireworks resound off of the harbor.
The Lights — From Palermo to Taormina, once the calendar turns to December, locals begin putting up holiday lights throughout town streets as though it’s a necessity, an act of decoration with utmost importance. From bows to bells, streets glow in the evening hours alongside the smells of roasted hazelnuts at outdoor stalls, just in time for the nightly passeggiata. Locals stroll no matter the temperature, absorbing every watt radiating from above. Nowhere else does the “magic of the holidays” actually seem to reside.
The Locals — In summer, spring and fall, tourists tend to make up a large part of the population. However, in the winter season, you can actually experience local life in its purist form. Watching Sicilians celebrate festivals as they have been for hundreds of years or bargaining with market vendors lends an insight into the people you can’t take home when its tourist season.
The Weather — While some my find the island too cold in winter months, Sicily is home to a rare winter sport enthusiast’s dream, skiing on one of the most active volcanoes in Europe. Mount Etna sprinkles with snow just in time for the winter season in Sicily as skiers take advantage of a once in a lifetime experience.
The Prices — Due to the lack of travelers in winter months, hotel rates in Sicily drop during what is deemed the low season. With lower priced accommodations, travelers can spend more euros shopping for their loved ones back home, missing out on the magic found in Sicily’s holiday season.