Wintertime is off-season in Sicily, which is why many people are left wondering, should you visit Sicily in January? The answer is undoubtedly yes, as Sicily is truly magnificent and a great destination to visit regardless of the season. 

During the cold winter months, only a small number of tourists venture onto the island for their holiday. Therefore, when you visit Sicily in winter you can expect fewer crowds, allowing you to enjoy the island even more.

Weather

Located on the south-eastern coast of Italy, Sicily has a Mediterranean climate, which brings in hot, dry, and cool summers. But Sicily weather in January is relatively cold and wet, with some cloudy days and others enjoying an average of 7 hours of sunshine. 

On average, the daytime temperature in Sicily in January is 9°C, with highs of 12°C and lows of 5°C at night. Given this cool temperature, you must pack plenty of warm layers when going to Sicily in winter, especially if you plan to go out in the evening. 

If you want to swim when you visit the region, you must be brave enough to conquer the cold Mediterranean water, which is around 15°C in January. But even though the Sicilian weather in January is pretty cold, it is still comfortable enough compared to the rest of northern Europe at the same time of year.

January is not only one of the coldest months in Sicily, it’s also one of the wettest. The island receives around 65mm of rain during this month, but showers are usually light and short-lived. Snowfall is unlikely in Sicily, even around mid-winter, so any sightseeing you have planned is unlikely to get ruined by the weather as long as you don’t mind the cold.

Mount Etna in Snow

How to Get There

Sicily is less than two miles away from mainland Italy to the west of the country. Flying is definitely the most convenient way to get to the island, especially if you are coming from outside the country. However, there are no direct flights to Sicily from the United States, so travellers must change planes through another airport in Europe or within Italy. 

There are four airports in Sicily, all of which are served by Europe’s major airlines. You can fly to Palermo Airport in Palermo, Sicily’s capital city, or Catania Airport in Catania, the second-largest city on the island. The other two airports in Sicily are Trapani and Comiso airports, which may have reduced flight schedules to other destinations during the off-season in January, which is something to consider when planning a trip during the winter season.

Aside from flying, another way you can get to Sicily is by ferry. The quickest way is through the Strait of Messina, accessible through Villa San Giovanni. The other main departure ports for ferries heading to Sicily are Civitavecchia, Cagliari, Naples, Genoa, Salerno, and Reggio Calabria. 

From these ports, you can easily reach some of the major cities of Sicily, such as Palermo, Catania, and Messina. When you arrive in Sicily, you can either take the train or bus to wherever you are staying on the island. If you can, consider renting a car and taking it with you to Sicily through the ferry, as this is the easiest and most convenient way to move around the island.

Festivals and Events

Sicily is a wonderful Italian region where winter is never too cold, so you are guaranteed to have a good time in Sicily in January. Another good reason to visit the island during this time of the year is that you can witness some fun festivals and events, many of which are listed below.

Epiphany 

Celebrated every January 6th, the Feast of Epiphany is a national holiday in Italy that’s widely celebrated all over the country. Epiphany commemorates the 12th day of Christmas where three wise men arrived at the manger bringing gifts for the religious figure Jesus, and is an important date in the Christian calendar. 

For most Italians, Epiphany is as significant as Christmas, especially for children. During Epiphany, adults give young people sweet treats kept inside a sock. If they’re nice, they will have a special treat, but those who have behaved badly run the risk of getting a lump of coal.

Carnevale

The Carnevale di Acireale, or Carnival of Acireale, is one the most beautiful carnivals happening in the region. It’s only occasionally held in January in the city of Acireale, but if your visit coincides with the event then you should definitely make the effort to attend.

This event dates to 1880, when the first Grotesque floats were built and paraded on the streets of Sicilian towns. The tradition is still kept alive today by local artisans who wanted to preserve the Sicilian culture while expressing their imagination by creating artistic floats that will be showcased during the parade.

Carnevale Costume

Sagra della Sfincia di Priescia

If you’re a foodie and want to experience the authentic taste of Sicilian cuisine, then the Sagra Della Sfincia di Priescia is an event you should not miss. Happening every January 6th in the town of Montelepre, this festival is centred around a local sweet delicacy known as the sfincia di priescia. It is a dough shaped in biblical symbols and flowers and topped with sugar and cinnamon, and will be available throughout the event as well as plenty of other delicious treats.

Things to See and Do

Sicily may not be a popular destination for the winter holidays, but it still offers plenty of activities for everyone to enjoy in January. Visiting Sicily in winter will allow you to explore the sights without the crowds while avoiding the heat in summer, which some people will prefer. Here are some of the best things to see and do in Sicily in January.

Ski Down Mount Etna

Mount Etna, an active volcano just a short distance away from the city, is one of the best places to visit in Sicily in winter. At over 10,000 feet above sea level, the mountain towers over the plains below that look even more spectacular in winter. 

Skiing has long been a popular activity in Sicily, which is home to some ski resorts that offer both alpine and downhill slopes. The best part about skiing in Mount Etna is that the trails are very smooth, thanks to the volcano’s settled lava, and the crowds tend to be smaller in winter so ski passes are usually cheaper.

Skiing

Visit Art Galleries

Sicily is a melting pot of cultures and history in the Mediterranean, so the region is home to a wide variety of museums and art galleries. If you are visiting Sicily in January, one of the best things to do is to explore its innovative art galleries and museums and enjoy having them almost entirely to yourselves. 

One of the best art galleries to check out is the FPAC, or Francesco Pantaleone Arte Contemporanea, which is said to be the pioneer of contemporary art in the region. The Nuvole Incontri d’Arte is also a great place to visit, established to foster a better appreciation of contemporary art in Rione Monte di Pietà, a historic quarter in Palermo.

Soak in Geothermal Hot Springs

Given Mount Etna’s intense subterranean life, the geothermal springs in Sicily have long been used as a way to relax since the Roman period. One of the most popular activities In Sicily in winter, or any time of year, is to soak in geothermal hot springs that are dotted around the region or found at various spas.  

A highlight is Santa Venera al Pozzo, where you will find a thermal park whose waters came from Etna’s sulphurous base. The Greeks first discovered the area, and later on, it was used by the Romans who eventually built a bathing establishment.

Shop the New Year Sales

Italy is one of the most fashionable countries in the world, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that people from around the world would come here to shop. The best part about going to Italy in winter is that sales are everywhere! 

In winter, many shops in Sicily are offering New Year sales, also known as the saldi invernali, which starts during the first few days of January and ends in February. For fashion lovers, big cities like Palermo and Catania offer the best choices for shopping, where you will find boutiques, clothing shops, and ateliers lined along the city’s most elegant streets.

Admire the Fruit in the Garden of the Kolymbetra

The Garden of the Kolymbetra is a lush oasis in Sicily and a truly beautiful place to visit in winter. Located within the Valley of the Temples, this garden is often overlooked by many tourists, but if you take the time to explore this stunning outdoor space, you could come across some very interesting fruit trees, including citrus groves and orchards. 

Kolymbetra is a perfect example of an irrigated citrus garden, yet it also has archaeological and historical value. Set in a small valley west of the Valley of the Temples, this six-hectare garden is picturesquely framed by the great monuments that play an important role in Sicily’s colourful history.

Valley of the Temples

Other Tips

Sicily is a great destination all year round. However, not many tourists are keen on visiting the island during the cold winter season, meaning that you will avoid the crowds of tourists and enjoy more time at various attractions. Plus, you get to take advantage of the exclusive deals and discounts, which travel companies and hotels are offering during the low-peak season. 

To make the most of your winter holiday in Sicily, here are some tips to keep in mind.

Opening Hours

Be aware of the opening days and hours of the attractions you plan to visit in Sicily. Unlike the summer season, where all attractions remain open on most days, these places have limited opening times in winter.

Major cities like Messina, Syracuse, and Palermo are open for business throughout the year, including winter, but some tourist sites could be closed for several weeks. During holidays like the Epiphany, some restaurants and shops will remain closed. You will find information about the opening and closing times of Sicily’s top attractions online. Visit the official websites or check out some informative blog sites. Better yet, send an email to your hotel to ask about these things.

Packing

Pack a variety of winter clothes for your holiday, as the Sicily weather in January can change any time, so it’s recommended that you bring sweaters, coats, and other winter accessories to keep you protected from the cold. Compared to other cities in Europe, the cool weather in Sicily is pretty mild, but you’ll still need to wrap up warm if you’re going to be outdoors a lot during your visit.

Travelling With Children

If you are bringing the kids on your holiday to Sicily in January, make sure you plan your trip well since your options will be limited in terms of the number of outdoor activities available for families. Even spending afternoons at the playground may not be possible due to the rain. 

However, there are still several family-friendly activities that you can do when spending a winter holiday in Sicily. You can explore museums and art galleries, go skiing in Mount Etna, and join in the fun of the Epiphany celebration!

Practice your Italian

While most of the hotels and restaurants on the island have English speaking staff, the menus are often written in the Italian language. Also, during winter, most restaurants that cater to foreign tourists might be closed, so you could find yourself eating at a local restaurant with no English-speaking staff around. Therefore, consider learning a few basic Italian phrases before your trip, which will allow you to interact with the locals and enjoy a more authentic experience.

If you want to discover more about Sicily and what else you can enjoy on an Italian holiday, explore more of the Italian Breaks websites for advice on where to go, places to stay and things to do.

When To Visit Sicily By Month

Sicily in April

Sicily In August

Sicily In September

Sicily In October

Sicily At Christmas

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