Should I Visit Sicily in Winter?

Here’s the big question: Should you visit Sicily in the winter?  In December? January? February? March? Could off-season secretly be the best time to visit Sicily?

We traveled to eastern Sicily in February, and we stayed for ten days.  We based ourselves in Catania and Noto, and we also took day trips to Ragusa and Syracuse.

Would we recommend traveling to Sicily in the winter?  Eh, maybe. Depends! We’ll lay out the pros and cons for you.

Pros:

The major advantage of going to the island of Sicily in the winter is, of course, that it is off season.  Fewer tourists, fewer crowds. Dare we say, virtually no other tourists.  We haven’t been to Sicily in the summer, but it’s easy to imagine the streets of every city thronged with gelato-munching tourists, the cafes bursting, the tourist-trap souvenirs ubiquitous.  In winter, this is a scene you avoid.

We found the restaurants we visited to be full of locals.  There were no crowds, no other tourists. It was like we had the place to ourselves!  And that, of course, is the major advantage.

Ragusa, Sicily in the winter (February)
Empty Sicilian streets as far as the eye can see!

Cons:

We mean, we really had it to ourselves.  One major disadvantage of going to Sicily in the winter is, again, that it is off season.  Restaurants are closed. Cafes are closed. There is virtually nowhere to stop off for a quick coffee, and there might be virtually nowhere open to get a meal, depending on the night.  Catania is a little busier, of course, but in Ragusa, Syracuse, and Noto a majority of the tourist infrastructure (again, cafes and restaurants) was shut down for the winter. Maybe you’d have better luck in Taormina or Palermo, but it’s a good bet at least some businesses would be shuttered for the season. Not ideal when you’re looking for some great Sicilian pizza and pasta!

The other unexpected disadvantage was the COLD!  Now, we’re from New York. It’s definitely colder where we’re coming from, we figured.  It’ll feel springy and fresh! What we did not bargain for was that Sicily is not particularly adapted to winter weather.  The February temperature was in the 50’s Fahrenheit when we were there (around 10 Celcius), but not a single one of our three Airbnbs had a real heater, just space heaters.  We found ourselves cocooning in blankets at any moment we were home.

And going out wasn’t much warmer.  The cafes that were open were mostly OPEN AIR!  Which is probably lovely in summer, but in a winter climate it just didn’t seem appealing.  So it was an unexpectedly icy trip, all things considered.

Noto, Sicily in winter (February)
NO ONE was here!

So, is winter a good time to visit Sicily?

Depends!  If you’re up for a little cold, have warm pajamas to pack, and aren’t too picky about where you eat, go for it!  Visiting Sicily in winter is a great way to experience the beautiful architecture and history without other tourists. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a warm, relaxing vacation filled with Italian food and coffee, maybe it’s best to hold off a few months until the warmer season begins. Sicily winter weather may not be for you.

Visiting Mount Etna in winter (February)
There was actual snow on the volcano, Mount Etna. Brrr!!

Have you been to Sicily in the winter?  We’d love to hear about it! Leave your thoughts below.

You might also be interested in:
Should you rent a car in Sicily?
Restaurants in Noto, Sicily


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