Christmas in Sicily: the best cities to visit (and eat in) at this time of year
“Not only sea, sun and grattatella“, would answer any Sicilian to the question “Christmas in Sicily, really??”.
Yes, because, in any season, Sicily offers enchanting views, suggestive places and atmospheres, moments to remember and unique dishes to taste. Yes, really, even at Christmas!
The tradition of Christmas here is very strong and you can immediately feel the festive atmosphere since November. The store windows and the squares are illuminated with hundreds of lights, relatives and friends gather in the houses to exchange gifts, play until late at night and gather around large tables laid in red, to taste the typical dishes of the Sicilian tradition.
Here, at Christmas, there is no middle ground. Christmas is: eat, play, eat and eat again! By the way, if you want to discover traditional Sicilian Christmas dishes, check out this article!
Any Sicilian will tell you that Christmas in Sicily is simply magical. Each place has its own gastronomic traditions and you can discover different varieties of dishes with local products and recipes passed down through the centuries. And if you’re thinking of planning a winter trip, there are so many reasons to choose it as your next destination.
The real question, then, is not whether or not to spend Christmas in Sicily, but: Which Sicilian cities to visit at this time of year?
So, start taking notes, because there are so many gastronomic, cultural and historical stops and itineraries to spend an unforgettable Christmas vacation under the sign of taste and Sicilian Christmas traditions. Let’s start!
Palermo: Christmas of history, shows and typical products
How not to make the first stop in Palermo? The main city of the region at Christmas is dressed in millions of lights that allow visitors to discover the historic squares and monuments from a new perspective. Much more suggestive and memorable than in other periods of the year.
Palermo, at this time of year, seems to come to life and gives the most famous places of the city a unique charm and indescribable beauty. It is enough to take a walk in the historical center, between Piazza Verdi and the Quattro Canti to fall in love with Palermo and taste the Christmas sweets of the Palermo tradition. Among itinerant concerts of pipers and classical music, animations and games for children, theatrical performances and concerts, the sea will not miss you even for a moment.
In this period of the year, then, are several craft markets and gastronomic events that enrich the vacations of tourists and visitors. Like the Christmas Fair in Piazza Giotto and the Luna Park at Giotto Park Village.
And what Christmas would be without a nativity scene? Like the King’s Crib, set up in the famous Palatine Chapel of the Arab-Norman itinerary, one of Palermo’s treasures or the Crib in the Square at the Galleria delle Vittorie.
And if you want to inebriate yourself with the scent of bread and get carried away by the atmosphere of Christmas, then don’t miss the Bread Crib in the Church of the Fornai all’Albergheria.
Outside of Palermo, there are many living nativity scenes that will immerse you in the most magical atmosphere of Christmas. Like the Nativity of Termini Imerese, in Piazza Duomo, and the traveling one of Gangi, among the typical alleys, stairways, towers and squares of the historic center of one of the most beautiful villages in Italy.
Trapani: taste, fun and beauty overlooking the sea
Let’s stay in the west of Sicily and make a stop in Trapani with its beautiful villages, views and gastronomic delights.
In Custonaci, you will be enchanted by the naturalistic and historical beauties, such as the Mangiapane Cave in the Natural Reserve of Mount Cofano, where every year during the Christmas period many Sicilian artists gather to take part in the most famous living nativity scene of the island.
Not far away, in Castelvetrano, you can immerse yourself in the mechanical crib of Vito Guccione, at the Church of Purgatory, where crafts, ancient trades, animals and characters of the past give a unique opportunity to discover the traditions, customs and traditions of the place.
Another stop not to be missed is Erice, one of the most beautiful medieval villages in the region. At Christmas, the lights guide visitors up to the Castle, from which you can enjoy an unparalleled view. The city comes alive with Christmas markets dedicated to crafts and gastronomy, live performances with pipers and fire eaters. There is no lack of cribs, made with different materials in every corner of the village, from churches to stores.
Agrigento: Santa Claus, Christmas street shops and living nativity scenes
Santa Claus? Okay, what? Yes! If you think about it, from Lapland to Southern Sicily is a breath if you have a flying sleigh.
Jokes aside, every Christmas is set up the House of Santa Claus, right in Agrigento, the City of the Temples, in an evocative context made of houses, elves and reindeer.
At Christmas, Agrigento is filled with markets with gastronomic products and handicrafts of excellence, events, concerts, live performances and art itineraries that from the main street extend throughout the center. In the “Christmas Village”, ideal for families with children, there are games, activities, sweets and typical products to enjoy to fully experience the magic of the holidays.
In the hamlet of Montaperto, in the “Presepe vivente” (Living Crib), you are catapulted into the Agrigento of the past with characters of the Christian tradition, the representation of the ancient crafts, characteristic settings and the reproduction of handicrafts now disappeared.
Ragusa: baroque atmospheres and products of excellence
Remaining in the South of Sicily, but moving on the eastern side, Christmas becomes more magical and suggestive. The coast bathed by the Ionian Sea is tinged with baroque harmonies and the streets of the province come alive with a kermesse of live theatrical performances, concerts and projections on the monuments.
The warm lights of Christmas lead to the splendid ancient part of the city of Ragusa, Ibla, which offers – especially at this time of year – a breathtaking view and an unparalleled atmosphere. The ancient Baroque district turns into a big open-air crib, with concerts inside the churches, visits to the noble palaces, itinerant events and evocative itineraries among the streets of Ibla.
In nearby Modica, the splendid Baroque city of eastern Sicily, takes place as every year the ChocoModica, the enogastronomical festival dedicated to the most famous artisan chocolate of the island: the chocolate of Modica.
Also here, it will be possible to walk among the Christmas markets, participate in art exhibitions and live shows and taste typical gastronomic delights of the province.
Syracuse: a jump into the past among Greek monuments and ancient rites
A few kilometers, along the coast, you can reach the historic Syracuse, the city known for the Neapolis and the mighty Greek Theatre. A city full of charm, still animated by poetic legends, even at Christmas gives visitors suggestive views and dreamy atmospheres.
Here it is possible to admire the great papier-mâché crib realized to offer the public a unique show. Attention to detail, craftsmanship, the crib is the perfect reproduction of a life-size real crib.
As well as the “Presepe Vivente al Monte” (Living Nativity Scene on the Mount) in Belvedere, in a suggestive location near the old wash house, a real 19th century village is recreated that allows you to experience the magical Christmas atmosphere of the time.
Catania: on the slopes of Etna among chalets, events and tasty dishes
Going up further, towards the majestic Etna, you will meet many small characteristic villages and you will be immersed in a wonderful territory, between the blue of the sea and the bright green of the mountain. From the chalets immersed in the woods to the typical houses built with volcanic lava, it is possible to follow different itineraries to discover the nature and the flavors of the place.
Among the towns to visit at Christmas, we mention Nicolosi, called the Door of Etna because it is located on the slopes of the highest active volcano in Europe. During the holidays, it comes alive with Christmas markets, wooden houses and offers a truly unique mountain atmosphere. You can taste the local dishes and enjoy one of the best pizzas of the island, with delicious pistachio of Bronte.
A few steps away, in Caltagirone, the famous ceramics and the largest crib in Italy are waiting for you, but also many events with markets, music, art, craft exhibitions and clay cribs.
Christmas in Sicily: ancient traditions, taste and suggestive atmospheres
Okay, we can say that Christmas in Sicily does not miss anything. Among the flavors and scents of the island, the tasteful itineraries, the live shows and the most amazing cribs, the Sicilian Christmas is able to give unique emotions.
In every city, we suggest you enter bakeries and pastry shops to taste the typical sweets of the place, made with excellent raw materials such as pistachio, ricotta and chocolate. At Christmas, pastry shops offer traditional gastronomic delights such as cuccia, buccellati / cucciddati and cubaita / giuggiulena (or cubbaita / giurgiulena).
Are you ready to discover the true tradition of Christmas and really feel at home? Well, Sicily is waiting for you!