Don’t think of Italy as only a summer destination. There are plenty of things to do and to see during the Italian spring, fall, and even winter. This series of articles provides ideas for your Italian winter vacation, describing regional spectacles, tourist attractions, and special events, and sometimes skiing and other winter sports. Italian winter holidays have several advantages: You won’t fight the crowds, hotels and other accommodations are easier and cheaper to find, and every region has its own winter festivals. When we say winter, we mean November to February; spring comes early in Italy. Don’t look here for information about Italy’s marvelous Carnivale; we are planning a separate series covering regional Carnivale celebrations. Talk about planning; start organizing your Italian winter holidays now. Keep reading.
Skiing in Sicily, you betcha.
Sicily is a Mediterranean island to the southwest of southern Italy. Its winters are relatively mild. The almonds start to bloom in mid-February. But don’t go there only for the weather; if you do so, you might be disappointed. But you will enjoy the variety of winter festivals. Sicily celebrates All Saints’ Day on November 1 followed by All Souls’ Day also known as the Feast of the Dead. Families visit the cemeteries and eat special cookies known as “Bones of the Dead.”
Beautiful Sicilian costumes.
December 4, Saint Barbara Day, is celebrated in the Sicilian town of Paterno on the slopes of Mount Etna volcano. After the parade citizens set up a nativity scene. Santa Lucia Day, December 13, is celebrated in many Italian localities including the city of Siracusa whose huge parade includes a golden coffin carrying the saint to the Church of Santa Lucia. There is a week of festivities culminating with a big fireworks display over the harbor and another parade that brings the coffin back to the crypt. Among the many nativity scenes make sure to see one in Custonaci which is re-enacted inside a cave. The exhibition includes a traditional nativity scene and an ancient village complete with shops. The town of Acireale is also known for its nativity scene. Celebrate New Years’s Eve in Palermo with fireworks and an outdoor music show.
In early January Piana degli Albanesi holds a Greek Orthodox Ritual and Procession. Nicolosi, near Mount Etna, celebrates San Antonio Abate on January 17. Get up early; ceremonies begin before dawn when the monks repeat their vows of dedication to God and to the Saint. The day continues with parades and solemn ceremonies. Many places in Sicily celebrate the Feast Day of San Sebastiano on January 20. For example, in Mistretta it takes sixty men to parade his statue through the town.
On February 4 Catania honors its patron saint, Saint Agatha, with a festival said to include the world’s second largest religious procession. Her statue is placed on a fercolo, a 40,000 pound silver carriage, pulled up Monte Sangiuliano by 5,000 men. The festival lasts for two days and two nights and culminates in a huge fireworks display. Make sure to taste some of the marzipan specialties. Almond Blossom Fair in Agrigento, Sicily, is a weeklong festival from the first through the second Sunday in February. You’ll find an International Folklore Festival with music, singing, parades, puppet shows and open-air performances and traditional Sicilian sweets made with almonds and almond paste are served. And wherever you go and whatever you do, check out the fine Sicilian wines.
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine Italian or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his website www.travelitalytravel.com devoted to Italian travel with an accent on fine Italian wine and food. Visit his central wine website www.theworldwidewine.com with weekly reviews of $10 wine and columns devoted to various aspects of wine including wine and food, humor, trivia, organic and kosher wine and lots more.
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Winter events, spectacles, and tourist attractions in Sicily, Italy