August continues to bring the oppressively hot weather in Sicily, especially if the sirocco, a hot African wind, is blowing. During the hottest days with the sirocco, temps can reach a sweltering 109˚F (43˚C) in Messina and 111˚F (44˚C) in Trapani, Palermo, and Catania. Otherwise, daily averages in Messina, Palermo, and Syracuse are 88˚F (31˚F) and 90˚ (32˚C) in Catania.
There’s no question; you’ll want to pack your swimsuit and sunscreen and maybe light layers for the slightly cooler evenings, especially if you head inland and visit a town above the 1,500 feet (4,921 m) mark. As an example, Prizzi sees an average range of 63-81˚F (17-27˚C). And while inland, note that with little to no breeze from the coast, temperatures are hotter below 1,000 feet (3,280 m), like in Ragusa where the average high is 90˚F (32˚C).
Crowds & Costs
The majority of the coastline and islands are teeming with summer crowds, especially during the middle of the month in and around Italy’s August 15 Ferragosto holiday when Italians flock en masse to the seaside. Book your reservations and accommodation well in advance as there's significant pressure on hotels and restaurants at this time.
You can find some respite in the interior of the country, however, like in Ragusa. Though keep in mind, many local businesses will shut down as owners will be on holiday, too. And establishments that do stay open during the month might very well close during the afternoon from 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm to take a siesta from the sweltering heat.
Where to Go
With the long, hot summer days, the Mediterranean Sea and its coastline beckon visitors. If the crowds don’t deter you, head to the coast and the Aegadi or Aeolian Islands. And if you find yourself in Sicily in the middle of the month, many coastal towns and cities are putting on a captivating show, like Cefalù with Madonna dell Luce (see events below). There’s also I Giganti, Messina’s biggest cause for celebration where you can expect lively partying and colorful floats honoring the mythical founders of the city, Mata and Grifone the Moor.
If you're in the southeast of the island, head to Palazzolo Acreide for their Festa di San Sebastiano to enjoy processions, concerts, and firework displays. Nearby, Syracuse and its Neapolis Archaeological Park are worth exploring as well as the Sicilian Baroque towns of Noto, Ragusa Ibla, Modica, and Scicli. Each location a short drive to the stunning coast for your choice of beach, from the sandy beach of Pozzallo to the quiet, mostly rocky Cava d’Agila, to the golden beaches of Marina di Ragusa.
Toward the end of the month, you’ll want to be in and around Trapani to catch the salt harvest. Already a beautiful coastal region, the activity adds another layer to the unique setting of historic windmills, saltwater lagoons, and mounds of harvested salt. And while in the area, head to the small island of Pantaleo, in the shallow waters between Marsala and Trapani, to discover one of Sicily's first Phoenician towns. Enjoy the Mozia Museum, stroll along the boardwalk, and explore the ancient ruins.
What to Do
If you find yourself in Sicily on August 14, head to the coast for a marvelous display of bonfires on all the beaches and join in the merrymaking: all-night dancing and partying (see events below). And if you’re in Sicily for the sun and surf, slip into your swimsuit, grab a towel, and get yourself to the beach. Though you'll want to be there early in the day or later in the afternoon (around 5 pm) to find a slightly less crowded spot of sand or rent a beach chair at one of the many lidos (public beach with amenities).
For a host of watersports like surfing (wind and kite), kayaking, sailing, snorkeling, and scuba diving, head to any nearby beach for an opportunity that suits your needs. Adrenaline junkies might like to consider exploring the Alcantara River and Gorge region for a fun and cooling activity. Gear up and body raft your way down the river, alternating swimming and floating with hiking.
And in late August the grape harvest begins all across the island. Drive through the vineyard-striped land on the west coast, visit a cantina or two in Marsala and sample a glass of the fortified wine-of-the-same-name. There’s also the popular Blanco d’Alcamo from the area between Alcamo and Trapani, and Syrah and Etna Rosso from the fertile volcanic soil of the slopes of Mount Etna. And if you can’t make it to the Aeolian or Pantelleria islands, sip a glass of their respective reds, Malvasia, and Passito di Pantelleria.
International Festival of the Arts. Taormina’s ancient theater hosts daily performances of music (rock, pop, and classical), opera, dance, and theater, from June through to September.
La Scala Illuminata. The middle of August sees one of Sicily’s better-known festivals. The staircase of Caltagirone is decorated in ceramics and flowers by day and lit with candles at night in honor of patron saint, St. James.
Ferragosto (Assumption Day). On August 15 each year, Italians celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, which features many religious processions from churches throughout the country. Meanwhile, Ferie di Agosto (August holidays) is celebrated and sees revelers lighting bonfires along the beaches and dancing and partying on the evening of August 14. It's also a national holiday, and many businesses and institutions are closed.
Madonna della Luce (Our Lady of Light). Witness a nighttime boat procession on August 14 and 15 off the coast of Kalura to the Cefalù harbor.
Passeggiata di Giganti (Procession of the Giants). Come the middle of August, Messina puts on its largest celebration honoring the mythical founders of the city, Mata and Grifone the Moor.
Palio dei Normanni. One of Sicily’s oldest events, it takes place in Piazza Armerina in the middle of the month and includes medieval and Renaissance games, shows, and costumed processions ending in a re-enactment telling of the Norman invaders who ousted the Arabs from Sicily.
Maritime Festival. Syracuse hosts an annual rowing regatta around the Ortigia quarter as well as festive processions.
Traveling to Sicily in August? Check out these great itineraries.
Best of Sicily - 14 Days. Spend four days exploring Palermo's diverse history, shopping at bustling markets, and relaxing on sunny beaches. Visit Syracuse—home city of mathematician Archimedes—and explore the Old Town of Ortygia, then head to Taormina to hike Mount Etna and catch a performance at the ancient Greek Theater. End your trip with a street food tour and sunny views of the Ionian Sea in Catania.
Explore Western Sicily - 5 Days. Explore western Sicily on this 5-day trip, from cultural Palermo to sunny Cefalu. You'll see medieval churches, tour the macabre Capuchin Catacombs, and soak in the sunshine on Cefalu's beaches. From street markets to the quiet of the Palermo Cathedral, this trip is the perfect way to explore the region's culture.