March begins to see the mercury rise in Sicily, with temperatures averaging between lows of 43˚F (6˚C) and highs of 59˚F (15˚C), marking the end of the short winter season, though the sea is not yet warm enough for a swim (59˚F/15˚C). The coastal towns in the north, west, and south, like that of Palermo, Marsala, and Agrigento see mild, rainy weather (wet enough to see things bloom and become green, not enough to spoil your vacation), while Messina, Catania, and Syracuse sees slightly warmer temps with less rain.
Sicily’s interior is mostly hilly, and temperatures average between 37-50˚F (3-10˚C) in Prizzi, while the mountains are still cold enough to keep their snow. Though you can expect several sunny days, March is relatively cloudy with periods of rain, wind, and thunderstorms. So be sure to pack your sunglasses alongside warmer layers, and waterproof gear.
Crowds & Costs
Still considered off-season, March is a great time to explore Sicily without the onslaught of tourists you see during peak season. Not to mention, flight deals and budget-friendly hotel prices are still to be found. March marks the beginning of the end of the ski season with runs on Mount Etna’s southern slope dependent on the weather. That said, unlike other more popular Italian destinations, Sicilian ski resorts are uncrowded and less costly.
Note that if Easter falls in March, you’ll be competing with Italians coming in from the mainland, so make sure to book accommodation well in advance. You’ll also want to be aware of business closures and public transportation running on a holiday schedule. And to further add a hiccup to your plans, know that Sicilians take a daily siesta: businesses are likely to be closed between 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm.
Where to Go
Sicily is an incredibly diverse region offering world-class beaches and baroque towns and features a rich history of Greek, Roman, Arab, and Norman influence. The best way to see all the highlights is on an extended road trip where most travelers visiting Sicily will either start or end their holiday in Palermo, the regional capital, or Catania, the next largest city. Circumnavigate the island focusing time in wine country around Marsala, the UNESCO-protected Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, the medieval and baroque towns in Sicily’s southeast, and the fortress in Cefalú in the central north.
Catania is also a great jumping-off point to the sophisticated Taormina on the Ionian Sea, or, if you’re into skiing/snowboarding, head to the nearby ski slopes of Mount Etna. You’ll have two sides of the mountains to choose between, Linguaglossa on the north side and Nicolosi on the south, the former being your best option for snow this month.
And if Carnivale happens to occur in March, partygoers are in for a treat as much of the region’s best festivals occur this month centering around Lent in the run-up to Easter. Head to Acireale, for one of the country’s most famous pre-Lent fêtes. Expect to see massive allegorical floats, costumed participants, and giant papier-mâché caricatures. Other options that put on a good show are Sciacca and Termini Imerese.
If you’re on the island during Easter, expect a slightly more somber atmosphere of religious processions and passion plays. Check out the Holy Friday Processione dei Misteri in the medieval hilltop town of Erice for one such experience. Consider Caltanissetta, Enna, Messina, or the distinctly Orthodox Piani degli Albanesi for alternate options. Keep in mind that a lot of tourist services will be closed during this time.
What to Do
Though it likely isn’t warm enough for a beach holiday, toward the end of the month the warmer, dryer weather makes this an excellent time to go hiking or cycling. And bonus, spring will have taken hold of the island: wildflowers will begin to bloom, and farmers inland start to prepare the land. Sicily offers plenty of great hiking trails and cycling routes all over the island, and a great place to start is Mount Etna.
Although hikers are only allowed to climb up to the 9,500 feet mark (the peak tops off at 11,000 feet), there’s plenty of volcanic activity visible by 6,500 feet at the Silvestri Crater. The trek takes a total of six hours, though if you’re inclined, there are options to ride a cable car and take a four-wheel-drive vehicle to break up the route. And if cycling is your preferred sport, the possibilities are endless. For something a little more challenging, mountain bike the trails and lanes of Mount Etna or choose a route with the volcano as a backdrop, like the Alcantara Chiarello Loop that starts in Taormina.
Now is a great time for urban sightseeing in historic centers, like Ortygia, the historical heart of the city of Syracuse, ducking into a café or museum as the mood strikes. For a unique experience, head underground to explore the Ipogei di Piazza Duomo, a series of underground tunnels used during the Second World War. Another interesting underground option is a visit to the ancient Miqweh, or Jewish baths, sealed up for centuries when the Jewish inhabitants were ordered to leave in the late 15th century.
Read 6 Unique Experiences in Sicily for more on what to do.
Carnevale. Italy's version of the Carnival celebration of Lent changes months depending on the liturgical calendar but occasionally occurs in March. It is the most significant event in Sicily, with parades and parties in cities and towns throughout the island, some of which last for weeks.
Easter and Holy Week. Because Easter follows the liturgical calendar, it doesn't fall on the same day each year. Sometimes it doesn't even occur in March. If it does, however, enjoy the celebrations and processions that occur throughout the island.
Festa Donna Nella (International Women's Day). Italy celebrates women's day on March 8th, as men across the country gift mimosa flowers to the nation's women.
St. Joseph's Feast Day. As San Giuseppe is credited with saving people from famine, Sicily celebrates March 19 with food: special pastries, breads, and dinners.
Traveling to Sicily in March? Check out this great itinerary.
Spectacular Self-Drive Tour Around Sicily - 14 Days. March is a great time to experience Sicily in all its glory. Highlights of this tour include Palermo, a cultural melting pot with stunning monuments and vibrant local markets and Taormina, the elegant village famous for its Greek theater and the postcard views. You'll also visit Syracuse and Agrigento, with their archaeological masterpieces, and hike Mt. Etna—Europe's most active volcano.