May welcomes pleasant, relatively consistent weather in Sicily and more hours of daylight—and by the middle of the month, the sea might be warm enough to entice brave bathers (65°F/19°C). Daily temperature averages range between 53°F to 67°F (12-19°C) across Sicily, where Palermo, Marsala, and Agrigento can see an average high of 73˚F (23˚C) and Catania and Syracuse see highs of 75˚F (54˚C).
While ski season is over, snow can still be seen on the summit of Mount Etna. So bear in mind, the higher in elevation you venture, the cooler it’ll be. Pack shorts and tees alongside warmer layers for those chillier evenings and higher altitudes.
Crowds & Costs
The last month before prices surge for peak season, many of the attractions closed for the winter are now open for tourism. This is the best time to snag a decent hotel rate and plane ticket while the weather is nice for outdoor activities and sightseeing. Though with pleasant weather comes the crowds, including local schools, so you’ll likely be jostling with fellow travelers and school children at popular sites and attractions.
Be aware that if the annual Giro d’Italia route lands in Sicily, the crowds it attracts will increase pressure on local facilities. Meanwhile, many establishments and sites close for a few hours in the afternoon (1:30-4:30 pm) for siesta.
Where to Go
May is one of the best times of the year to visit: pleasant weather and an all-access pass to the island’s best-loved attractions. Not to mention wherever you find yourself this month, there is likely some kind of religious, food, nature, or cultural event taking place.
A classic route option is to spend a few days in Palermo, the regional capital and perfect jumping-off point to nearby points of interest like Mondello for their annual beach and water sports festival or San Vito Lo Capo further along the coast for their international exhibition of kite-flying.
If you happen to be in Marsala around May 11, join in the revelry celebrating the historic arrival of Garibaldi and his men (see events below) with three days devoted to Sicilian street food and general partying. Pick up a ceramic gift or souvenir as Italy celebrates Buongiorno Ceramica! with its ceramic traditions where Sciacca, Caltagirone, Burgio, and Santo Stefano di Camistra, the island’s most renowned ceramic centers, open their artists’ studios, museums, and craft workshops to the public.
Meanwhile, the Madonie mountains see their share of events. Gangi’s historic center puts on a floral festival with their La Via degli Odori event; flowers line the streets and stalls sell local produce. And on the edge of the mountains, the international Targa Florio Classic takes place seeing one of the world’s oldest competitive motor car races. And culture vultures will want to make their way to Capo d’Orlando in the northeast for Little Sicily, a spring festival featuring food and wine, folklore and traditions, music and cinema.
What to Do
May, without a doubt, is one of the best months to explore Sicily. Take advantage of some of the Italian island’s best beaches without the hordes of tourists the peak season brings. Mondello, the stretch of beach near Palermo is one great option, San Vito lo Capo near Trapani, and Mazzaro and Marina di Ragusa on the east coast are other equally excellent options. And for something a little more remote, take a ferry from Marsala or Trapani to the Aegadi Islands for their number of beaches, like Favignana’s Cala Rosa.
And before the summer crowds flood the islands and the sun is at its worst, consider a trip to the Aeolian Islands for a little hiking, in particular, Stromboli and Salina. Climb up Stromboli’s active volcano to see it erupt or trek the moderately demanding 2.5-mile (4 km) route up Salina’s highest peak: Fossa delle Felci. And as Salina is the greenest of the Aeolian Islands, you might like to reward yourself with a glass or two of their locally produced Malvasia wine.
Nature lovers may wish to try their luck to see flamingoes feeding in the Vendicari Nature Reserve salt-water lagoons. Though the trip to the southeast won’t be a waste if the pink birds are nowhere to be seen, as the reserve has spectacular white sand beaches and walking options. And while the flowers are blooming, head to the hills for other hiking and trekking options like in the Madonie and Nebrodi mountains found in northern Sicily.
For more unique ideas on where to go and what to do read this article.
International Workers Day. Held on the first of the month, many businesses close for this national holiday. Most attractions are closed too, as Italians choose to spend this day off relaxing with family and friends, enjoying picnics, and making nature excursions.
Gustissimo and the Manifestazioni Garibaldine. For three days Marsala celebrates the anniversary of the Landing of the Thousand, Garibaldi’s historic May 11 arrival, to begin the reunification of Italy, with costumed parades, music, traditional street food, wine, and artisanal beers.
Giro d’Italia. Italy's answer to the Tour de France lasts three weeks in May (precise dates and routes change each year). Even if you don't have much interest in witnessing a cycling race, you should still check the schedule. The route passes through many cities and towns throughout the country, and most lodging options in these locales will be fully booked during this time.
Infiorata & Baroque Spring Festival. Noto’s flower art festival in mid-May features works from international artists who come to cover Nicolaci street with petal mosaics. Expect craft shows, music performances, dances and parades showing off flower-covered carriages and volunteers dressed in 18th-century costume.
Greek Theater Festival. For close to two months, Syracuse's original Greek amphitheater sees performances of ancient Greek plays.
Carretti Siciliani. Every Friday in May (and September and October), Taormina sees the Carretto Siciliano (native horse cart) and their horses decorated as well as the drivers theatrically dressed.
Traveling to Sicily in May? Check out these great itineraries.
Sicily's West Coast - 7 Days. This tour of Sicily starts in the island's largest city, colorful and vibrant Palermo, before continuing to the country for scenic drives and island hopping. Enjoy boat rides, winery visits, walks along cobblestone streets, and archaeological site exploration.
Best of Sicily - 15 Days. Explore the best of Sicily on this 15-day itinerary, from Palermo's famous food scene to the Greek theater in Taormina. Visit Syracuse, the birthplace of Archimedes, to see the 2700-year-old town of Ortygia and sunny Arenella Beach. Spend four days enjoying nature and the arts in Taormina, then head to Catania, where delicious street food, and bustling fish markets await.