Sicily map

Index


Introduction


In Sicily, the largest island in Italy and the Mediterranean with its 25,711 square kilometers (9,927 square miles), the climate is Mediterranean along the coasts and on the smaller islands, with mild, moderately rainy winters and hot, sunny summers. In inland areas, the climate is slightly more continental on the hills, where winters become moderately cold and summers are still hot (and often scorching), while in mountain areas, it is colder, although at the same altitude, it's certainly not as cold as in the Alps or the Apennines.
The highest mountain is Etna volcano, 3,329 meters (10,921 feet) high and located in the eastern part of the island. The summit, which is located just 25 km (15 mi) away from Catania, in winter (and often also in spring and autumn), is covered with snow. Almost the whole interior of Sicily is occupied by hills and mountains; in particular, in the north, we find some mountain ranges parallel to the coast: the Madonie, whose highest peak is Pizzo Carbonara, 1,979 meters (6,493 feet) high, the Nebrodi, whose highest peak is Mount Soro, 1,847 meters (6,060 feet) high, and the Peloritani, which reach 1,374 meters (4,419 ft). In the center and south of the region, there are mostly hills and low mountains, which reach about 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) above sea level, with the exception of the Sicani Mountains, about 30 km (18 mi) south of Palermo, which reach 1,613 meters (5,292 ft) in the highest peak, Rocca Busambra.

Mount Etna as seen from Catania

Above 1,000 meters (3,300 feet), precipitation is more abundant than at lower altitudes, so as to allow forests to grow.
On the contrary, rainfall is usually not abundant at low altitudes, since it ranges from 400 to 600 millimeters (16 to 23.5 inches) per year: it amounts to 495 mm (19.5 in) per year in Trapani, 525 mm (20.5 in) in Syracuse, 545 mm (21.5 in) in Catania, 555 mm (22 in) in Enna, 610 mm (24 in) in Palermo, and just 370 mm (14.5 in) in Gela, on the southern coast. Messina is an exception, since it receives 850 mm (33.5 in) per year. The rain pattern in Sicily is Mediterranean, with a maximum in autumn and winter, when thunderstorms are fairly frequent as well, a drop in spring, when there is already little rain, and a minimum in summer, when it rains very rarely. The landscape is often semi-arid, also because of the long summer drought, especially at low altitudes and on the southern slopes.
The island is subject to the sirocco, the hot wind from Africa, which can raise the temperature to around 20 °C (68 °F) or above in winter and 40 °C (104 °F) in summer. From June to August, during the hottest days with the sirocco, the temperature reached as high as 43 °C (109 °F) in Messina and 44/45 °C (111/113 °F) in Trapani, Palermo and Catania.
Another frequent wind is the fresh mistral, which blows from the northwest and affects mainly the western part of the island.
In Sicily, winter cold spells, which come from the Balkan Peninsula, usually only last two or three days, and are typically not intense along the coasts, where cold records are around 0 °C (32 °F), and snowfalls are very rare (occasionally, it can snow in Palermo and Messina, on the north coast, while on the south coast, in practice, it never snows). In the hills of the interior, however, snow is a little more frequent, while in mountainous areas, above a thousand meters (3,300 feet), it can sometimes be abundant.
An exceptional snowfall occurred on December 31, 2014, when snow occurred in areas where it's almost never seen, such as in Cozzo Spadaro and Pachino, on the southeastern tip of the island.

Let us now have a look at the data of some cities, starting from the coasts.

The coasts


Palermo

In Palermo, the region's capital, overlooking the Southern Tyrrhenian Sea, there are very mild winters and hot summers, like in the rest of the Sicilian coasts. The city is prone to the scirocco, which is able to increase the temperature by several degrees, but also to the maestrale, the wind that comes from Sardinia. During the summer, when sunny days prevail, the sea breeze tempers the heat.
Here are the average temperatures.
Palermo - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)9910111519222320171310
Max (°C)151516192327303128241916
Min (°F)484850525966727368635550
Max (°F)595961667381868882756661

Rainfall amounts to 615 millimeters (24 in) per year, with a maximum in autumn and winter and a minimum in summer, when it almost never rains. Here is the average precipitation.
Palermo - Average precipitation
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec.(mm)90706045251051040808595615
Prec.(in)3.52.82.41.810.40.20.41.63.13.33.724.2
Days12997421158101280

The amount of sunshine in Palermo, and in general in Sicily, is great in summer, when clear skies prevail; in winter, there are sunny periods, but also periods of bad weather, with rain, wind and thunderstorms. Here are the average sunshine hours per day.
Palermo - Sunshine
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Hours556891011108754

Palermo, the cathedral

The north-western coastal towns that are located in more exposed areas, from Mondello to Isola delle Femmine, and from Terrasini to San Vito lo Capo, are a bit cooler and windier in summer, in fact, average maximum temperatures in July and August are about 28/29 °C (82/84 °F).

San Vito lo Capo

In Trapani, and in other locations on the west coast (see Marsala and Mazara del Vallo) as well as in the rest of the north noast (see Cefalu, Milazzo), the climate is similar to that of Palermo.

Messina

On the north-eastern tip of Sicily, we find Messina, which has a particularly warm microclimate because it is closed between the strait of the same name and the Peloritani Mountains. You can notice in particular the high minimum temperatures.
Here are the average temperatures.
Messina - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)101011131620232422181412
Max (°C)141516182327303128231916
Min (°F)505052556168737572645754
Max (°F)575961647381868882736661

For its location, Messina is also particularly rainy compared to other coastal and low-lying areas of Sicily: precipitation amounts to 850 mm (33.5 in) per year, with 100 mm (4 in) or more per month from October to February. However, here too, it rains very rarely in summer. Here is the average precipitation.
Messina - Average precipitation
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec.(mm)10510085703515202565115120105850
Prec.(in)4.13.93.32.81.40.60.812.64.54.74.133.5
Days111099422369111187

Taormina is located on the east coast, halfway between Messina and Catania, 200 meters (650 feet) above sea level, at the foot of a hill of 400 meters (1,300 feet), with panoramic views on the sea and Mount Etna in the background. Around 3 km (2 mi) south of Taormina, we find Giardini-Naxos.

Taormina, theater, sea and Mount Etna in the background

Catania

On the east coast of Sicily, we find Catania, which is located in the plain of the same name, the only plain of some importance of the region. Here, the temperature range is slightly higher, in fact, nights are a bit colder in winter, while in summer, this is one of the hottest areas in Italy. While in Catania, which lies on the coast, the average maximum temperature in July and August is 32 °C (90 °F), it reaches 33 °C (91 °F) in Sigonella, 15 km (9 mi) away from the coast, and 34 °C (93 °F) in Lentini. The highest records are remarkable as well: at the Fontanarossa airport, the temperature reached 45 °C (113 °F) in June 1982 and 46 °C (115 °F) in July 1962. In Catenanuova, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) away from the coast and in the province of Enna, it reached as high as 48 °C (118.5 °F), though the weather station is not officially recognized.
Here are the average temperatures in Catania.
Catania - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)5578121619191714107
Max (°C)161618202428323229252017
Min (°F)414145465461666663575045
Max (°F)616164687582909084776863

In Catania, 550 mm (21.5 in) of rain fall per year, with a maximum in autumn, and as usual, a pronounced minimum in summer. Here is the average rainfall.
Catania - Average precipitation
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec.(mm)75554535205510451056585550
Prec.(in)32.21.81.40.80.20.20.41.84.12.63.321.7
Days87653112375856

Syracuse

South of Catania, and still on the east coast, we find Syracuse, where the climate is similar, although the night temperatures are slightly higher.
Here are the average temperatures.
Syracuse - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)78911141821211916129
Max (°C)151517202428313128242016
Min (°F)454648525764707066615448
Max (°F)595963687582888882756861

In Syracuse, precipitation too, is similar to that of Catania in both amount and pattern.
Here is the average precipitation.
Syracuse - Average precipitation
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec.(mm)755045301553745809580525
Prec.(in)321.81.20.60.20.10.31.83.13.73.120.7
Days97643111478960

On the south coast of Sicily, in cities such as Sciacca, Porto Empedocle (near Agrigento), Licata, and Gela, the climate is similar to that of Syracuse, although the rains are even less abundant, in fact, they hover around 400/450 mm (15.5/17.5 in) per year, and in some cases, they drop even below 400 mm (16 in).

Sea temperature



The sea in Sicily is warm enough for swimming from July to September. In June, the sea is still a bit cool, while in October, after the summer, the water temperature is still decent, around 23 °C (73 °F): on fine days, perhaps when the sirocco blows, locals go to the beach. For example, here is the sea temperature near Palermo (in the rest of the region, it is essentially the same).
Palermo - Sea temperature
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp (°C)151515151821242625232017
Temp (°F)595959596470757977736863

Inland areas



With the exception of the aforementioned plain of Catania, the interior of Sicily is occupied by hills and mountains. Here, winter gradually becomes colder with increasing altitude, and above 800 meters (2,600 feet), and sometimes as low as 500 meters (1,600 feet), it can snow during cold spells; sometimes, fog can form. In summer, however, a peculiar situation occurs: in the first few hundred meters of altitude, the temperature does not decrease, actually, it can be even higher than on the coasts, since the mild influence of the sea is absent or reduced here, so there are often very hot days. Precipitation in this area is generally quite low, around or below 500 mm (20 in) per year, while it increases again at higher altitudes, above 1,000 meters (3,300 feet). As always, however, summer is the driest season.
For example, here are the average temperatures of Ragusa, the capital of the southernmost province of Italy, located at 500 meters (1,600 feet) above sea level.
Ragusa - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)446811161819161295
Max (°C)121315172329323228221814
Min (°F)393943465261646661544841
Max (°F)545559637384909082726457

In Caltanissetta, at 570 meters (1,870 feet) above sea level, the temperatures are very similar to those of Ragusa.

Enna

To find lower temperatures also in summer, we have to climb further in altitude. In Enna, the highest provincial capital of Italy, located in the center of Sicily and at about 900 meters (3,000 feet) of altitude, fog often forms in autumn and winter, while the heat is generally bearable in summer, althoug the temperature can reach 35/36 °C (95/97 °F) when the sirocco blows. In winter, during cold spells, sometimes it can snow and freeze.
Here are the average temperatures of Prizzi, located further to the west, at 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) above sea level (and whose temperatures are similar to those of Enna).
Prizzi - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)223510141717141064
Max (°C)781013192427272317128
Min (°F)363637415057636357504339
Max (°F)454650556675818173635446

In Prizzi, 600 mm (23.5 in) of rain fall per year, as always, with a maximum in autumn and winter and a minimum in summer.
Here is the average precipitation.
Prizzi - Average precipitation
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec.(mm)65605055301081550808585600
Prec.(in)2.62.422.21.20.40.30.623.13.33.323.6
Days10988421258101178

Best Time



The best time to visit Sicily for a beach holiday is the summer, from June to August. The sea temperature is comfortable enough from July to September, although in September, which in any case is still a good month (especially in the first half), the first periods of bad weather begin to occur. In June, as mentioned, the sea is still a bit cool, while in May, it is even cold, and sometimes, the air can also be a little cool for sunbathing.
April and May are advisable months for hiking and visiting cities, while in summer, it can sometimes be too hot to get around with ease. In October, the temperatures are mild or pleasantly warm, but the days are shorter and the weather can be rainy and windy.

For the islands of Sicily, see:
Aegadian Islands
Aeolian Islands
Lampedusa
Pantelleria
Ustica

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