Sicily in August

Editorial

Things to do in Sicily in August

August is a month filled with endless food and many opportunities to be part of ancient patron saint festivals. During this month, most Italians have their annual summer vacation as the temperature in Sicily hits its peak, leading to a particularly hectic series of outdoor events! Here are some must-sees:

International Music & Digital Arts Festival
Festivalle – Agrigento (5th – 8th August)

Immerse yourself in the inspiring surroundings of the Valley of the Temples with four evenings of jazz al fresco.  Line up:

Day 1 (5th): Alfredo Rodriguez Trio, Tommaso Cappellato
Day 2 (6th): Salvador Sobral, Deb & Rose, Mack, Lovesick Duo
Day 3 (7th): Fanfara Station, Kokoroko
Day 4 (8th): Tullio De Piscopo, Selton, Cratere Centrale

A Sicilian Food Festival:
Tortone Festival – Sperlinga (6th August)

As you enter the historic city, you will find the road full of stalls and ventors, offering ancient merchant goods, wine and delicacies such as legume soups and of course the typical “tortone”, a cake made with bread dough sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. Torches illuminate the small square where street artists dressed in period costumes put on performances. Expect the waving of flags, musicians and acrobats and plenty of food centred around the tortone.

A Traditional Sicilian Procession
The Festival of San Salvatore – Cefalù (2nd-6th August)

This religious celebration is held annually every August in the Sicilian city of Cefalù. The community comes alive with a few days of processions, celebrations and good eating (including a typical dish called “Pasta a Taianu” made with meat, tomatoes, aubergines and pecorino cheese) to celebrate their patron saint, San Salvatore.

The history of this festival closely links to the Duomo di Cefalù, a beautiful cathedral built during the Norman era of Sicily. The Duomo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and much of the festivities surround this building in the heart of the city. A particular focus for the religious side of the festivities is placed on the Christ Pantocrator, an image of Jesus which is the Duomo’s centrepiece. This image is seen on the flag raised at the opening of the festival, where it remains above the cathedral until the end of the festivities.

Each day brings new events including concerts, firework displays and food stalls. However, on the final day, crowds pile into the town’s harbour to watch the unique ‘ntinna a mari’ (sea antenna) competition. This traditional event involves a horizontal pole sticking out from the edge of the pier, with a flag hanging at its end that challengers must attempt to grab.

A Sicilian Public Holiday
Ferragosto – all of Italy (15th August)

Ferragosto is an ​Italian national holiday and holy day of obligation in the Catholic Church. Celebrated on 15th August, it is the height of the Italian vacation season. While many businesses in the larger cities may be closed, museums and tourist shops will be open and bustling.

The origins of Ferragosto go back to Emperor Augusto (18 BC), who established the Feriae Augusti to celebrate the break from the work in the fields, a moment in which the workers were rewarded for their fatigue in the previous months. Originally this feast was 1st August but around the fifth century AD, the Church decided to make it coincide with the Assumption of Mary into Heaven.

You’ll find celebrations all over Italy around this day, often including music, food, parades, or fireworks. In Sicily celebrations differ between provincences, but here are some key events:

  • Regatta of the Assumption – Syracuse: a rowing race within the waters of the Port, which takes place in the days right before Ferragosto.
  • Madonna del Balzo – Bisacquino: Celebrated with a pilgrimage to the Sanctuary and the traditional night-eating of watermelon (the “mulunata”) upon arrival on the mountain where the place of worship is.
  • Ballo della Cordella – Petralia Sottana: 2 couples of dancers (representing the months of the year) dance around a pole while holding ribbons, symbol of good luck
  • Vara dell’Assunta – Messina: a structure dedicated to the Madonna’s bed, which is carried by the faithful around the main streets of the city, weighing 8 tons for a height of about 14 meters.