Festivals are popular in Italy and many are based around old traditional religious events. There are though some great festivals to see in Sicily as a tourist and the three below are my personal favourites.
This annual beach festival which takes in May, takes place on Mondello Beach which is on Palermo coastline in Sicily plays host to the annual World Festival on the Beach. This festival is a celebration of beach culture and the outdoors life and the festival has become a very popular summer event which now attracts people from across Italy and further afield. This event takes place over the course of 5 – 7 days (it varies each year) and normally includes a number of activities such as windsurfing, beach volleyball, paragliding and sailing.
The week’s events normally begin with a cycle race followed by a water combo race which is a combination of canoeing, running and swimming. On the first two days of the festival, the beach volleyball tournaments take place, featuring both the Italian Series for men and the youth beach volleyball tournament. One of the most important events of the World Festival on the Beach alos tends to be the Windsurf Classic Olympics, European Open Championship.
Other events which you can expect to see and apply to compete in include the many surf competitions, golf driving competitions, float plan exhibitions, skydiving, paragliding and parachuting. The festival is also famous for music and usually puts up a few jazz concerts and performances from various other music styles. The weekend at the end of the festival is dedicated to the tall ship races that take place from Palermo to Mondello.
The Cous Cous Festival is an annual food-oriented festival held in San Vito Lo Capo, a small town located in the Italian province of Trapani. When people think of Italy and its cuisine, they do not immediately think of food with Arab influences but cous cous is one of the best dishes that San Vito Lo Capo has to offer. Culinary experts from countries like Brazil, Morocco, Turkey and Senegal participate in San Vito Lo Capo’s Cous Cous Festival during the month of September. One of the festival’s main aims is to break cultural and geographical boundaries, by bringing together European and Middle Eastern cous cous recipes.
One of the highlights of the festival is the gastronomic village where visitors and tourists can sample a wide variety of dishes. Participants can sample different dishes from speciality houses like “The House of cous cous in San Vito Lo Capo”. Along with cous cous dishes, you can also sample the best wines that Sicily has to offer, in addition to attending the world famous International Gastronomic Cous Cous Competition, during which the world’s top cous cous chefs battle to create the most delicious and original dish during the festival. Other highlights of the festival include musical concerts, belly dancing and food tasting
North African ingredients, smells, spices and flavours have long become an ubiquitous feature of Sicilian cooking. The festival celebrates a typical dish of North African origins, cooked with fresh fish or vegetables. Entrance is free, but the food is not. The couscous with fish soup and chunks of swordfish is a must. Alongside the main event there is a full week of entertainment, including fusion and global music concerts, tastings of Sicilian wines, cultural events and evenings dedicated to fine cuisine.
You can visit the official Cous Cous Festival website to clarify the latest dates, times and setup.
The carriage festival, which is held in Taormina every year, is closely associated with music, colour, art, religion and horses. The event, which is jointly organised by the Association of Sicilian Carts Trecastagni and the Tourism of the Municipality of Taormina, features a procession of brilliantly painted Sicilian carts. The parade of carts commences at 6pm and is held on Fridays in the months of September and October and on various dates in the month of June. The purpose of the event is religious and cultural, seeking to develop awareness regarding the Sicilian culture, way of life and folklore among the large crowds of local visitors and tourists who come to view the event. The economy of the area also experiences a significant boost during these days.
With the decorated and colourful carts, decorated horses and theatrically dressed drivers and musicians singing Sicilian ancient folk songs to the accompaniment of tambourines, accordions and flutes. It has been said that the parade bears a striking resemblance to the Venetian Carnival. The religious significance of the Sicilian Carriage Festival is that it is held as part of a religious festival in Trecastagni, celebrated in honor of three brothers who died the death of martyrs. The carts therefore are decorated with colourful paintings, motifs and murals illustrating religious values as well as tales of crusaders.