Sicily is beautiful at all times of year – however, a trip to the famous island on New Year’s Eve is a strategic way to avoid its scorching summer heat. What’s more, the swarms of tourists from the summer are not to be found in the period over Christmas and New Year’s Eve, providing a calmer and more relaxed atmosphere to celebrate the arrival of a new year and visit the beautiful cities on offer, such as Catania, Syracuse, Palermo, and many others.
Let’s start with Catania, situated on the east coast of Sicily. It is also the closest big city to the famous Mount Etna volcano, which is clearly visible from lots of areas of the city facing north-west. Piazza Duomo (Dome Square) is where the biggest concert normally takes place on New Year’s Eve, with artists of national fame performing and followed by a DJ set continuing into the early hours.
If you would like to soak up some rich classical music, you could visit Teatro Bellini, which hosts a concert each year on December 31. Opened in 1890, Teatro Bellini was constructed in neo-baroque style, boasts frescoed ceilings and is a key piece of architecture in Catania. You can also go on a guided tour of the building – see the official website.
Just south of Catania is the richly historic Syracuse, which also hosts celebrations in the historic centre. The annual New Year’s Eve is generally held in the splendid baroque setting of Piazza Duomo (Dome Square), offering several DJ sets that kick on until late at night. Important to note – the Piazza Duomo is located in the neighbourhood of Ortigia. We would highly recommend a visit down to Ortigia – it is an island full of historical buildings, bars and restaurants. It’s a must-see for tourists in town!
There are always outdoor concerts on December 31 in the historic centre of Palermo, located on the north-west coast of the island. The exact square at which it takes place can change – last year’s concert took place in Piazza Giulio Cesare (Piazza Julius Caesar). We will update the information for the upcoming New Year’s Eve when it becomes available.
Like Catania, Palermo has a beautiful theatre, Teatro Massimo, in which to indulge in a classical music performance of the highest order. Sometimes there is a concert on both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, sometimes just on New Year’s Eve. For more information, you can visit the official website.
Taormina is one of the most picturesque places in all of Sicily, with its view of the volcano Mount Etna and the stunning ancient Greek theatre looking over the sea.
As far as New Year’s Eve goes, the main celebrations are to be found in the gorgeous Piazza IX Aprile, located south of the historic centre and laid down with checkered tiles. From the square, you can admire the beautiful Baia di Naxos (Bay of Naxos) below and the majestic Mount Etna, which is usually covered in snow at this time of the year. There is normally a DJ set performed in this square on December 31.
Quite often there are also Christmas decorations still up around the city – the massive Christmas tree in the middle of Piazza IX Aprile and, oddly, specially decorated orange trees!
From the terrace of the square, you can also observe the fireworks set off in the Bay of Naxos below and in the villages on the slopes of Mount Etna.
Before or after New Year’s Eve, we also recommend a visit to the nearby village of Castelmola, situated on a mountain about 20 minutes’ drive up from Taormina (it is best to go there by car). From here, you can enjoy an even more breathtaking view and a little more tranquillity as it gets less crowded than Taormina itself.
Many hotels in Taormina offer packages for the New Year period – these will be added here as soon as they become available.
If you are all about nature and the glorious Mount Etna is your number one destination in Sicily, you can spend it at the Sapienza Refuge, a hotel located at 1910 metres, offering the best and closest view of Mount Etna. The hotel has a bar and restaurant and several treks organised by tour operators and local guides that leave from the hotel and go around Mount Etna.
Messina offers another unique viewpoint to reign in the New Year – the Strait of Messina allows you to see both Sicily and, on the mainland, Calabria. From certain vantage points, you can see both sets of fireworks! The New Year’s Eve celebrations in Messina are held in Piazza Duomo (Dome Square). We recommend a visit to Piazza Duomo also at 12 pm midday to see the performance of the ‘the rooster and the lion’ – statues in the bell tower of the cathedral. Many people gather around the cathedral, looking up to watch the rooster sing and the lion roar above them – it’s a really cool spectacle and a must-do in Messina!
In recent years, there have been increasingly more organised walking tours in many of Sicily’s cities, even some of the smaller ones. It’s important to note the tours are in Italian and English in the big cities.
Here are some recommended tours in English:
- Palermo: Guruwalk
- Catania: Free Tour Catania
- Siracusa: Hermes Sicily
- Messina: Discover Messina (this walking tour is not free)
The small cities may only offer tours in Italian.
We also ask you to be careful over New Year’s Eve as some people set off their own fireworks illegally – do your best to avoid these areas and stick to the area where there are official NYE events organised by the city.
To travel between cities in Sicily, you can take trains or coaches. Coaches are perhaps the ideal option as they reach inland as well as coastal locations, whereas not all trains do. They are also more punctual, inexpensive and quite comfortable.
Here is a link to coaches in Sicily:
- Sais Autolinee (site only in Italian)
Main routes: Catania-Messina, Catania-Palermo, Palermo-Messina, also offering connections with mainland cities in Italy.
- Interbus (site only in Italian)
Main routes: Catania-Siracusa, Catania-Taormina, Catania-Noto, Catania-Ragusa.
- Autoservizi Salemi (site in English) – This service also covers the western and southern parts of Sicily. It all offers connections to mainland cities in Italy.
Here is a link to Trenitalia, the official train service in Italy.
You may feel adventurous enough to rent a car. Note that driving a car in Sicily can be a bit more unpredictable than what you are used to, especially in Palermo.
Sicily is a wonderfully diverse place with a lot to offer. A tour of the island is always a good idea and wherever you end up on New Year’s Eve, we can guarantee it will be a memorable experience. With its own culture and customs, you will get to know a whole other side of Italy!