Pollen-based quantitative estimates of seasonal precipitation from Lake Pergusa and lake-level data from Lake Preola in Sicily (southern Italy) allow three successive periods to be distinguished within the Holocene: an early Holocene period before ca. 9800 cal a BP with rather dry climate conditions in winter and summer, a mid-Holocene period between ca. 9800 and 4500 cal a BP with maximum winter and summer wetness, and a late Holocene period after 4500 cal a BP with declining winter and summer wetness. This evolution observed in the south-central Mediterranean shows strong similarities to that recognized in the eastern Mediterranean. But, it contrasts with that reconstructed in north-central Italy, where the mid-Holocene appears to be characterized by a winter (summer) precipitation maximum (minimum), while the late Holocene coincided with a decrease (increase) in winter (summer) precipitation. Maximum precipitation at ca. 10 000–4500 cal a BP may have resulted from (i) increased local convection in response to a Holocene insolation maximum at 10 000 cal a BP and then (ii) the gradual weakening of the Hadley cell activity, which allowed the winter rainy westerlies to reach the Mediterranean area more frequently. After 4500 cal a BP, changes in precipitation seasonality may reflect non-linear responses to orbitally driven insolation decrease in addition to seasonal and inter-hemispheric changes of insolation. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.