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Festivals in Italy - A Calendar of Events

Italy’s an almost impossibly vibrant country given to ebullient expressions of joie de vivre at the best of times. But, whether it’s a huge international event like the Venice Carnival or the tiniest village festival, Italy likes nothing more than to let its hair down for one huge party.


In the run-up to Easter, the whole country shakes itself down for Carnival Season in February. And celebrations vary from the solemnity and religious pomp and show of the Festa di Sant’Agata in Sicily, to the fantastic masked palio-like event of Sartiglia in Oristano, Sardinia.

Then, to the north of the country, the biggest of them all gets underway: the Carnevale di Venezia. The Venice Carnival starts a couple of weeks before Ash Wednesday and comes to a glorious conclusion on Shrove Tuesday. A wonderfully grand event that harks back to the decadence of yesteryear, Venice hostels and hotels overflow with masked revelers and a fair few onlookers, too!

Over in the small town of Ivrea, their carnival celebrations take on a stranger (but no less ancient) form in the Battle of the Oranges. Every year, the town divides itself up into teams, gets dressed up in Medieval garb, and then a big orange fight ensues!

And from the ridiculous to the sublime… April brings with it more religious events in the shape of the devotional displays of the Rito dei Battienti in Nocera Tirinese, and, in Florence the religious fireworks display of Lo Scoppio del Carro on Easter Sunday.

Marvelous May

With the coming of summer, May is given over to naturally-inspired events across the length and breadth of the country. Early May sees Cocullo’s Festival of Snakes, an age-old festival whereby the townsfolk cover the statue of their Patron Saint, San Domenico Abate, with live snakes.

Another event with an animal theme is Florence’s Festa del Grillo. Taking place over the first three Sundays of the month, it’s a slightly odd celebration of the humble cricket! Gastronomic events, meanwhile, include International Wine Day (on the last Sunday of the month) and Alba’s sensational truffle festival (throughout late April and early May).

Joyous June and July

Few countries in the world share Italy’s near religious devotion to football, and this could hardly be more evident than in the historical celebration of the beautiful game that is the Calcio Storico Fiorentino on 24th June. On a (slightly) more cultural level, June also sees the start of the opera season in Verona and the Amalfi Coast Opera Festival in Positano.

Coming hot on the heels of the cultural outpourings of June, July kicks off with another of Italy’s showcase events: the Palio in Siena. Taking place on the 2nd July, the bareback medieval costumed charge around the campo is undoubtedly one of the world’s most famous horseraces.

Sizzling Summer Events

At the height of summer, August is probably the highpoint of the Italian calendar. On the 15th, the Ferragosto, is a National Holiday, and sees widespread festivities across the country. Then the next day, on the 16th, there’s Siena’s second Palio – just in case you missed the first!

Over in Venice the sweltering month of August is spent in feverish preparation for one of the highlights of the international cinema calendar: the Venice Film Festival. The world’s oldest film festival, it sees cinema’s aristocracy come to town to see who’ll scoop the prestigious Golden Lion Award.

And the pace doesn’t slack off in the city for a second as August rolls into September: The first Sunday of the month sees yet another Medieval-themed event hit Venice’s Grand Canal in the gondola race of La Regatta di Venezia.

Down to the south, on September 19th (and again in May and December) the sultry city of Naples celebrates the Festa di San Gennaro, whereby the decapitated Saint’s blood ‘liquefies’ to the amazement of the hordes of onlookers. Throughout the month, meanwhile, right across the country various celebration of the wine harvest – La Vendemmia – get underway.

Awesome Autumn

As late summer turns into golden autumn, the first week of October heralds the start of the best known wine festival in the town of Marino (not far from Rome): the Sagra del Vino. Similarly delicious goings-on take place in Perugia on the third and fourth weekends of the month with the Eurochocolate Festival.

November is the start of the olive oil harvesting season in Italy, and, as with the grape harvest, there are countless fantastic local festivals.

Then, of course, the year winds up with Christmas, and various fantastic nativity scenes like the ‘Bethlehem in the Grotto’ display of Stiffe, L’Aquila. Much like the country as a whole, it’s an intimate, strangely affecting and yet larger than life affair.

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