Italy plays host to numerous festivals each year and the Marche region is no exception. Whatever time of year you visit Le Marche, there is bound to be something to entertain you. Whether you’re a foodie or a music buff, a history enthusiast or culture lover, there is certainly a festival in Le Marche to please everyone. We thought we’d share some of our favourite Le Marche festivals with you to help with any Marche holiday planning you may be doing!
Carnivals in Le Marche
Carnival season in Italy takes place in February. The largest carnival in Le Marche takes place in Fano and attracts around 100,000 visitors each year. It also happens to be one of Italy’s oldest carnivals, dating back to 1347 when two of the town’s main families – the Dal Cassero and the Da Carignano – reconciled their differences. These days, the event takes place on three consecutive weekends and is characterised by supersized floats and papier mache puppets that parade up and down the Via Gramsci, Fano’s main street. The event is opened by the Pupo and culminates in the luminaria when the night comes and the floats are lit up. The burning of the papier mache Pupo puppet also marks the end of the celebrations along with a spectacular fireworks celebration. It’s particularly popular with children, with sweets literally raining down on your head as part of the getto. Spectators will have upturned umbrellas and boxes at the ready to catch as many as they can! All this takes place with musica arabita playing in the background. An eclectic range of instruments from cowbells to cans and bottles are played in a tradition dating back to the 9th century.
Music festivals in Le Marche
The majority of music festivals in Marche take place in the Summer months, making the most of the wonderfully warm weather. There are numerous events between July and September, catering for an incredible array of tastes, with the most important being:
Rossini Opera Festival: As the name would suggest, this festival is a celebration of Rossini’s music held annually in August in the coastal town of Pesaro. Held here as it was the birthplace of Gioacchino Rossini, operas are held both in the smaller historical Teatro Rossini as well as at the modern Adriatic Arena allowing performances to be enjoyed by up to 11,000 people at once.
Early Music Festival, Urbino: This is a superb classical music event attracting young musicians from all over the world to one of the most important cultural centres of the Renaissance.
Ancona Jazz: First held in 1973, Ancona Jazz now attracts some of the most important and influential international jazz musicians to Ancona each July, making this the most famous jazz festival in Italy.
San Severino Blues Festival: This festival is an important celebration of Afro-American music including blues, jazz, soul, gospel and rock held over July.
Jazz by the Sea, Fano: Like Ancona, Fano also has a rich jazz heritage and hosts Jazz by the Sea each year, at the end of July and beginning of August.
Summer Jamboree, Senigalia: One of our favourite festivals in Le Marche, the Summer Jamboree is a celebration of American music and culture of the 1940s and 1950s. With dozens of free concerts to enjoy and a vintage market every evening selling a plethora of 40s and 50s memorabilia and delicious street food as well as a vintage car parade and much more, this is a festival in Le Marche not to be missed.
Macerata Opera festival: There is certainly music for all tastes in Marche. Macerata is famous for its incredible opera house – the Sferisterio – which is one of the most prestigious and acclaimed open air theatres in Italy and provides a wonderful setting to watch some incredible opera singers perform. The Macerata opera festival is a 3 week event at the open air theatre. Built in 1819 and seating 2500 people, over the years, the Sferisterio has played host to some of the world’s best performers including Luciano Pavarotti, Montserrat Caballé and Placido Domingo. Each year the festival will have a different theme and the performances will all revolve around this theme. For those with a passion for opera, nearby Urbisaglia also has a short opera season in the Roman ruins there culminating in a Roman banquet on the final night.
Bababoom Festival, Marina Palmense: One of Marche’s newest music festivals, the event revolves around reggae, dub and dancehall music with music playing into the early hours on outdoor stages by the sea.
International Buskers Festival, Colmurano: We promised music festivals of all genres and Marche certainly does not disappoint. Providing an even more eclectic mix of music is the Colmurano Buskers festival. Attracting musicians and street entertainers from all over the world, this is a great event for all ages.
Historical festivals in Le Marche
Celtic Festival, Montelago: Arguably one of Marche’s more eccentric festivals, this 3 day event takes place every August and attracts druids, fairies and pixies from all over the world, coming together to celebrate Celtic life.
Castrum Sarnani, Sarnano: In the run up to Ferragosto on 15 August, Sarnano is transformed into a wonderful historical pageant. Wander around the narrow cobbled streets at this time and you’ll be taking a step back in time as the historical centre takes you on a journey through the Middle Ages. Cross the entrance and you’ll need to exchange your money for the Medieval currency – the Sarnano denari – so that you can make purchases from the ancient traders. These include the cartographer, carpenter, astronomer, blacksmith, architect, falconer, stonecutter, herbalist and much more. All are ready to offer you their humble services in exchange for the right amount of money. Wherever you roam, you’ll stumble across fire eaters, sword fighters, archers, jugglers, belly dancers, fortune tellers, minstrels and artists, whilst in the piazzas and bars, you’ll be able to enjoy some wonderful theatrical and musical performances. This truly is a feast for all the senses and is a magical experience to be enjoyed on your holiday in Italy.
Sarnano isn’t the only town to offer this glimpse into Medieval life. You could also head to Offagna in July. Here, the town’s imposing fortress – the Rock – plays host to an annual Medieval Fair that, once again, brings ancient customs back to life. Medieval inns are constructed where you can enjoy a taste of Medieval times with food and recipes inspired by Medieval menus and customs, whilst there are numerous shows to be enjoyed including falconry exhibitions, puppet and magic shows, flag waving, fencing and archery demonstrations and even a military tournament and battlefield. The streets are filled with Medieval characters from jesters to fortune tellers and from astrologists to palm readers.
If you are in search of another historical festival in a typical Italian town combining both culture and tradition, then head to Ascoli Piceno in July and August to see the Quintana, a Medieval jousting tournament held annually on the second Saturday in July and the first Sunday in August. This is one of Italy’s oldest medieval tournaments. A grand procession with 1500 participants all dressed in Medieval costume, parades through the streets preceding a jousting tournament. The tournament is an amazing spectacle. According to the best Italian tradition, during this event the different Sestieri of the city fight each other for winning the Palio: every Sestiere has its own colour, coat of arms and its own knight and the horse race is preceded and followed by other events, such as the historical parade and the flagwavers palio. The event is a real insight into how Italy would have been in the Middle Ages! Packed stands of spectators will cheer on their favourite champion, each representing their specific neighbourhood. And the celebrations then carry on into the night, as the proud winner of the joust is paraded through the night time streets. Shops open late, there is lots of eating in the main piazza and plenty of music…. a truly Italian celebration.
This isn’t the only palio in Marche though. The Palio del Duca in Sponsalia in Acquaviva Picena runs across three days in the first weekend of August. Once more, the town is immersed in a Medieval atmosphere with people dressed in traditional garb to mark the historical reenactment of the wedding of Forasteria, Rinaldo of Acquaviva’s daughter, and Rainaldo of Brunforte, in 1234. On the Thursday, spectators can enjoy the historical court, whilst the second day is when the palio takes place and the Sunday is the wedding banquet. This is a lively event with plenty of music, dancing and games. Not to mention, plenty of food with recipes dating back to the early 13th century served by waiters in Medieval attire.
Food festivals in Le Marche
There is often an overlap between festivals with food playing a key part in many of the religious and historical events too. But some events revolve solely or predominantly around food.
One of Le Marche’s most famous food festivals must undoubtedly be the White Truffle Fair in Acqualagna. This week long event is held every October / November and attracts truffle buyers from around the world, keen to get their hands on this prized delicacy. Nearly two thirds of Italy’s national truffle production comes from Acqualagna and visitors to the fair will find stalls filling the main square. Tastings, cooking competitions and exhibitions run across the 7 days and there are plenty of opportunities to buy truffles and other local food specialities.
Ascolive Festival, Ascoli Piceno: Dedicated to the delicious Marche speciality of fried olives stuffed with meat, this is a great chance to sample this delicacy for yourself.
And olives again play a central role in the annual Oil and Olive Fair in Cartoceto. Cartoceto (DOP) is home to the region’s only Protected Designation of Origin extra virgin olive oil and over the course of the 4 day event, producers will sell their oil and olives as well as other gastronomic delights including honey, salumi and cheeses.
But olives aren’t the only foodstuff to be celebrated in Le Marche. Also in November is the Grass Pea Festival held inside the city walls of Serra de’ Conti. Grass peas are an important legume in this region. Planted each April and harvested in the Summer, they are drought tolerant plants and a good source of protein and minerals. The festival celebrates this and other local produce and restaurants will put on special menus providing visitors with the chance to sample traditional recipes.
Religious festivals in Le Marche
Italy is a Roman Catholic country and celebrates a number of key religious festivals each year. In Marche, one of the most famous is the Turba in Cantiano (the Crowd in Cantiano), which is widely recognised as the most important representations of Good Friday throughout Italy. The village is transformed into an open air theatre with 250 residents donning traditional costumes to bring back to life the customs of ancient times. It all kicks off on Good Friday at five in the morning when a group of young people walk through the village streets to wake up those who want to take part in the Tour of the Seven Churches and culminates in a re-enactment that begins at eight in the evening when, to the background noise of soldiers drums and solemn hymns, the crowd makes their way through the village streets to remember the Christ’s Passion, erecting three empty crosses and giving the message of hope offered by the resurrection of the Christ.
Also of note is the Feast of Covo in Osimo. Celebrated on the the first Sunday in August since the event began in 1939, a cart made from grain is put on display and paraded through the streets, depicting something religious such as a church or place of worship.
Arguably the most colourful religious event can be found in Servigliano though to mark Corpus Domini. The pathway in the old town is decorated with fresh flower petals to create an incredible floral display inspired by Christianity and geometry. The finished carpet will stretch almost a kilometre in length and wil be ready by late morning to welcome the passage of Corpus Domini and the accompanying procession.
And, of course, mention must be made of the live nativity in Genga that takes place on 26 December and 29 December each year. Set in the stunning backdrop of a cave in the Frasassi Gorge, 300 actors re-create the nativity scene each year making this the largest living nativity in the whole world. All the performers make their way up to the cave, dressed as local craftsmen from blacksmiths to bakers and from carpenters to cobblers. Proceeds from the event all go to charity and good causes.
Christmas celebrations in Le Marche
As the year draws to a close, there are also some non religious festivals revolving around Christmas in the Marche region. Definitely our favourite of these is Candles in Candelara. The street lights are switched off and the village is beautifully lit by thousands of candles, providing the most idyllic backdrop as you wander around the wooden stalls selling Christmas gifts and handicrafts. Keep warm by sampling the traditional dishes on offer including polenta with mushrooms, salted codfish, piadina, fried olives and roasted chestnuts, all washed down with the new wine of the season and enjoy the traditional music thanks to the bagpipe players. There is even an opportunity to meet Babbo Natale (Father Christmas) in his workshop.
Another great event to help get you in the festive spirit in Le Marche is the Christmas market held in the beautiful Frontone Castle. During the event, the castle is lit up and filled with indoor stalls selling local food products, handicrafts and gifts, whilst children can enjoy the chance to see Father Christmas in person. With plenty of live entertainment on offer and chestnuts-a-plenty being roasted, this is an event that can’t fail to get you in the festive spirit.
No doubt this has all whetted your appetite to book a holiday in Le Marche so that you can get in on the action. If so, take a look at the Marche villas available to rent from Bookings For You, perfect for your next vacation in Italy.