On this spookiest of days in the annual calendar, we’re looking at how the Italians mark Halloween.
Do the Italians celebrate Halloween?
Whilst Halloween isn’t a recognised holiday in Italy, the influence of traditional American Halloween customs are beginning to creep in. However, the concept of Halloween is actually much older than the modern American celebrations anyway and, in fact, Halloween originates in Europe when 31 October would be known as All Hallow’s Eve to celebrate the night before All Saints’ Day.
Certainly, for years, Italians have celebrated All Saints’ Day – known as Tutti i Santi or La festa di Ognissanti – the day after Halloween on 1 November. Since 1949, the date has been recognised as an official public holiday in Italy and many organisations and businesses will now be closed on this day including government offices, banks, post offices and schools. The feast celebrates all the saints of the Catholic calendar and its origins date far back to the beginnings of Christianity.
But the celebrations don’t end on the 1st. The day after that, the country also celebrates All Souls Day (giorno dei morti) or Day of the Dead. After spending the previous day honouring and celebrating the lives of saints, the 2nd of November in Italy is dedicated to honouring the lives of the people who were close to you but who are no longer living.
How do Italians mark All Saints and All Souls Day?
For many Italians, this is a time to remember loved ones and visit their graves, perhaps placing the traditional funeral flower – chrysanthemums – as a mark of respect. Certainly, in the weeks leading up to All Saints and All Souls Day, you will find people cleaning and decorating the graves of loved ones. However, there are also some traditions specific to certain regions.
In Lombardy, for example, the tradition was to put a bottle of water in the kitchen so that the dead can drink whilst in Veneto, people instead offer biscuits aptly named ‘ossi da morti‘ (bones of the dead) to their loved ones. In Umbria, it’s not biscuits but cakes that are baked. Here, cakes known as ‘Stinchetti dei Morti‘ (shins of the dead) are shared and eaten. In Trentino Alto Adige, the bells are rung to call the dead to their homes and the table set for them, as it is also in Piemonte. Other regions also have their own unique traditions to mark the day. Or in Sicily, the tradition is for the dead to return and leave presents for their loved ones. It’s not unusual to see children excited to visit the cemetery to see what present their grandmother or grandfather has left for them.
What is the best place to celebrate Halloween in Italy?
These days, you’ll find many of the big Italian cities will celebrate Halloween, perhaps through fancy dress events in the night clubs or a ghost tour to get you in the mood. However, you may want to check out some of these smaller, less well-known destinations.
First and foremost, there is Corinaldo. This is a Medieval town in Le Marche and claims to be the Italian Capital of Halloween. During the last week of October, it plays host to La Festa delle Streghe (Festival of the Witches), where you’ll find plenty of entertainment on tap and a plethora of spooky attractions, which culminates in a festival of fire, music and light on 31 October.
Alternatively, what about heading to Triora, a village in Liguria. In the 16th century it held a series of witch trials during the Inquisition whilst these days it holds an annual Halloween festival with music and events lasting well into the night.
Or head to Palermo in Sicily. The location of a Capuchin Crypt which is home to 4000 skeletons’ bones, it’s certainly going to be somewhere you can be spooked!
Finally, Venice can also claim to be a rather spooky place to visit at Halloween. Poveglia Island can’t be visited on foot but it is possible to view the island by boat. Once a place where those who had the plague were quarantined, it was tragically the final home of 160,000 people who died of the disease, with human remains still clearly visible and open to the elements.
Where to stay in Italy on Halloween
Unfortunately none of the villas in Italy available from Bookings For You can claim to be haunted but if you want to ensure you don’t get a fright on your next trip to Italy, it’s worth taking a look at our portfolio of villas and apartments in Italy, perfect for your next trip, whatever the time of year you’re planning to visit.