Italy is a country that has taken the care and effort to preserve its history and traditions. It’s worth planning your trip to coincide with one of the superb festivals that the country offers. Here’s Bookings For You’s list of the top festivals in Italy to visit in 2014! It’s very hard to put together an exhaustive list but hopefully this will provide holidaymakers with a good starting point. We have arranged them by month which will hopefully allow you to most easily plan your trips around what’s on and when!
Umbria Gospel Festival starts at the end of December with events running into the first week of January each year.
Epiphany is celebrated each year in Italy on January 6th. Many towns and villages will hold live nativities. Get in touch with the local tourist office to see whether there is something in your local area. On that night, children will hang out their stockings for La Befana.
The Festival of San Antonio Abate celebrated in the regions in the South of Italy.
On the first Sunday in February, Agrigento in Sicily celebrates the first almond blossoms of the season in its Festa del Fiore del Mandorlo.
The Viareggio Carnival will be held on 16 and 23 February and the 2, 4 and 9 March 2014.
The Venice Carnival will be held from 15 February to 4 March 2014.
The Carnivale di Ivrea (North East of Turin) is a messy couple of days in February when participants pelt each other with oranges as they process through the streets.
(Many other smaller towns and villages will also celebrate Carnevale at this time of year.)
Festival of Saint Agatha in Catania, Sicily, a large festival held in honour of Saint Agatha and which culminates in a large firework display.
Torchlight parade on 14 February each year in Terni, celebrating the town’s patron saint , San Valentino
18 February sees the celebration of St Joseph in Rocca San Casciano. Visitors will enjoy a large parade and a bonfire building competition.
Festa dell’ Olivo (Olive Festival) and Sagra della Bruschetta in Spello, Umbria.
The Festa della Donna (Women’s day) is celebrated on 8 March. The tradition is for men to bring flowers, often yellow Mimosa, to the women in their lives. Restaurants often lay on special Festa della Donna meals. Some museums and tourist attractions offer free or reduced admission for women
Caesar’s death is commemorated in Rome on March 14 each year. Cultural events are often held in the Roman Forum near the statue of the Roman Emperor.
Father’s Day in Italy is on 19 March and is also known as the Feast Day of San Giuseppe. The day is traditionally celebrated all over Italy with bonfires and processions. For those visiting Tuscany, the Palio dei Somari (donkey race) is held in Torrita di Siena on this day.
Dependent on when Easter falls, March or April is a great time to visit Italy. If you can, head to Rome as there are plenty of events in the city around Easter time, starting with a special mass led by the Pope in Saint Peter’s Square in the Vatican city. However, wherever you are in the country, there will be plenty of celebrations taking place. One of note is the Scoppio del Carro in Florence on Easter Sunday. A huge cart is dragged through the city by white oxen culminating in a huge firework and pyrotechnic display. Also worth seeing, is the Good Friday procession in Enna, Sicily, when over 2000 friars parade through the streets of the city.
On the whole, many of the celebrations on Good Friday and the Saturday tend to be more solemn whereas those on Easter Monday (La Pasquetta) – a national holiday – tend to be more joyful.
The Palio della Rena is arguably one of the more unusual races in Italy. Held in Fermignano, contestants dress in historic costumes and race their frogs on wheelbarrows. The winner is the contestant to cross the finishing line first (and with their frog still on board!)
21 April is the birthday of Rome. There are plenty of events in the city culminating in a fireworks display over the River Tiber and gladiator shows around the forum.
Just a couple of days later on 23 April, in Caresana in the Piedmont region, Saint George’s Day is celebrated with the Palio dei Buoi.
25 April is a national holiday in Italy commemorating liberation day. There are many events all over Italy including the Festival of San Marco in Venice. On this day, men traditionally give a rose to the women they love.
At the end of April, there is the Corsa all’ anello, a medieval jousting competition.
1 May is a public holiday throughout Italy and many cities and towns will hold parades and celebrations to commemorate the day.
The Festival of the Snakes held on the first Thursday in May in Cocullo in Abruzzo is arguably one of the most unusual festivals in Italy. Local legend has it that the town’s patron saint, Dominic Abbot helped the town by rendering all the poisonous snakes in the area harmless. So, during the festival, a statue of the Saint is carried, draped with hundreds of live snakes.
In Gubbio, holidaymakers can watch the Corsa dei Ceri, when figures representing the patron saints are raced through the streets of the town by ceraioli
Don’t miss the Cantine Aperte on the last Sunday in May, when wine cellars all over Italy open their cellars to the public. Many will offer free guided tours and explain their methods of cultivation to those wishing to learn more.
The Giro d”Italia is a world famous cycling race held every May.
The Sued Tirol Jazz Festival is held each year at the end of June and beginning of July in the North of the country, attracting musicians from all over the world.
The Goa Boa festival is a music festival held in Liguria each June and July.
The Calcio Storico Fiorentino in the second half of June in Florence is a Medieval style football tournament celebrating San Giovanni, the city’s patron saint. It’s a tremendous spectacle, well worth seeing.
Also in Florence in June is the Tuscan Sun Festival, a week of music, arts and culture.
In nearby Pisa on 16 June there is the Illuminations of Saint Ranieri, when the River Arno, its bridges and buildings lining the river are illuminated by over 70,000 candles to celebrate the city’s patron saint. There is a regatta along the river the following day when 4 boats representing the 4 districts of the city race each other.
The feast day of San Giovanni Battista is celebrated in many parts of Italy. One of the most well known festivals is on Lake Como. Every year the Comacina Island on Lake Como becomes the setting for a fireworks display during the San Giovanni Festival. Earlier in the day, hundreds of tiny lamps float on the lake and there is a large boat parade.
The Verona Opera season kicks off in late June and runs throughout the Summer months.
Another music festival is the Festival of Two Worlds in Umbria. Held annually in Spoleto, the Festival dei Due Mondi has much to offer including jazz, opera, and classical music as well as dance, theatre and cinema events. Spoleto is a gorgeous town and provides a stunning backdrop to the event. www.festivaldispoleto.com.
Also in Umbria in June is the Palio della Quintana in Foligno. This is a colourful and exciting event, re-enacting a jousting tournament with knights on horseback. Ten horsemen, each representing one of the city’s wards, face off in a ring joust. On three successive runs, the horsemen must gallop along and insert their lance into the rings shose diamater shrinks with each run. There are actually three joust events each year – the Baroque Carnival in February, the June Challenge and the Rematch in September.
The palio in Siena is held each year on both 2 July and 16 August in the Piazza del Campo. The city will of course get incredibly busy and to get a decent view you’ll need to be in position by early afternoon, whilst the race itself doesn’t start until 7 p.m. or 7.45 p.m. For more details take a look at the offical website of Siena – www.comune.siena.it.
Also on 2 July, is the Festa della Madonna Bruna in Matera in Southern Italy. The festival starts with the procession of the shepherds at first light and culminates in a large fireworks display in the evening.
Besides the palio in Siena, there are other horse races in Italy in July. The L’Ardia di San Costantino is a horse race around the Sanctuary of San Costantino in Sedilo on the island of Sardinia. The race takes place twice, in the evening and again the following morning after most of the riders have been up drinking most of the night!
Another is the Terzieri Palio in Montecassiano. Not only does it feature horse racing, but also other competitions between the towns three historic neighbourhoods.
The Festa del Redentore is a religious festival in Venice, culminating in a large fireworks display.
There are also plenty of music festivals across Italy across July. Firstly, there is the Trasimeno Blues festival on the shores of Lake Trasimeno in Umbria. The Umbria Jazz Festival is also held each July in Perugia and is fast becoming one of the most important jazz events in the world. Neighbouring Tuscany has the Lucca Summer Festival to offer as well as the Puccini Festival which runs across July and August in Torre del Lago in Tuscany. Finally, the Gubbio Summer Festival offers a series of music concerts and events.
The Ravello Festival offers visitors some stunning classical concerts to enjoy on the Amalfi Coas, whilst further North in Italy on Lake Maggiore, the Stresa Music Festival offers a series of concerts in and around the popular lakeside town of Stresa.
The Rossini Opera Festival is held in Pesaro in Le Marche between 10 and 22 August 2014.
The Venice Film Festival runs from the end of August and across the first week of September each year. Held on the Venice lido, the event aims to raise awareness and promote the various aspects of international cinema in all its forms.
15 August is Ferragosto, a national holiday throughout Italy, celebrated with many local firework displays and events.
The Venice Regatta is held on the first Sunday in September and always begins with a wonderful procession of gondolas along the Grand Canal.
Nearby Verona celebrates the birthday of Juliet on 12 September with plenty of street entertainment and parties.
The Sagra del Vino is one of Italy’s most famous wine festivals.
The Alba Truffle Fair is held each weekend in October and November, a fair dedicated to the famous white truffle.
Eurochocolate is held in Perugia in October and celebrates all things chocolate!
Less old than the Venice film festival, the Turin film festival celebrates it’s 31st year in 2014.
November is the time of the olive harvest and is celebrated with olive oil festivals throughout the country.
Oh Bej! Oh Bej! is celebrated in Milan in December with a massive street market commemorating the city’s patron saint, Sant’ Ambrogio.
If you need any help finding accommodation for your trip, please do get in touch with Bookings For You, a family-run company offering holiday villas and apartments in Italy.