Best Italian Festivals Throughout the Year - Month by Month Festivals in Italy
When you travel to Italy don't miss out on some of the best festivals in Italy, including seasonal events. Italian Festivals occur throughout the year and can be found in both major cities and small hill top towns.
These could be religious festivals, where every patron saint imaginable is given a special day of celebration, or a secular festival where there is wine tasting, a gastronomic feast of truffles, chestnuts, meat, porcini or pasta depending on the season, or perhaps the most known festival - the great Venice carnival where masks and gowns abound and the whole of Venice is transformed of a few days into a city of a magical by-gone era.
Below is a list of some of the best festivals and major events in Italy as they occur every month. As these change from year to year, we suggest that you get in touch with the Italian Tourist Board and ask them the exact dates of each festival.
Major Festivals in Italy
January: Fair of Sant' Orso in Aosta
February: Feast of the Almond Blossom in Agrigento
February - March: Carnival in Venice, Viareggio and Ivrea
March - April: Scoppio del Carro in Florence
May: Candle Race in Gubbio
June: Flower festival in Genzano
July: Palio horserace in Siena
August: Quintana tournament in Arezzo, Quintana tournament in Ascoli Piceno, Palio in Siena
September: Historical Regatta in Venice, Chess Game in Marostica
October: Grape Festival in Merano
November: Feast of the Madonna della Salute in Venice
December: Franciscan Crib in Greccio, Lazio
Major Seasonal Events in Italy
Maggio Musicale in Florence, May-June
Festival of the Two Worlds in Spoleto, June-July
Umbria Jazz, July
Venice Biennale from June - September
International Cinema Festival in Venice, August - September
Settimane Musicali in Stresa, August - September
Lyrical and Opera Season at La Scala, Milan and the Arena in Verona
BEST FESTIVALS IN ITALY for January
Capdanno This is New Years Day which is celebrated all over the country with fireworks and gun shots to ward off the evil spirits and make way for the New Year.
Festa di San Sebastiano Dolceaqua, Liguria. This is a small village with about 2000 inhabitants. They celebrate Saint's Day with a laurel tree carried through the village with colorful communion hosts attached to the tree.
Festa d'o'Cippo di Sant'-Antonio, Naples (17th January). A procession in honour of St. Anthony, the protector of animals.
Carnevale Viareggio, Tuscany (Jan-Feb). A carnival with allegorical floats, masked pageants, fireworks and a flower show. This takes place along the Italian Riviera.
BEST FESTIVALS IN ITALY for February
A magnificent dress in a shop window for the Venice Carnival
Carnevale Venice, Veneto. The Venice carnival is to celebrate the abstinence of eating meat, and takes place 10 days before Lent and finishes up on Shrove Tuesday. A time for masked revelers and celebrations including plays, fireworks and indoor and outdoor functions of every description. People either make or hire beautiful gowns and outfits for the occasion, such as the dress above, and buy masks that can be extremely expensive, if they are of good quality.
Sagra delle Mandorle in Fiore (Feast of the Almond Blossom), Agrigento, Sicily. This is the almond festival which includes a week of dancing and folk music from groups participating from different countries. The festival takes place in the Valley of the Temples.
A collection of masks for the Masked Balls of Verona
Bacanal del Gnoco Verona, Veneto. A festival of masked balls in the evening held in the town's squares and traditional masked processions with allegorical floats from local and international participants.
Carnevale Mamoiada, Sardinia. This is a 3 day event where dancing takes place in the village square and parades take place over the three days. The main attractions are the Mamuthones and Issohadores, Sardinia's most renowned masks.
BEST FESTIVALS IN ITALY for March
Sa Sartiglia Oristino, Sardinia. This is a three day carnival ending on Shrove Tuesday. The main event is a horse race involving knights in Medieval costume who are in the tournament to collect silver stars. The more stars that are collected, the better the harvest will be for the coming planting season.
Palio dei Falo Lezzeno, Lake Como. A large bonfire building competition where groups of people get together to build the biggest and most unusual bonfires. These can be seen across the lake, and make a spectacular show.
BEST FESTIVALS IN ITALY for April
Dance of the Devils (Easter Sunday), Prizzi, Sicily. A dance which plays out to make one remember the attempts of evil to destroy the forces of good.
Scoppio del Carro (Easter Sunday) Florence, Tuscany. A cart (carro) is hauled in front of the Duomo, packed with fireworks. A mechanical dove then lights the fireworks during noonday mass.
Festa degli Aquiloni (First Sunday after Easter) San Miniato, Tuscany. A festival for kite lovers who perform kite aerobatics for the spectators during the National Kite Flying Championships.
Festa di San Marco Venice, Veneto. A gondola race takes place across St. Mark's basin to commemorate the patron saint of Venice, St. Mark himself.
BEST FESTIVALS IN ITALY for May
Festa dei Ceri (Candel Race) (15th May) Gubbio, Umbria. This is the race of the candles and the procession in local costume leads to the top of Mount Ingino. These are wooden candles reaching some 7 meters in height, attached to wooden hand-barrows.
Festa dei Serpari Cocullo, Abruzzo. Usually held on the first Thursday of May. It is a procession to honor their patron saint St. Dominic, and in doing so, they drape his statue with live snakes which have had their fangs removed. The snake catchers and others in the procession drape snakes over themselves too. After the celebrations, the snakes are released back into the countryside.
Festa della Mela Auer, Trentino-Alto Adige. The festival of apples takes place in Auer, known as the gateway to the Dolomites.
The Festival of Archers in Sansepolcro, Italy
The Palio of Archers Gubbio, Umbria and Sancepolro, Tuscany. A medieval crossbow contest. In the morning, a herald reads out the challenges to the competitors from Sansepolcro. In the afternoon, there is a ceremony blessing the crossbows which is followed by a flag waving and throwing display. Later the competition takes place. In September the competition is hosted by Sansepolcro. The "Balestro del Girifalco" Massa Marittima, Tuscany. This festival has taken place since ancient times, twice a year on the first Sunday after May 20 and the 2nd Sunday of August. The Balestro is a crossbow competition between the quarters of the city, named " Terzieri", which consists of hitting the target placed at a distance of 36 meters from the start. Each crossbowman, 24 maximum, shoots an arrow. The crossbowman who is able to put the arrow nearest the target center is the winner. A gold arrow made by an artist, is the prize for the winning arbalester, whereas, the winning quarter receives the "Palio", a painted silk cloth. About 200 people in Medieval costumes take part in this pageant.
BEST FESTIVALS IN ITALY for June
Festa della Fragola Lago di Nemi, south-east of Rome. A festival to celebrate strawberries.
The Battle of the Bridge Pisa, Tuscany. A huge participating crowd of about 100, 000 each year get dressed up in medieval costume and proceed along the Arno River before the battle. Then armies compete with each other by taking turns in pushing a huge cart weighing several tonnes.
Infiorata Genzano, Rome. This is a religious procession along the streets which are carpeted with flowers in fantastic designs.
Calcio Storico Fiorentino, Florence, Tuscany. A ball game played in 16th century costumes to commemorate a soccer match that was played in 1530, with no resemblance to soccer. The two teams consist of 27 men each and the game is a mixture of soccer, rugby and wrestling. Firework displays are held in the evening.
BEST FESTIVALS IN ITALY for July
Corsa del Palio Siena, Tuscany. This is a colorful, bareback horse race that takes place in the Piazza with participants competing for the polio (banner).
Festa della Madonna della Bruna (2nd July), Matera, Bascilicata. She is so called because the image of her in the Duomo once was a very dark shade of brown. The procession involves costumed men on horseback, arches of light to guide them through the streets, as well as a paper-mache cart that is torn apart by the young men in the town symbolizing hope for the new and fertility for the crops.
Festa dei Noiantri Rome, Lazio. An open-air food festival that takes place in the streets of Trastevere. Stalls can be found all along the Tiber near Ponte Sant'Angelo displaying Italian arts, crafts, food, especially bruschetta and wine. There is also folk music.
Festa della Santa Maria del Carmine Naples, Campania. The celebrations start the night before the festival date with fireworks and explosions designed to make the Bell Tower of the Santa Maria del Carmine on Piazza Mercato look as if it is on fire. It is a 75 meter structure which can be seen from most points around Naples. A most spectacular sight. On the day itself mass is held every hour from 7 in the morning till 7 in the evening, waiting for the devout to come and be blessed by the saint.
Corsa del Palio Siena, Tuscany Mrohana | Dreamstime.com
BEST FESTIVALS IN ITALY for August
Medieval Palio, Feltre, Veneto. The town is divided into 4 quarters and the Friday before the festival the whole town gets together for a meal and dancing. After that the town has four competitions to gain 15 golden ducati. The medieval games are archery, relay, tug of war and the horse race. The games are to commemorate Feltre's inclusion into the Venetian empire.
Festa del Mare Levanto, Liguria. This is known as the Festival of the Sea and honors the town's patron saint, who is also the patron saint of fishermen. A parade, fireworks, and boat procession all take place.
Corsa del Palio Siena, Tuscany. The second round of the famous Palio race in Siena is August 16, where 10 of Sienna's 17 contrade (districts) compete in an exciting bareback horse race around Siena's central piazza. The winner gets the silk palio; (banner).
Festa dei Candelieri Sassari, Sardinia. The Festival of Candles is a religious festival dating back to the 16th century. It takes place on the 14th August and is to offer thanks for the deliverance from the plague. A procession takes place with men from 9 ancient guilds trying to carry 9 heavy candles 8 meters tall that are decorated and highly colorful and also bedecked with religious icons. The Candelieri are blessed in the Church of the Rosary at Piazza Rosario before lining up to proceed from Piazza Castello at around 18:00.
Festa di Sant Emidio, Ascoli Piceno, Le Marche. This is the patron saint of Ascoli Piceno and during this festival there is the Joust of the Quintana. Here a Medieval pageant takes place on the first Sunday in August where there is a procession in Medieval costume, flag throwing, and finally the jousting competition between members of the six sestieri (neighborhoods).
BEST FESTIVALS IN ITALY for September
La Mostra Internazionale d'Arte Cinematografica Venice, Italy. Known as the Venice Film Festival, it is the oldest and most esteemed film festival around to date after it was established in 1932. It takes place in the first week of September at the Lido a short trip from the Venetian Basin.
Regata Storica Venice, Veneto. This is where the city's gondoliers and other expert rowers pit their skill against each other on the first Sunday in September. It starts with a procession of decorated historic craft along the Grand Canal course, their crews all decked out in period dress.
Giostra del Saracino Arezzo, Tuscany. This is the jousting of the Saracens and takes place on the first Sunday of September. This is a tilting competition with knights in 13th century amour.
Partita a Scacchi di Marostica Marostica, Veneto. This is a human chess game where people, rather than wooden figures make the moves. This takes place in the town square, Piazza del Castello, which is marked out in a huge chessboard.
Palio Asti, Piedmont. On the 3rd Sunday of the month a costumed medieval procession takes place along with bareback horse races. This race dates back to the 13th century and is Italy's oldest Palio. Celebrations start on the Thursday before that with various activities including food, crafts, flag-bearing and band marches.
Grape Harvest Festival: On the second weekend of September Subbiano, in the Province of Arezzo in the Casentino Valley holds a grape harvest festival. (Dates may change, check first.) The grape harvest festival is to remember times past and old farming traditions. The town folk and surrounding farmers dress up in period costume and bring in horses and wagons bedecked with grapes, vines, wicker baskets and other objects used in the grape harvest.
There is stiff competition between the 800-900 wagons that participate in this float to win the coveted prize of being the most beautiful. Free Vin Santo, wine, sweets and chestnuts are handed to the crowd and you can also watch flag bearers, drummers and other processions. It takes place over both the Saturday and the Sunday. Palio della Balestra: Early September there is a Medieval pageant and crossbow competition between marksmen from Sansepolcro in Tuscany and their rival competitors from Gubbio, Umbria. This is a week-long festival that finally culminates in the grand competition. This is a festival that has been taking place every year for more than 500 years.
BEST FESTIVALS IN ITALY for October
Festa di San Francesco Assisi, Umbria. Feast in honor of St. Francis. This is a religious ceremony with mass being held at intervals, as well as processions. It is also customary for regions in Italy to take turns in providing the oil to light the votive lamp on the tomb of St. Francis.
Sagra del Vino Marino, a 40 minute drive from Rome, Lazio. A wine festival which celebrates the harvest with wine, arts, parades, music and dances and processions in costume. Enjoy the spectacular floats, and head for the Fountain of the Four Moors where wine flows freely instead of water, and there for you to taste.
Sagra del Tordo Montalcino, Tuscany. The feast of the thrush bird. The 4 sestieri or neighborhoods, are in fierce competition with archery contests, Medieval feasts, pageantry and processions including costumed participants and the white Tuscan Chianina cattle.
Festa dell'Uva Merano, Trentino-Alto Adige. A 3 day grape festival over the 3rd weekend in October. There are floats and bands, food including chestnuts, bacon and cheese, and of course lots of wine.
BEST FESTIVALS IN ITALY for November
Festa della Salute Venice, Veneto. This is a feast held in honor of the Virgin Mary in memory of the plague of 1630. A votive bridge is erected from San Marco to the Dorsoduro on which the Salute church is located allowing thousands to cross the water on the day, to give thanks at the church and to light a candle. Venetians prepare a customary dish of castradina, from a traditional mutton-based recipe for this feast.
BEST FESTIVALS IN ITALY for December
Le Befana Rome, Lazio
. A well-known children's fair held in Piazza Navona where toys, sugar charcoal and other candies are on sale. Le Befana is said to be a witch who bring children toys on the eve of the 6th of January to fill their socks with candy and presents if they are good or a lump of coal or dark candy if they are bad.
Suvereto, Livorno. The Wild Boar Festival where you will find cuisine based on wild boar, art, folklore, and parades in historical costume.
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For us to go to Italy and to penetrate into Italy is like a most fascinating act of self-discovery -- back, back down the old ways of time. Strange and wonderful chords awake in us, and vibrate again after many hundreds of years of complete forgetfulness." ~ D.H. Lawrence