Festivals in Italy are boisterous, fun-filled celebrations, whether they are focused on religious occasions or simply the joy of life. The sheer number of events year-round ensures every visitor has a chance to experience Italy like a local. Carnevale and Easter Week are two of the most popular holidays.
The traditional pre-Lent festival of Carnevale takes place all over Italy on Shrove Tuesday in February, 40 days before the start of Easter week. Venice is famous for its masked parades and balls and, in Ivrea, the festival ends with an orange-throwing contest. Across the land Carnevale celebrations include eating, drinking, dancing, singing, street performances and loads of food and wine.
Festa della Donna
The Festa della Donna in March is the celebration of women’s day, taking place all over Italy with men bringing gifts of yellow mimosa flowers to their mothers, wives or other family members. Concerts and local events are held around town and most restaurants offer special Festa della Donna menus.
Feast Day of San Giuseppe
Also known as Fathers’ Day, this March festival celebrates St Joseph, husband of the Virgin Mary. Bonfires, pageants depicting scenes from the saint’s life, special food and gifts from children to their dads are commonplace. The Spring Festival often coincides with Fathers’ Day.
Easter week in Italy falls either in late March or early April and is a combination of solemn processions, traditions and rituals followed by joyous celebration on Easter Sunday. With Rome at the heartland, the Pope gives his Easter Message to millions assembled in St Peter’s Square.
Festival of San Marco
Saint Mark is Venice’s patron saint, who is celebrated in late April in St Mark’s Square and the magnificent basilica. Processions, fireworks, concerts, street entertainers and other events mark the day, and Venetians give a red rose to their lovers in true Italian fashion.
If Assisi is on the vacation agenda, the best time to arrive is in May for the spectacular Calendimaggio festival. It’s a costumed recreation of medieval and Renaissance Italian life, with two ancient city wards competing to offer the best concerts, shows, processions, archery and crossbow displays and singing. Glorious floral displays, flags, torches and candles adorn the streets.
Tuscan Sun Festival
This week-long cultural event takes place in Florence and is a program of music, art, wine and cuisine attracting well-known artists, as well as many thousands of visitors. Exhibitions, performances, pre-concert dinners and receptions, displays of Tuscan wines and food and even cooking demonstrations are found around town.
U Fistinu Santa Rosalia
The birthday of Santa Rosalia is one of Sicily’s largest festivals, and takes place in July all over Palermo, the island’s capital. Music and feasts are highlights, along with a massive procession led by a 50 ft. float containing a band and an image of the saint.
Verona International Horse Show
The second week in November sees top-class horses and famous riders arrive in the ancient Italian city of Verona for its International Horse Show. The event opens with a grand parade through the city that features costumed riders and decorated animals.
December’s Christmas festivities begin late in November with Florence’s Noel Week aimed at kids, hosting a Nativity Village, games and Santa Claus. Parades, feasts, bonfires and music adorn Immaculate Conception day, while four other saint’s days are celebrated in December. Christmas Day events in Italy are family-oriented, and the 12th day of Christmas concludes with elaborate gift-giving. On December 31, the entire country celebrates the start of the New Year.