For a lot of people, spring is the best among the four seasons of the year. It’s when we shake off the winter freeze and embrace the freshness of rebirth. Across the world’s temperate regions, there’s not a single place that doesn’t look good at this time of year. Few places, however, are as much fun to be in as Italy is from March to May.
With crisp weather, nature in full bloom and a renewed energy in the air, spring is ideal for visiting this lovely European nation. Seeing archaeological sites, appreciating works of art and tasting the wonderful cuisine is standard faire when visiting any Italian city, but what can make your stay even more memorable is participating in awesome festivals during the springtime months.
Taking part in the celebrations is the fastest way to immerse yourself in Italian culture; it helps you appreciate the country and its people just a little bit more. We’re counting down the list of the 10 best springtime festivals in Italy. Which one of these appeal to you the most?
1. Easter Sunday in Rome – One of Christendom’s happiest and holiest days, Easter caps off the annual Holy Week festivities organized by the Catholic church. On this day in Rome, the Pope and faithful attendees embark on the Via Crucis, a procession of candles that ends at St. Peter’s Square for an open air mass. After the delivery of the Holy Eucharist, the people of Rome head to pastry shops where they buy and exchange Easter eggs.
While that may sound like something that’s done in other parts of the world, Easter eggs in Rome carry a nice twist within. Toys, silver pieces and fancy jewelry are often stuffed inside the eggs for added effect. The more affluent Romans sometimes stuff car keys, diamond rings and other valuable items to show their affection to the people they celebrate Easter with.
2. The Foundation of Rome – Staying in the Eternal City, we’ve got one of the biggest bashes in the nation each year over the weekend closest to April 21st. The reason? Commemorating the foundation of Rome by the twins Romulus and Remus in 753 B.C.
During the festivities, expect classical and modern music concerts. You’ll also see extravagant firework displays, historical re-enactments, mock gladiator combat and exhaustive shopping opportunities all over town.
3. Marriage of the Trees – Held every May 8th in the town of Vetralla, the Marriage of the Trees festival is a delight for anyone who enjoys a nice picnic in the locale’s mild outdoors. The festival is a celebration of every Vetralla resident’s right to a cubic meter of firewood each year – a valuable commodity in the past when modern heating solutionsdidn’t exist. The festivities are culminated by the decoration of a pair of oak trees, offerings of fresh spring flowers and the planting of new trees around the “newlyweds.” It’s pretty simple, but it’s a fun and moving event to be a part of.
4. Turin Chocolate Festival – Attracting about 750,000 people each year, the Turin Chocolate Festival is a massive celebration of the world’s favorite dessert. Chocolates of every class, shape and variety can be seen everywhere you look. Feeding the voracious appetite of this hungry horde are 65,000-70,000 pounds of the sweet stuff. If you like chocolates, this event will look like paradise to you.
5. Sagra del Pesce –If you’re the seafood-loving type, Sagra del Pesce is the event that you shouldn’t miss. The name translates to “Fish Festival” in English and it’s celebrated every second Sunday of May by residents of the Camogli village. In the night before the Fish Festival, big bonfires light up the beaches as a sign that the fun is about to begin. On the day itself, the world’s biggest frying pan (5 meters across with a 7 meter handle) is brought out to cook large numbers of free fish all at once. Fishermen ditch their nets for the day and take on the cooking responsibilities, much to the delight of residents and tourists. This event, by the way, is held in honor of Saint Fortunato, patron saint of fishermen.
6. Vinitaly–Done with food and now looking for something to drink? No problem. Vinitaly is Italy’s premier wine festival and it happens every April or May. Local and foreign winemakers gather here annually to give visitors free wine tasting sessions, seminars, workshops and other activities. You can expect to find expensive wines at discounted prices – perfect if you’re attendingeither for business or pleasure reasons.
7. Snake Handler’s Procession – Want to be in a festival that walks the wild side? The feast day of St. Domenic is just what you’re looking for. It’s celebrated every first Thursday of May and it begins with a standard mass and fireworks. After that, the statue of the patron saint who protects against snake bites is brought out. It’s adorned with jewelry, money (cash or check) and you guessed it… live snakes.
The statue is then paraded in the streets with the snakes slithering all over it. At the end of the day, the reptiles are released back to the forest where they can live their normal lives until next year. The event may seem strange and scary, but don’t worry: the snakes are non-venomous and their fangs have been removed for extra safety.
8. San Remo Music Festival – Attention, music lovers: this is the festival to be in if you’re looking to experience the very best of Italy’s music. Every year for five days, new and established musicians from across the country perform in the beautiful San Remo Riviera. Competitive and non-competitive performances ensue, providing non-stop entertainment to tens of thousands of attendees. Past winners in the festival include the excellent Andrea Bocelli.
9. St. Mark’s Day – Moving over to the unique and charming city of Venice, we look forward to April 25th. This is the feast day of St. Mark (San Marco), best known for authoring one of the four Gospels that chronicle the life of Jesus Christ. On this day, masses, concerts, special markets and other festivities can be observed. One of the day’s biggest highlights is a boat race between local gondoliers. Because this is a public holiday, expect a lot of regular establishments and government institutions to be closed for the day.
10. St. Guiseppe’s Day (Feast of St. Joseph) – This day commemorates the life of Jesus Christ’s foster father whom we know in the US as St. Joseph. It’s celebrated all over Italy and it’s the country’s de facto Father’s Day. Expect parades, pageants and musical performances all over town. In Siena, there’s even an annual donkey race that commemorates Joseph and Mary’s escape to Bethlehem. Bread is one of the feast’s themes, so be ready for some serious carbo-loading. There’s one treat in particular that you should look for and it’s called zeppole. This is Italy’s answer to the American cream puff and we guarantee you’ll love it just as much.
Those are our 10 favorite Italian festivals during springtime. There are a lot of happy events at this time of the year, but these are the ones that stand out as far as we’re concerned. If you’re in the country by the time that one of these happen, don’t dare miss them or you’ll be sorry!