Italy celebrates festivals all year long. Here are some highlights of some of the most important and interesting celebrations and festivals in Italy, including ones with specific dates for 2013.
January 6 La Befana
Befana ( celebrated on the feast of the Epiphany) marks the end of the long christmas holiday celebrations in Italy. La Befana has a very long history in Italy. She rides a broomstick, wears a black shawl, and is dirty from tumbling down chimneys. Her prevalence has much to do with being the purveyor of gifts. On the Eve of Epiphany (January 5) she flies around and fills children’s socks with candy if they were good or a lump of coal if they were bad.
Saldi Early January
The Sales in Italy are tightly regulated and only happen twice a year, in January and July. The dates vary depending on the region but generally start in early January and last until the end of February sometime extending to early March. Tour Italy Now’s best advice is Shop early for the best selection. Shop late for the best prices.
February 14 St. Valentine’s Day
Valentine was a widely known, third century, Roman saint. The history that surrounds Saint Valentine is inconsistent and there are many claims ascribed to him, but all are associated with romantic love. The flower-crowned skull of St. Valentine is on display in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin in Rome and In Terni, Umbria, where Saint Valentine is the towns Patron Saint, his remains are housed in the Basilica di San Valentino.
26 January – 12 February 2013 Carnival (Carnevale)
If you are visiting Italy during Carnival time you will likely see the streets covered in colorful confetti and young children dressed up in costumes.
The most famous Carnival festivities happen in Venice. There are many exciting events planned for the 2013 season. You can attend masked balls, watch a water parade on the grand canal or take part in walking theater productions.
No matter which part of Italy you are visiting, be on the lookout for special Carnival treats like frappe (also called chiacchiere (meaning chit-chat) in the north of Italy or cenci (meaning rags) in Tuscany) and Castagnole also called Fritelle in Venice, fried sugary pastries available only during this time of year.
March 19 – San Guiseppe (St Joseph’s Day)
This is when Italians celebrate Fathers Day. (not in June as is traditional in The United States) Today is the day to find Zeppole di San Giuseppe, a fried, cream filled pastry available only for a few days in March.
March 8 – Festa della Donna
The 8th of March is International Women’s Day and the Italian tradition is to present the women in your life with a gift of yellow mimosa flowers.
March 29 2013 Good Friday
March 31 2013 Easter Sunday
April 1 2013 Easter Monday
April 21 Natale de Roma
That’s not Christmas in April, but the day that Rome celebrates a birthday. In 2013 the eternal city will turn 2766! In the historic center there are parades of gladiators and Roman legion soldiers on horseback and re-creations of ancient roman ceremonies. In the Roman forum there is a concert and light show ending with fireworks.
May 9, 2013 (every year, on Ascension day – 40 days after Easter) Festa del Grillo
The annual Cricket Festival is held in Parco delle Cascine near Florence in Tuscany. Tradition holds that crickets bring good luck. Live crickets are no longer sold, but this festival is now celebrated with many stall selling toy and handmade replicas of the lucky symbol.
June 2 Festa della Repubblica The Festa della Repubblica is celebrated on June 2nd every year. While there is no Independence Day like the American 4th of July, this important date commemorates Italy’s vote to form a republic after 85 years of monarchy under the House of Savoy and the fall of Fascist rule after World War II.
June 2, 2013 Corpus Domini. This religious festival is held 60 days after Easter and in Orvieto and other towns in lazio and Umbria the procession is held on a carpet of flowers known as the infioriate.
June 1-3, 2013 Infioriate. Celebrated in Lazio and Umbria, many small towns cover their streets with intricate designs made from locally grown flower petals and greenery. The flowers are laid down on the Saturday before the Corpus Domini, with townspeople working through the night to complete the ephemeral masterpieces.
Early June La Regata delle Antiche Repubbliche Marinare (the Regatta of the Ancient Maritime Republics) There are four ancient Marine Republics in Italy; Amalfi, Genoa, Pisa and Venice. Each year a famous competition held at sea, which is called the Regata delle Antiche Repubbliche Marinare. The modern event began in 1955 and now consists of a nautical parade and a race with 12th century style Galleon ships representing the four maritime republics. Each year the Regatta is held in one of the four towns, rotating locations. In 2012 it was held in and won by Amalfi!
June 16 /17 Regatta of Saint Ranieri – Pisa
This Tuscan festival celebrates the feast day of Saint Ranieri who is the patron saint of Pisa. The buildings along the Arno River are are illuminated with thousands of lumini, (small glass candle holders), and thousands more of the tiny candles float on the waters of the river. The tradition has been celebrated each year since Saint Ramieri was laid to rest in the cathedral in 1688.
The Historic Regatta of Saint Ranieri occurs the next day, June 17th, and dates back to the 13th century. In 1718, the tradition of holding the regatta on the feast of Saint Ranieri began.There are four boats that make up the Regatta each one representing a district of Pisa; S. Maria (white-blue), S. Francesco (white-yellow), S. Antonio (white-green), S. Martino (white-red). Crews of eight men must row against the current along a 1,500 meter-long stretch of the Arno. At the finish line, an additional man who, must climb a 25 foot long rope in order to grab the Palio (flag) of victory. According to the tradition, the men of the last boat to arrive at the finish line are given a couple of geese while all the onlookers shout insults at them.
June 29 Festa Santi Festa San Pietro e Paolo
The Patron saints of Rome Saint Peter and Paul are celebrated on this day in Rome. Most shops and business are closed. The day is commemorating the martyrdom of the two early Christians, Pater and Paul and falls on what is either the anniversary of their deaths or the translation of their relics into a secret hiding place. The day ends with an incredible fireworks show at the Castel S’Angelo that was originally designed by Michelangelo.
Saldi. The Sales in Italy are tightly regulated and only happen twice a year, in January and July. The dates vary depending on the region but generally startin early July and last until early September. Tour Italy Now’s best advice is Shop early for the best selection. Shop late for the best prices.
July is a busy time for cultural events in Italy’s larger cities and towns. Rome and Verona hold outdoor opera performances (in spectacular ancient settings) There are also outdoor cinemas and evening markets.
In smaller towns be on the lookout for “sagre” local festivals usually revolving around a seasonal food.
August 15 – Ferragosto
This might be Italy’s biggest holiday. It kind of feels like the days before Thanksgiving in America, with food shopping and travel plans being the only topic of conversation. The word Ferragosto comes from a Latin expression feriae Augusti (Augustus’ rest) indicating a festivity set up by the emperor Augustus in 18 BC. Now it is a day to send at the beach, with family and friends taking advantage of the best that Summer in Italy has to offer.
Aug 16 Palio horse race – Siena
There are two Palio horse races in the City of Siena. The very first Palio was run in 1656 to celebrate the miraculous apparition of the Virgin Mary near a house that belonged to Provenzano Salvani. The holy apparition was called “Madonna di Provenzano” and a race in her honor is held on July 2. A second Palio race is held on August 16 that celebrates the religious holiday of the “Assumption of Mary” The ten districts of Siena compete, with fierce rivalry, in the main square (campo). There are days of parades with traditional dress and festivities leading up to the big race.
September 19 Festa de San Gennaro – Naples
Dating back to the fourth century, the Duomo di Napoli houses the relics of Patron Saint of Naples, San Gennaro. On the feast days ampules of the saints blood are displayed and with fervent prayer the blood is hoped to liquify.
September 1, 2013 Regata Storica – Venice
Sixteenth century boats manned with gondoliers in period costume carry the Doge, the Doge’s wife and all the highest ranking Venetian officials up the Grand Canal in a brightly colored parade.
Autumn in Italy is the time for food festivals. Be on the lookout for celebrations of chestnut and truffle harvests and new olive oil pressing.
November 6 Vino Novello
Vino Novello – a light, young wine is released for sale on this day in early November. Tradition says the last day to consume it is “I Giorni della Merla”, the days of the blackbird, said to be the coldest day of the year (29-31 January).
December 8 – Feast of The Immaculate Conception – Rome
In the afternoon of this Religious holiday, the Pope visits Piazza Mignanelli, near the Spanish steps and places a wreath on a statue of Mary high atop a column.