The official start to summer is June 21 with the longest day, but summer in Italy really starts much sooner. With warm temperatures beginning in May, by June many Italians are already in the full swing of festivals and weekend beach trips.
Infiorata and Corpus Domini
Sixty days after Easter is the celebration of Corpus Domini. This religious ritual was established in the twelfth century by Pope Urban IV, with the body of Christ symbolized as bread. In towns throughout Italy a festival known as the infiorata is held during the days surround Corpus Domini. The festival in Spello, an enchanting Umbrian hill town, is one of the best known places to experience this colorful celebration. Designs are created on the streets and piazzas and the towns inhabitants work through the night to “paint” the designs with a carpet flowers and petals. The dates for 2013 are June 1-2.
June 1 marks the opening of the contemporary art exhibition known as the Biennale in Venice. In it’s 55th year, the entire city is host lectures, exhibitions, performances. 88 nations and 10 artists will participate from June 1- November 24. The main venues are the in the Central Pavilion (Giardini) and in the Arsenale.
Festa dell Repubblica
On June 2 all over Italy the festival of the Republic is celebrated. The main festivities are in Rome with a large military parade taking place in front of the colosseum. The highlight is the Frecce Tricolore fighter jets impressive flyover with smoke trailing that creates the Italian flag. This is public holiday.
Feast of Saint Peter and Saint Paul
The patron saints of Rome, Saint Peter and Saint Paul are celebrated on June 29. Most shops and business are closed. The day commemorates the martyrdom of Peter and Paul and falls on what is either the anniversary of their deaths or the moving of their relics into a secret hiding place. The day traditionally ends with an incredible fireworks show designed by Michelangelo at the Castel S’Angelo.
Battle of the Bridge in Pisa
On June 30, the town of Pisa divides into Mezzogiorno (south of the river Arno) and Tramontana (north of the river) and recreates an ancient battle called the Gioco del Ponte. There is a parade with medieval costumed participants.
July is the busiest month for concerts and performances and small town festivals. Be on the lookout when traveling in small towns for posters announcing Sagre – festivals.
Opera and Ballet at Terme di Caracalla – Rome
Once a major spa complex in ancient Rome, the ruins of the Terme de Caracalla become the dramatic stage and set for performances by the Rome Opera company, Teatro dell’Opera. The 2013 season will include an opera by Verdi as well as and ballet and orchestral performances.
Arena di Verona Festival
Aida, Nabucco, La Traviata; These are just a few of the operas that will be performed in the stunning third century Roman arena in the romantic city of Verona this summer at the Verona opera festival. You have 58 performances of 6 operas and 3 Gala nights from June 24-September 24, 2013 to choose from.
Palio di Siena
This historic horse race is held twice during the summer months on July 2 and August 16 in the main Piazza del Campo in the Tuscan city of Siena.
La Notte Rosa
On July 5, 2013 is La Notte Rosa (which translates to Pink Night). La Notte Rosa is an all night carnival of performances, film and parties up and down the Adriatic Riviera towns of Emilia Romagna.
Teatro de Silenzio Concert
For one night only, just outside the small town of Lajatico, a quiet space is transformed in to an open air amphitheater and stage where renowned tenor Andrea Bocelli holds a spectacular concert. Known as the Teatro de Silenzio, the concert is on July 13, 2013.
The Feast of the Redeemer is another ancient celebration, dating back to the fifteenth century, that is held in Venice on the 14-15 of July. The festival celebrates the city of Venice being freed from the plague in 1577. The canals near Piazza San Marco and the Guidecca neighborhood, fill with brightly decorated gondolas and boats and the day finishes with an incredible 40 minute long fireworks festival.
August in Italy is hot and slow. Know that this is when the majority of Italians take their holidays. Beaches are crowded and cities shuttered and empty. The major sites and museums are open, but not much else. There is a certain charm to the very quiet streets of Rome on an August morning, and more and more shops and restaurants are staying open with every year, but you need to be prepared that not everything will be open.
Miracle of the Snow
The Papal basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome (Saint Mary Major) was said to be the site of a miraculous snow that fell on the night of August 5 in the third century. The miracle is recreated every year on this night with an evening of local parish members performing and readings and ends with a brief light show and snowfall.
Held on August 15, this is one of Italy’s biggest holidays. In some ways similar to our own Thanksgiving celebrations with travel and food being at the center of the festivities. Derived from an ancient roman festival, Feriae Augusti, declared by emperor Augustus in the first century. It evolved into a catholic celebration to commemorate the Assumption of Mary. This is a day to relax, eat with family and friends. You will be hard pressed to find much of anything open on this day.
Summer in Italy – Sea, Sun and Gelato
Summer in Italy means beaches. August is a great month to seek out swimming pools and beaches to take a break from the summer heat. Italy has almost five thousands miles of coastline. This is a country that loves to go to the beach.
Italian Beach culture
The Italian beach-going system (yes there is a system) is a little different that what you may be used to. There is very little just plopping down your towel and on a quiet patch of sand. Most of Italy’s beachfront is divided up in Stabilimenti – a kind of private beach club. You pay an entry fee and/or rent a chair (lettino) and umbrella. (ombrellone) These stabilimenti have restrooms and showers and usually bars and restaurants. There are a “free” beach spots where you can bring your own towels/chairs and there are some bar kiosks for cold drinks and bathrooms.
With the long hot days, late dinners are the norm. You will see even families with young children only sitting down after 9:00pm. Adjust your schedule to accommodate this mediterranean custom.
Summer in Italy means gelato. It is a great way to cool off on a hot afternoon, the perfect midnight snack after a late dinner. Find a Sicilian bar and you can even have it for breakfast!
Things to pack for a trip to Italy in the summer
Sunscreen in higher SPF’s can be difficult to find, and sunscreen in gerneral is more expensive than at home.
Italians only wear flip flops on the beach and never in the city. Pack or even better, plan to buy, a cute and comfortable pair of sandals.
Shoulders, knees, and midriffs must be covered to visit most churches in Italy. Make sure you have a scarf to cover bare shoulders in your bag.
Even on the most sweltering day Italians are sharp dressers. Leave the baggy shorts and loose tank tops at home. Sundresses and skirts keep you cool and looking chic.
In most of the country, save the very north of Italy, you will have hot dry days with no rain to be expected. There may be a very brief shower in late July or August. The mercury climbs from June onwards and the weather is hot until late September. Even though the days are dry, you will see many people with umbrellas to shield them from the sun! Plan your days for outdoor activities in the early morning and after sunset and for museums, beach time or long lunches and a nap in the park for the heat of the day.