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The 12 Must-Experience Festivals of Italy

When people ask “When is the best time to visit Italy?” The answer is never really that simple nor is the question one that is easy to answer. Italy is, after all, a country that you will want to visit at any time of the year. If you want to experience more than just the museums and the old structures that can be found all over the country, you will want to schedule your visit when there is a festival happening.

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain

When it comes to festivals however, Italy is also chock-full of celebrations that you can choose to enjoy with the locals. Every month of the entire year, you will find that Italians are celebrating one festival or another. You just need to know what specific date and where these festivals are to enjoy them with the locals.

To help you out, and with so many festivities going on, we’ve selected one per month for you – so you’d know when to book with us:

January

Fiera di Sant’Orso

January 30 and 31

At the end of the first month of every year, in Valle d’Aosta, which is located in the northwestern region of the country, there is an annual celebration honoring the handiwork of wood artisans in Italy. Called the Fiera di Sant’Orso, or the Sant’Orso Fair, this festival has been celebrated for 1,000 years now and features products made by local craftsmen and woodworkers.

February

Carnevale in Venice

First Week of February

Carnevale Venice

Carnevale Venice

This is probably one of the most popular festivals in all of Italy, with more than 3 million visitors attending every year. This is a festival where people walk around Venice in elaborate costumes and masks, and with the most beautiful mask winning an award. It has been said that this festival unofficially started in 1162 as a celebration of victory against the Patriarch of Aquileia. It was later outlawed in 1797 but was reinitiated in 1979, with the festival helping to bring back the history and culture of Venice.

March

Festa della Donna

March 8

Also known as the International Women’s Day, the Festa della Donna is an event that aims to honor all the women of Italy. Dating back to 1946, this celebration is marked by the giving of yellow mimosa flowers to women as a sign of equality and respect. Restaurants everywhere also have special menus for the day that are made especially for women.

April

Founding of Rome

Weekend nearest to April 21

If you find yourself in Rome on the 3rd week of April, then you are in luck. Every 21st of April marks the founding of Rome, which happened in 753BC. This celebration is a big one that brings about special events such as reenactments of gladiator fights in the Colosseum, concerts, and parades where people dress as ancient Romans, in both military and civilian attires.

May

Il Palio di Ferrara

Last Sunday of May

This festival is one that dates back to 1259 and is a historical horse race that celebrated the victory of the Marquis of the city against an Italian feudal lord. The Palio di Ferrara is a race that is participated in by 4 districts and 4 villages, which means there are 8 contrade in the race. The festival comes with parades, historical processions, and other contests, like a flag throwing contest that shows skill as well as artistry.

June

Festa della Repubblica

June 2

Italian Air Force Acrobatic Patrol

Italian Air Force Acrobatic Patrol

This national holiday is very similar to the Independence Day celebrations of other countries. Celebrated all across the country, you can expect to find parades with marching bands and military personnel, with the president of the country joining in such festivities in Rome. There will be firework displays, concerts, and an aerial exhibition by the Italian Air Force Acrobatic Patrol that shows 9 planes releasing smoke in the colors of the Italian Flag as they fly above you.

July

Il Palio di Siena

July 2

While not the oldest horse race in Italy, the Palio di Siena is probably one of the most popular in the country. This race actually happens twice a year, with the first one in July and the second one in August. People in medieval costumes that parade around town and flag waving exhibitions can be expected. There are banquets, trial runs, and ceremonial rites that you can also enjoy before the race begins.

August

Festa della Madonna della Neve

August 5

A miraculous snowfall in summer in the 4th Century is why the Santa Maria Maggiore Church was built. This also ushered in the festival called the Feast of the Madonna of the Snow. You can expect a reenactment of this miraculous event at this festival, with the petals of white roses simulating the snow that fell on that day. Processions in honor of the Virgin Mary are also part of the celebration.

September

Juliet’s Birthday

First to Second Week of September

Statue of Juliet in Verona

Statue of Juliet in Verona

If you are a hopeless romantic and are a fan of the tragic love story of Romeo and Juliet, you might want to head on to Verona in September to celebrate along with the locals the birthday of this story’s heroine. Every year, this celebration brings fans of the story to Verona to pay tribute to Juliet herself. This festival has artists, musicians, guided tours, dramatizations, concerts, and banquets that help set the festive mood.

October

The International Eurochocolate Festival

Mid-October

Chocoholics rejoice because every October, a chocolate festival is held in Perugia, Umbria (where Perugina Baci Chocolates are made) to honor everything that is chocolate. Called the Eurochocolate Festival, this event features not only stalls upon stalls of chocolates, but also activities such as contests, concerts, new product launches, and even chocolate making workshops.

November

St. Martin’s Day

November 11

While considered a religious holiday by some, St. Martin’s Day is more of a farmers’ celebration. This is because this is when people in the olden days renewed agreements, bought livestock, and feasted on good food as well as local wine to celebrate autumn. This festival is celebrated all across the country, with tables filled with wine, chestnuts, and goose. Children go around town with lids and pans, asking for coins or candies from shopkeepers, with the coins collected eventually going towards the purchase of more sweets.

December

St. Nicolas Feast Day

December 6

This festival is celebrated all across Europe, and is also a celebration in some of the provinces of Italy, namely Bari, Belluno, Udine, and Trieste, to name a few. This festival starts with children receiving gifts on the morning of December 6, and the culmination of a fair that lasts a couple of weeks, which is the Fiera di San Nicolo. Here you will find regional wine and food, various local goods, and even entertainment stalls.

No matter what time of year you plan on visiting Italy, you will find that there is always a festival somewhere for you to enjoy. You can book a guided tour to some of these amazing cities and towns, or you can customize your own trip in order to see Italy as you want to see it.

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By Priscila Siano (265 Posts)

Priscila Siano is the Marketing Director of Tour Italy Now, an online tour operator specializing in Italy travel. She's a respected expert on making dream Italy vacations a reality for clients.

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