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Top 7 Cultural Celebrations and Festivals in Italy

Natale di Roma, Rome

Italy has a long list of enchanting festivals where Italians come together and celebrate. There is something or the other every month when the nation turns into a cultural feat. Over the years, these joyful events in Italy have become very popular and are a great way to experience its diverse culture. Whether you are a heritage buff, a food lover or an art connoisseur, these grand carnivals have something to offer everyone.

Scroll down to read the list of our favorite events and festivals in this boot-shaped nation.

Fair of Sant’Orso, Aosta Valley


On 30th and 31st January, several craftsmen from Aosta Valley showcase their valuable work along the streets leading to the Town Centre of Aosta. The fine craftsmanship is a treat to the sore eyes. Look around for sculptures and wood inlays, soapstone, leather-working, wrought iron, casks, wooden ladders and more. Historically, this fair took place in the surrounding area of Sant’Orso, hence the name. These days, the entire region takes part in the exhibition and admires the work of the exhibitors. No wonder, a visit to the Fair of Sant’Orso is extraordinary and intense.

Carnevale, Venice

Carnevale, Venice

The grand Carnevale is a 15-day festival when the Floating City wears the Venetian mask. This festival has a history dating back to the 12th century when the people of this region celebrated victory over the Patriarchate of Aquileia. Carnevale is usually held in February and it is the time when an extravagant mask competition takes place on the streets. The grand masquerade balls are the essence of this event and are organized across the city. People flaunt their favorite carnival costume and go to the balls. There are food, live performances, DJ music and lots more. Even street performances are common during this Carnivale of Venice.

Scoppio del Carro, Florence


Usually celebrated in April, Scoppio del Carro is a major folk tradition celebrated in Florence. Every year on Easter Sunday a cart filled with fireworks is lit and it is a spectacle to watch. This tradition originated in the First Crusade (1095 to 1099) when Pazzino, a member of the Pazzi family showed ample courage to scale the Jerusalem walls. He was rewarded with three flints from the Holy Sepulchre Church which is carefully preserved in the Church of Apostoli even today. In the morning, the priest uses the iconic flints to light the Easter candles which in turn are used for lighting some coals in the cart. There are flag throwers, drummers and people dressed in traditional costumes who gather around the church to celebrate this auspicious event.

Natale di Roma, Rome


Rome celebrates its birthday on the 21st of April every year. This ancient city was the lifeline of the Roman Empire and is over 2500 years old. Popularly known as Natale di Roma, this annual birthday celebration is based on the legendary buildings of this region in 753 BC. Most of the events are centered around Circus Maximus and also includes the extraordinary ritual of tracciato del solco. However, the highlight is the grand parade with over 1500 costumed men and women. It starts from Via dei Fori Imperiali and anybody interested in the rich history of Rome can take part in the parade. Finally, the day ends with the enactment of historic events and battles that evokes the memory of the Roman Empire which has inspired people for centuries.

Snake Handler’s Procession, Cocullo


Snake Handler’s Procession is a bizarre festival that is celebrated in the town of Cocullo on 1st of May. On this day, the snake handlers (serpari) compete with one another to catch the highest number of snakes possible. These snakes, over 2 meters in length are draped over a large statue of St. Dominic. The snake catchers then go on a parade through the streets with this statue. Whoever catches the most number of snakes is regarded as the legend. According to the locals, this festival is dedicated to St. Dominic and protects the people from snake bites. After this event, the sacred sculpture packed with live snakes is covered and kept in a secluded area. If the snakes are found on the statue’s head, it is regarded as a good sign. Afterward, the residents go to the church and take part in a procession.

Game of the Bridge, Pisa


Game of the Bridge is one of the most fascinating events that take place along the Arno River on the last Sunday of June. The origin of this historic tradition goes back to 1568 when rival teams fought with one another to gain victory over one of the iconic bridges across the river. Today, the entire city is divided into two teams (Tramontana and Mezzogiorno) and they compete with each other to gain possession of the Ponti di Mezzo Bridge. A huge iron cart is placed on the bridge and it is being pushed by both the parties to win the game. The winning team is declared victorious for the year and the audience shouts in amazement. This is a magnificent event and the game begins with 700 people dressed in ancient Spanish costumes marching the bustling street.

Festa della Bruna, Matera


Festa della Bruna is often regarded as the most prominent festival in the city of Matera. It was first celebrated on the 2nd of July in the year 1389. Though the festival is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, it is much more than a religious occasion. The entire town lights up and the residents are decked up for the event. The vibrant streets dazzle with sparkling lights, colorful markets, and grand processions. Festa della Bruna is a week-long event and sometimes it also extends to more than a week. The festival is especially for the locals but if you a tourist visiting Matera for a few days, Festa della is worth a watch. The event is concluded with a breathtakingly mesmerizing firework display backed by a wonderful soundtrack.

Share your Italian festival experiences with us in the comments. We would love to know!

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By Priscila Siano (266 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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