Italy is a beautiful destination that wows visitors with its historic architecture, delicious cuisine and wonderful beaches.
You’ll get the most out of your trip to Italy by attending some of the exciting cultural events held each year. Fill your days with traditional experiences, historic blasts from the past or a thrilling sporting event. There’s always something on that’ll interest you. With so much going on, you’ll be spoilt for choice, so here’s a guide to a few of the fantastic events in Italy.
Of all the events, the most famous has to be the Venice Carnival. While the Italian events calendar starts with Epiphany, or Three Kings’ Day, it’s the carnival in late January that steals the show as the first big event of the New Year. During this incredible festival, Venetians and visitors celebrate the culture and prosperity of Venice in the run up to Lent. Dressed in bright costumes and amazing masks of sequins and jewels, you’ll be able to take gondola rides, watch boating regattas and take part in the parade in St. Mark’s Square. On the climactic evening, Shrove Tuesday, the city hosts a fireworks show, lighting up the sky all over the Bay of Venice.
Rome’s Birthday on 21 April sees the city travel back in time, as thousands of legionaries parade the capital of the ancient empire. Of all the events in Italy, this may be the oldest. Known locally as Natale di Roma, this annual celebration commemorates the city’s founding in 753 BC. Throughout the day, locals in full costume carry out recreations of ancient ceremonies. You’ll spot soldiers, gladiators, senators and priestesses that perform classical theatre, fighting and dancing all in celebration of the glory of ancient Rome.
For more inspired events, you can’t miss The Regatta of the Ancient Maritime Republics. This summertime celebration of Italy’s historical republics is a race in small boats called gozzi. Teams of eight from Amalfi, Genoa, Pisa, and Venice, all dressed in their traditional costume, take part in a colourful procession before the race’s start. It’s a wonderful chance to experience the rich culture of Italy. The festival location rotates each year, so double check where this year’s will be held before booking.
The long, warm days are filled with outdoor music festivals and concerts during summer. The most famous is The Feast of St. John on 24 June, which is celebrated in every town in Florence, but is best enjoyed in one of the bigger cities, such as Genoa or Turin. You’ll find that many shops and public services are closed for this holiday, but it’s a minor inconvenience to experience the incredible parade and spectacular fireworks displays held in Genova near the Arno River. At the same time, festivities continue over two days, with music and bonfires in tandem with football matches that are traditionally held during the feast.
Football is a huge attraction in Italy, and Italian fans are known for their incredible enthusiasm and spirit, with singing and passionate flag-waving sure to feature on any match day. But if rugby is more your thing, you’ll want to book your trip in February so you can catch some of the Six Nations. And don’t forget the infamous racetrack, Autodromo Nazionale Monza, near Milan, where every year Italy hosts one of the most entertaining Formula One races of the season.
If all this seems a little too modern, you can step back in time and experience an Italian sporting event that’s over 500 years old, the Palio di Siena horse race. Twice a year, in July and August, riders representing ten of the seventeen districts of Siena dress in ceremonial colours and take part in an incredible race round the Piazza del Campo. Supporters and marshals dress in traditional medieval costumes, with carabinieri demonstrating their skills and swordplay. After a lavish introduction, the race begins, and you’re treated to one of the most exciting spectacles you’ll ever witness.
After the exhilarating display of the Palio di Siena, you may want to unwind. Relax by enjoying an awe-inspiring opera or ballet performance in Rome, Verona or Florence. The Opera Season in Verona runs from July to September, while in Florence and the capital, there are shows that run the whole year round. Individual performances vary on dates and times, with the occasional matinee available.
If you’re a fan of big-screen entertainment, The Venice International Film Festival in August is a must. Although not all screenings will be open to the public, events are held throughout the city, and there’s a chance to see showings inside incredible locations such as the historic lido, Doge’s Palace or Venice Arsenal. For a less mainstream option, you could head to the Rome Film Fest in October. With a larger number of screenings, and a huge variety of conventions and expeditions, it’s your chance to experience the glitz and glamour of a big-time festival that’s easily accessible.
If you find yourself in Italy in December, you’ll be surrounded by festivities. Italians celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Santa Lucia Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Saint Stephen’s Day and several other saints’ feast days, so there’s no shortage of chances to raise your glasses and enjoy the spirit of the season.
Italy is a country filled with wonderful events all year round. Its rich history and culture mean that no matter where and when you travel in Italy, you’re sure to find a new celebration to experience that makes any trip unique and special.