- 1 January – New Year’s Day (Capodanno)
- 6 January – Epiphany (Epifania)
Each city may celebrate Carnevale differently, but festivities in the lead-up to Lent are always a raucous affair in Italy. Venice celebrates with opulent masquerade balls and candlelit boat parades. Viareggio opts for parades featuring floats, costumes and enormous papier mache puppets – some several stories high! In Ivrea, not far from Turin, the town plays host to the Battle of the Oranges – a spectacular food fight lasting around three days. It’s a real crazy atmosphere in February.
Easter, or Pasqua, is a big deal in Italy, being the centre of the Roman Catholic world. There is no Easter bunny; instead, there’s loads of chocolate and colourful painted eggs. A huge Easter celebration mass is held at St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, spilling out into the forecourt. This is followed by an address from the Pope at noon. Italians get cooking at Easter, too – there are many festive recipes out around this time, including the dove-shaped colomba cake and pizza gaina (a pizza pie filled with cheese, eggs and Italian cured meats).
- Pasquetta (Easter Monday)
- 25 April – Giorno della Liberazione (Liberation Day)
1 May – Festa del Lavoro (Labour Day)
- 2 June – Festa della Repubblica (Republic Day)
This festival, which originated in the Vatican City in 1625, is all about colour – creating intricate public mosaic murals out of petals. Some of the most impressive Infiorata (meaning ‘decorated in flowers’) are in Noto (Sicily), Spello (Perugia) and Genzano (on the outskirts of Rome). They are also often found across the towns in Emilia Romagna, too.
The town that gave us opera, Verona – or 'Little Rome', as it is known – hosts the world's oldest opera festival each summer in the historic Verona Arena. The massive, first-century Roman amphitheatre has hosted everything from gladiators in the ancient era to Puccini operas, modern pop concerts, and rock stage shows.
- Festa della Madonna Bruna
This festival dates back 600 years, originating as a tribute to the southern Basilicata town of Matera’s patron saint Bruna, who legend says miraculously turned into a statue of the Virgin Mary after a farmer gave her a ride into town. 'Knights' parade the statue around town in a wagon covered in papier mache, and once Mary is lifted free and transported back to the church, locals rip the 'chariot' apart and keep a small piece for good luck. At night, the town enjoys a fireworks display to conclude the celebrations.
Palio di Siena
This twice annual event is hosted in Siena’s main square, Piazza del Campo, where representatives from each ‘contrada’ (city division) compete against each other in a medieval horse race. The piazza is crammed full of spectators on July 2 and August 16 each year (not all 17 contrade feature in each race, so there are two events) and the atmosphere is electric. If you're heading to the race, be sure to take sun protection and water.
Touted as one of the ‘Big Three’ world film festivals alongside Cannes and Berlin, the Venice Film Festival began in 1932 and has gained prestige ever since, attracting film makers and actors from around the world who descend on Venice to celebrate their craft. Many films are launched at this festival and a number of awards presented, including 'Leone d'Oro' or the Golden Lion, for the best film screened in competition at the festival.
- Regata Storica di Venezia (Venice Historical Regatta)
On the first Sunday of September each year the gondolas filling Venice's canals make way for the world’s best rowers competing in a regatta that dates back to the 13th century. The event honours traditional boating skills as well as celebrating the history of the Republic of Venice, having first been part of the Festa delle Marie – a sixth-century festival dedicated to women getting married in the region. There are four races, divided by age and type of craft, watched by a Grand Canal lined with spectators.
See the current list of public holidays in Italy.
Our tours in Italy