Festivals and Holidays – what to consider when planning a walking, hiking or running holiday to Italy.
by Maria E. Bellini
Gone are the days when the majority of Italian towns and cities would ‘close’ for August as Italians headed off to the coast taking a months long holiday, but even so, it still makes sense to take into consideration the country’s main holidays and festivities when planning your holiday. On the other hand you may wish to target a certain festival, or event, and plan your running and walking activities around it, according to your interests. We’ve also looked at keeping in mind climate and choice of location in determining what’s right for you.
We’ve outlined the most important Italian holidays and some notable Festivals to help you plan a successful holiday to Italy.
“Sagra” and Summer and Autumn Festivals
From early summer to late autumn, the festive spirit, intrinsic to the Italian character comes alive in the form of local ”Sagre” – festival – which can usually mean food festivities tied in with perhaps a special mass being said, and can even be topped off with a running event, and most certainly some sort of live music with dancing.
These festivals run up and down the country, are all dedicated to a local food specialty and are all manned by local volunteers. Whilst traveling around Italy, during the “Sagra” season, just look around you, and you’ll see these “Sagra” advertised on billboards. Usually with a thick black font on a plain fluorescent background, giving the name of the Sagra, dates, name of live music act and location. If you get the chance, don’t miss participating in as many as you can find. Great fun, colorful and an amazing way to get into the “Italian” spirit.
Notable Festivals In Italy
- Venice Biennale – International Arts Exhibition in Venice – biennial
- Tuscan Walking Festival – Held in the National Park of the Tuscan Archipelago
- Corsa dei Ceri – Gubbio, honors the life of Bishop Ubaldo Baldassini who was canonized as Protector of Gubbio.
- Adventure Outddor Fest San Candidio, Trentino
- Palio di Siena – the well known horse race in Siena’s Piazza di Campo
- Calcio Storico Fiorentino – a colourful mix of football, rugby and wrestling
- Alba’s Truffle Show – tempt the tastebuds with the luxury of white truffles from Piedmont
- Eurochocolate – Perugia, the streets oozing with chocolate attract visitors from all over Italy
- Val Badia Jazz Festival – July and August, takes place in Val Badia high up in Dolomites in South Tyrol
- Home Music Festival get’s the Veneto rocking throughout the summer, in Treviso
- Suoni delle Dolomiti – Sounds from the Dolomites – the high- altitude music festival in Trentino takes place during the summer
- Mandrea Music Festival – Popular music Festival in northern Lake Garda
- Festival of Two Worlds Spoleto – symphonic music, opera, dance, jazz
- Porretta Soul Festival – Bologna, has been running strong for over thirty years, and draws international artists from all over the globe
Official Holidays in Italy
- January 1 – New Years Day
- January 6 – Epiphany
- Carnevale – varies each year according to Easter dates. Celebrated all over Italy with major festivities in Venice, Viareggio, Foiano della Chiana, Acireale in Sicily and in Ivrea, where the famous Battle of Oranges takes place.
- March 8 – International Womens Day
- Easter Sunday & Easter Monday
- April 25 – Liberation Day
- May 1 – Labour Day
- June 2 – Festa della Repubblica Italian national holiday, commemorates the date in 1946 when Italians voted for the country to abolish monarchy and become a republic.
- August 15 – Ferragosto. Italy’s major summer national holiday
- November 1 – All Saints’ Day
- December 8 – Feast of the Immaculate Conception
- December 25 – Christmas
- December 26 – St. Stephen’s Day
Patron Saints & Religious Festivals
All Italian towns and cities will have thier own Patron Saints’ day, where there will usually be full closure and perhaps a collective celebration. Religious festivals vary, and some, specially in the south can spread over several days.
“Infiorate Festivals” take place across Italy on Corpus Domini wherby flower carpets are laid down, dating back to te 13th century, unmissable on a May trip to Italy.
Some notable Religious festivals are:
- February – Festa di Sant’Agata di Catania, Sicily – draws thousands of devotees to the streets of Catania where the saint is celebrated over several days
- July – Matera Festa della Madonna della Bruna
- July Festino di Santa Rosalia, Palermo, Sicily – whose relics where said to have healed the citizens of Palermo during the plague.
- July Festa de’ Noantri, Trastevere – Rome, celebrating the Mdonna of Mount Carmel
Maria Elisabetta Bellini is Italyontrail.com’s founder, born in the U.K, she came to running whilst living in Italy, where she still lives and trains. Never ceasing to marvel at what’s at the summit of a hill, or around the bend along the trail, she loves using trail running as a means to explore nature, contemplation and Italy.