Italy Roundtable: What you Need to Know about Saint’s Feast Days In Italy

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It is a tradition for the Italy Roundtable to take August off, just like the Italians. So, the July topic has often had something do with that. The theme for this month is HOLIDAY.

My first instinct was to discuss Ferragosto which is the Italian national holiday that falls in the middle August. When I began to research it, I discovered a fantastic article by Alexandra, a Roundtable colleague, about the August holiday in Italy. It was written for a July edition of Roundtable, a few years back, and I realized that there was no need to do that again. Here’s an alternative look at how Catholic holidays might impact your Italian travels.

Since I began writing about Italy travel, one question has been asked a lot: “Is this the best itinerary?” I am not a trip planner and will not structure your trip for you . This is why I began giving tips to help you create the perfect trip . One of those steps is to compare the Italian holiday and festival calendars with your travel plan. This will help you determine if any holidays in Italy could cause a problem.

It is a very useful step. It’s something I do every time I travel. It’s more difficult than you might think in Italy. There are about half a billion saint’s feasts to be aware of, along with the holiday celebrations that are celebrated around the globe.

Ok, I may be exaggerating a bit on the number. There are many feast days.

It can be difficult to track their relationship with your travel plans because one feast day may be a regular day for one city, and another big holiday for another. The whole thing can seem confusing, especially if you are not Catholic. This is why I will give you an overview of the saints’ feast days in Italy and how they relate with your travel plans.

This information is not intended to be a guide for Catholics. It’s simply meant to help you understand an aspect of Italian culture that might be new to you. It doesn’t really matter what faith you follow (or not) – you will be influenced by Catholicism while you are in Italy. Understanding how this may overlap with your trip is a good idea.

Festa di San Gennaro in Naples || creative commons photo by Fiore Silvestro Barbato

What are the feast days of saints?

Each day of the liturgical year has a saint associated with them, and each saint has a day in the liturgical year. As there are many saints, more dates can be shared than days.

If the date of the saint’s death can be determined, it is usually the first option for the saint’s feast day. The date of death in many cases is not known, so the church may choose to assign a feast day. Sometimes, a death date is not known and falls on a day that is already crowded with saints. In these cases, the church might choose to give a different day to the saint.

Is there a large banquet?

Nope. No. Even though this is Italy, it’s possible to have what feels like an Italian feast on any given day.

What happens on feast day?

It depends on where you live and which saints are being honored. Each city and town has a patron saint. On the saint’s feast day, the city or town might have a large procession carrying an icon of that saint to and from its church. There may also be an associated festival. Some stores may close for this occasion. While the nearby town recognizes the first saint as a saint they won’t celebrate it because it isn’t their patron saint.

No doubt you are familiar with St. Patrick’s Day. It’s an Irish national holiday that honors Ireland’s patron saint. This day has also become very popular around the globe for other reasons. Valentine’s Day is February 14th, right? That’s short for Saint Valentine, and the 14th February is his feast.

The patron saints of the places you will visit in Italy might not be familiar names. Even if you don’t have any feast days or are not Catholic, it’s worth checking out local procession to see what locals do every year on the same day.

How can I find out what feast days are celebrated during my trip to Italy?

Although the internet has made this task much easier than ever, it can still be a little cumbersome.

This site is all about patron saints in Italy and the cities they are associated with. It would be easier to understand the calendar in its month format. Although it’s very easy to locate each date on this website, this calendar is only about saints and not their associated cities. You’ll need to do some research after you find saint names.

Please let me know if you have a great resource for finding the feast days of saints and the locations in Italy where they are patron saints.

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5 Responses to “Italy Roundtable – What You Need To Know About Saint’s Feast Days In Italy”

  • Greg Speck said:

    Jessica, this is a great post. We stopped by the Cattedrale di Sant’Andrea/Duomo di Amalfi several years ago to enjoy an early pizza. It was feast day, to our delight. It was incredible to see people marching in the streets, bands playing and fireworks at midnight. It was unforgettable and I will always remember our buona fortune! On site is visit regularly for information of all types of events in Sicily is I have found this to be very helpful. I was able to find out about the Noto International Film Fest and Cefalu’s art festival. Although it is in Italian, many browsers permit quick translations.


    • Jess has the following:

      Those serendipitous moments are my favorite! It was a great memory.


  • Gloria has the following:

    Jessica, this is a great post! This is one of those things which are rapidly changing. Even the “sagre”, which was once sacred and sacrific, were once inextricably linked to a Saint. The majority of celebrations and town festivals were organized and planned by local associations, often called “Misericordia”. The churches began to close down over time and the sport organizations have taken over festivals to help finance soccer tournaments. Many traditional festivals have been transformed into lay festivals that revolve around special products and events. Some cases, the religious element has been completely lost. It’s not always possible. It’s becoming more frequent. Patron Saints’ celebrations are a little more resistant to change. Fingers crossed…


    • Jess has the following:

      Yes, even though I am not religious, I enjoy the processions on feast day… I hope that tradition continues!


  • Colby Menning:

    You need to leave a long comment about travel by train to beaches nearby those beachside attractions, some of which are

    Taormina, Sicily

    Paestum 3 Greek Temples, and beach close to Rome (walking distance to train station Think Ladipolis).

    Vico Esquene is also on the Circumvesuvia Train to Sorrento. I’m done with curvy AMalfi Coast. Give me the train to Herculeum and Pompeii.

    Water taxis are also available to travel between the Greek Islands.


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