There’s always something to do in Italy, no matter the season. You’ll find plenty to do in Italy, including museums, monuments, and towns. But, the best way to get to know Italy’s true culture is to participate in local festivals. While the main stage is filled with famous celebrations such as Carnevale or large music festivals, lesser-known gems like Regata and Ferragosto are also worth a look. Get your calendar ready for an exciting line-up of Italian festivals in 2020!
Plan your trip
It’s a great country, with almost every event taking place no matter where you are. You can ensure that you are ready to enjoy the festivities with just a bit of planning. We’ve put together a list of our favorite celebrations and festivals, as well as public holidays in Italy.
It is important to remember that festivals can often lead to other establishments being closed, such as stores and car rental places. Restaurants and hotels are often booked up quickly, while stores close. This is particularly true for smaller towns. This is a great reason not to miss out. You can enjoy the season festivities by doing some research and planning ahead. This is where we come in. This list of Italy’s top festivals for 2020 will help you plan your next Italian vacation to coincide with one the many exciting and unique events that take place throughout the year.
January 1, Capodanno
Capodanno is the Italian name for New Year’s Day. You can ring in the new year on December 31st at bars, restaurants, and even piazzas across Italy. There you will undoubtedly see fireworks, and enjoy some delicious food. Keep an eye out for special events in the city, even though most shops and restaurants will be closed on January 1. Venice has traditional swimming in the lagoon. We don’t recommend swimming in Venice. However, it is an exception to the rule.
January 6: Epiphany
According to Catholic tradition, the Epiphany marks the moment when three wise men reached Jesus’ baby and gave him gifts of myrrh, gold, and frankincense. It’s a significant Italian holiday for children today because of La Befana. This old lady arrives on a broomstick to fill children’s shoes and stockings with candy. Many streets of Italy will be filled with street fairs and parades on this day. Boat races will be held in Venice, where racers dress up like La Befana!
Carnevale can be celebrated in Venice from February 15th to 25th. The weekend is when most of the main celebrations for this traditional Italian festival are held, especially the last weekend. Viareggio, further south, hosts spectacular Carnevale celebrations every Sunday in February. These are accompanied by massive man-made floating floats. Each theme is worth seeing, and they range from beautiful scenes to political commentary. The festival’s last three days (22nd -25th) will be celebrated in Ivrea. This small town is in Piedmont, and the celebrations culminate with The Battle of the Oranges, an enormous food fight in which oranges are thrown at rival groups. Oranges may sound violent but this fight is a reminder of a medieval battle between townsfolks and nobility that resulted in the torching of the castle.
April 3: Ravello Concerts
Ravello is a popular tourist destination all year, but it fills up more in spring and fall for the annual Ravello Art Concerts. This is not the summer tourist season. Instead, music lovers flood the gardens and banquet halls at the Villa Rufolo to enjoy concerts. It began as a chamber music festival. However, it has since expanded to include jazz music and a variety other disciplines, such as art shows and dance performances. It hosts more than 1,750 concerts each year, so there is sure to be something for everyone.
April 10, Procession of the Mysteries, Sicily
You will often see processions and pilgrimages filling the streets of Sicily during Easter Holy Week. But the Procession of the Mysteries is perhaps the most well-known. It has been held in Trapani, Italy, since 1400. At a staggering 24 hours it is also one of the most popular Italian festivals. These mysteries represent the Passion and Death of Christ. The mysteries are paraded through the city with lights, sounds and surprising emotional crowds. The procession starts at Anime Sante del Purgatorio Church at 2.30 p.m. Good Friday and ends at the church at 2.30 p.m. Black Saturday. This is a cultural and religious event that you should not miss if your goal is to experience authentic Italian festivals.
April 12: Easter Sunday, Florence.
Although Easter Sunday is celebrated throughout Italy with many parades and events, the Scoppio del Carro is the highlight of Florence. Literally meaning the “explosion” of the cart, this folk tradition recalls the actions and contributions of a young man named Pazzino. He is a member of the prominent Pazzi family of Florence. He was the first knight to cross the Jerusalem sacking breach during the First Crusade and received three fragments of stone from the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem as a reward. He used the fragments to create a Sacred Fire for the people of Florence when he returned. This Italian festival recreates the entire scene. A large wagon with fireworks is pulled by white oxen, soldiers, musicians, and others in 15th-century costumes. The historic stone is used to start a fire, and then a string is lit to bring the cart outside. Giotto’s Bell Tower Bells also ring out. The whole firework display usually lasts around 20 minutes. It is believed to bring good fortune. However, you will need to arrive early as the festival fills quickly.
April 13: Pasquetta
Pasquetta, or “Little Easter”, is Italy’s national holiday. It is great for those who have the day off from work. This is a great day to catch up with your friends and enjoy the spring weather. This is a time for families to enjoy leftover Easter food and celebrations. Although most museums and sites are open, we recommend that you prepare a picnic and join the rest of Italy in a nearby park to celebrate.
April 19-22: Vinitaly, Verona
VinItaly, the largest international wine exhibition, is held in the stunning UNESCO World Heritage town of Verona. Visitors can enjoy four days of wine tasting, buying, sharing, and exchanging at a celebration that celebrates food and art. This celebration Italian wine is a great way to experience the country.
April 21: Rome’s birthday celebration
Do as the Romans do when you’re in Rome. On April 21st Rome will celebrate its birthday in typical Roman fashion, with a party lasting for days. Traditional events will be held throughout Rome to commemorate the 753 BC founding of the city by Romulus. These include the tracciato del Solco (or trench-digging ritual), reenactments and mock gladiator fights, as well as a tracciato del solco (or trench-digging ritual), and other nods towards the Eternal City’s epic history . The festivities culminate in a parade of costumes that begins (and ends) at Circus Maximus. This festival is a great way to really enjoy the city’s rich heritage. 2020 will be Rome’s 2,7703rd Birthday!
April 25: Italian Liberation Day and St. Mark’s Day in Venice
On April 25, the Festa della Liberazione, or Liberation Day, marks the end to WWII in Italy. It also marks the day that Italy was granted independence from Nazi Germany. Concerts, food stalls and political rallies are some of the many public events that commemorate the victory for the resistance and the fall of the Fascist regime. This date will be displayed on street signs across Italy. It is a national holiday.
April 25th is also the feast day for St. Mark, who is the patron saint of Venice. Venetians celebrate their saint with a gondolier Regata (boat race), and a large party in Saint Mark’s Square. This feast day coincides with the Festa del Bocolo (or “blooming rose festa”), an ancient tradition in which men give the women in their lives a red rosebud (bocolo). No matter what you do, be prepared for crowds in Venice. Don’t forget to bring a rose to your significant other.
May 1st: Labor Day
Italy’s national Labor Day is another national holiday. May 1st is also a national holiday. It is celebrated in Rome with a concert, or ‘concertone’, organized by the main Italian trade unions. This is to raise awareness about labor issues in Italy. It attracts top performers and draws people from all over the globe. Expect major museums to close on this day, and there will be limited public transportation options. It’s a busy weekend in Italy because Italians are absent from work in large numbers and the weather is generally pleasant.
May 24: La Cavalcata Sarda, Sardinia
The Cavalcata Sarda (or Sardinian Horse Race) is Sardinia’s biggest event. It marks the start of spring and takes place in Sassari on the second Sunday of May. Traditional costumes are worn by participants as they parade through the town on horseback before they meet on the race track at town’s edge for stunts and horse races. The festival is held annually since 1899. It marks the day King Umberto I visited the city to unveil Piazza d’Italia. The two-day event today is a testament to the Sardinian pride in their culture, history, and island.
May 23 – November 29: Venice Biennale
Every other summer, the Venice Biennale hosts an international art show. There are many locations where art and music exhibits can be found. They can be found in the Biennale Garden pavilions, but also in some of the incredible private buildings and villas throughout Venice. This is the best way to see all the beautiful mansions if you’ve been to the city before. The Binnale Architettura, which will be held from 23 May to 29 November, will start.
May 15: Festa dei Ceri in Gubbio
The Festa dei Ceri is an annual race dedicated to St. Ubaldo (Gubbio’s patron saint), and one of the oldest Italian folklore events. Every year, Gubbio’s people take part in a magical procession that involves carrying huge wooden “candles” up Mount Ingino to reach the Basilica of St. Ubaldo. The entire structure is approximately 700 lbs and each candle is crowned by a statue representing a saint. Although it is not a fast race, it’s definitely a unique one.
May 31: Vogalonga Regata, Venice
In 1974, the first Vogalonga Regata was held. Although it is young for an Italian festival and attracted more than 500 boats, as well as 1,500 rowers, it was a huge success. To protest motor traffic in Venice’s waterways, the huge gondola racing was established to restore pride in Venetian handicrafts. Around 1,550 boats and 5,800 rowers take part in the 30-kilometer race through the canals and lagoons of Venice every year on Pentecost.
June 2, 2012: The anniversary of the republic
The Italian Republic’s foundation is celebrated by the Festa della Repubblica. Italians voted to abolish the monarchy in a referendum on June 2, 1946. They also voted to establish a republic. The results were so favorable that the Italian royal family fled Italy, having supported Mussolini and sparked unfavorable opinions.
Rome hosts the largest celebration, but you can find many other events, such as festivals, parades and concerts, depending on your location. Most major museums and sites are still open.
June 16-17: Festival of St. Ranieri in Pisa
The roots of this Italian festival date back to 1688, when Saint Ranieri’s remains were placed in an urn at Cappella dell’Incoronata. The Luminera was a special celebration that saw the river and other prominent buildings lit by candles and lamps. Although this was commonly done to celebrate special occasions and events, it has been a tradition that Saint Ranieri has carried down the years.
Today, June 16th, the lights of over 70,000 candles and lights are used to illuminate the Arno’s churches and buildings. It is a stunning sight to see the lights reflect in the water. It also includes fireworks that create a spectacular spectacle. The Festa dei Ranieri, Pisa ends with a spectacular boat race down the Arno River on June 17th, which is the city’s feast day.
June-August: International Festival of Arts, Taormina (Sicily).
The town’s cultural festival, Taormina Artse, runs all summer. It hosts concerts, exhibitions and the Taormina Movie Fest. This festival brings the best of film to a week of premieres. Photo shoots are similar to those at Cannes. You can find a wide range of performances, music, and other events at Taormina during the summer.
June – September: Taormina Opera Festival
The Taormina Summer Opera Festival coincides with their art festival. It starts in April and continues through the summer, with some concerts continuing until December. It is a wonderful opportunity to see Don Giovanni and Carmen at very affordable prices. The show is performed at Teatro Antico in the town, an open-air Greek theatre with stunning views to Mount Etna and Teatro Greco in Syracuse further down the coast. Tickets can be purchased online at Palazzo dei Congressi or at the box office.
Verona Arena Summer Opera Season, June 13-September 05
Every summer, Verona begins its incredible season of opera. This is the ideal place to get your opera fix. It also offers affordable tickets and amazing operas. All this happens in one of the most stunning concert venues. Operas are held at the Verona Arena. This open-air Colosseum is more than 2,000 years old. It has served many purposes, just like the Colosseum. But it was given a new lease on life in 1913 when it hosted operas.
Verona isn’t the only Italian city that hosts a music festival. You can also visit Lucca, northwestern Tuscany, for their annual Summer Festival. You’ll enjoy the best of pop and rock this year. Some past performers include Take That, John Legend, Bob Dylan, Sting, and Bob Dylan.
July 10-19, Umbria Jazz Perugia
Perugia hosts the Jazz Festival every July. The town’s piazzas, gardens and wine bars are filled with music lovers who want to enjoy one of the most renowned jazz festivals in the world. Perugia is a university town and hosts many international Italian festival events such as the delicious Eurochocolate or the International Journalism Festival. But there’s nothing more relaxing than a jazz concert in a stunning setting.
August 15: Ferragosto
The Feast of the Assumption commemorates the day that the Virgin Mary was raised to heaven through the Catholic faith. Ferragosto, an Italian festival, marks the beginning of the country’s annual vacation. You’ll see signs in many restaurants and shops throughout the country declaring Chiuso per Ferie (closed for vacation) from this date to the beginning of September. Italians celebrate Ferragosto by going to the countryside or coast with their families. Be careful, you could get caught in the crowds of people along the coast.
August 16: Palio dell’Assunta, Siena
The ancient horse race takes place twice a year on July 2nd and August 16. However, the 16th is more popular because it’s close to a national holiday. It was previously known as Palio di Siena. In honor of the Assumption Mary, the Palio dell’Assunta was created. This medieval tradition pits Siena’s various neighborhoods (or contrades) against each other in an exciting bareback horse race about the central Piazza del Campo. The event is covered with dirt. The winner jockey gets bragging rights for his contrada throughout the year.
September: Regata Storica Venice
Venice’s Historic Regata has been a tradition for thousands of years. It includes a large water pageant with costumes and boats from 16th century, as well as a procession that will carry the Dode, his family and all officers up the Grand Canal. Four races are held after the event. The most popular is the Campioni su Gondolini race. This small, fast gondolas fly down the Grand Canal to win.
September 2, 7-9: 77th Venice International Film Festival
Venice’s Film Festival is among the “Big Three” film festivals around the globe. It was established in 1932 as part of Venice Biennale, which celebrates international art and architecture. Screenings and events take place on Lido, an island in Venice Lagoon at the Palazzo del Cinema.
This year’s festival is in its 77th anniversary. Cate Blanchett will be the chair of the international jury that decides the Gold Lion award, Best Film, and other awards.
October – November Harvest Sagre
The prime months for Italy’s most popular festivals are October and November. These festivals include the delicious sagre or food festivals. These festivals are usually centered around one seasonal ingredient and celebrate the bounty of the harvest and the change in the seasons. The Truffle Festival in Piedmont, Umbria, and the Chestnut Sagre in Tuscany are some of the most well-known.
October 16-25: Eurochocolate Perugia
Eurochocolate, the International Chocolate Exhibition of Europe. This is the largest European chocolate festival. You can discover chocolate flavors from all over the globe, take part in cooking classes, watch performances, and even sculpt chocolate! You can also visit the chocolate factory, or just browse the events taking place in the squares and piazzas of Umbria. The festival has been taking place since 1993 and is a real delight for chocolate lovers.
November 1: All Saint’s Day
All Saint’s Day is part the forgotten Allhallowtide Triduum. It runs from 31 October to 2 November and includes All Hallow’s Eve through All Saint’s Day, All Soul’s Day, and All Saint’s Day.
All Saint’s Day, a Catholic holiday to commemorate Saints and honor those without their own days, is celebrated on the Catholic calendar. The Italian tradition of Ceci con le Costine is a special soup made from chickpeas, pork ribs, and potatoes. Legend says that this soup will bring you good luck all year if eaten on November 1.
Pagan beliefs say that this was the time when the veil between the living & the dead was at its thinnest. All Soul’s Day marks the day when the living remember the dead. In addition to religious services, which include prayers for souls in purgatory or the giving Alms, informal services can be held at home. It is believed that the dead will return to their homes on this day so it is common for families to leave places for loved ones at mealtimes. It is no surprise that food plays an important part in the festival of Italy. Delicious homemade dishes such as fave morti and dulce di membrillo can be enjoyed.
December 8: Immaculate Conception
This is a traditional Catholic holiday that celebrates the Virgin Mary’s immaculate conception. The official start of winter holidays in Italy is marked by this date. This weekend is when decorations, lights, and trees are put up all over Italy. Christmas markets also spring up in towns. It’s usually a long weekend so it’s a wonderful time to enjoy the Christmas atmosphere. However, be aware that hotels and restaurants can sometimes book up well in advance.
December 25-26: Christmas Day and Santo Stefano
On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can attend a midnight Mass in any Italian town and see the different nativity scenes displayed on every corner. Some nativity scenes are even made by locals, such as Assisi. Most shops and banks are closed on Christmas Day.