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There is no shortage of festivals to celebrate in Italy, no matter the season or month of the year giving you the chance to enjoy authentic festivities during your Italy Workation package.
Italians don’t miss the opportunity to celebrate and indulge in an expression of joy with their neighbors, whether in traditional ceremonies or unusual festivities, customary holidays or special events. Attending one or more festivals during your Italy trip can turn a great Workation into a memory you’ll want to share endlessly.
The following list offers a comprehensive calendar of the major festivals and celebrations across Italy to give you a better experience during your Workation, including the possibility of celebrating like a local.
December 31st to January 1st – The passion and style Italians bring to the fashion world carries into their celebrations of the New Year. Festive ambiance erupts in the cities, towns, and villages from the tip of Sicily to the top of the Italian Alps. New Year’s Eve marks the Feast of Saint Sylvester, (La Festa di San Silvestro), when Italians focus on family and friends with a large dinner. The meal is less family oriented than on Christmas, but remains a large part of the holiday, complete with certain dishes popular for their commitment to tradition and symbolism.
Pork ushers in a new year with a commitment to the richness of life. Lentils symbolize money, with each bean representing a coin to bring wealth and prosperity in the coming year. Grapes, a delicious crop harvested late summer and early autumn, embodies frugalness, so Italians who gain their fortune in the next year will spend their money wisely. The custom has ancient roots, deriving from the belief that only a prudent person could have saved a portion of their grape harvest for a celebration of the new year.
Cities, towns, and villages fill with an uproar of excited locals eager to spend their time amidst the community, with bonfires and light displays filling main piazzas. Fireworks displays fill the sky at midnight for a celebratory exhibition. The farther south you travel in Italy, the grander the fireworks display. Naples provides the largest spectacle in Italy. Larger cities, such as Naples, Bologna, Palermo, Rome, and Milan turn the evening into an outdoor festival, often using pop and rock bands to emphasize the jovial atmosphere.
Southern Italians throw their old pottery out the window at midnight. The custom has transitioned to many locals crashing pots and pans together from their front door to frighten away spirits in the new year. Pay attention to the first person who helps you celebrate after midnight. Custom dictates that someone older or of the opposite sex brings signs of long life or a luck in love, respectively. The party carries on early into the morning. Many Italians choose to stay in the main squares or venture to a perfect viewpoint at which to watch the sunrise. New Year’s Day, also known as capodanno, is quiet in the morning. Adults sleep late, resting after a long night of festivities.
January 6th – The iconic image of Christmas in the English-speaking western world depicts a child running down the stairs to find presents Santa left in the night, with elegant wrapping glinting beneath a lush tree. Italian children receive their Christmas gifts on the Feast of the Epiphany. The holiday tops the 12th Day of Christmas, when the Three Wise Men reach the manger, bearing gifts for Baby Jesus. While Italy does have a character similar to Santa Clause, who visits on Christmas, it is La Befana from whom the children wait for a visit. La Befana is a witch who travels around Italy on a broomstick on the eve of January 5th, bringing presents to the good girls and boys of the country and lumps of coal to those who have been naughty.
The legend dates back to the Three Wise Men, who stopped at a small shack on the way to the manger to ask for directions. They met an old woman and invited her to join their party. She refused at first, but after seeing the bright light in the sky, attempted to follow their path to reach the manger. The woman was lost and never heard from again. Ever since, she travels around on her broomstick on the 11th night of Christmas, bringing gifts to children in the hopes she might one day find the baby for whom she originally set out.
Smaller towns celebrate with live nativity scenes, with locals donning the costumes of the historical characters involved. Venice holds an annual regatta, with participants dressing like the fabled witch. One of the most notable festivals takes place in Urbania, in the region of Le Marche. The four-day festival celebrates La Befana, when children can visit the witch’s home and snack on confections sold at the seasonal market. The Epiphany is a national holiday and therefore causes disruption to the normal train and bus schedules. You can avoid the inconvenience by booking any transportation ahead of time or staying in your respective destination to join in the celebrations with the locals.
January 7th – The flag is an important symbol of Italy, representing the unification of what were once separate city-states, proud kingdoms, and also occupied territories under Spanish, French, and Austro-Hungarian sovereignties. The tricolore was originally created as a representation of the Cispadane Republic in the 1790s, which is currently the region of Emilia-Romagna. The red and white represented the French flag, under whose authority the region fell in the 18th century.
The colors also have a deeper meaning. Red represents charity, white symbolizes faith, and green embodies hope. Italy’s Tricolore gained prominence in the mid-19th century when famous general Giuseppe Garibaldi carried the flag during his campaign to unify the country for the first time since the Roman Empire. The symbol continued as a sign of a unified Italy under the Kingdom of Savoy, the Social Republic led by Mussolini, and the modern Italian Republic.
A selective part of the Italian Republic celebrates Flag Day with vigor, with the majority of celebrations concentrated in the region of Emilia-Romagna and the cities of Bologna and Reggio Emilia. The most notable ceremony takes place in Rome at 3.15pm, when the Corazzieri, a special branch of the president’s honor guard, performs a changing of the guard in full medieval military regalia, which includes metal breastplates and shimmering helmets decorated with long flowing horse’s tail.
January 27th – The Italian Republic helped establish the International Holocaust Remembrance Day to coincide with the anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation. Large cities around the country organize ceremonies, public initiatives, meetings, and lessons to provide locals and visitors a chance to reflect on the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany, its supporters, and its allies, which included the Social Republic of Italy under the administration of Mussolini. The yearly commemoration also allows Italy to shed light on the lesser-known stories of victims and heroes of the Holocaust through different mediums of storytelling.
Over the years the memorial has brought to the forefront the Foibe, a term symbolically referring to the disappearances or killings of Italian peoples in Yugoslav occupied territories. The annual event also offers insight into the role Italy played during as an ally to Germany, which lasted from 1936 to 1943. Many people from around Italy travel to the national museum of Risiera San Sabba in Trieste, the only concentration camp located on Italian soil. Nazi Germany managed the camp from 1943 to 1945, engaging in the systematic murder of political prisoners and members of the Jewish and LGBT community.
January 30th to 31st – The quiet alpine region of Valle D’Aosta brims with life during the Fair of Saint Orso, which is the largest celebration of its kind in the region. Over 1,000 stalls and stands spread through the historic center of Aosta leading to the town’s historic walls. The festival celebrates an Irish monk who traveled the region handing out wooden sandals to the poor, giving way to a celebration lasting more than a millennium.
Craftspeople bring objects carved from wood, keen on demonstrating their mastery of the material for two days. Local restaurants serve regional specialties. The vendors showcase grolle, a cup with many spouts used for sharing wine, along with mortars and pestles, ladles, and instruments used to remove cream from milk. The most popular items on display are the wooden sandals known as socques. The fashionable footwear resembles clogs made with wooden soles and a leather top. The tradition of the leatherwork dates back to Roman times. Artisans also exhibit other skills over the two days, such as weaving, wrought iron work, looming, lacework, and how to properly use wicker.
February 3rd to the 12th – Almond blossoms cause a celebratory uproar in the Sicilian city of Agrigento each February. The blossoms connote the spring, with their delicate pink and white buds indicating the warmer weather is not too far behind. The folk festival has spread a message of peace, integration, and cooperation between peoples since 1935. The highlight of the 10-day celebration culminates with song and dance performances accompanying a parade winding through the streets of the city.
The ancient Greek edifices of the Valley of the Temples act as a backdrop to the special event, with the remains of the seven Doric temples providing an example of the interconnectivity of the world. You can follow the parade through the city and participate in the folk dances taking place along the cobblestone streets and inside the public squares leading to the Temple of Concord, the largest and best-preserved Greek architecture in the ancient city.
Exact dates change annually – Carnival is the most famous holiday of February, conjuring images of Venetian masks, grand regattas, elegant banquets, and a constant celebration of debauchery. The true winter festival has pagan roots and was adapted to fit the Catholic rituals and calendar. The holiday falls on one day each year, but cities across Italy have elongated the celebration into a festival lasting weeks before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. Children throw confetti in the streets. Pranks and mischief are common in the big cities, giving credence to the phrase, “a Carnevale ogni scherzo vale,” which translates to “anything goes during Carnival.”
Masks have become a symbol of the festivities, beginning from a tradition of hiding one’s face during the mischief, allowing a person to act freely without reprisal from government laws or the reprisals of the gods. This same belief gave way to participants wearing elaborate costumes and participating in masquerade balls in private or public spaces. The festivities gained prominence in Italy in the 13th century, with visitors traveling from around the world to watch and partake in fabulous costumes, dramatic masks, and captivating ambiance.
Venice begins celebrating two weeks on average before the start date of the calendar holiday. Nightly events draw costumed locals and visitors reveling in the cool nights of the city and the ticket-only masked balls and fascinating festivities centered on Piazza San Marco. Parades take place on the Grand Canal featuring gondolas and children take part in fun activities in the family-friendly neighborhood of Cannaregio.
Areas with equally exciting Carnival celebrations without the crowds of Venice are Viareggio in Tuscany, which utilizes fascinating parades with huge paper mâché caricature floats, and Acireale in Sicily, which has one of the most famous celebrations inside of Italy due to the beauty of the allegorical paper mâché and flower floats accentuated by the surrounding baroque architecture.
February 5th – The celebrations of the Feast of St. Agatha are not well known outside of Catholic communities, however, the holiday draws devout Catholics and non-believers to the Sicilian city of Catania to honor the patron saint and witness one of the world’s most famous religious processions. Saint Agatha lived during the 3rd century AD and remains a popular figure in the hearts and minds of locals of Catania more than 1,700 years later.
The city stops for three days to commemorate the woman, Agatha, who refused the advances of a Roman prefect, resulting in her torture and eventual sentence to life in prison. The festival begins with mass on the dawn of February 3rd. The midday parade carries eleven candle-shaped structures symbolizing historic guilds, connected to the local Senate.
The following day members of the church placed a statue of St. Agatha and her relics on a 40,000-pound silver carriage. It takes 5,000 men to lift the carriage and carry the emblem down Via San Giuliano as nuns from churches around the city chant. Local officials estimate approximately 1 million people line the streets to participate in the celebrations during the three-day festival.
February 11th – Mussolini signed the Lateran Pacts with the Holy See in 1929. The document offered an alliance between Italy and the Vatican, separating the heart of the Catholic religion into its own independent principality, unattached to the governance in Rome. The pact is named after the Lateran Palace in Rome, where the treaty was signed.
The treaty consisted of political, financial, and concordat issues between the two states, including letting the Church influence public education in Italy. In return Mussolini received a public coronation through the pope’s recognition of the Kingdom of Italy. The holiday passes without much fanfare across the country. Both Italy and Vatican City recognize the pact, updating the treaty and sharing views regarding international issues and foreign relations policy.
February 14th – Italy is known for its passion, with a history of famous lovers, including the legendary Casanova. The country does not celebrate Valentine’s Day as ardently as the United States or Great Britain, but couples do give candy, flowers, and provide ineffable romance. Shop windows in the main cities represent the customary reds and pinks of the holiday in the naturally adoring ambiance cast by the historic city centers and gorgeous landscapes in the north and south of the country. The devotion to the holiday varies depending more on the city and its romantic history than on the location of the city itself.
The “Lovers of Camogli” festival takes place during the week of Valentine’s Day in the town of Camogli, located in the region of Liguria. The sleepy town awakens annually as the center of romance along the coast, bordered by olive and mimosa groves. Hearts decorate the streets and traditional fishing nets adorning the harbor wall. A marketplace on the promenade specializes in confections, cakes, pastries, and jewelry. Shops participate in a window-dressing competition, while poets and artists partake in contests of their own dedicated to the theme of love. Chefs and bartenders also offer classes on valentine recipes, from cocktails to desserts.
The festivities are spread over six weeks, beginning February 1st and ending in mid-march. Young couples participate in the Festa della Promessa and the locals indulge in sweet treats during the Cioccolentino, a celebration of decadent chocolate. On the evening of February 14th, the city glows by candlelight for the final touch of romance. Those wanting to celebrate Valentine’s Day with a more religious focus travel to Rome to visit Chiesa di Santa Maria to view a display of the saint’s more than 1,500-year-old remains.
February 16th to the 22nd – In the tradition of Carnival and the resounding festivals celebrating the holiday around Italy, Ivrea offers one of the most famous celebrations outside of Venice. The small town in Piedmont continues the customs began in medieval times. A colorful parade travels down the main avenues of town before the iconic orange-throwing battle begins. Historians are not sure when the orange throwing officially began as a custom but folklore dictates the story of a young peasant girl who rebuffed the advances of the ruling tyrant in the 12th or 13th century.
The girl decapitated the tyrant, inspiring a revolt resulting in the villagers burning down the castle. The present day reenactment has a local girl playing the role of the heroine, Violetta. Dozens of people known as aranceri signify both the tyrant and the peasants and throw oranges at each other. The fruit represents stones and other ancient weapons. The townsfolk are divided into nine teams on foot, with a number of locals positioned on carriages. Those with helmets and protective gear represent the legions of oppressive feudal lords over the centuries, including Napoleon’s armies.
The participants on the ground embody the ordinary citizens contributing to the rebellion. The orange battle begins on the Sunday before Fat Tuesday and culminates in the burning of the scarli, which are big poles covered with dry bushes and positioned in the middle of the main square. Visitors eager to watch the festivities but not participate in the battle wear red caps. There is no guarantee those choosing to observe will not be hit by a misfired orange, but joining in the fray will certainly have you marked by a well-guided throw. The battle ends when a victor is declared in front of the town hall.
February 15th – The day celebrating St. Faustino is considered the single person’s response to Valentine’s Day. Italians passion and love of a good celebration has broken away from the need to applaud coupling over the independence of being single. Saint Faustino is the patron saint of singles. What started as a joke in 2001, grew into full-fledged holidays celebrated in cities around Italy each year, promoting social events for singles and opportunities for new people to meet whether in social or romantic capacities.
Milan, Turin, Catania, and Rome have championed the holiday and inspired many more events across the country for singles on the day after Valentine’s Day. Little is known about St. Faustino, but legend states the priest helped young and unwed women find partners. The name Faustino in Latin can mean “lucky” or “auspicious,” adding another layer of meaning to the reasons for singles celebrating on the commemoration day of this particular saint.
March 2nd to 11th – The chocolate fan can find refuge in a celebration devoted to the sweet confection during a nearly 10-day long festival in Turin. The name plays on the word for chocolate in Italian, which is simply cioccolato, blended with the Italian word for Turin, which is Torino. Although the largest chocolate festival in Italy is located in Perugia, Turin has its own fascinating history connected to the delicious treat, due to the evolution of the Ferrero company.
The name of the company in particular is not as well-known outside of Italy as its signature product of Nutella. The creamy and decadent combination of chocolate and hazelnut, a mixture known officially as gianduja, provides a consistent theme for the festival each year. Aside from the traditional flavor associated with Italian chocolate desserts or a flavorful spread for toast, Piedmont, the greater region surrounding Turin, continues to produce chocolate with good quality ingredients.
The first hot chocolate was served in the court of the Savoy in the mid-16th century after the ruling duke received a bag of cacao beans from the King of Spain praising the duke’s record as a general in the Spanish army. The exotic drink became a fixture at grand balls and aristocratic parties before opening the product to the people and its popularity growing through low taxes on sugar and cacao goods. Artisans of Piedmont continue to craft careful concoctions using traditional and brand-new methods with attention to quality and detail highlighted during the CioccolaTÓ festival each year, along with demonstrating the chocolate producing methods established by the Aztecs centuries ago.
March 8th – The popular holiday grew in meaning over the years with women traditionally enjoying a night out with their friends at dinner, a movie, or relishing a dessert to celebrate the freedoms in their preferred manner commemorating Women’s Rights Movement around the world. Men purchase yellow mimosas for their wives, girlfriends, daughters, and sisters in a tradition begun in 1946 after moving away from the customary violets and lily-of-the-valley the French presented. Yellow mimosas and chocolates are more prevalent across the Italian landscape and therefore less expensive to purchase.
The holiday allows women and girls to contemplate the distance their role in society has come since the first Women’s Rights March, which took place in New York on February 28th, 1909. However, the commemoration takes place on March 8th due to a memorial of the women who took the streets of St. Petersburg in 1917 demanding an end to the Great War. Italy officially recognized International Women’s Day in 1922, but did not celebrate the holiday around the entirety of the country until 1946.
Mimosa is not just the symbol of the holiday in Italy but has become an important ingredient in the cuisine, showcasing the ingenuity of mixologists and chefs alike, utilizing the bright flower in cakes, cocktails, custards, and creams. It is not uncommon to see women out in the bars and nightclubs with their male counterparts at home for the evening. Museums have also joined in the celebration by offering free admission for women with special exhibits highlighting female artists in Italian history, bringing to new light one of the most popular lesser-known female artists Artemisia Gentileschi and the first woman to graduate one of Italy’s university institutions, Elena Lucrezia Corner Piscopia, who matriculated from the University of Padua in the 17th century.
March 18th – The annual competition has brought famous runners from around the world since its establishment in 1982. The dates have moved multiple times over its three decades of existence, including taking place on January 1st, 2000 to bring in the new millennium. On race day much of Rome shuts down due to the route, which passes through the major tourist attractions changing minimally from year to year. Participants pass landmarks such as St. Peter’s Square, Piazza di Spagna, the Trevi Fountain, and the Colosseum.
Runners are expected to complete the race within seven hours before the streets are reopened to regular traffic. In 2010 Rome held a commemoration race in memory of the 50th anniversary of the gold medal winner from Ethiopia Abebe Bikila, who ran the entire marathon barefoot during the 1960 Rome Olympics. The winner of the 2010 race, Siraj Gena from Ethiopia, crossed the finish line barefoot to honor the original champion from his home country.
March 19th – Father’s Day and the festival celebrating St. Joseph, the husband of Mary, go hand in hand in Italy. The historical figure played a prominent role in the early life of Jesus but became a venerated saint in the Middle Ages when Sicilians prayed to the saint to end the legendary drought. Devout Sicilian immigrants carried the tradition North America and Australia during the Great Migration of the 19th century and early 20th centuries.
The novena, nine days of prayer, lead to the veneration of the saint’s day and the decoration of the altar. Flowers, oranges, lemons, rosaries, bread loaves, and fava beans decorate the altars with displays of faith, devotion, and celebration. The food served continues traditions with each dish symbolic of a past invaluable resource, including wild fennel and chickpeas. The holiday is celebrated widely in Southern Italy, with the largest festivals taking place in Sicily.
March 25th – On the New Year the calendar begins anew, with the majority of the world adhering to, or acknowledging, the Gregorian calendar. However, numerous regional or stately calendars remain in use and calculate the New Year differently. Pisa is an old republic that celebrates the new year twice, once on January 1st with the greater world, and once on the 25th of March. The city holds fast to its custom first begun in the year 1200 and ending in the year 1749.
The celebration coincided with the Annunciation, taking place nine months before Christmas along the solar calendar. At midday in Pisa a ray of sharp sunlight penetrates the Duomo in the round nave window. A marble egg on a shelf refracts the light above a column. A historical parade and religious parade fills the morning with locals marching through the streets dressed in period costumes. Drummers and troubadours add traditional music to the fascinating ambiance before noon hits and the crowds venture to the cathedral to view the display of natural light and lavish craftsmanship.
March 25th to 28th – Vinitaly is the world’s largest conference dedicated to the wine sector and has been growing each year since its inception in 1967. Over 4,000 exhibitors from around the world present their top products across the four-day event, attracting more than 150,000 professionals of wine and spirits. The convention is referred to by those in the profession as “the most important convention of domestic and international wines.” The conference also offers the largest wine showing in the world, utilized as a barometer of the health of the international wine industry.
Vintner and producers release new wines, announce unique styles, and showcase up-and-coming or emerging Italian wine regions. One popular aspect of the conference is the sensory judgment of wines, when a five-member panel of two Italian judges, two members of the international wine press, and a non-Italian judge sample dry, sweet, still, sparkling, and fortified wines.
Venice has been married to the sea for over a millennium, established in a ceremony first performed in the year 1,000 AD. The celebration commemorated Doge Pietro II Orseolo’s conquest of Dalmatia. Every year the city renews its vows to the sea with an elaborate ceremony that continues to capture the imaginations of Venetians, Italians, and tourists from around the world. The first ceremony saw the sailors cruising into the lagoon and throwing rings into the open water.
The initial ceremony marked a time of great expansion for the republic, turning the medieval city-state into a powerhouse of the Adriatic Sea, along with creating a peace between competing families to help reestablish trade with the Byzantine and Holy Roman empires. The ceremony’s meaning has changed over the millennia, no longer accounting for the marriage between sailors and their dominion over the water, and instead marking the anniversary of the famous mission undertaken by the Doge as a symbol of the city’s great heritage.
The mayor of Venice performs the role of the Doge, leading the water parade of rowing boats made up of the Venetian Rowing Society. The mayor tosses the gold ring into the water representing tradition, heritage, and the city’s indelible connection to the sea. The Church of St. Nicoló hosts the religious ritual preceding the festive market overtaking the piazza. Races also provide entertainment along the Grand Canal and around the Venetian Lagoon. Venice is a popular destination year-round, therefore it is important to always book your accommodation in the city known as Serenissima ahead of time.
Vist the sections below to learn about more festivals in Italy!