The Best Italian Festivals: Be Sure to Visit These Incredible Celebrations
Italy is full of different festivals. They say that they have different holidays every day. If not all over the country, then in some towns the local holy day is surely celebrated, with a huge procession and carnival, which is a fusion of exuberant colors, music, and traditions. Today we want to tell you about the most interesting and bright carnival holidays from the North of Italy to the South.
Best Celebrations in Italy
One of the most famous Italian festivals (if not the most) is the Venice Carnival, which takes place in February-March, just before the start of Lent. The festivities last for 10 days, during which a dressed-up crowd moves through the city streets, everyone has fun and takes pictures with the owners of the most luxurious masquerade costumes.
Comedies of masks are also played on the squares, performances are held in theaters on the relevant theme as well as masquerade balls for the most elite audience.
Well, the main stage, as always, is Piazza San Marco, where the most interesting events of the carnival unfold. It all starts with a holiday called Festa Delle Marie, which reminds viewers of the famous story of the liberation of beautiful Venetian women who were kidnapped by Istrian pirates.
Another iconic performance of the carnival is Flight of the Angel (Volo dell’Angelo), during which a beautiful girl in an angel’s dress makes a breathtaking flight from the hundred-meter bell tower of St. Mark’s Basilica to the Doge’s Palace.
Venice Historical Regatta (Regata Storica)
Another, slightly less popular cultural event in Italy is the Historical Regatta, held on the Grand Canal on the first Sunday in September. In addition to the magnificent masquerade taking place on the streets and squares of Venice, a riot of colors unfolds on the water. There are luxurious carved boats, ceremonial gondolas, and many other types of ships, decorated with antiquity. By the evening, as a rule, by half-past four, they all are ready to take part in the regatta.
The competition is divided into 4 stages: youth, women, men and, finally, the most spectacular – the race of champions. Having passed almost the entire Grand Canal twice (there and back), the ships finish at the Ca’ Foscari Palace, where the awards ceremony takes place. The culmination of the holiday is fireworks, launched directly from the water and accompanied by music.
The Madonna Bianca Festival in Portovenere (Festa Della Madonna Bianca)
Now let’s move to the small seaside town of Portovenere, where a traditional Italian festival is held annually on the night of August 16-17 in honor of the local patroness, the White Madonna. It is a legend that it was who helped Portovenere to get rid of two misfortunes at once: the terrible plague epidemic and endless civil wars.
Since then, the White Madonna has been recognized as the patroness of the city, and the holiday in her honor has become one of the most important for Portovenere and at the same time the most beautiful! The festivities begin after an evening when the night is already descending on the rocky coastline. The festive procession lights about two thousand torches and, together with the icon of the White Madonna, moves along the picturesque promontory to the Church of San Pietro. The spectacle is incredibly beautiful!
Carnival of Viareggio
The Carnival of Viareggio ranks among the most famous Italian celebrations in the world of carnivals, thanks to its gigantic and impressive allegorical chariots, made by over 1,000 craftsmen from more than 25 factories.
On the papier-mâché carts, they put huge cartoon figures made of cardboard, poignantly ridiculing modern realities and depicting famous politicians and representatives of show business. In addition to the festive processions along the Viareggio promenade, for almost the entire February in the city’s quarters, there are separate Italian cultural activities, excursions, and masterclasses.
Carnival in Fano
Along with the Venice Carnival, the Fano Carnival, located in the Marche region, is considered the oldest festival in Italy and is famous for its creative allegorical chariots and candy throwing.
During the processions, organized over the three Sundays leading up to the last Tuesday before Lent, not only confetti, but tons of caramels, chocolates, and various sweets are thrown into the crowd. Carnival wagons in Fano reaching 16 meters high, illuminated by a myriad of lights and accompanied by unusual music performed by an eccentric ensemble on improvised instruments.
Infiorata is perhaps one of the most unusual festivals in Italy. In the city of Genzano di Roma, a flower festival takes place in mid-June. On the streets and squares of the city, carpets of living plants and flower petals are laid out. This is a special event for which Italians prepare for a long time: they prepare sketches, flowers, and come up with themes.
Floral carpets are masterpieces of creative teams. Some works require not only inspiration and talent, but also a huge amount of plant material. The splendor of the flowers is deeply exciting, some flower carpets are a real work of art! There are even paintings containing images of the coat of arms and a portrait of the Pope. Infiorata is a religious celebration, and the tradition of arranging flower carpets dates back to 1778. Similar feast days are held in many cities in Italy and are accompanied by folklore concerts and costumed carnivals.
Fieracavalli International Horse Show is one of the most famous and most visited equestrian sports festivals in Italy, in which the best athletes and the best horses of the country compete for the main prize – the title of champion of the exhibition. The organizers promise colorful performances of riders and horses, exhibitions of American, Arab, Italian and Spanish horses, a children’s department, as well as a unique exhibition of clothing, equipment, and accessories, and much more.
Carnival of Ivrea
The Italian town of Ivrea cannot be called large, with just over 20,000 inhabitants. Nevertheless, for two centuries an unusual festival has been held here annually.
This event brings together guests not only from Italy but also from all over the world. Moreover, despite the long tradition, no one can answer for sure what this festival is about and what Italians celebrate. There is, however, a legend that back in the 12th century, the beautiful daughter of a local miller denied the feudal lord the right to “the first night”. She simply killed him and threw her head off the balcony.
The guards tried to grab her, but the townspeople rose to her defense, armed with stones. After this, the girls of the city of Ivrea developed a tradition – to throw oranges at the guys they liked. And in 1808, the first festival was held in Ivrea, the participants of which threw oranges at each other. The holiday has become a symbol of the people’s struggle against oppressors.
The Procession of the Snake Catchers
Every first Thursday in May, the mountain village of Cocullo is the arena for an extraordinary and terrifying ritual in honor of the Catholic saint-healer. The festival of the Snake Charmers is not only one of the strangest but also the most ancient festivals in Italy. At noon, the most impressive action of the holiday begins. Under the bells ringing and the roar of firecrackers, a statue of St. Dominic, hung with a “garland” of dozens of living snakes, is carried out of the church.
A procession follows the main streets of Cocullo through the crowds of townspeople, some of whom add new snakes to this impressive composition. By the behavior of the snakes on the statue, the townspeople predict the future. If the snake wraps around the “head” of Dominic, the peasants of Cocullo would have a good harvest. If the scaly participants of the holiday mainly wrap around the hands or body of the statue, then all sorts of troubles can be expected.
Our list of Italian festivals is coming to an end, and this is just a small part of the events that take place annually in this vibrant and temperamental country. No matter what time of the year you come, you would stumble upon some kind of holiday. However, due to the pandemic, some Italian festivals were canceled in 2021. Therefore, if you want to attend a particular holiday, we strongly recommend that you follow the events on the official websites. But you can be sure that other events would give you no less vivid emotions!
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