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Festivals in Italy

Where to Go to Experience Italian Festivals

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Here's a sampling of top festivals in Italy and a few of my favorites. Most festivals are free of charge but some events require buying tickets. Many Italian festivals are based on historic events and often include processions with people dressed in period costume, contests between neighborhoods of the town, flag throwers, food, and fireworks. Summer is the height of festival season and in addition to those listed here, there are many others. As you travel in Italy, look for posters advertising a festa or sagra (sample poster on Wandering Italy).

Carnevale - Italy's Carnival Festivals

venice pictures, carnevale pictures, cafe florian
© 2009 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

Venice has one of the top carnival festivals in the world but carnevale is celebrated in many Italian towns. Viareggio, on the coast of Tuscany, is known for their elaborate floats and parades are held on several weekends. Carnevale events often occur prior to the actual Carnival date, too. Carnevale usually falls in February. Take a look at some of Italy's interesting Carnevale festivals by clicking on the link above.

More: What is Carnevale | Carnevale Dates
Carnevale Pictures: Venice Carnevale Costumes | Viareggio Carnival Parade

Il Palio di Siena - Horse Race in the Main Square

The palio of Siena is one of Italy's most famous palio competitions. Siena's palio is a horse race run in the unusual fan-shaped piazza, Il Campo. Siena's 17 contrade, or neighborhoods, compete to win the palio. The horse race takes place in both July and August with other events taking place prior to the races.

Pictures: Siena Palio Photos
More: What is a Palio? | Siena Travel Guide | Palio Tickets from Select Italy

L'Ardia di San Costantino - Ancient Horse Race

L'ardia Di San Costantino is one of the biggest festivals in Sardinia. Taking place in July, this exciting horse race commemorates Constantine's victory at the Mulvian Bridge in 312. It's really more than a race and it has an interesting spiritual twist. Besides watching the races, the large array of food stands makes it a great festival for eating.

More: Sardinia Pictures | Sardinia Travel Directory

Festa della Madonna Bruna - Procession and Fireworks

The Madonna Bruna festival, on July 2 in Matera, is one of the most interesting processions I've ever seen. The procession has a surprise ending and late at night there's a spectacular fireworks display over the sassi of Matera, a really beautiful sight.

More: Matera Cave Hotels | Matera Travel Guide on Europe Travel

La Quintana - Medieval Jousting

ascoli piceno picture, medieval jousting picture
© 2008, Teresa Plowright, used by permission
Ascoli Piceno holds a medieval jousting tournament, la Quintana, the first Sunday in August. A highlight of the festival is the procession prior to the tournament with people dressed in medieval costume. Following the tournament there's a procession celebrating the winner and festivities that last late into the night. Ascoli Piceno is in central Italy's Marche region.

Summer Music Festivals

© Martha Bakerjian, licensed to About.com

Going to a music festival or outdoor concert during summer can be a highlight of a trip to Italy. You'll find many outdoor concerts in squares and public places throughout Italy. Here's a selection of top Italian summer music festivals.

Regatta of the Ancient Maritime Republics

pisa pictures, medieval procession photo
© Martha Bakerjian, licensed to about.com

The Regatta of the Ancient Maritime Republics is a historic boat race in boats called gozzi, each rowed by a team of eight rowers from one of the four maritime republics - Amalfi, Genoa, Pisa, and Venice. Before the regatta there's a colorful procession with participants from each republic dressed in traditional medieval costume. The festival location rotates each year. These photos were taken in Pisa at the 2009 regatta.

More: Pictures of the Medieval Procession before the Regatta in Pisa.

San Biagio Festival - Southern Italy Saint's Day Festival

san biagio festival picture
© Martha Bakerjian, licensed to About.com

San Biagio Day might not be one of Italy's biggest festivals but it's celebrated several places in Italy. Here's a look at Avetrana's San Biagio festival, a two day event with music, a procession, and food. It gives you an idea of what a typical festival looks like in southern Italy. Avetrana is on the Salento Peninsula of Puglia, the heel of Italy's boot.

Disfida - Archery and Medieval Procession in Fivizzano

Martha Bakerjian
The disfida is an archery contest amongst the neighborhoods of Fivizzano in the Lunigiana of northern Tuscany, held in July. Although it's not a top festival, it's a typical festival with a medieval procession, flag throwers, and fireworks. It's one of my favorites since it's very near my house in Italy. Take a look at these photos of people in medieval costume for the procession.

Archery Contests are held in other towns as well. One of the most famous is in Montalcino, Tuscany.

More: Lunigiana Map | Lunigiana Travel Directory

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