Italy - Festivals

Italy - Festivals

No matter at what time of the year you visit Italy, there is always a lot to do. There are tons of monuments, historic towns and museums which you can visit. But the best part of travelling to Italy is experiencing its culture and there can't be a better way to do it than participating in local festivals. 

The best part about Italy is that no matter when you travel, there is always a national or a local festival coinciding with your trip. So with just a little planning you can make sure that you are in situ to take advantage of the festivities.

There are different types of Italian festivals like Italian food, culture, art, sports, wine, religion and music. Here are some of the famous Italian festivals.

1. Venice Carnevale: -

Carnevale, also known as carnival or mardi gras, is celebrated in Italy 40 days before Easter, a final party before Ash Wednesday and the restrictions of the Lent. Although the carnival is just one day, its celebrations begin in Venice a couple of weeks before.

Events and festivals are held all around the city and you can see people in costumes wandering around the city. Carnival is a very elegant affair in Venice and it does not get very rowdy. There is a lot of public entertainment starting in early evening.

The best way to experience it is by wearing those elaborate costumes and masks and just wandering around the city. You can easily an inexpensive mask and a costume for rent during this time. 

The main events of the carnival are held in Piazza San Marco. Along with this, may carnival events are held in the neighboring areas called Sestiere. The major events include Gondola and boat parades along the Grand Canal , a mask parade in St. Mark's Square and a special Carnevale for children event in Cannaregio district. A fireworks show in Piazza San Marco which can be seen from all over Venice, marks the climax of the Carnevale.

2. The Battle of Oranges: -

This is also a part of carnival celebrated in Italy. The Battle of Oranges a similar to La Tomatina in Spain. It is held in Ivrea, which is a small city in northern Piemonte. 

The Battle of Oranges is said to represent the uprising against the vicious tyrant, Raniere di Biandrate. He claimed that it was his his right to sleep with any bride on her wedding night. But a miller's daughter named Violetta refused to do so and instead cut Raniere's head with a dagger.

This festival attracts thousands of townspeople. These people are then divided into 9 teams, who are then dressed in Phrygran hats. The teams then pelt oranges at each other. 

This festivals is usually held for three days before the Ash Wednesday. On the last day of the festival a miller's daughter a selected to play the role of Violetta, who leads the parade down the city center, celebrating the rebels' triumph.

3. Procession of Mysteries: -

Easter is the time to reflect the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Many customs are followed all around Italy before the Holy Week. But the most memorable among them is the "Processione dei Misteri di Trapani" or the Procession of Mysteries in Trapani, Sicily.

The Procession involves transportation of a series of extraordinary statues decorated by gold and silver ornaments, corals and flowers. There are total 20 statues depicting a variety of facial expressions of sadness and suffering.

The Procession of Mysteries lasts for almost 24 hours. It starts in the afternoon of Good Friday in the Baroque Church of Anime Sante de Purgatorio. The 20 statues are carried on shoulders by 20 groups, with 10 in each group. The procession continues till midnight through the streets of Trapani. 
The statues are then returned to the church after 24 hours on Black Saturday.

The traditions was started long back in 1600s and is the religious display in all of Italy. As one of the most ancient religious traditions in Europe, the Misteri is one of the most memorable experience to the visitors of the island.

4. Ravello Concert: -

Lets move away for a while from the cultural festivals of Italy and focus on one of the modern festivals. This is the Ravello Concert or the Ravello Festival. It is popularly known as the Wagner Festival and is an annual summer festival of music and arts held in the town of Ravello on Amalfi coast.

The festival was started in 1953 by the town fathers to promote tourism and bolster the economy of the area in the difficult years following the Second World War. The festival is named after a German composer Richard Wagner. He was so impressed by the beauty of Villa Rufolo in Ravello that he is said to have proclaimed, in reference of his own character in his own Opera Parsifal, "Here is the enchanted garden of Klingsor". 

The concert is held in the historic Villa Rufolo, which is completely filled with music lovers during summer. Although, it originally started as a chamber festival emphasizing on Wagner's music, the event has now grown into an almost two month long presentation of a wide variety of music featuring large orchestras, chamber groups, jazz, dances, art shows and photographic exhibits.

Today it boasts more than 1750 concerts during its two concert seasons, meaning that there is something to suit the taste of everyone.

5. Rome's Birthday: -

The capital of Italy celebrates its birthday every year on 21st of April. According to the legend, the process of building Rome started on 21st April 753 BC. Even today, Rome celebrates its birthday in a grand way. This year the city will celebrate its 2771st birthday.

The legend about the birth of Rome is as amazing as the city itself. It begins with the orphaned twins Remus and Romulus, being raised by a she-wolf. Yes, you read it correctly !! The brothers were sons of Mars, the God of War and Rhea Silvia, the daughter of an ex-king. According to the tales, Amilius, Rhea's uncle was convinced that the brothers  would one day overthrow him. So he ordered the twins to be drowned in river Tiber. But surprisingly, the twins survived this brutal attempt and were found by a she-wolf on the banks of the river. She took care of them as if they were her own pups. Later, a shepherd, Faustulus came across the babies and adopted them as his own.

As they grew up,they learnt about their past. They decided to storm the empire, claiming their rights as heirs by killing the uncle who ordered their death. Having sought revenge, the brothers decide to return to the place where they were found by the she-wolf and build a city of their own. Thus giving birth to Rome.

Rome's birthday is a pinnacle of all the birthday celebrations. Lots of activities are planned over the birthday weekend closest to 21st April. The entire city comes alive with concerts, reenactments of historic events,parades and other cultural celebrations at Circus Maximus. The Colosseum lights up with gladiator displays and fireworks.

6. La Cavalcata Sarda: -

La Cavalcata Sarda is a ancient cultural and folklore manifestation that takes place in Sassari. The first Cavalcata Sarda took place to honor King Umberto 1 and Queen Margherita,  who made their first visit to Sardinia in 1899. Since then this colorful festival is celebrated every year on the penultimate Sunday of May.

The main attraction of the festival is the horse race. Traditionally there used to be a large horse race through out the town, where thousands of manned horses would speed down the cobblestone streets of the town. However in the last few years, this activity has been moved to Ippodromo(Domed Stadium) in Sassari. 

The Procession

The procession begins with the folk groups dressed in traditional costumes. They carry traditional labor of the area: kindling for fire, vines from vineyards, old fashioned baked breads, local cheese and wines etc.

The groups also perform traditional music and singing.

7. Festa Della Madonna Bruna: -

Festa Della Madonna Bruna is a principa festival in the town of Matera in Italy's southern Basilicata region.This festival is celebrated every year on 2nd of July since the 14th century. It was started by Bartolomeo Prignano, the Bishop of Matera in order to achieve peace.

Every year, the local artists design a float called carro, which depicts a scene from Christian religion. The float which carries the statue of Madonna is paraded throughout the town accompanied by musicians and horses. After reaching the main cathedral, the statue of  Madonna is left there and the float is brought back into the main square. 

This is the part where the festival gets a bit violent. The tradition says that the local young men try to destroy the float, with each person trying to get a piece of it, which will bring them good luck in the following year. In fact this part of the festival is considered as the second most dangerous after the Pamplona bull run in Spain. 

The festival ends with the beautiful and incredible display of lights and fireworks in the evening.

8. Umbria Jazz: -

The Umbria Jazz festival is the most important Jazz festival in the world and is held annually since 1973, in the month of July, in Perugia and the surrounding cities of the region of Umbria. As the name suggests, the festival devoted itself to Italian and International Jazz.

The festival was officially born on 23rd August 1973, with the concerts of Aktuala and Thad Jones and Mel Lewis Orchestra. Although the soul of the festival is indissolubly tied to jazz, there are many different kinds of music for everyone.

The main festival avenues are: -
  1. Santa Giuliana Arena - where the biggest names perform
  2. Morlacchi Theater - dedicated to orthodox jazz
  3. Bottega del Vino and Ristorante La Taverna - musical aperitivi, lunches and dinners
  4. Piazza IV Novembre and Giardini Carducci - Free Open air concerts
The Festival is celebrated for 10 days and this year it is gonna be celebrated from July 13 to July 22. If you are a music lover,make sure you grab your tickets to enjoy this amazing festival.

9.Euro Chocolate: -

We are done with the cultural festivals and music festivals, so now lets move to one of the  food festivals of Italy, the Euro Chocolate festival.So if you have a sweet tooth, book your travel plans because this festival is a paradise for dessert lovers. The festival is held every year between 19th October to 28th October, in Perugia. This festival is the biggest celebration in Europe attracting 900,000 visitors every year.

Euro chocolate offers a variety of activities including chocolate art displays, experimental chocolate tasting, street performances and chocolate sculptures. In recent years, an igloo has been constructed with 3600 kg of chocolate and also the largest chocolate bar in the world measuring 7 meters in length and 2 meters high.

There is a special section, Eurochocolate World, in which the cocoa - producing countries will present their habits, customs, traditions and cocoa based products in Rocca Paolina.

The best part of the festival is that its free. No entrance fee, no queue at tickets office, no vouchers or special pass. All you have to do is come to Perugia and enjoy this unique festival and keep eating chocolates.

These are the 9 most unique festivals from Italy. If you like it share it with your friends and travel buddies with whom you would like to enjoy these festivals. Let me know in the comments which one is your favorite festival.  

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