Festivals and holidays in Italy

Major festivals in Italy and public holidays (so you'll know when things will be closed)

Maybe it's a solemn procession in honor of the the town's patron saint, or a reenactment of a historical event.

It could be a poetry festival, a music festival, or a communal feast in the streets to celebrate some local culinary specialty.

Mayhaps Carnevale has rolled around, or there's a meeting of the Madonnas from neighboring villages.

It could be that time of year the town runs a traditional bareback horse race, the day they the uncork the new wine, the local bishop blesses Fiats or flocks of sheep.

It might be a madcap race up the mountain carrying giant floats, the annual display of the cathedral's holy relic, or a chess game on the piazza played with real people.

And sometimes it's simply the second Tuesday in May once again and on that day everyone puts on traditional costumes and dances traditional dances while the fountains flow with wine.

If you happen across town on a festival day—any festival day—ditch your plans and your itinerary and join in the fun.

(And yes, the examples above are all from real festivals—some famous, some obscure—I have stumbled across at some point in Italy.)

Italian holidays when everything closes

Public holidays

Christmas holidays
Most Italian's Christmas holidays last from December 24 though January 6.
Most offices and shops in Italy are closed on these public holidays:

  • January 1 (New Year’s Day)
  • January 6 (Epiphany)
  • Easter Sunday (called Pasqua)
  • Easter Monday (called Pasquetta)
  • April 25 (Liberation Day)
  • May 1 (Labor Day)
  • August 15 (Assumption of the Virgin—much of Italy takes its summer vacation Aug 15–30)
  • November 1 (All Saints’ Day)
  • December 8 (Feast of the Immaculate Conception)
  • December 25 (Christmas Day)
  • December 26 (Santo Stefano—more places are closed on this day than on Christmas)

Saint's Days

Most of town shuts down on the feast day for its patron saints (though there's also usually an excellent procession and public festival happening). Here are the dates (and saints) for major cities:

  • Rome, June 29 (San Pietro e Paolo/Sts. Peter and Paul)
  • Venice, April 25 (San Marco/St. Mark)
  • Florence, Genoa, and Turin, June 24 (San Giovanni Battista/St. John the Baptist)
  • Milan, December 7 (St. Ambrose/Sant'Ambrogio)
  • Palermo, July 15 (St. Rosalia/Santa Rosalia)
  • Naples, September 19 (St. Gennaro/San Gennaro)
  • Bari, December 6 (San Nicola/St. Nicholas—Santa Claus!)
  • Bologna, October 4 (San Petronio/St. Petronio)
  • Trieste, November 3 (San Giusto/St. Just)
  • Cagliari, October 30 (San Saturnino/St. Saturnino)

Italy's major festivals

Coming soon. For now:

Carnevale in Venice

Tips & links

Useful links
Don't overplan

I will freely admit to being as guilty as anyone of this, but: Please try not to overplan your trip to Italy. That's a two-fold plea:

  1. Plan everything, but don't feel compelled to stick to the plan. I think it's a fine idea to work out all the details of what you plan to do—if nor no other reason than it will help you get a handle of what you are able to get done, and start making the hard choices of what you have time for and what you should leave for the next trip to Italy. (Always assume you will retrun!)

    But then do not book absolutely every second in advance (that leaves no room to adjust things as you go to accommodate changing interests, sudden festivals, or unexpected invitations), and please do not attempt to stick to the schedule if it turns out to be overly ambitious and startrs making you miserable.

    Rememeber Clark W. Griswold, the Chevy Chase dad in the Vacation movies, always bound and detemrined to get to WallyWorld come hell or dead aunties? Yeah, don't be that guy. No one in that family was having any fun.
  2. Don't try to pack too much in. A vacation is not meant to be all about checking sights off a list or dashing from place to place to fit in as much as humanly possible. It's about enjoying yourself.

    So do that. Enjoy yourself. Take a hint from the Italian concept of la bel far' niente—the beauty of doing nothing—and take a break from the sightseeing every once in a while.

    Leave some time to stop and sip the cappuccino.
Consider a tour

I'm all for planning your own trip‚ and this website is set up to help you do just that—but some people might just as well prefer to leave all the planning, logistics, transportation, lodging, and gathering of information to the professionals and simply sign up with a guided tour.

Nothing wrong with that. Just take my advice and choose a tour that emphasizes small groups over large crowds, local transport over big tour buses, and fun cultural experiences over sightseeing checklists. You'll have a better time, and probably spend less for it. Here are a few of my favorite tour companies who emphasize just that.

1-5 days

1-2 weeks

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