World ? Europe ? Italy

Italy: Calendar of Events

For major events for which tickets should be procured well before arriving, contact Keith Prowse (tel. 800/669-8687 in the U.S.; www.keithprowse.com), one of the world's largest independent ticket agencies and packagers; or go to Culturalitaly.com.

January

Epiphany celebrations, nationwide. All cities, towns, and villages in Italy stage Roman Catholic Epiphany observances. One of the most festive celebrations is the Epiphany Fair at Rome's Piazza Navona. January 6, 2008.

Festa di Sant'Agnese, Sant'Agnese Fuori le Mura, Rome. In this ancient ceremony, two lambs are blessed and shorn; their wool is used later for palliums (Roman Catholic vestments). Mid-January.

Foire de Saint Ours, Aosta, Valle d'Aosta. Observing a tradition that has existed for 10 centuries, artisans from the mountain valleys display their wares -- often made of wood, lace, wool, or wrought iron -- created during the long winter. Late January.

February

Carnevale, Piazza Navona, Rome. This festival marks the last day of the children's market and lasts until dawn of the following day. Dates vary. The week before Ash Wednesday.

Almond Blossom Festival, Agrigento, Sicily. This folk festival includes song, dance, costumes, and fireworks (tel. 0922-401352). First half of February.

Carnevale, Venice. At this riotous time, theatrical presentations and masked balls take place throughout Venice and on the islands in the lagoon. The balls are by invitation only (except the Doge's Ball), but the street events and fireworks are open to everyone. Contact the Venice Tourist Office, San Marco, Giardinetti Reali, Palazzo Selva, 30124 Venezia (tel. 041-5298711). The week before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.

March

Festival della Canzone Italiana (Festival of Italian Popular Song), San Remo, the Italian Riviera. At this 5-day festival, major artists perform the latest Italian song releases. Early March.

Festa di San Giuseppe, the Trionfale Quarter, north of the Vatican, Rome. The heavily decorated statue of the saint is brought out at a fair with food stalls, concerts, and sporting events. Usually March 19.

April

Holy Week observances, nationwide. Processions and age-old ceremonies -- some from pagan days, some from the Middle Ages -- are staged. The most notable procession is led by the pope, passing the Colosseum and the Roman Forum up to Palatine Hill; a torch-lit parade caps the observance. Sicily's observances are also noteworthy. Beginning 4 days before Easter Sunday; sometimes at the end of March but often in April.

Easter Sunday (Pasqua), Piazza di San Pietro, Rome. In an event broadcast around the world, the pope gives his blessing from the balcony of St. Peter's.

Scoppio del Carro (Explosion of the Cart), Florence. At this ancient observance, a cart laden with flowers and fireworks is drawn by three white oxen to the Duomo, where at the noon Mass a mechanical dove detonates it from the altar. Easter Sunday.

Festa della Primavera, Rome. The Spanish Steps are decked out with banks of azaleas and other flowers; later, orchestral and choral concerts are presented in TrinitȤ dei Monti. Dates vary.

May

Maggio Musicale Fiorentino (Musical May Florentine), Florence. Italy's oldest and most prestigious music festival emphasizes music from the 14th to the 20th centuries but also presents ballet and opera. Some concerts and ballets are presented free in Piazza della Signoria; ticketed events (concerts 20€-30€/$26-$39/ţ13-ţ20; operas 25€-85€/$33-$111/ţ17-ţ57; ballet 20€-70€/$26-$91/ţ13-ţ47) are held at the Teatro Comunale, Corso Italia 16, or the Teatro della Pergola, Via della Pergola 18. For schedules and tickets, contact the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino/Teatro Comunale, Corso Italia 16, 50123 Firenze (tel. 055-27791-245; www.maggiofiorentino.com). Late April to end of June.

Concorso Ippico Internazionale (International Horse Show), Piazza di Siena in the Villa Borghese, Rome. Late May.

Corso dei Ceri (Race of the Candles), Gubbio, Umbria. In this centuries-old ceremony celebrating the feast day of St. Ubaldo, the town's patron saint, 1,000-pound 9m (30-ft.) wooden "candles" (ceri) are raced through the streets of this perfectly preserved medieval hill town (tel. 075-9220693). May 15.

June

San Ranieri, Pisa, Tuscany. The town honors its patron saint with candlelit parades, followed the next day by eight rower teams competing in 16th-century costumes. For more information, call tel. 050-42291. June 16 and 17.

Festival di Ravenna, Ravenna, Emilia-Romagna. This summer festival of international renown draws world-class classical performers. A wide range of performances are staged, including operas, ballets, theater, symphonic music concerts, solo and chamber pieces, oratorios, and sacred music. Tickets start at 15€ ($20/ţ10), and reservations are needed for the most popular events. For details, call tel. 0544-249211 (fax 0544/36303; www.ravennafestival.org). Mid-June to July.

Calcio in Costume (Ancient Football Match in Costume), Florence. This is a revival of a raucous 16th-century football match, pitting four teams in medieval costumes against one another. For information, call tel. 055-23320. There are four matches, usually culminating around June 24, the feast day of San Giovanni.

Festival di Spoleto, Spoleto, Umbria. Dating from 1958, this festival was the artistic creation of maestro and world-class composer Gian Carlo Menotti, who presided over the event until his death at 95 in 2007. International performers convene for 3 weeks of dance, drama, opera, concerts, and art exhibits in this Umbrian hill town. The main focus is to highlight music composed from 1300 to 1799. For tickets and details, contact the Spoleto Festival, Piazza Duomo 8, 06049 Spoleto (tel. 0743-45028; fax 0743-220321; www.spoletofestival.it). Late June to mid-July.

Gioco del Ponte, Pisa, Tuscany. Teams in Renaissance costume take part in a much-contested tug-of-war on the Ponte di Mezzo, which spans the Arno River. Last Sunday in June.

Festa di San Pietro, St. Peter's Basilica, Rome. This most significant Roman religious festival is observed with solemn rites. June 29.

Son et LumiȲre, Rome. The Roman Forum and Tivoli areas are dramatically lighted at night. Early June to end of September.

La Biennale di Venezia (International Exposition of Modern Art), Venice. One of the most famous art events in Europe takes place during alternate odd-numbered years. Call tel. 041-5218711. June to October.

Giostra del Saracino (Joust of the Saracen), Arezzo, Tuscany. A colorful procession in full historical regalia precedes the tilting contest of the 13th century, with knights in armor in the town's main piazza. Mid-June.

July

Shakespearean Festival, Verona, the Veneto. Ballet, drama, and jazz performances are included in this festival of the Bard, with a few performances in English. July 1 to July 30.

Il Palio, Piazza del Campo, Siena, Tuscany. Palio fever grips this Tuscan hill town for a wild and exciting horse race from the Middle Ages. Pageantry, costumes, and the celebrations of the victorious contrada (sort of a neighborhood social club) mark the spectacle. It's a "no rules" event: Even a horse without a rider can win the race. For details, contact the Azienda di Promozione Turistica, Piazza del Campo 56, 53100 Siena (tel. 0577-280551). Early July to mid-August.

Arena di Verona (Arena Outdoor Opera Season), Verona, the Veneto. Culture buffs flock to the 20,000-seat Roman amphitheater, one of the world's best preserved. Call tel. 045-8005151 or go to www.arena.it. Early July to late August.

Festa di Noantri, Rome. Trastevere, the most colorful quarter, becomes a gigantic outdoor restaurant, with tables lining the streets and merrymakers and musicians providing the entertainment. After reaching the quarter, find the first empty table and try to get a waiter -- but keep a close eye on your valuables. For details, contact the Azienda di Promozione Turistica, Via Parigi 11, 00185 Roma (tel. 06-488911). Mid-July.

Umbria Jazz, Perugia, Umbria. The Umbrian region hosts the country's (and one of Europe's) top jazz festivals, featuring world-class artists. Call tel. 075-5732432 or go to www.umbriajazz.com. Mid-July.

Festa del Redentore (Feast of the Redeemer), Venice. This festival marks the lifting of the plague in July 1578, with fireworks, pilgrimages, and boating. Third Saturday and Sunday in July.

Festival Internazionale di Musica Antica, Urbino, the Marches. At this cultural extravaganza, international performers converge on Raphael's birthplace. It's the most important Renaissance and baroque music festival in Italy. For details, contact the Azienda di Promozione Turistica, Piazza del Rinascimento 1, 61029 Urbino (tel. 0722-2613). Mid-July.

Festival Puccini, near Lucca, Tuscany. Puccini operas are performed in this Tuscan lakeside town's open-air theater, near the celebrated composer's former summertime villa. Call tel. 0584-350567 or go to www.puccinifestival.it. Mid-July to mid-August.

August

Rossini Opera Festival, Pesaro, Italian Riviera. The world's top bel canto specialists perform Rossini's operas and choral works at this popular festival. Call tel. 0721-3800291 or go to www.rossinioperafestival.it Throughout August.

Venice International Film Festival, Venice. Ranking after Cannes, this festival brings together stars, directors, producers, and filmmakers from all over the world. Films are shown between 9am and 3am in various areas of the Palazzo del Cinema on the Lido. Although many of the seats are reserved for international jury members, the public can attend whenever they want, if there are available seats. For information, contact the Venice Film Festival, c/o the La Biennale office, Ca' Giustinian, San Marco 1364A, 30124 Venezia. Call tel. 041-521-8711 for details on how to acquire tickets, or check out www.labiennale.org. Late August to early September.

September

Regata Storica, the Grand Canal, Venice. Here's a maritime spectacular. Many gondolas participate in the canal procession, although gondolas don't race in the regatta itself. First Sunday in September.

Partita a Scacchi con Personnagi Viventi (Living Chess Game), Marostica, the Veneto. This chess game is played in the town square by living chess pieces in period costume. The second Saturday/Sunday of September during even-numbered years.

October

Sagra del Tartufo, Alba, Piedmont. This festival honors the expensive truffle in Alba, Italy's truffle capital, with contests, truffle-hound competitions, and tastings of this ugly but very expensive and delectable fungus. For details, contact the Azienda di Promozione Turistica, Piazza Risorgimento 1, 12051 Alba (tel. 0173/362-562). First Sunday of October.

December

La Scala Opera Season, Teatro alla Scala, Milan. At the most famous opera house of them all, the season opens on December 7, the feast day of Milan's patron St. Ambrogio, and runs into July, and September to mid-November. Even though opening-night tickets are close to impossible to get, it's worth a try; call tel. 02/861-827 for information and reservations.

Christmas Blessing of the Pope, Piazza di San Pietro, Rome. Delivered at noon from the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, the pope's words are broadcast around the world. December 25.

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