August might be the month when Italians flee for ferragosto, but given the number of events going on across the country, maybe they shouldn’t! Our top picks:
Events in Venice and the north
The Duke’s Festival. August 19-21. Medieval music, shows, poetry readings, and a Middle Ages-style crafts market take over during Urbino’s Duke’s Festival, along with feasts for the “commoners” and parades. Who knew you could go back in time so easily?
Beach on Fire. August 27. It’s the world’s longest pyrotechnic display — 13km of fireworks above Venice’s coastline. Crazy!
Rustic Middle Ages Festival. August 6-14. The little town of Tenno, on Lake Garda, hosts their medieval festival every year. Games, shows, a medieval market, and food (with traditional fare like polenta and gulash) abound.
Events in Tuscany, Umbria and central Italy
Tuscan Sun Festival. July 31-August 7. One of the best arts festivals in Italy, the Tuscan Sun Festival, located in Cortona, encompasses music, dance, art, theater, literature, even food! This year, there’s everything from a tango concert to a wine tasting with a former editor of Wine Spectator, Tuscan cooking classes with top local chefs to a tour of the Cortona’s Etruscan archaeological site and an authentic Etruscan lunch.
Siena Jazz Festival. Until August 7. Jazz concerts, classes, talks and more — a can’t-miss for jazz lovers!
Florence and Siena Opera Festival. Until August 13. Don’t miss the performances on Aug. 2 and 3 (Le Stagioni and La Traviata, respectively), which take place in Florence’s beautiful Boboli gardens! Of course, those after aren’t too shabby, either — they’re hosted in Siena’s atmospheric San Galgano Abbey.
Siena Palio. August 16. This is your last shot to see Siena’s world-famous race in 2011! The Palio, which started in 1310, is a bareback horse race between the city’s 17 contrade (districts) at the historic Piazza del Campo. It only takes 90 seconds, but the buildup, including a huge medieval parade, is enormous. And so are the festivities afterward!
Balestro del Girifalco. August 14. It’s season for medieval competitions between different neighborhoods, and it’s no different for the districts of Massa Marittima, a tiny town in the Maremma. The highlight of the Balestro del Girifalco? A crossbow competition to “kill” a mechanical falcon. After, of course, there’s a parade.
Events in Rome and southern Italy
Palio delle Contrade. August 21. Siena might have the palio with horses, but Allumiere, a little town near Rome, has a palio with… donkeys! The town’s six different neighborhoods all participate in the donkey race with origins in the 12th century.
Ravello Festival. Until August 27. A series of concerts, talks, and performances take place in the beautiful town of Ravello on the Amalfi coast; many of the concerts are on the outdoor Belvedere, a gorgeous spot in the famed Villa Rufolo with a backdrop of the sea. In August, performances range from a concert by Grupo Compay Segundo (formed in honor of the musician of the Buena Vista Social Club) on Aug. 6 to a performance by the principal dancers of the New York City Ballet on Aug. 19.
Lungo Il Tevere Roma. Until August 28. Each summer, the banks down by Rome’s Tiber River teem with some 2km of shops, bars, and restaurants as part of Lungo Il Tevere Roma. On a hot August night, there’s no better place to be!
Villa Celimontana Jazz Festival. Through August. This Rome festival‘s a bit of a misnomer: Not just jazz, it also includes tango, rock, and more. What do the performances have in common? They’re all held outdoors in the lovely Villa Celimontana, a park a stone’s throw from the Colosseum.
All’Ombra del Colosseo. Through August. Every year, a makeshift resort is set up, as the name would imply, “in the shadow of the Colosseum.” There’s aperitivo, a wine bar, and shows at night — and, during the day, one of the only outdoor swimming pools in Rome.
Opera at the Baths of Caracalla. Until August 10. Every summer, Rome’s Teatro dell’Opera performs some of the world’s most beloved ballets and operas outdoors, in the atmospheric ruins of the Baths of Caracalla. Swan Lake just finished; still to go are Tosca and Aida.