The summer’s kicking off with tons of festivals and events across Italy, from the world-renowned Umbria Jazz festival to Siena’s historic Palio. Here’s our list of what not to miss!
July events in Venice and the north
Pink Night in Rimini. July 1. Seen as the summer’s “New Year’s Eve,” for the sixth year in a row, Rimini’s Riviera… turns pink! Piazzas, buildings and shops throughout the city, and along the 100km beachfront, are turned pink. All night long, there are concerts, light displays, art exhibits, and performances.
Ravenna Festival. June 5-July 9. Plays, concerts, opera, and dances take place across Ravenna as part of the annual Ravenna Festival, and there’s something for everyone — from Mozart’s The Magic Flute to children’s theater.
The Como Festival: En Plein Air. July 1-17. Another great option for culture vultures, performances at the annual festival at Lake Como include by the Martha Graham Dance Company, the Teatro Scala’s ballet corps… even a concert in homage to ABBA.
Venice’s Festa del Redentore. July 16-17. Venetians and tourists alike love this festival, which dates back to 1577, when it was first held to celebrate the end of plague in Venice and the building of the Redentore (“Redeemer”) church. At dusk on Saturday night, small, decked-out boats gather in St. Mark’s Bay and the giudecca Canal, where everyone eats and watches the firework display at 11:30pm. There’s a series of gondola races the next day.
July events in Florence and central Italy
Spoleto Festival. June 24-July 10. This year, this world-renowned festival of theater, opera, film, and dance has everything from noontime concerts to burlesque shows.
Siena Palio. July 2. Just twice a year, the medieval city of Siena turns into a scene of passion and pageantry that’s absolutely not to be missed. The Palio, which started in 1310, is a horse race between the city’s 17 contrade (districts) at the historic Piazza del Campo. Thousands of spectators get involved, and for locals, it’s the event of the year, marked with huge celebrations for the winners… and tears for the losers. Between the rivalries, the excitement of the race itself, and the medieval feel of the whole thing — from the banners to the songs — it’s an experience unlike anything you’ve seen.
Ancona Jazz Summer Festival. July 3-10. From flamenco to improv, Ancona’s annual jazz festival has it all.
Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia. July 8-17. One of the world’s foremost jazz festivals, this year’s lineup features performances by Prince, B. B. King, Tony Bennett, and Mark Knopfler — among dozens of others.
Pistoia Blues. July 8-10. It’s a full weekend of live blues and jazz in this beautiful town, located just outside Florence
Pisa’s Music Under the Tower. June 20-July 11. What could be more atmospheric than listening to live classical music and jazz… under the Leaning Tower of Pisa? This year’s concerts for Music Under the Tower include compositions by Mahler, Mozart and Schumann.
July events in Rome and southern Italy
Matera’s Festa della Bruna. July 2. For centuries, Matera has celebrated the feast of Madonna della Bruna, the city’s patron saint, with aplomb. The feast day kicks off with a procession of shepherds and fireworks; an elaborate float for the Madonna, which the people of Matera have worked on over the past year, parades through the city, escorted by “knights.” At the end of the procession, surrounded by crowds, the float is destroyed… by the very masses who turned out to see it! The evening sees more fireworks.
The Putignano Carnival. July 1-3. Although it’s one of the world’s oldest carnivals, dating back to at least 1394, this festival isn’t a medieval celebration. Instead, its parade of papier-mâché floats all celebrate — or eviscerate — modern characters and politicians.
Naples Theater Festival. June 26-July 7. Performances of drama, dance and music take place not only in Naples’ theaters, but its churches… even catacombs. There’s a Fringe Festival now, too!
Feast of Sant’Anatolia in Gerano. July 9-10. For two days, Gypsy caravans from around the world converge on this town near Rome to venerate the sacred Black Madonna. They also peddle their wares, meaning it’s the perfect opportunity to not just people-watch, but bargain-hunt!