From opera in Verona’s Roman theater, to a pizza competition in Naples, to medieval festivals galore, June is filled with great events across Italy. Here are our favorite events in Italy — and, unlike last month, in Venice, Florence, Rome…. and beyond!
Events in Venice and the north
Venice’s Festa della Sensa. June 5. For lots of pomp and circumstance, make sure you’re in Venice this Sunday. Every year for the past millennium, Venice’s Doge has thrown a ring into the lagoon’s waters, a symbol of renewing the marriage between Venice and the water. Today, the main events of Festa della Sensa include the Doge’s procession through St. Mark’s Square, a market at the Church of San Nicolò on Lido, traditional Venetian rowing races, and a parade on the water.
The Palio of the Ancient Maritime Republics. June 12. Everyone loves a boat race… especially a race between four maritime republics as proud, and once-powerful, as these four. Each year, Venice, Amalfi, Genoa and Pisa compete — and this year, the palio’s in Venice. Don’t miss the parade, either!
Opera festival in Verona’s ancient theater. June 17-September 3. The 89th annual opera festival in Verona kicks off with a performance of La Traviata. All the operas are held in the arena, Verona’s nearly 2,000-year-old Roman theater. We ask: Is there any more romantic way to attend the opera?
Battle of the Flowers in Ventimiglia. June 18-19. Every year, this little town near San Remo and the French border celebrates, well, flowers: There’s a lavish parade, music, dancing, and, on Sunday, a “battle” of flowers, with buds showering the streets. The festival’s past visitors have included Alfred Hitchcock and Cary Grant. Grant’s take: “This is the greatest show in the world!”
St. John’s Day at Isola Comacina. June 24. For the past 600 years, Lake Como has celebrated the Day of St. John the Baptist… by reenacting the burning of Comacina island! (The actual event took place on June 24, 1169, when Barbarossa and Como’s leaders lit the island on fire). Between the fantastic pyrotechnics, music, boat procession, and food events, what more could you want?
Procession of St. John the Baptist’s Ashes in Genoa. June 24. Genoa claims to have the actual ashes of St. John, so it’s no surprise that on his feast day, they’re paraded through the streets with lots of pomp and circumstance. On the night of June 23, there’s also a folk music concert and bonfire in Piazza Assunta.
Events in Florence, Tuscany and Umbria
Festa del Grillo in Florence. June 2. If you need a little luck, get yourself to Florence’s Cascine Park this Thursday. Here’s where thousands of crickets (once real, now replaced by artificial tweeters) are s old as symbols of good luck. Concerts and other entertainments happen all day long.
MUV Music and Digital Art Festival. June 1-5. Who knew Florence was so cutting-edge? Every year, the Renaissance city hosts a festival of electronic music, installations, and workshops. More than 50 concerts and DJ sets will take place from June 1 to June 5 at the Limonaia of Villa Strozzi.
Medieval Festival of Bevagna. June 16-26. Nobody does “medieval fair” like Bevagna. This lovely town in Umbria, built largely in the Middle Ages, goes all-out, with medieval crafts workshops, banquets, archery competitions, and a jesters’ performance. Locals dress up in their best medieval garb, and buildings are dressed up to look like they’re straight out of the Middle Ages.
Pisa’s San Ranieri Regatta. June 17. In Pisa, the River Arno comes alive with a boat race between the city’s four quarters. Line up along the 1.5km route to see not only a boat race, but the banks lined with locals, all there to cheer for their neighborhood.
Foligno’s Joust of the Quintana. June 18. If you’ve ever wanted to see a joust, now’s your chance. In this tournament, inspired by a joust held in 1613, ten knights compete to stick their lances through a small ring. Along with the jousts, there are parades and events around the city. Although there are competitions leading up to the final Giostra della Quintana, the main joust is on June 18.
Arezzo’s Jousting of the Saracens. June 18. Watched by locals garbed in medieval clothing, modern-day “knights” compete at the Piazza Giorgio Vasari in Arezzo, a town just a 45-minute drive from Florence, for the Golden Lance. Arezzo’s jousting competition dates back at least as far as the 13th century.
San Gimignano Medieval Festival. June 18-19. On the third weekend of June, San Gimignano celebrates its medieval past with a medieval guild fair, street theater, and knights’ joust. On Sunday, there’s the Grand Procession, with 300 locals in medieval costume parading to the Rocca di Montestaffoli. You’ll think you were transported back to the 14th century.
Calcio Storico’s final match. June 24. Leading up to today’s final match in Piazza Santa Croce, four Florentine neighborhoods compete in heated games of calcio storico — a medieval sport like soccer, but not — all while wearing medieval garters and pantaloons. Winners get bistecca fiorentina. Although, given the amount of fighting that usually goes on on the field, maybe we should call them “survivors.”
Pisa’s Game of the Bridge. June 26. If you missed the San Ranieri Regatta, don’t worry — you get another chance to see Pisans duke it out against one another. More than 100,000 turn out to see the Gioco del Ponte, which dates back to the 15th century, if not before. After a parade of some 750 participants, all wearing period costumes, the contest begins, with each party fighting for possession of the bridge.
Events in Rome, Naples and southern Italy
Festa della Repubblica. June 2. Rome celebrates the Festival of the Republic, which marks the anniversary of the vote to abolish the kingdom and create a republic, with a huge parade along the Via dei Fori Imperiali at about 10am, along with air shows.
Pizza Festival. Until June 5. Nobody does pizza like Naples — but don’t take our word for it. Taste it for yourself. Through Sunday at the Vulcano Buono outside Naples, top pizza-makers are competing in categories like gluten-free, creative and “acrobatic free-style” (we’d love to know what that is!). Ten euros will get you tastes of the good stuff, plus beer, dessert and coffee.
The Ancient “Marriage of Trees” Ritual. June 12. It’s not every day that you get to see a festival that’s been celebrated since pagan times. But in the town of Accettura, Basilicata, you can! The first part of the ritual sees a huge tree being cut down and brought to Accettura by more than 50 pairs of oxen; it’s meant to represent the king. The “queen” is then brought in, and the joining of the two are celebrated with a huge procession and feasts of local sausages, ricotta, and wine. There are competitions, too, including a contest to see who can climb the “male” tree.
Infiorata. June 18-20. Just outside of Rome in Genzano, the entire Via Belardi is covered in “paintings” of flowers — blooms set in intricate patterns and scenes. The tradition, which probably started as a festival in the 18th century, ends with a bishop-led procession along the path at sunset.