Three Festivals in Italy You Won’t Want to Miss

Italy is an incredible place filled with amazing art, unbelievable food and unsurpassed beauty. During the year, cities and towns throughout the country hold festivals to showcase  and celebrate what makes their community unique. While each one is spectacular in its own right, here are 3 that are truly not to be missed.

1.) The Palio di Siena: July 2 and August 16, annually

Siena, a Tuscan city famed for its Romanesque-Gothic architecture, hosts a medieval horse race in the city’s main square, Piazza del Campo, twice a year.  The square’s round and slightly slanted shape makes for an intense race during which thousands of spectators often witness jockeys being thrown from their horses’ backs.

The event is drenched in the town’s history.  Siena has seventeen city districts, or contrade, and each of the ten Palio horses represents one of the contrade (it’s not possible for seventeen horses to race at once, so the districts take turns).  Members of the various contrade have intense neighborhood pride, and the trophy that is presented to the victor at the end of the race is a symbol of great prestige and honor for the winning contrada.  Although the races rarely take more than 90 seconds, the resulting rivalries last the whole year.

Visitors will enjoy the pomp and circumstance of this spectacle and can expect to see a lot of medieval regalia.

2.) The Eurochocolate Festival in Perugia: October 16, 2015 – October 25, 2015

Perugia is a quaint hill town in Umbria, a region in Central Italy.  It is home to Perugina, a chocolate company that has gifted the world with confectionary delights such as the individually wrapped Baci chocolates that contain a little piece of wax paper with words of wisdom written on it – the Italian version of a fortune cookie, if you will.

Because of the town’s association with chocolate, it hosts an annual festival every October in honor of the sweet.  The theme of the festival this year will be a play on words: in Italian, “da leccarsi i baffi;” in English, “Eat your Mustache.”  The festival is the largest of its kind in Europe and will include all types of chocolate exhibitions, including the world’s biggest chocolate mustache.

This quirky and delectable event is definitely worth the subsequent food coma.  Don’t forget to use the festival’s official hashtag: #MustaChoc

3.) Carnevale, Venice: January, 23 to February 9, 2016

Carnival, or Carnevale, is a celebration leading up to Lent that occurs in cities around the world, such as Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans.  Carnevale festivities in Venice are famous for their gorgeous ornate masks and costumes that evoke the mystique of centuries past.

Today, thousands of visitors flock to the ethereal floating city for the many parties, performances, and people on parade that define the modern event.  Like the vast majority of Italian festivals, however, Carnevale is steeped in tradition.  When Venice was home to powerful dukes and royalty, the custom of wearing masks during certain periods of the year allowed everyone to behave in manners unbefitting to their social status.  Out of this masquerade culture came La Commedia dell’Arte, a form of improvised theater that uses stock characters which represent fixed social types, such as merchants, doctors, or fools.  The masks worn during Carnevale pay homage to these characters of the past.

Visit Venice in the New Year and relish in the city’s mysterious ways.

Ready for more? Visit the ISA Italy webpage to learn more about Italian culture and ISA programs throughout Italy.

Author: International Studies Abroad (ISA)

Since 1987, International Studies Abroad (ISA) has provided college students in the United States and Canada the opportunity to explore the world. ISA offers a wide variety of study abroad programs at accredited schools and universities in 73 program locations throughout the world.

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