Italy is full of holidays, feast days and fun traditions. If you are hoping to plan a trip to Italy it can be interesting to plan it around some of the biggest celebrates and get a peek into the complex Italian culture.
Below are some of my favorites, and they’re some of the biggest festivals that Italy has to offer.
Six Italian Holidays You Don’t Want to Miss
January 6: The Epiphany
There was a time, according my Italian grandfather, when this was the real day of celebration and Christmas day took a back seat.
It is the 12th day of Christmas and the day Christ was presented to the three magi.
Nowadays in Italy, it is still a very big holiday and often includes large parades and feasts.
It is also the morning of the 6th when children all over Italy wake up to full calze or stockings, which have been stuffed with treats from a kindly old witch, La Befana.
March 8: Women’s Day (Festa della Donna)
Believe it or not, this is actually an international holiday, that has roots in a tragedy that took place in the US.
In 1908, factory women workers in NY protested the conditions of their employment and in anger the owner of the factory locked them inside.
Unfortunately there was a large fire, and 129 workers were burned alive.
Nowadays, the holiday is used to commemorate how far women have come in the quest for equal rights, thank those who came before and encourage continued improvement in the lives of women throughout the world.
A popular symbol of this holiday is the mimosa flower, a puffy yellow shrub that is given to women all over Italy on this day.
June 2: Republic Day (Festa della Repubblica)
Italy has a very long and storied past. One thing people don’t often realize is although Italy, the boot, has been around for thousands of years, it wasn’t a united Italy until the 19th century and it wasn’t until June 2nd 1946, when Italy voted to end the monarchy, that the Republic of Italy was born.
This date is often treated as the equivalent of Independence Day in the US. There is a military parade in Rome, with flyovers by the Italian Air Force as they leave streaks of green, white and red emblazoned across the sky.
August 15: Ferragosto
Ferragosto coincides with the Catholic holiday of the Assumption of Mary (the day she went to heaven).
It is also the middle of the summer season and Italians everywhere head to the beach.
Being in a mainland city on August 15 is not very fun, but the coastal towns celebrate heartily.
November 1: All Saints Day (Ognissanti)
Of course a strongly catholic country would have a holiday to celebrate ALL the saints.
This day is often spent in church and then feasting and giving thanks.
Dec 8: Immaculate Conception (L’immacolata Concezione)
This holiday celebrates the day Mary was impregnated by the hand of God, with Jesus.
Many Italians attend church on this day and pray to Mary in her honor.
The Pope also leaves a wreath at on the statue of the Virgin in Piazza Mignanelli in Rome.
In Florence and many other cities in Italy is marks the beginning of the Christmas season and tree lightings or other Christmas festivities take place.
Other holidays worth looking up or checking out:
Patron Saint days of the city you love or want to visit
Every city in Italy has a patron saint. In Florence, it’s Saint John the Baptist and so on his feast day, June 24th, the city celebrates. There are fireworks, feasts and a general lively atmosphere that make it one of my favorite days of the summer.
Carnevale or mardi gras, takes place 40 days before Easter, a last hurrah before Ash Wednesday and the strict Lenten season. Italy throws massive parties to celebrate and both Viareggio and Venice are famed for theirs. There is often music, confetti, parades and costumes. The saying goes, “ogni scherzo vale” meaning, “anything goes!” The festivities often start a few weeks prior to the famed “Fat Tuesday” with that Tuesday being the final day of revelry and fun.
Easter holidays including Good Friday
Easter changes when it will be every year, but if you’re interested in traditions, solemn parades, midnight mass and historic traditions, you will likely enjoy being in Italy during this time. In Florence, Easter is celebrated with an exploding cart, scoppio del carro, a tradition that goes back to 1622.
White Night (Notte Bianca)
White Night is a tradition in Italy that happens in many large cities. It is a kind of all night party/all night art fest that includes, musicians, street performers, museums and shops staying open all night or very late (last year I went into the Florence Bargello, which used to be a prison at midnight! Very creepy and cool). Drinking, eating and partying in the streets is encouraged and the mood is vivacious and vibrant. It is my favorite night of the year in Italy!
Have you ever been in Italy for any of these holidays? If not, which one would you most like to be a part of?