2015 Italian Festivals & Events
January 21, 2015
Italy has a long history of religious and cultural celebrations nationally and by region. Italian Carnivals have their foundations in ancient traditions and are well-known internationally, drawing thousands of visitors from around the world annually. Whilst there are too many to mention here, it is worth noting some of the better known Italian festivals and events in the year for best travel planning. Don’t forget to also check regional event calendars before you travel - to avoid: crowds, public holiday closures, accommodation blackouts and higher prices…and missing out on some of the best Italian experiences available!
Venice Carnival /Carnevale di Venezia - 6 to 18 February 2015
The Carnival of Venice kicks off the Italian Festival year running throughout February in 2015.
The public holiday period around Pasqua is an opportunity for Italians to get away and together with family and friends and to also celebrate the beginning of Spring (and hopefully warmer whether) so be aware that shops and restaurants may be closed and seaside and countryside destinations can get busy.
For more information visit http://www.italia.it/en/travel-ideas/religion-and-spirituality/italys-easter-celebrations.html
Milan Expo 2015 - 1 May to 31 October
From 1 Maggio (May) – 31 Ottobre (October) Milan, in Italy’s north, will host the 2015 Universal Exposition (or Expo), bringing people of the world together every 5 years around a theme of global importance.
The theme of Expo Milano 2015, ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’ will offer visitors a journey around the world through the cultures, histories and innovations of over 140 participating countries.
For more information or to buy tickets online visit: http://www.expo2015.org/en/index.html
Verona Opera Season - 19 June to 6 September 2015
Verona, in Italy's Veneto region in the north, is worth visiting all year round but particularly during the famous Opera season. CIT can arrange both opera tickets and accommodation during this season.
Umbrian Jazz Festival - 10 to 19 Lulio (July) 2015
If you like jazz then Umbria is the place to be. The Umbria Jazz Festival is one of the world’s most important jazz festivals and has been held annually since 1973, usually in the month of July, in Perugia, Umbria in central Italy. The Umbria Jazz Winter Festival takes place annually in late December to early January in the city of Orvieto. In 2015, artists Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga will perform. For more information visit: http://www.umbriajazz.com
Palio di Siena (Tuscany) - 2 July & 16 August
A horse race, known locally as Il Palio, held twice each year in Siena in central Italy. Ten horses and riders, bareback and dressed in the appropriate colours, represent ten of the seventeen contrade, or city wards. The Palio held on July 2 is named Palio di Provenzano, in honour of the Madonna of Provenzano, who has a church in Siena. The Palio held on August 16 is named Palio dell'Assunta, in honour of the Assumption of Mary. A pageant, the Corteo Storico, precedes the race, which attracts visitors and spectators from around the world.
The race itself, where jockeys ride bareback, circles the Piazza del Campo, on which a thick layer of dirt has been laid, three times and usually lasts no more than 90 seconds. It is common for a few of the jockeys to be thrown off their horses while making the treacherous turns in the piazza, and it is usual to see unmounted horses finishing the race without their jockeys. (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palio_di_Siena)
An Italian public holiday celebrated on 15 August throughout Italy. Read more about Ferragosto and Italian summers on the CIT Travel blog
Ferragosto - 15 August
Milan Fashion Week (Spring/Summer 2016) - 23 to 29 September
EuroChocolate - 16 to 25 October 2015
EuroChocolate is an annual chocolate festival that takes place in Perugia, the capital of the Umbria region in central Italy. The festival has been held since 1993 and is one of the largest chocolate festivals in Europe. EuroChocolate draws nearly one million tourists and Italian natives each year. It lasts for nine days and is located in the squares and areas across the medieval old town of Perugia.
Italy's most well-known chocolate company Perugina (now belonging to Nestlé), known for their Baci chocolate, is represented along with a number of other brands such as Lindt and Caffarel.
EuroChocolate has extended to other Italian cities such as Rome and Turin.
Celebrations kick off from 8 December when Italians traditionally put up Christmas trees and decorations and Christmas markets begin. For more information on ‘how Italians celebrate Christmas’ – visit CIT Travel blog
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...
December 17, 2014
Christmas in Italy
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…
‘Natale’ as Christmas is known in Italy, tends to be a family-centric holiday, a time to stay at home with loved ones and celebrate…and eat! Here is a run down of how Italians traditionally celebrate this magical time of year…
December 8 officially kicks off the Christmas season with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Italian Festa dell’Immacolata Concezione) and a national holiday throughout Italy (meaning lots of offices and businesses are closed). This is when Christmas decorations, including the presepe (Nativity scene) and the Christmas tree, are put up both on streets, in piazzas and outside major landmarks such as the Colosseum in Rome and il Duomo in Milan as well as inside Italian homes. It is also when many Christmas markets start.
In the eight days before Christmas, known as the Novena, carolers sing traditional songs and spread the Christmas spirit. If you are in Italy over this period, look out for the zampognari, or bagpipe players from the Abruzzi mountains who travel to Rome, southern Italy and Sicily to play their merry folklore carols. Christmas is certainly in the cold winter air …and hopefully some snow flakes too!
December 13 is Saint Lucy’s Day (Giorno di Santa Lucia), supposedly the shortest day of the year, is celebrated as a Catholic holiday in Sicily and Northern regions of Italy. Evening candlelight processions called the parade of light are conducted and followed by the Feast of St. Lucy.
Christmas Eve is celebrated in Italy with a strong emphasis on the Christian meaning of the holiday and with the widespread tradition of setting up the presepe, often a hand crafted nativity scene which is a tradition initiated by Saint Francis of Assisi.
It is common to attend Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve across Italy (some even head to the Vatican in Rome for Mass with the Pope!) and it is the custom not to eat meat. Christmas Eve dinner traditionally consists of seafood, with the Feast of Seven Fishes, followed by typical Italian Christmas sweets, such as pandoro, panettone, torrone, panforte, struffoli (small deep fried balls of dough, crunchy on the outside and light inside, mixed with honey and other sweet ingredients ), caggionetti (chocolate, chestnuts, almonds, rum, lemon zest, cinnamon & honey filling within a paper-thin white wine fried ravioli casing), Monte Bianco (a dessert of puréed, sweetened chestnuts topped with whipped cream derived from Mont Blanc, the famous snow-capped mountain) and others, depending on the regional cuisine.
A lovely Italian tradition, and surely one that parents would like to adopt world wide, instead of writing letters (or emails) to Santa Claus asking for presents, children write letters to tell their parents how much they love them. The letter is placed under Dad’s plate and read after Christmas Eve dinner to the delight of parents across Italy. A true gift of love at Christmas time…
Christmas Day on the 25th is celebrated with family and friends and more eating - lunch of different types of meat dishes, cheese and local sweets.
‘Tis the season for giving…
Traditions regarding the exchanging of gifts vary from region to region, taking place either on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day. Presents for children are left underneath the Christmas tree either by Santa Claus (called Babbo Natale for Father Christmas) or, according to older traditions, by Baby Jesus himself. In some regions children receive gifts earlier (at St. Lucy's Day) or later (on Epiphany).
Like Australia, December 26 (known as St. Stephen's Day/Giorno di Santo Stefano), is also a public holiday in Italy. Festivities extend to the end of the year and to Epiphany on January 6.
Epifania is a Christian feast celebrating the manifestation of the divine nature of Jesus to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi (or Wise men). On the eve of Epiphany, it is believed la Befana the kindly old witch, rides the night skies on a broomstick, bringing good children gifts and sweets, and bad ones a piece of coal (nowadays known as carbone dolce, a sweet rock candy that looks like coal).
In other areas it is the Three Wise Men who bring gifts, especially oranges symbolizing gold, and chocolate symbolizing their kisses to good children (think ‘Baci’ meaning ‘kisses’). In some regions, most famously in Milan, the custom of the "Corteo dei Re Magi" (Three Kings Procession) is celebrated with a parade welcoming the Wise Men, and the passing out of (more) sweets. In other places, such as Treviso the day is celebrated with bonfires, the sparks of which are said to predict the future of the new year.
Christmas decorations are usually taken down at this time. It is the end of the Christmas season and the old year… and the beginning of a new one.
From all at CIT Holidays, we wish you
“Buon Natale e felice anno nuovo!”
The Highs and Lows of travel to Italy & Europe
November 19, 2014
When is the best time to travel to Italy and Europe?
The weather in Italy, for example, varies considerably from north to south and generally ranges from cold winters and hot summers in the north (Milan: - 2 in January to 29 degrees in July), milder winters and summers in central Italy (Rome: 3 in January to 30 degrees in July/August ) and in the south (Palermo in Sicily; 9 degrees in Jan/Feb to 30 degrees in July/August.)
France, Spain, Germany, England, Greece and eastern European countries all vary depending on their geographical location but the following ‘highs and lows’ can generally be appreciated across ‘the continent’.
Low season – October to March
• No heat/cooler weather (with a chance of snow!) – visit outdoor attractions like Roman Forum, Colosseum & Eiffel Tower in the cooler months for more enjoyment and less heat- induced fatigue.
• No crowds/queues – visit Vatican city, galleries (Louvre & Musee d’Orsay in Paris, Uffizi and Accademia in Florence) and other popular attractions without the crowds and enjoy at your own pace. Aah…what a pleasure...TIP: pre-booking some attractions e.g. tours to see ‘Last Supper’ fresco in Milan is recommended year round due to limited daily access.
• Cosy European bars, cafes and restaurants with fireplaces & heating. European cities – Vienna, Paris, Venice – offer a traditional northern hemisphere “winter wonderland” experience (hopefully with snow!) that could be all your dreams come true! This leads to…
• Winter European foods (hearty pasta & slow cooked dishes in Italy, fondue in Switzerland and cassolet in France) plus (mulled) wine and lots of Christmas/New Year treats?
• Christmas markets & traditions (with the chance of a magical white Christmas!) & festivals eg. Carnival in Venice (Carnevale di Venezia 31 January – 17 February 2015)
• Winter Sales – in Italy, traditionally 30% off + in 2nd week of January.
• Low season travel deals & savings – check out CIT’s 10% off low season travel*
• Head for the hills (or Swiss & Italian alps) to enjoy fresh alpine air & activities. Or snuggle up and roast chestnuts on an open fire...
• Did we mention, there might be snow?!!
• It’s a bit chilly out (but a great time to wear those snuggly winter woolies) and with higher rainfall during low season, don’t forget a travel umbrella or plastic poncho to keep warm and dry
• Limited hours - some museums & activities are closed or have limited hours – check ahead and plan around.
• Due to festive season holidays, lower demand & locate, some shops and accommodation options such as villas and apartments may be closed during low season and coastal destinations (seaside villages, Amalfi Coast, Liguria, south of France ) may resemble ghost towns.
High Season – April to September
• It’s summertime in Europe so expect warm weather, particularly in July & August. Enjoy long daytime hours, head to the seaside and dine alfresco on a balmy summer evening...who doesn't love summer?!
• Open for business - all villas/apartments/walking tracks and tourist attractions are open for peak season.
• Gelato! Gelato…and more gelato ?
• Italian summer cuisine - think caprese salad, antipasti, fresh mozzarella di bufala, fresh seafood & seasonal produce plus relaxing aperitifs and wines…
• Italian summer style - swimming in the sparkling Mediterranean ocean & relaxing Italian style
• Summer Sales (in Italy, traditionally mid July)
• Summer Festivals (open air movies in Rome and music & opera performances across Italy) & exhibitions (Milan Expo 2015) abound and museums & galleries often have extended summer hours for the benefit of tourists and locals.
• Earlybird Europe sales (air & land deals) are out from September – grab a hot deal to Europe for next year!
• The heat. It gets hot in the middle of summer (July/August) in Italy (& Europe) – strolling around ruins & outdoor tourist attractions in the midday heat does not always make for an enjoyable holiday experience. TIP: to keep cool, visit museums, cathedrals/duomos and underground/inside attractions during the day. Ensure your accommodation has air-con, fans or a swimming pool and bring a hat - extreme sunburn/sunstroke could be a major high season low!
• The crowds. You will find queues and lots of tourists at all major monuments and tourist attractions across Italy & Europe. TIP: Plan ahead, dress for the heat, drinks lots of water and take a deep breath.
• Higher peak season (tourist) prices. Before you go, when in Italy and including food & bottled water. TIP: Enjoy Rome’s free spring water from fountains on just about every street corner.
• School/public holiday shutdowns. In July/August, many Italians packup and head to the coast, islands or south, making these places extra busy. Many small businesses (shops/ restaurants) in major cities and towns close (chiuso in Italian) at random times during this period. TIP: be warned and see Italian Summers & Ferragosto blog post for more info.
• Limited availability. If you don’t pre-book (accommodation, city tours, transport) you might miss out…or queue for a long time (eg. Last Supper in Milan, Vatican, major galleries and museums) – so book early for high season travel.
Whether you travel in high or low season, Italy & Europe has something for everyone. So relax and enjoy the experience…despite the weather!
For more information on travel in Italy & Europe, speak to your local travel agent or a CIT travel specialist.
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