Best festivals in Italy

Italian festivals are a commemoration of tradition, religion, battles won and lost, and most of all they are a celebration of life. Every region you visit in this beautiful country you’re sure to spot a poster advertising a festa – large festival – or a sagra – local festival. From jousting events in small country villages to the huge Venice Carnival, the Italians really know how to stage a street party.

Take to the streets in Venice

For an exuberant display of pleasure and fun, the Venice Carnival is probably one of the most famous festivals in the world.

Held annually to celebrate the 10 days before Lent, festivities lead up to Shrove Tuesday, or pancake day. This is the time to don a mask, attend a costume ball or just wander around the streets revelling in the party atmosphere that prevails throughout the city.

Whether you attend the renowned Casanova Ball – a grand masquerade ball with entertainment and dancing – or just spend time in Piazza San Marco enjoying a glass of prosecco, Venice always delivers on spectacle and atmosphere during its carnival.

Fireworks in Sicily

The festival of Sant’Agata, the patron saint of Catania in Sicily, sure packs a punch when it comes to a colour celebration. Quite literally in this case, thanks to the technicolour pyrotechnics that dominate this festival.

The festa, which lasts for three days from the 3rd to the 5th of February, is well worth a visit and only an hour’s drive away from Castelmola. Food and drink is in abundant supply at this time, as are processions and live music. The festival ends with a fantastic firework display in the Piazza Borgo.

Celebrating wine

You can’t move very far in Italy without quaffing a glass of wine or two – well, it would be rude not to. One of the richest reds comes from the northern town of Bardolino in the Italian Lakes region, on the southern shores of Lake Garda to be precise. And there’s no better way of celebrating this wine than heading to the Bardolino Grape and Wine Festival, held in the last week of September.

Five days of wine tasting has got to be a fantastic way to spend a holiday, combined with a celebration of local food, entertainment, and, of course, live music and fireworks set off over the lake.

Battling things out with oranges

For a truly flamboyant and quirky festival, the northern town of Ivrea should be on your destination list. The Battle of the Oranges is a food fight like no other, and it’s all part of Ivrea’s celebration of the town’s liberation from a feudal medieval landlord.

The whole town is organised into groups of combatants, the main square is shut off and the pelting begins. February is the month for this celebration, though the precise date can alter depending on Shrove Tuesday and the beginning of Lent. It’s fast, it’s furious and it’s also great fun.

Horse racing in Sardinia

Many people are familiar with the Palio di Siena. It’s when one of the most exhilarating horse races in the world takes place in the centre of Siena, Tuscany, on the 2nd July and the 16th August each year.

But you mightn’t realise that Sardinia is also home to a wonderful horse race of its own, L’Ardia di San Costantino. Re-enacting a Roman battle held in 312 CE, the race starts on the 5th July and ends on the 7th in the little town of Sedilo, an hour and a half’s drive inland from Alghero.

Forget Newmarket and Longchamps, this is horse racing Sardinian style. Expect to see a vibrant commemoration of history, and horse charges. Glasses of the local drink, vernaccia, will be supped, and suckling pig will be roasted.

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