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Ten wonderful things to do in Italy in March

As the year turns to March, Italians look forward to an early Easter and the rebirth the holiday entails — both of the soul and of the world.

Ten wonderful things to do in Italy in March
Head to the Umbrian town of Panicale for La Pasquetta. Photo: G Travels

Tipicità, the 'made in Le Marche' festival – Fermo, March 5th-7th

Photo: Elizabeth Buie

Located on the Adriatic coast, Le Marche is not the most visited region of Italy by tourists. But that’s the tourists loss. A trip to Fermo, a small town in the heart of the region, for Tipicità, will show you everything you’ve missed while seeing Tuscany or Piedmont. In it’s 24th edition, the Tipicità attracts all of the region’s best food and drink, from lightly fried olives stuffed with meat and cheese to Le Marche’s own lasagna recipe, with veal ragu and Béchamel sauce, or just fresh sea food freshly caught from the Adriatic. As if you needed any more of a reason to visit, Tipicità will also have a whole beer section this year, for those missing the hops and mats after too long sipping Chianti.

Wine in the Springtime – Rovescala, Lomdardy, every Sunday in March

Photo: Stefano Petroni

And for those who could never have too much wine, hop on a train to Milan and then travel into the Lombardy countryside to Rovescala. Every Sunday in March, to honour the new season, the small town evolves into a huge open air market dedicated only to the white, pink and red stuff. Surrounded by vineyards that create Bonarda, a wine grape once common to Italy but now grown only in the hills around the town, Rovescala also hosts an assortment of other events to keep the festival-goers happy. Expect concerts, vintage car shows, parades and all the usual trappings of a festival della primavera to welcome back the warm weather.

Commemoration of Caesar's death – Rome, March 15th

To commemorate the death of Julius Caesar, cultural events are usually held in the Roman Forum, while a re-enactment of his death takes place at the site where he was assassinated – Torre Argentina.

Saint Joseph’s Day – all of Italy, March 19th

Named in honour of Joseph, Jesus’s foster father, Saint Giuseppe’s day honours fathers everywhere. Presents are handed out, from child to father, and the traditional food of zeppole, or deep fried balls of sweetened dough covered in granulated sugar, are eaten. Zeppole can sometimes be filled with cream as well, for a stunningly delicious treat. So grab some from a street cart and remind your father why you are so grateful for their influence on your life.


Palio dei Somari di Torrita di Siena, March 20th


Photo: Janus Kinase

Siena is world famous for its yearly Palio, between the contrade — or districts — of the city. In this famous event, a rider from each contrade mounts a horse to compete for a statue of the Virgin Mary. However, Torrita di Siena’s event is much less competitive, mostly by choice of stede. For every year, the town takes to the streets for their own race by donkey’s back. While it doesn't make for photo finishes, it does make for an entertaining time. Expect all the pageantry of Siena’s more popular palio's without any of the stakes.

Festival of Saint Francesca Romana – Rome, March 9th

Saint Francesca Romana was a noblewoman in the 1400s who founded a new order of nuns to visit and take care of the sick. In the 1920s, Pope Pius XI decided to also name her as the patron saint of driving. Ever since, drivers have brought their cars — from Fiats to Ferraris — to her namesake church in Rome, close to the Vittoria Emmanuele monument, to have their motors blessed on her feast day. So forget an oil change, and take your car in to get a holy protection, as well as a nice joy ride through the newly green hills of Italy.

Easter – all of Italy, March 27th

Christmas is certainly a big deal, but ask any Catholic what the most important holiday of the year is and they are sure to respond 'Easter'. Whether you like it because it means spring is right around the corner, for the religious significance, or just to see the whole family all in one place, Easter is quite the occasion. As such, Italy has a whole host of events to celebrate the day, including…

The Explosion of the Cart – Florence


Photo: David Durran

Deriving from the Crusades, the Explosion of the Cart, or Scoppio de Carro in Italian, is an old Florentine tradition in which a cart filled with fireworks is wheeled around the city until it rests in front of the famous Duomo. Then, a fire is lit from ancient flint taken during the crusades and carried by torch to the same central cathedral. There, the Cardinal of Florence lights a fuse to the cart with the torch after the completion of the Easter mass, setting of the fireworks and starting the city’s celebrations.

The Stations of the Cross — Rome

Held every year on Good Friday, the stations of the cross are a Catholic tradition meant to elaborate on the trials of Christ before his crucifixion. In Rome is the greatest performance of them of all though, lead by Pope Francis himself, presented in several languages, and using a massive cross with torches to light up the night sky.

La Pasquetta — all of Italy, March 27th


Ready to roll cheese? Photo: David Cresswell

Now that the main feast is over, sleep late and enjoy a day off on La Pasquetta, or Easter Monday. Picnics are a common way to celebrate, as well as egg races. An upscale version of this is held in the village of Panicale in Perugia. Known as Ruzzolone, the locals roll whole wheels of cheese, with the person who sends it rolling farthest winning bragging rights for the year. If you think you can win at this most Italian version of curling, stop by.

By Stephen Carruso

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How a rental car shortage in Europe could scupper summer holiday plans

After long months of lockdowns and curfews Europeans are looking forward to jetting off for a bit of sun and sand -- only to find that their long awaited holiday plans go awry due to a shortage of rental cars.

How a rental car shortage in Europe could scupper summer holiday plans
Tourists wait outside of rental car agencies in Corsica. Photo: PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA / AFP

In many areas popular with tourists cars are simply not available or subcompacts are going for a stiff €500 euros.

Car rental comparison websites show just how expensive renting a vehicle has become for tourists this summer.

According to Carigami, renting a car for a week this summer will set tourists back an average of 364 euros compared to 277 euros two years ago.

For Italy, the figure is 407 euros this summer compared to 250 euros in 2019. In Spain, the average cost has jumped to 263 euros from 185 euros.

According to another website, Liligo, daily rental costs have nearly doubled on the French island of Corsica. At the resort city of Palma on the Spanish island of Mallorca, rental prices have nearly tripled.

Today’s problem is a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Faced with near absence of clients, selling off vehicles to raise cash made a lot of sense for car rental firms struggling to survive.

“Everyone drastically reduced their fleet,” said the head of Europcar, Caroline Parot.

Until the spring, most companies still had fleets roughly a third smaller than in 2019, she said.

Car rental firms are used to regularly selling their vehicles and replacing them, so rebuilding their inventory should not have been a problem.

Except the pandemic sent demand for consumer electronics surging, creating a shortage of semiconductors, or chips, that are used not only in computers but increasingly in cars.

“A key contributor to the challenge right now is the global chip shortage, which has impacted new vehicle availability across the industry at a time when demand is already high,” said a spokesman for Enterprise.

It said it was working to acquire new vehicles but that in the mean time it is shifting cars around in order to better meet demand.

No cars, try a van

“We’ve begun to warn people: if you want to come to Italy, which is finally reopening, plan and reserve ahead,” said the head of the association of Italian car rental firms, Massimiliano Archiapatti.

He said they were working hard to meet the surge in demand at vacation spots.

“But we’ve got two big islands that are major international tourism destinations,” he said, which makes it difficult to move cars around,
especially as the trip to Sardinia takes half a day.

“The ferries are already full with people bringing their cars,” he added.

“Given the law of supply and demand, there is a risk it will impact on prices,” Archiapatti said.

The increase in demand is also being seen for rentals between individuals.

GetAround, a web platform that organises such rentals, said it has seen “a sharp increases in searches and rentals” in European markets.

Since May more than 90 percent of cars available on the platform have been rented on weekends, and many have already been booked for much of the summer.

GetAround has used the surge in demand to expand the number of cities it serves.

For some, their arrival can’t come fast enough.

Bruno Riondet, a 51-year-old aeronautics technician, rents cars to attend matches of his favourite British football club, Brighton.

“Before, to rent a car I was paying between 25 and 30 euros per day. Today, it’s more than 90 euros, that’s three times more expensive,” he said.

In the United States, where prices shot higher during the spring, tourists visiting Hawaii turned to renting vans.

In France, there are still cars, according to Jean-Philippe Doyen, who handles shared mobility at the National Council of Automobile Professionals.

“Clients have a tendency to reserve at the last minute, even more so in the still somewhat uncertain situation,” he said.

They will often wait until just a few days before their trip, which means car rental firms don’t have a complete overview of upcoming demand, he added.

He said business is recovering but that revenue has yet to reach pre-pandemic levels as travel is not yet completely unfettered.

SEE ALSO: British drivers will no longer need an insurance ‘green card’ to visit Europe, EU rules

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