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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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MONEY

How to avoid huge ‘roaming’ phone bills while visiting Italy

If you're visiting Italy from outside the EU you risk running up a huge phone bill in roaming charges - but there are ways to keep your internet access while avoiding being hit by extra charges.

How to avoid huge ‘roaming’ phone bills while visiting Italy

Travelling without access to the internet is almost impossible these days. We use our phones for mapping applications, contacting the Airbnb, even scanning the QR code for the restaurant menu.

If you’re lucky enough to have a phone registered in an EU country then you don’t need to worry, thanks to the EU’s cap on charges for people travelling, but people visiting from non-EU countries – which of course now includes the UK – need to be careful with their phone use abroad.

First things first, if you are looking to avoid roaming charges, be sure to go into your settings and turn off “data roaming.” Do it right before your plane lands or your train arrives – you don’t want to risk the phone company in your home country starting the clock on ‘one day of roaming fees’ without knowing it.

READ ALSO: Ten ways to save money on your trip to Italy this summer

But these days travelling without internet access can be difficult and annoying, especially as a growing number of tourist attractions require booking in advance online, while restaurants often display their menus on a QR code.

So here are some techniques to keep the bills low.

Check your phone company’s roaming plan

Before leaving home, check to see what your phone plan offers for pre-paid roaming deals.

For Brits, if you have a phone plan with Three for example, you can ask about their “Go Roam” plan for add-on allowance. You can choose to pay monthly or as you go. Vodafone offers eight day and 15 day passes that are available for £1 a day.

For Americans, T-Mobile offers you to add an “international pass” which will charge you $5 per day. Verizon and AT&T’s roaming plans will charge you $10 per day. For AT&T, you are automatically opted into this as soon as your phone tries to access data abroad.

READ ALSO: Seven things to do in Italy in summer 2022

These all allow you to retain your normal phone number and plan.

Beware that these prices are only available if you sign up in advance, otherwise you will likely be facing a much bigger bill for using mobile data in Italy. 

Buy a pre-paid SIM card

However, if you are travelling for a longer period of time it might work out cheaper to turn off your phone data and buy a pre-paid SIM card in Italy.

In order to get a pre-paid SIM card, you will need your passport or proof of identity (drivers’ licences do not count).

READ ALSO: TRAVEL: Why now’s the best time to discover Italy’s secret lakes and mountains

Keep in mind that you will not be able to use your normal phone number with the new SIM card in, but will be able to access your internet enabled messaging services, like WhatsApp, Facebook and iMessage. Your phone will need to be ‘unlocked’ (ask your carrier about whether yours is) in order to put a new SIM card in.

Here are some of the plans you can choose from:

WindTre

WindTre, the result of a 2020 merger between the Italian company Wind and the UK network provider Three, currently offers a “Tourist Pass” SIM card for foreign nationals. For €24.99 (it’s sneakily marketed as €14.99, but read the small print and you’ll see you need to fork out an additional €10), you’ll have access to 20GB of data for up to 30 days.

The offer includes 100 minutes of calls within Italy plus an additional 100 minutes to 55 foreign countries listed on the WindTre website. Up to 13.7GB can be used for roaming within the EU. The card is automatically deactivated after 30 days, so there’s no need to worry about surprise charges after you return from your holiday. To get this SIM card, you can go into any WindTre store and request it.

A tourist protects herself from the sun with a paper umbrella as she walks at Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps in Rome.
A tourist protects herself from the sun with a paper umbrella as she walks at Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps in Rome.

Vodafone

Vodafone has had better deals in the past, but lately appears to have downgraded its plan for tourists, now called “Vodafone Holiday” (formerly “Dolce Vita”), to a paltry 2GB for €30. You get a total of 300 minutes of calls and 300 texts to Italian numbers or to your home country; EU roaming costs €3 per day.

Existing Vodafone customers can access the offer by paying €19 – the charge will be made to your Vodafone SIM within 72 hours of activating the deal. 

READ ALSO: MAP: The best Italian villages to visit this year

The Vodafone Holiday offer automatically renews every four weeks for €29 – in order to cancel you’ll need to call a toll-free number. The Vodafone website says that the €30 includes the first renewal, suggesting the payment will cover the first four weeks plus an additional four after that, but you’ll want to double check before buying. You’ll need to go to a store in person to get the card.

TIM

TIM is one of Italy’s longest-standing and most well-established network providers, having been founded in 1994 following a merger between several state-owned companies.

The “Tim Tourist” SIM card costs €20 for 15GB of data and 200 minutes of calls within Italy and to 58 foreign countries, and promises “no surprises” when it comes to charges.

You can use the full 15GB when roaming within the EU at no extra charge, and in the EU can use your minutes to call Italian numbers. The deal is non-renewable, so at the end of the 30 days you won’t be charged any additional fees.

READ ALSO: MAP: Which regions of Italy have the most Blue Flag beaches?

To access the offer, you can either buy it directly from a TIM store in Italy, or pre-order using an online form and pay with your bank card. Once you’ve done this, you’ll receive a PIN which you should be able to present at any TIM store on arrival in Italy (along with your ID) to collect your pre-paid card. The card won’t be activated until you pick it up.

Iliad

Iliad is the newest and one of the most competitive of the four major phone companies operating in Italy, and currently has an offer of 120GBP of €9.99 a month. For this reason, some travel blogs recommend Iliad as the best choice for foreigners – but unfortunately all of their plans appear to require an Italian tax ID, which rules it out as an option for tourists.

Contract

Though buying a pre-paid SIM card is a very useful option for visitors spending a decent amount of time in Italy, as mentioned above, there’s a significant different difference between buying a one-time pre-paid SIM versus a monthly plan that auto-renews.

Make sure you know which one you’re signing up for, and that if you choose a plan that will continue charging you after your vacation has ended, you remember to cancel it.

UK contracts

If you have a UK-registered mobile phone, check your plan carefully before travelling. Before Brexit, Brits benefited from the EU cap on roaming charges, but this no longer applies.

Some phone companies have announced the return of roaming charges, while others have not, or only apply roaming charges only on certain contracts.

In short, check before you set off and don’t assume that because you have never been charged extra before, you won’t be this time.

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