Ten wonderful things to do in Italy in April

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Historical re-enactments will be staged to celebrate Rome's brithday later this month. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP
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So ends the winter of our discontent — it’s April! birds sing, bees buzz, cypresses, well, stay green and Italy has a ton of different events. Don’t expect the locals to finally put away their parkas and embrace the sun yet, for aprile non ti scoprire.

Palio della Rana — April 1st - 3rd— Fermingano, Marche

Photo: James Walsh

Taking place the week after Easter, the Palio della Rana is yet another fun Italian tour of the zoological spectrum via a race.

Started to celebrate the setup of a village council in 1607, the festival used to include many different types of races, including sacks and greased poles. 400 years on, only the frog race remains. This time, participants, representing the different districts of the town, must carry a frog in a wheelbarrow.

Those who can cross the finish line with their green hitchhiker still along for the ride win. The race is held on Sunday, but the whole weekend will be filled with food, costumes, and reenactments of the history leading up to the village's autonomy.

Saint George’s Day — April 23rd — Caresana, Piedmont

In the heavily agricultural Piedmont region, the patron saint of farm workers, Saint George is honoured in a fitting way — with ox and bread. Oxen hauling carts are raced down the city’s streets, with the winner being able to carry the aaint's banner proudly on it’s cart. Then, free bread is handed out to all. For a change of pace with some agrarian life, what could be better?

Vinitaly — April 8th - 11th — Verona

Photo: Bruno Cordioli/Flickr

Want to find the best Sicilian wine? Then go to Vinitay. Celebrating it’s 50th edition, the wine festival is one of the country’s biggest, with nearly 4,000 winemakers present from 29 countries — as well as all 20 of Italy’s different wine regions.

While the trade event runs from April 10th-13th, the fun spills out into the streets of Verona earlier that week. Tastings, lectures on the wine market, food to match, and live music and DJ sets will be held to entertain all the real and wannabe sommeliers in attendance.

Rome’s Birthday — April 21st

Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Founded way back in 753 BC, supposedly by the twins Romulus and Remus, Rome, as Italy's capital, puts on quite the party. All museums and parks are free to the public. You can expect many parades to block up streets and packed hotels, so book early.

Historical reenactments will take place at all the Roman ruins dotting the city, including the Circus Maximus and the Colosseum, while that night the Tiber will be bathed in the light of fireworks. Just save the candles and singing — you’ll be at it for a while.

Artichoke Festival — April 15th - 17h — Ladispoli, Lazio

Photo: George Grinstead

Nothing says Italian food quite like the artichoke, and April is the month of their celebration. All across Italy, festivals can be found in honor of the thistly plant. But the biggest is in Lazio, where artichokes were first harvested by the Romans. Expect to find all of the nearly 50 kinds of artichokes in the small town, as well as restaurants with fixed menus selling artichokes with every course.

Corsa all’Anello — April 21st into May — Narni, Umbria

The townspeople of Narni created this festival in In honour of this town’s first bishop, Saint Giovenale. After falling out of recognition, it was reborn in 1968. During the Race for the Ring, Narni’s best horsemen, representing a Terzieri, or city district, try to snag a golden ring on a lance to win bragging rights for their home locale. Plenty of medieval costumes will be dusted off, and feasts of pork and wine will be held in the town.

Gelato Festival — April 21st -25t — Florence

Photo: Kyle Brown

Nothing says Italy quite like gelato, and nothing says Florence quite like the Piazza Michelangelo, and the view of all its renaissance spires and domes. Put the two together and you have a killer combination.This is the start of the seventh annual Gelato Festival, which brings together some of Italy’s top ice cream makers to put their skills to the test in an open competition for the crown of best gelato in the country.

The traveling festival will move on to other Italian and European cities throughout the summer such as Rome, Milan, Valencia, and London before returning to Florence to crown the final winners in early September. Buy a ticket to taste all the different flavors and add your voice to the conversation.

Ricotta Festival — April 25th — Vizzini, Sicilly

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You’re just as likely to find it in your dolce as your secondo — that’s what makes ricotta cheese so popular. The creamy dairy product will be on full display during the 42nd annual festival held in this small, Sicilian village renowned as the birthplace of ricotta.

Eat some ravioli, then some cannoli, and maybe a little cassata too. The village’s churches and sites will all also fling open their doors to visitors, as parades with flagbearers, musicians, and actors describe the local character.

Saint Biago’s Day — April 28th — Avetrana, Puglia

This small town in southern Italy explodes with life over the feast day of its patron saint. A massive procession takes up the whole center of town as the city stops and celebrates for two days.

Try some the local specialties, like baccala alla salentina, salted cod covered in breadcrumbs, pecorino, and tomato and baked potatoes, or orecchiette, meaning little ear-shaped pasta, in tomato and ricotta.

Saint Mark’s Day — April 25th — Venice

Photo: Roberto Trombetta

Venice becomes even more romantic on Saint Mark’s Day, as the traditional celebration is for men to give blooming roses to the women they love. Also, there is the Regata di Traghetti, where gondolas compete in a race from Venice’s old arsenal to the Rialto fish market — while loaded with passengers.

While the grunting of a gondolier with their pride on the line may kill the mood a little, try to enjoy the ride anyway.

By Stephen Caruso

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