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The best events and festivals in Italy in 2022

Boats move down the grand canal in Venice as part of the carnevale festivities.
Venice's carnival, held every February-March, is one of the highlights of Italy's cultural calendar. Marco Bertorello/AFP
With the obvious caveat that much depends on the health situation and Covid-related rules in place, Italy has an outstanding variety of events on offer in 2022 for tourists and residents alike.

Italy has an incredibly rich cultural calendar – one of the many factors that routinely make it one of the most visited countries in the world.

Here’s an overview of some of the top events coming up around the country, so you can start planning your year.

February

  • The Feast of Sant’Agata, Catania (February 3rd – 5th)

This three-day long festival in Catania, Sicily involves processions, firework displays, and some… unusual-looking desserts.

According to lore, Sant’Agata was a young girl from a noble family who found herself the object of desire of a governor. Legend has it that she cut off her breasts and ultimately martyred herself to escape his advances.

Alongside some raucous celebrations, those who attend will find cassatelle or minne di Sant’Agata – ricotta-filled sponges designed to look like the saint’s amputated bosoms.

  • Carnevale (February 12th – March 1st)

February in Italy is carnival season, and the most famous carnival is of course in held in Venice.

Participants can ride a gondola down the Grand Canal to attend the Grand Masquerade Ball at Palazzo Pisani Moretta and stuff themselves with fried treats like frittelle Veneziane.

Tickets for various events are available here.

READ ALSO: 13 of the best photos from this year’s Venice carnival

Masked revellers pose for a photo during Venice's carnival celebrations.
Masked revellers pose for a photo during Venice’s carnival celebrations. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP
  • Carnevale di Viareggio (February 12th – March 5th)

While it might not be as well known internationally, Viareggio’s carnival has nothing to envy Venice’s festivities.

Every year this small town on the Tuscan coast sees masked participants carry hundreds of papier-mâché floats along the seafront to music and dancing.

Because of the event’s popularity, tickets must be bought in advance here.

  • Honorable mention: Ivrea’s ‘Battle of the Oranges’

Sadly, the health situation has led this year’s organisers to cancel Ivrea’s Battle of the Oranges, a three-day event in which attendees pummel each other with oranges to commemorate a popular uprising against a tyrannical ruler. 

Look out for it in future years, as it’s a highlight of Italy’s cultural calendar.

READ ALSO: IN PHOTOS: Italy’s annual orange fight

March

  • Rome Marathon (March 27th)

If you fancy panting your way around one of the world’s most scenic marathon routes, sign up now for the Rome Marathon.

This annual event takes runners along the river Tiber and past numerous historic Roman and Medieval sites. It starts and ends at the Colosseum, which means you’ll be able to celebrate with a spritz in the fashionable nearby Monti district.

April

  • Scoppio del Carro, Florence (April 17th, 2022 – Easter Sunday)

All Italy will of course be celebrating Easter Sunday, but only Florence does so by setting off explosions from a cart.

Every year, Italy’s Renaissance capital puts on a midday fireworks display in the Piazza del Duomo. A wooden wagon several hundred years is pulled into the square by garlanded oxen, surrounded a procession of people dressed as Roman soldiers or in 15th century garb.

Onlookers admire Florence's theatrical Easter celebrations.
Onlookers admire Florence’s theatrical Easter celebrations. Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

The cart comes to a rest outside the cathedral, where a service is given; afterwards, as Gloria in excelsis Deo is being sung, Florence’s cardinal lights a fuse on a model dove which then speeds down a cable through the church and onto the cart outside, setting off firecrackers and pinwheels and generating long smoke plumes.

  • Annual festival of classical theatre, Syracuse (May – July, dates tbc)

Built by ancient Greeks, the amphitheatre of Syracuse is returned to its original purpose once a year when it hosts its annual festival of classical theatre.

Dates haven’t yet been announced, but Italy’s National Institute of Ancient Drama, which runs the festival, has said the 2022 season will open with Agamemnon by Aeschylus and Oedipus Rex by Sophocles. 

May

  • Serie A finals (March 22, 2022)

Italian football fans will be fixed to their TV screens (or if they’re lucky, their stadium seats) on May 22nd, which is when Italy’s finest football teams in the countries Serie A play the final matches that decide who gets the scudetto.

June

  • Infiorata, nationwide

June sees towns and villages across Italy burst into colour with what’s known as the infiorata, or flowering, as piazzas are decorated with mosaics made from flower petals.

The tradition started with the Vatican in the 17th century, and every year on Rome’s patron saint’s day of June 29th sees the walkway that leads from St Peter’s Square down to Via della Conciliazione and the River Tiber carpeted in a spectacular patchwork of flowers.

Other places especially well known for their June flower displays are Spello (June 18th-19th), Genzano (dates tbc) and Noto, which actually puts on its infiorata a little earlier than the rest of the country (May 13th-15th).

Infiorata flower displays leading up to the Vatican in Rome.
Infiorata flower displays leading up to the Vatican in Rome. Vincenzo Pinto/AFP
  • Verona Opera Festival (June 17th – September 4th)

June is also the month when Verona’s annual opera festival, which lasts until September, starts to get underway.

Fans of opera are in for an experience unlike any other, as performances are held in the city’s Roman amphitheatre. This year’s festival will feature Carmen, Aida, Nabucco, La Traviata, and Turandot; as well as three dance galas.

READ ALSO: Travel: Why Verona should be the next Italian city you visit

July 

  • Umbria Jazz Festival, Perugia (July 8th – 17th)

The annual Umbria jazz festival in Perugia is another highlight for any music-lover’s calendar.

Since 1973, when the festival first began, the city has played host to the likes of Chet Baker, James Brown, Tony Bennett, Elton John, Alicia Keys, Van Morrison, and Prince. The event sees Perugia’s piazzas, streets, concert halls and churches filled with musicians playing up a storm.

August

  • Palio di Siena (July 2nd and August 16th)

Dating back centuries, the Palio di Siena is a twice-annual festival that sees Siena’s various districts compete in a bareback horse race.

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READ ALSO: IN PICTURES: The Siena Palio, Italy’s historic horse race

The Palio di Provenzano is the first race held on July 2nd in honour of the Madonna of Provenzano, while the Palio held on 16 August is named Palio dell’Assunta, in honour of the Assumption of Mary.

The events see representatives from different districts or ‘contrade’ compete to win the race, and there’s fierce rivalry. Each contrada is named for an animal or symbol and has its own colours, as well its historic allies and rivals among the other contrade.

IN PICTURES: The Siena Palio, Italy's historic horse race
Riders compete in Siena’s historic palio. Photo: Claudio Giovannini/AFP

September

  • Venice regatta (September 4th) and film festival (August 31st-September 10th)

If you want to rub shoulders with the stars in Italy, there’s no better time and place than Venice in early September.

Founded in 1932, the Venice film festival is the oldest in the world. It forms part of the Venice Biennale art exhibition, which dates all the way back to 1893 and features art, architecture, dance, music, theatre, and cinema from around the world.

If you’re in town for the film festival, you’ll be lucky enough to witness Venice’s historic regatta boat race. The race is open to anyone, but you don’t need to participate to enjoy the spectacle, which includes a procession of reenactors in period costume going down the Grand Canal on special bissone rowing boats.

READ ALSO: Seven reasons autumn is the best time to visit Italy

  • Feast of San Gennaro (September 19th)

If you’ve been waiting to witness a miracle, look no further than Naples’ Feast of San Gennaro.

Three times a year – September 19th, December 16th, and the first Sunday in May – the faithful gather to witness a ceremony in which the city’s archbishop holds up a vial of its patron saint’s congealed blood and watch as it liquefies.

It’s the September 19th event, however, that really counts: that’s when Naples celebrates its patron saint, and it kicks off three days of festivities.

October

  • International White Truffle Festival, Alba (October 9th – December 5th)

Gourmands from around the world flock to this annual festival in Alba, Piedmont to sample rare white truffles from the nearby Langhe, Roero and Monferrato woods.

While truffles are the main event, visitors to the fair will also have access to art exhibitions, concerts, theatre performances, farmers markets, and historic and cultural events including parades and a donkey race; and as a bonus, Alba is home to some of the best wine in Italy.

READ ALSO: Hunting gastronomic gold in Italy’s truffle country

December

  • Presepi, nationwide

Italy’s Christmas markets are nothing to be sniffed at, but where the country really shines is in its presepe nativity scenes.

In the southern Italian city of Matera, known for its ancient cave houses and magical landscape, a ‘live presepe’ with actors attracts tourists from around the world.

The town of Manarola in the tourist hotspot of Cinque Terre puts on the world’s largest nativity display, featuring 150 statues illuminated with over 15,000 lights, while the Vatican always sets up an impressive scene that contains everything except for baby Jesus (it’s tradition for the Pope to place him in his manger on Christmas Eve).

READ ALSO: Ten Christmas nativity scenes you’ll only see in Italy

The Manarola nativity scene in Italy’s Cinque Terre.
The Manarola nativity scene in Italy’s Cinque Terre. Photo: Marco Bertorello / AFP

The port town Cesenatico, Emilia-Romagna has a ‘floating nativity’ composed of around 50 life-size statues throughout December, and in Naples you’ll want to head to Via San Gregorio Armeno, the city’s “Christmas Alley”, for a glimpse into the workshops that turn out many of the crib figures displayed all over Italy.


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