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DISCOVER ITALY

Nine things to do in Italy in spring 2022

The days are getting longer and Italy is beginning to ease Covid-related health and travel restrictions. Here's some inspiration if you're planning to travel to or within Italy in the coming months.

A costumed celebration of Rome's birthday is just one of the events you can catch in Italy this spring.
A costumed celebration of Rome's birthday is just one of the events you can catch in Italy this spring. Photo by TIZIANA FABI / AFP

March

  • Eurochocolate, Perugia (March 25th – April 3rd, 2022)

“Are you ready to immerse yourself in a world of sweetness?” ask the organisers of this year’s Eurochocolate Festival, which returns to the historic hilltop city of Perugia in Umbria from late March to early April after a two-year hiatus.

Planned activities and features include an Easter egg hunt, a fair with Easter-themed chocolates on sale, a bar with chocolate-flavoured drinks and snacks, and a parade.

Tickets are available online, with discounts on offer for under-18s and groups of more than ten people.

  • Rome Marathon (March 27th, 2022)

If the idea of puffing your way around one of the world’s most scenic marathon routes appeals, register now for the Rome Marathon.

Starting and ending by the Colosseum, the 26 mile course takes runners along the Tiber and past numerous historic sites including the ancient Roman Circo Massimo chariot race track, the Spanish Steps, Castel Sant’Angelo and St. Peter’s Basilica, to name a few.

According to the event’s website, registration closes at midnight on March 19th – so if you want to do a last-minute sign up, there’s still time.

March 19th is the last day to register for this year's Rome marathon.
March 19th is the last day to register for this year’s Rome marathon. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

April

  • Vinitaly, Verona (April 10th-13th, 2022)

Open to professionals only, the 54th edition of Verona’s world-renowned wine exposition will go ahead as usual this year, with four days of activities and events planned between April 10th and 13th.

If you’re more of a dilettante oenophile, there are dozens of publicly-accessible wine fairs scheduled to be held throughout the Italian peninsula between March and May; from Rome’s mid-March Vini Selvaggi natural wine exposition to Venice’s Bollicine in Villa sparkling wine tasting event at the start of 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 old is pulled into the square by garlanded oxen, surrounded a procession of people dressed as Roman soldiers or in 15th century garb.

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.

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

Last year’s event was a subdued affair, available to spectators only via online streaming: it’s unclear at this stage what shape the 2022 celebrations will take, but as events throughout the country are reopening, it’s hoped that visitors will be able to see this year’s spectacle unfold in person.

  • Rome birthday celebrations (April 21st – 24th, 2022)

Rome has a birthday, and it’s April 21st. Originally the date on which the agricultural pagan festival of Parilia was held, ancient Rome’s rulers repurposed the occasion to make it a celebration of the city’s origins.

This year, the Italian capital’s 2,775th birthday celebrations will be held in honour of the Emperor Vespasian, who established the Flavian dynasty and restored order to the empire after a civil war.

The programme put on by the Rome History Group will feature writer interviews, school workshops, photographic exhibitions, and historical reenactments and parades at the ancient Circus Maximus chariot race track in the centre of Rome.

Artichoke festival, Chiusure, Tuscany (April 22 – 25th, 2022)

While it doesn’t yet appear to have a fixed programme of events, the annual artichoke fair (Festa del carciofo) in the small Tuscan village of  Chiusure is due to return this year.

So far the organisers have announced a dinner to take place on Friday, April 22nd (advance booking required), and a traditional market with more than 20 stands selling local produce, musical performances and workshops to be held on April 25th.

Chiusure’s isn’t the only artichoke festival taking place in Italy this spring: Ladispoli, a town on the outer edges of the Metropolitan City of Rome, will reportedly put on Non è la Sagra (‘It’s not the fair’), a month-long event due to unfold every weekend between March 17th and April 10th, 2022, in an effort to remain Covid-friendly by spacing out the crowds.

Spring is artichoke season in Italy.

Spring is artichoke season in Italy. Photo by FRED TANNEAU / AFP
  • Festa di San Giorgio, multiple locations (April 23rd plus last Sunday in May – probably)

George may be best known to anglophones as England’s patron saint, but it’s Italians who really know how to fête the medieval knight, as he also happens to be claimed by multiple Italian (in particular, Sicilian) towns and cities.

These include the UNESCO world heritage city of Modica in Sicily, the neighbouring baroque city of Ragusa (where by far the biggest celebrations take place) and Vieste in Puglia, to name a few.

While St George’s feast day falls on April 23rd, Ragusa celebrates La Festa di San Giorgio with raucous festivities on the last Sunday in May, so you have multiple date options.

This one’s another ‘maybe’ for 2022: so far the Facebook page for Ragusa’s St. George’s Day merely says its organisers ‘would like’ to see the festival’s return this year, so keep checking back for updates.

May

  • Infiorata di Noto, Sicily (May 13th-15th, 2022 – probably)

According to local news outlets, the annual Infiorata May flowering celebrations in the baroque Sicilian city of Noto will be held as usual this year on the third weekend in May.

The festivities, which form part of the Primavera Barocca or ‘Baroque Spring‘ celebrations, see the 120 metre-long Via Corrado Nicolaci carpeted in elaborate flower petal displays.

May sees Noto's Via Corrado Nicolaci filled with elaborate flower petals designs.

May sees Noto’s Via Corrado Nicolaci filled with elaborate flower petals designs. Photo by TIZIANA FABI / AFP

We note that neither the website for the Noto municipality nor the official Infiorata di Noto website have yet updated their pages with a programme for 2022, so if this is on your list, keep checking back to make sure this year’s event is going ahead.

May

  • Annual festival of classical theatre, Syracuse (May 27th – July 9th, 2022)

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.

Tickets can be bought online now from the website of Italy’s National Institute of Ancient Drama for this year’s festival, which opens with Agamemnon by Aeschylus and Oedipus Rex by Sophocles. 

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DISCOVER ITALY

TRAVEL: Nine overlooked Italian towns you should visit

Italy is much more than just the glamour of Rome, Venice or Florence - but some must-see destinations suffer from negative reputations, says Silvia Marchetti.

TRAVEL: Nine overlooked Italian towns you should visit

There are many underrated places in Italy far from the madding crowd that should be more valued and discovered, but which are neglected by traditional tourist routes, and in some cases, which suffer from prejudice and a superficial negative reputation.

Caserta

This town near Naples is notorious as an area which suffers from the presence of organised criminal gangs but it should be famous for so much more: it makes the best buffalo milk mozzarella in Italy (the real, original one) and has a lovely ancient district called Caserta Vecchia, which lies higher up the hills.

The town most famously boasts the Reggia, a lavish royal palace with gardens and fountains that outshines the Palace of Versailles. It’s really worth exiting the A1 highroad just to visit the Reggia.

The Reggia di Caserta, a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the great Royal Palaces of Europe. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

Lampedusa 

Everyone knows Sicily’s Lampedusa island is the ‘door to Europe’ for many migrant arrivals, and often a place of sea tragedies. Despite the gloom, it has one of the world’s top rated beaches in front of the Isola dei Conigli’ (Rabbit Island) with turquoise clear waters and powder-white sand where loggerhead turtles lay their eggs. Locals sunbathe on the rocky platforms cut into the surrounding white limestone cliffs. I’ve been to the Maldives and Indonesia but I’ve never seen a more beautiful beach anywhere.

Reggio Calabria

At the tip of the boot, the regional capital of Calabria doesn’t usually top travelers’ bucket lists – but it should. It has a lovely palm-lined seafront promenade and its main museum showcases the Riace Bronzes, the ancient Greek sculptures of two perfect men warriors, found at the bottom of the sea and listed as UNESCO world heritage attractions. I stood for hours admiring their stunning sculpted bodies, wondering if ancient men were really so hot.

Is this what men looked like 2,500 years ago? The Riace Bronzes are display in Calabria’s capital. (Photo by VINCENZO PINTO / AFP)

Termoli

The town of Termoli on the Adriatic coast is another hidden, unknown gem. Popular just as the departure port to the Tremiti islands it has a gorgeous ancient walled centro storico with pastel-colored houses and some of Italy’s narrowest alleys, with views of the traditional trabocchi, old fishermen’s wooden huts suspended above the water. Plus, it makes a superbly tasty huge brodetto fish soup. 

Orgosolo

In deep Sardinia far from the loud VIP beaches is Orgosolo, the center of the wild Barbagia, a once bandit-sacked area. The town is covered in wall paintings depicting rural life and trompe-l’oeils of grannies sitting at doorsteps and running horses. 

Trapani

In western Sicily was another unexpected pleasant surprise. I went there to embark to the Egadi islands but on my way back home I decided to visit this old seaside town dotted with dozens of white-washed chapels belonging to artisan brotherhoods. I explored a very vibrant fish market and discovered extraordinary salt pans dating back to Phoenician times, with windmills and pyramids of salt. When the sun sets the salines, surrounded by the exotic vegetation of a natural reserve, turn purple and blue. 

Trapani’s salt pans. Photo Silvia Marchetti

Milazzo

On the other side of Sicily is an industrial town where tourists go just to set sail for the Aeolian islands, which is a pity. They miss its unique historic center. The upper part of the town boasts a medieval castle-fortress with an armory museum while from the abandoned lighthouse there are breathtaking views of the entire coast, dotted with tiny rock chapels and crypts cut inside the cliffs open to the public. I never thought such a low-profile place could have so many interesting spots.

Latina

South of Rome lies this city which was founded during fascism and has been completely preserved. Its residents are often seen as fascist nostalgics, however, for history lovers it’s like traveling back in time. 

The original architecture of the 1930s includes imposing monuments, buildings and big statues hailing to the ‘Italian farmer pioneer’ which was at the core of the fascist ideology. The main city buildings still bear Mussolini’s favorite pompous mottos engraved over the entrances.

There’s a unique ‘malaria museum’ showing the story of the fight against the malaria which for centuries infested the surrounding plains. Old blood samples of infected people and different types of dried mosquitoes can be seen stuck behind glass cases. 

Terracina

Close to Latina is Terracina, another under-the-radar town right in the middle between Rome and Naples along the coast. What makes this place a must-see destination is the massive clifftop temple sanctuary of Jupiter Anxur built by the ancient Romans which is open to the public. The view stretches to Vesuvius and the temple’s reddish-golden stones glow at dawn. 

There are so many other overlooked places in Italy worth discovering, even though it often means going beyond appearances or assumptions.

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