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San Lorenzo: The best stargazing spots in Italy’s cities

August 10th is San Lorenzo, Italy's annual star-gazing festival. Here's where to try and catch a shooting star if you're in a major Italian city this year.

August 10th, the 'Notte di San Lorenzo', is Italy's favourite night for stargazing.
August 10th, the 'Notte di San Lorenzo', is Italy's favourite night for stargazing. Photo by Mariana SUAREZ / AFP.

One of the most romantic nights of the year in Italy is San Lorenzo, when shooting stars can be seen across the country.

This is because of the passing of Perseid, a meteor shower that cross the sky at this time of year and is known in Italian as lacrime di san lorenzo, or ‘San Lorenzo’s tears’. August 10th is the name-day (onomastico) of San Lorenzo.

There’s a good chance of seeing falling stars any day this week, with August 12-13th tipped as the best nights to see a meteor shower. But the 10th is when you can really join Italians in celebrating the festival, with many towns and cities putting on events.

Here are your best bets for joining in the fun and doing a little star gazing if you’re in a major Italian city this year.

Rome

Gianicolo (‘Janiculum’) Hill, which overlooks the city of Rome, is one popular viewpoint to head for; and for those who want to lay down their blanket without having to make too much of a schlep there’s Circo Massimo, an ancient Roman chariot racetrack in the middle of the city.

It’s worth noting that due to their central locations, however, neither spot will have perfect visibility.

If you want somewhere a little further out (with less light pollution) there’s Parco degli Acquedotti, a park set amongst ancient Roman aquaducts in the south-east of the city; and Parco della Caffarella.

Both parks are ungated (something of a rarity for Rome), meaning they’re open 24 hours a day.

The moon rises on Rome's ancient forum.
The moon rises on Rome’s ancient forum. Photo by VINCENZO PINTO / AFP.

Florence 

From 8.45pm (sunset is at 8.17pm), Villa Vogel, which is hosting the event ‘Sotto le stelle‘ (‘Under the Stars’) will put on a star-watching session led by the Florentine Astrological Society.

If you’re not in the mood for an organised activity, the Pian dei Giullari, not far from Piazzale Michelangelo near the centre of Florence, is recommended or those who can’t get too far out of the city.

For those who have access to a car and can head a little further afield, the stone quarries of Maiano in the Fiesole area; or further out, the hill of Monte Morello, are both good star-gazing destinations.

Florence's Palazzo Vecchio lit up at night.
Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio lit up at night. Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / AFP.

Milan

One option for stargazing without having to leave the city is the Giardini Indro Montanelli planetarium in Porta Venezia, which organises a special evening event at 9pm for San Lorenzo on August 10th featuring guided observation of the night skies.

If you’d rather find a peaceful spot outdoors to watch for shooting stars, one option in the city is Parco di Trenno (also known as Parco Aldo Aniasi). This 50-hectare stretch of meadow and woodland sits between Milan’s San Siro stadium and the perhaps better-known park at Boscoincittà. Boscoincittà however closes at 8pm, while Parco di Trenno is ungated and remains accessible at night. 

Another ungated city park featuring meadows, woodlands and seemingly endless wide open spaces, Parco Nord is, as the name suggests, in the northern part of Milan. Like Parco di Trenno, it’s a peaceful space but it is still within the city, meaning visibility will still be affected somewhat by light pollution.

The roof of Milan's duomo cathedral illuminated for a nighttime concert.

The roof of Milan’s duomo cathedral illuminated for a nighttime concert. Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE / AFP.

Bologna

A half hour train ride away from Bologna city centre, the Planetarium of San Giovanni in Persiceto is hosting a series of events from 9.30-11.30pm on August 10th, 11th and 12th.

Entry is free and no advance booking is required; attendees are invited to lie down on the lawn to look up at the sky.

Villa Ghigi, just outside the city in the southwest, is a recommended spot for stargazing, as is Parco Cavaioni a little further out.

Closer to the city centre (with its attendant light pollution) there’s Villa Spada and the Giardini Margherita.

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FOOD & DRINK

Sagra: The best Italian food festivals to visit in September

If you're visiting Italy in autumn, don't miss the many local food and drinks fairs held around the country. Here are some to visit this September.

Sagra: The best Italian food festivals to visit in September

One of the best things about visiting Italy in the autumn is having the opportunity to attend a sagra, a type of harvest festival or fair centred around one particular food or drink item local to the town hosting it.

sagra has a fairly broad definition: it could last for several weeks or one day, and might consist of anything from a raucous celebration with music and dancing to a lone food stall with a few wooden benches. It will usually be hosted in a field or a piazza, and entry is free.

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

What all sagre have in common is the focus on eating and drinking fresh local produce, and the assurance that you won’t leave unsated.

While October is the month with the most sagre, by September there are already a good number taking place throughout the country that are worth seeking out if you’re in the area.

Here are just a few of the sagre happening across Italy this September.

Campania

Sagra della Rana (frog festival), 2nd-4th September in Marcianise.

Sagra del Cinghiale (wild boar festival), Fridays-Sundays until the end of October in Dugenta.

The 10th annual Festa del Fagiolo (bean festival), 9th-11th September in Volturara Irpina.

Emilia Romagna

Sagra del pinzino e dell’arrosticino (fried bread dough and meat skewers festival), 31st August-11th September in Ferrara.

Sagra del Tartufo (truffle festival), 31st August-12th September in Sant’Agostino, Ferrara.

The 55th annual Sagra dell’Uva e del Lambrusco Grasparossa (grapes and lambrusco wine festival), 11th-24th September in Castelvetro di Modena.

Sagra Provinciale dell’Uva (grapes and wine festival), 17th-18th September in Riolo Terme.

Sagra della Salamina da Sugo al Cucchiaio (pork salami festival), 22nd-25th and 29th-30th September in Madonna Boschi, Ferrara.

Photo by BORIS HORVAT / AFP

Lazio

Sagra della porchetta di Ariccia (spitted pork festival), 2nd-4th September in Ariccia.

Festa del Fungo Porcino (porcini mushroom festival), 8th-25th September in Lariano.

Sagra del Ciammellocco (ciammellocco biscuit festival), 10th-11th September in Cretone.

Sagra degli Gnocchi (gnocchi festival), 16th-18th September in Castelnuovo di Porto.

Lombardy

Sagra della Rana (frog festival), 2nd-4th September in Sartirana Lomellina, Pavia.

Sagra dei Crotti (natural cave cellars festival), 3rd-4th and 10th-11th September in Chiavenna, Sondrio.

Sagra del Risotto (risotto festival), 12th-15th September in Cergnago, Pavia.

Fungolandia (mushroom festival), 3rd-11th September in Valle Brembana.

Sicily

Sagra del Nocattolo (nocattolo almond biscuit festival), 4th September in Nicosia.

Sagra dell’Arancino (fried arancino rice ball festival) 8th-11th September in Ficarazzi.

Festa della Noce (walnut festival), 30th September-9th October in Motta Camastra.

Cous Cous Fest, September 16th-25th, San Vito Lo Capo.

Piedmont

Gusto di Meliga (sorghum festival), 18th September, Chiusa di San Michele.

Sagra del Pomodoro (tomato festival), 2nd-4th September, Cambiano.

Fiera Nazionale del Peperone (bell pepper festival), 2nd-11th September, Carmagnola.

Puglia

Sagra del Maiale (pig festival), 2nd-4th September, Villa Baldassarri, Lecce.

Sagra della Zampina del Bocconcino e del Buon Vino (zampinabocconcino and good wine festival), 30th September-2nd October, Sammichele di Bari.

Tuscany

Sagra della bistecca (steak festival), 1st-4th September in Badia al Pino, Arezzo.

Festa della mora (blackberry festival), 3rd-4th September in Vaglia.

The 50th annual Expo del Chianti Classico (Classic Chianti Expo), 8th-11th September in Chianti.

Settimana del Miele (‘honey week’), 9th-11th September in Montalcino.

The 57th annual Sagra del Cinghiale (wild boar festival), 7th-11th September in Capalbio.

Umbria

Primi d’Italia (national first courses festival), 29th September-2nd October in Foligno.

This list is not exhaustive. Did we miss out your favourite September sagra? Leave a comment below to let us know.

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