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Six events to look forward to in Italy in summer 2023

The Local Italy
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Six events to look forward to in Italy in summer 2023
The traditional Palio horse race in Siena, Tuscany, is among Italy's most unmissable summer events. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

From music festivals to centuries-old traditions and a major national holiday, there's a lot to experience in Italy this summer.

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Ravello Festival, Amalfi Coast - July 2nd-August 30th

A highlight of the Italian summer is Ravello Festival, a packed programme of musical and cultural events on the terraces of Villa Rufolo, overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea.

In addition to classical music performances, this year's festival also features a jazz week, and closes out with a tribute to Frank Sinatra with the Salerno Jazz Orchestra.

Perched 350m above sea level, Ravello's elevation provides some welcome relief from the midsummer heat; if you're in the town, check out Villa Cimbrone, a sprawling villa and landscaped gardens with a famed Infinity Terrace.

Ortigia Sound System, Syracuse - July 26-30th

One of the many small summer music festivals happening at picturesque locations around Italy this summer, OSS is an electronic music festival that blends the rhythms of the Mediterranean with the latest trends in contemporary music.

It takes place on the small island of Ortigia, the historic heart of Syracuse known for its Greek heritage and baroque architecture.

For a few days every July since 2014 some of Ortigia’s most impressive buildings — the grandiose Antico Mercato, and this year the elegant Teatro Massimo —  are transformed into concert venues, while many of the DJ sets and afterparties take place on boats out at sea. 

Ferragosto, nationwide - August 15th

The most important date in every Italian's national summer holiday calendar is August 15th - otherwise known as Ferragosto.

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These days, this is the date on which Catholics celebrate the Assumption, or the ascension of the Virgin Mary into heaven - though the Feriae Augusti (the festivals of the Emperor Augustus) were in fact first introduced all the way back in 18 BC, to offer Roman citizens a period of rest after months of hard labour.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about Ferragosto, Italy's national summer holiday

This year's Ferragosto falls on a Tuesday, which means most Italians will be taking a ponte holiday weekend. Expect particularly crowded beaches and heavy traffic on and around this date; some towns and cities also put on parades and displays in the evening.

Palio dell'Assunta, Siena - August 16th

The Palio dell'Assunta (which, as you might guess, takes its name from the Assumption of the Virgin Mary), is held this year on August 16th, and is the second of two palios, following the Palio di Provenzano on July 2nd.

The palio races have taken place in the Tuscan city of Siena since 1633, and see Siena’s 17 contrade districts compete against each other via an intense horse race held in the city's oval-shaped Piazza del Campo.

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A number of events are held in the three days preceding the race, including several trial runs and the momentous tratta (draw), where each competing contrada is assigned a horse.

Finally, on the day of the palio, a spectacular historical parade made up of nearly 700 participants enchants the public just before the start of the race.

Many Italians use the August 15th public holiday to escape the heat of the city and enjoy the beach. Photo by Giovanni ISOLINO / AFP

I Suoni delle Dolomiti, Dolomites - August 23rd-October 1st

Once you've soaked up all the August sun Italy's coast has to offer, why not see out the end of the summer by heading up north to the Trentino Dolomites and experiencing live music performances immersed in nature.

The weeks-long staggered music festival The Sounds of the Dolomites takes place in different locations around the Alpine region, set against spectacular mountain backdrops, most of which can only be reached by a (short) trek.

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Be sure to check out the sunrise Polish Cello Quartet performance at 6.30am on September 1st, on the San Pellegrino Pass in Val di Fassa.

Notte della Taranta, Salento - August 26th

One of the most hotly-anticipated events of the Pugliese summer is the Notte della Taranta.

It's a night of high-energy pizzica, a folk dance said to originate from the legend that anyone bitten by a tarantula would have to dance in a frenzy for days to flush out the venom.

READ ALSO: Nine of Italy's best small summer music festivals

This year's edition, like previous years', will take place in the town of Melpignano outside Lecce, and feature a tribute to beloved Italian singer-songerwriter Fabrizio De André.

Bonus events:

Verona Opera Festival and Caracalla Summer festival in Rome are ongoing until September 9th and August 10th respectively, and are worth attending for the historic settings alone.

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