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13 events to look forward to in Italy in September 2023

Elaine Allaby
Elaine Allaby - [email protected]
13 events to look forward to in Italy in September 2023
Venice's Historical Regatta. Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP.

The summer break may be coming to an end, but Italy's cultural events calendar is just ramping up. Here's what people can look forward to this September.


Venice Historical Regatta - September 3rd

Held on the first Sunday of September, Venice's historical regatta is one of the lagoon's oldest traditions, commemorating the Serenissima's glorious past - in particular the welcome the city gave in 1489 to Caterina Cornaro when she gave up her throne to return to Venice after her husband, the King of Cyprus, died.

The regatta features four separate rowing races, but the main event is the floating costumed parade that precedes them, with colourful boats and locals decked out in full Renaissance garb.

If you miss the September 3rd event, you'll get a second chance to attend another Venetian regatta later in the month, as Burano's regatta is expected to take place as usual on the third Sunday of the month (September 17th).

Mantua Literary Festival - September 6th-10th

Founded in 1997, Festivaletteratura is one of Italy's longest-running and most celebrated literary festivals, featuring readings, guided tours, concerts and performances.

The talks are mostly in Italian, but there are some English-language events; this year's program, for example, has Nobel Prize-winning author Olga Tokarczuk and American humorist David Sedaris in attendance.

READ ALSO: Eight of Italy's best book fairs and literary festivals in 2023

It takes place in buildings scattered across Mantua's historic centre, giving attendees the perfect opportunity to explore this UNESCO World Heritage-recognised city.

Diamante Peperoncino Festival, Calabria - September 6th-10th

If you think you can handle your spice, try venturing south and testing your taste buds' mettle at Calabria's peperoncini chilli festival, now in its 31st edition.


This region on the 'toe' of Italy's boot is renowned for being the only part of the country where chillis are regularly used in cooking.

In addition to the annual chili pepper eating championship, the festival features theatrical performances, art exhibitions, film screenings, a food market, and folk music and dancing. Entry to all events is free and no advance booking is required.

READ ALSO: Eight seasonal Italian foods you have to eat in autumn

Chilli peppers are a popular local delicacy in Calabria. Photo by Paul La Rosa on Unsplash

Festa della Rificolona, Florence - September 7th

Florence's Festa della Rificolona is one of Italy's most photogenic festivals, featuring an after-dark parade of colourful paper lanterns that wend their way around the historic centre's labyrinthine streets.

It's held every year on September 7th, the eve of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, and harks back to a time when farmers would travel from all over the surrounding area to make the pilgrimage to the Basilica della Santissima Annunziata.

READ ALSO: Nine alternative places to visit in Italy in 2023

Because the journey was long, they would have to leave before dawn, so would light their way with lanterns on sticks.

These days the festival takes the form of a costumed procession from Piazza Santa Felicita to Piazza Santissima. Children are encouraged to try and knock over the candles in the lanterns by blowing spit wads through straws, in imitation of Florentines of centuries past who would jeer at the peasants passing through.


MiTo Settembre Musica, Turin and Milan - September 7th-22nd

The northern Italian cities of Milan and Turin share between them this three-week-long classical music festival that ushers in the autumn.

This year's programs feature works by Chopin, Bernstein, Beethoven, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Rachmaninoff, among others. Ticket prices are kept purposefully low, with most performances priced at €5-€15.

A few are particularly designed with children in mind - check out Dorothy in the Children's City in either city, with tickets available for €1 for children under 14 in Turin.

Chianti Classico Expo - September 7th-10th:

One of the most important events in the Italian wine enthusiast's calendar, the Expo Chianti Classico provides visitors with an opportunity to meet local winemakers and sample their products in the picturesque Tuscan town of Greve in Chianti.

READ ALSO: REVEALED: How to choose the best wine in Italian supermarkets

The festival's website says there's no need to book in advance (unless you want a guided tasting session); just show up on the day and pay €15 for a booklet with seven tasting tickets. 

The fair will also feature foodstands, and its program includes musical performances and a charity tombola.

Where better to sip on a glass of Chianti than the area where it's produced? Photo by Kelsey Knight on Unsplash

Decibel Open Air Festival, Florence – Sept 9th-10th

Founded in 2016, this electronic music festival has rapidly become one of the most important events in the calendar for house and techno lovers, last year drawing 50,000 attendees.

The lineup for the 2023 edition includes Moderat, Paul Kalkbrenner, and Peggy Gou, among many other artists; this year’s festival will take place at a new 100,000 sqm location a few minutes from the city center.


Luminaria di Santa Croce, Lucca - September 13th:

If you can't make it to Florence's Festa della Rificolona, you only have to wait a week for the opportunity to attend another candlelit procession in nearby Lucca.

The Luminaria di Santa Croce ('Illumination of the Holy Cross') involves the ceremonial transfer of a wooden crucifix from the Church of San Frediano to the Cathedral of San Martino.

READ ALSO: TRAVEL: Eight of the best destinations for an autumn break in Italy

Thousands of candles and torches are lit to light the costumed celebrants' path as prayers are sung, and the night is rounded off with a fireworks display. The following morning a solemn mass is held in the city's duomo. 

The Luminaria di Santa Croce is the highlight of a month-long series of events in Lucca known as the Settembre Lucchese, which includes fairs, markets, performances and exhibitions.

Cous Cous Festival, Sicily – Sept 15th-24th

The Sicilian coastal town of San Vito Lo Capo, with its Caribbean-like beaches and unspoiled Riserva Naturale dello Zingaro nature reserve, hosts this annual celebration of the North African and Mediterranean staple.

As well as providing ample opportunities for cous cous sampling, the program for this year’s festival also features free evening concerts, Sicilian wine tastings, and a championship in which chefs from eight different countries prepare their dishes live on stage in front of a jury that will decide who is named the 2023 world champion.


Giostra della Quintana, Foligno - September 16th-17th

If you've ever dreamed of attending a historic jousting tournament, the Umbrian city of Foligno in mid-September is the place to be.

The event takes place twice a year; the Rivincita (Rematch) tournament in the autumn follows the 'Sfida' (Challenge/Match) in June, and sees 'knights' chosen from each of the city's ten districts compete to ride their horse around a treacherous racetrack and insert their lance through a ring hanging from the arm of a statue representing the god Mars in the fastest time.

September 16th is the date of a parade, while the contest itself is held on the 17th.

The city goes all out to celebrate, with volunteer townsfolk dressing up in lavish baroque costumes, and taverns serving traditional 17th century dishes from September 1st.

Festa di San Gennaro, Naples - Sept 19th

The Feast Day of Naples' patron saint, San Gennaro, is observed with a morning mass in the city's cathedral.


A vial of the martyred saint's dried blood is brought out to liquefy before onlookers - the 'Miracle of San Gennaro'. If the blood does turn to liquid, that's a good omen; the occasions when it doesn't (the ritual is repeated three times a year) are feared to presage disaster.

The day is also celebrated with a procession and street fair in Little Italy, New York.

The liquefaction of San Gennaro's blood on his feast day is seen as a positive omen.

The liquefaction of San Gennaro's blood on his feast day is seen as a positive omen. Photo by CARLO HERMANN / AFP.

Cheese fairs, Tuscany and Piedmont - August 28th-September 3rd, September 15th-18th

Traditionally, a palio is a medieval-style horserace - the most famous being the Palio di Siena - but these have drawn criticism in recent years for animal cruelty.

Enter Pienza's more humane Palio (or simply 'Gioco') del Cacio Fuso, in which representatives of the Tuscan town's six districts compete in a boules-style tournament to roll their wheel of cheese closest to a spindle.

READ ALSO: Why some of Italy’s food festivals are 'fake' - and how to pick the best ones

That's just one small part of the city's week-long Fiera del Cacio, which runs from August 28th until September 3rd and provides ample opportunity to feast on local cheeses and wines.

Pienza's not the only town with a September cheese fair; over the long weekend of September 15th-18th, Bra in Piedmont is hosting Cheese, a raw milk cheese festival with tastings, talks, meals and markets.


'The Paths of Treasures', Sicily - 16th September-5th November

Rounding off our list is Sicily's cultural heritage festival, Le Vie dei Tesori

Now in its 17th edition, the festival takes place across 17 of the island's towns and cities over the course of eight weekends between September and November.

Hundreds of gardens, villas, palaces, and historic and cultural sites that are normally closed to the public will be opened to ticket-holders, and concerts, exhibitions and guided tours all feature.



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