Summer in Italy means sunshine, gelato, promenading after dinner, Aperols overlooking the ocean, hiking, cycling…and a jam-packed events calendar.
From pop concerts to opera in ancient amphitheatres to religious festivals, here’s a taste of what’s on offer for those seeking a little culture along with their cannoli on a summer sojourn in La Bella Italia.
Step back in time with festivals of faith
Gioco del Ponte, Pisa, Tuscany – June 25
Take a step back in time with the ‘Battle of the Bridge’ honouring the patron saint of the city of Pisa, Saint Rainerius.
Taking place on the elegant Ponte di Mezzo, the spectacle features two teams decked out in elaborate 16th-century costumes pushing an iron cart in a tug-of-war style battle of north vs south to ‘conquer’ the enemy’s side of the bridge.
Festa della Madonna della Bruna, Matera, Basilicata – July 2
Held in historic Matera since 1389, this religious feast also honours a patron saint, in this case, Madonna della Bruna.
Beginning with a dawn Holy Mass in Piazza San Francesco D’Assisi, celebrations include a procession from the Cathedral of Matera carrying a statue of the Madonna.
Later, the chariot which carried the statue is destroyed by a crowed in Piazza Vittorio Veneto, before a fireworks display lights up the ancient Sassi di Matera – a sight not to be missed.
Palio di Siena, Siena, Tuscany – July 2, August 16
Combining a historic procession which parades through the streets of Siena from the Piazza del Duomo to the Piazza del Campo, the Palio di Siena is a heart-stopping horse race held on two dates in July and August around the town’s ancient central square.
Featuring music, costumes and a lively ambience, the entire experience is like being transported back in time to the festive celebrations – and competitions – of Roman times.
Festa di Santa Rosalia, Palermo, Sicily – July 10-15
A six-day extravaganza celebrating the patron saint of Palermo who is said to have miraculously appeared from 1624 when the city was gripped by the plague, this will be the 398th year of the festival which culminates in a great procession on the evening of July 14th which begins in front of the Cathedral of Palermo and winds its way towards the sea.
Highlights include a 10-metre-tall chariot pulled by oxen that carries the sacred Statue of Saint Rosalia, as well as an impressive fireworks display. Traditional local dishes to sample during the festival include babbaluci (snails with garlic), sfincione (Sicilian pizza), octopus, watermelon, and pasta with sardines.
Festa del Redentore, Venice, Veneto – July 16-17
The annual Feast of the Redeemer has been celebrated in Venice since the 16th century, combining both religious and secular elements.
The first day features a lively party and phenomenal evening fireworks display, while the second day of the celebration has a more religious focus as well as a canal race of traditional Venetian boats, the Regatta of the Redeemer.
La Quintana, Ascoli Piceno, Marche, July – August
Step back into the pomp and ceremony of medieval Italy during this festival which is held over several dates in July and August in the photogenic town of Ascoli Piceno.
From a parade of locals dressed in 15th century garb to a horseback jousting contest, as well as drumming, street food stalls, archers and more, La Quintana is a sight to behold and the perfect reason to explore the less discovered Marche region.
A summer of music
Lucca Summer Festival, Lucca, Tuscany – June & July
Laidback Lucca in the stunning Tuscan countryside has been hosting icons of pop, rock and folk music since 1998, when Bob Dylan and Joe Cocker first took to its scenic stage.
From David Bowie, Elton John and Rod Stewart to Oasis and The Rolling Stones, its annual line-up reads like a who’s who of the global music industry – and 2022 is no exception.
Throughout various dates in June and July, artists will perform across historic venues including the Piazza Napoleone, Amphitheatre Square and Piazza San Martino, as well as larger stages outside the town’s historic walls.
This year’s line-up includes Paolo Conte, Liam Gallagher, John Legend, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Marracash, Caparezza, Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, Brunori Sas, Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets, LITFIBA, and Justin Bieber.
Festival Dei Due Monde, Spoleto, (June 24 – July 10) & Umbria Jazz, Perugia, July 8-17
Umbria is the place to be for a raft of concerts, art, dance and more this summer, with two fabulous festivals to discover.
The Festival Dei Due Monde in Spoleto features 60 shows in 17 days across the performing arts – opera, ballet, concerts, film, contemporary art – which take place in churches, Roman theatres and other ancient venues throughout this artistic town.
From July 8 to 17, piazzas, theatres and stadiums in the iconic town of Perugia will come alive during Umbria Jazz, with performances ranging from local acts to international names including Jeff Beck, Joss Stone, Diana Krall and Tom Jones.
Ravenna Festival, Ravenna, Emilia-Romagna, until July 21
Fans of classical music, opera and theatre have probably heard of the Ravenna Festival, in northern Italy, which boasts and extensive programme of events staged across majestic theatres, contemporary industrial sites, former monastery cloisters and in nearby regional towns.
Highlights from this year’s programme include 100 Cellos with Giovanni Sollima and Enrico Melozzi, sacred plays centred on the lives of famed Saints in the Basilica of San Vitale, a theatrical and musical journey on Dante’s Paradiso in the gardens of the Loggetta Lombardesca, rousing renditions from the Budapest Festival Orchestra, contemporary dance and ballet performances and an unforgettable show by jazz singer and pianist Diana Krall in an historic portico.
Ypsigrock Festival, Castelbuono, Sicily, August 4-7
Lovers of indie rock and old-school music festivals flock to the Sicilian village of Castelbuono during August for four days of music and fun in the sun. With the main stage set in front of the medieval Castle of Castelbuono and plenty of camping spots to snare, this boutique festival has earned its reputation as one of the most scenic and authentic on the European calendar.
Opera in the Arena di Verona, Verona, Veneto – until 4 September
Nothing says romance like a night of opera under the stars in the magnificent UNESCO World-Heritage-listed amphitheatre in Verona, the town where Romeo and Juliet was originally, and one of the best-preserved Roman theatres in the world.
Highlights of this year’s programme include Verdi’s La Traviata, a candlelit performance of the dramatic Nessun Dorma during a magical production of Puccini’s Turandot, the renowned O Fortuna during Orff’s Carmina Burana and a memorable night with Spanish Tenor Placido Domingo, the ‘King of Opera’.
Featured image: Festival Dei Due Monde