Festivals Events, Italy Italy

Festivals and Events Carnevale Venice Film Festival

Italian Mask Festival, Venice 

The Italians are a passionate and creative bunch. So it's hardly surprising that the country boasts hundreds of festivals and events celebrating everything from food to history. Here are our top five picks of Italian festivals worth visiting...

Carnevale

Towns and cities around the country celebrate with a carnival leading up to the beginning of the religious period of Lent, normally within early February to early March. Well renowned is the Venetian carnival, which is held in the watery city for ten days preceding Ash Wednesday.

Tourists flood the city for a deluge of pageants, parades, concerts and the famous masquerade balls which are quintessentially Venetian. These balls were meant to make the strict social status of old Venetian society irrelevant, and masks originally depicted characters from the theatre. Entry to the balls is by invitation only, but street events are open to everyone.

The carnival, which began back in the 12th century, historically gave the people of Venice a chance to congregate and celebrate before Lent began. Each year the modern day carnival has a different theme.

Holy Week (Settimana Santa)

The Easter period is an incredibly important time in the calendar of this largely Roman Catholic nation, and events are used to mark the occasion throughout Italy. One of the most important of these occurs in Rome on Good Friday, when the Pope leads a procession past the Colosseum and the Roman Forum right up to the ancient Palatine Hill. Then on Easter Sunday the Pontiff holds Mass and gives a blessing to the crowd from the balcony of St Peter's Basilica.

Throughout the country Italians celebrate the Easter period with processions and plays depicting Christ's final hours. Easter feasts are also a part of Italian celebrations; typical fare includes spring lambs and lots of sweet bread, cakes and special chocolates.

Firea del Tartufo Bianco d'Alba (Alba White Truffle Fair)

Each autumn the town of Alba in Italy's northwest plays host to a very exclusive festival to celebrate the white truffle season. White truffles, even more exclusive than black ones, grow beneath woodland trees and are located by truffle hunters working with sniffer dogs specifically attuned to the truffle's smell.

Alba is (albeit unofficially) the home of the pricey fungi, which retailed in 2003 for €200 for 100 grams. Each weekend from early October to early November the town celebrates the truffle with an open air feast, markets and auctioning of the prized truffles.

Venice Film Festival

Italy's answer to Cannes is held each year between late August and early September. Producers, directors and film stars alike preen, pose and publicise themselves at the Palazzo del Cinema on the Venetian island of Lido. The festival has been running on and off since 1932, making it older than the illustrious Cannes festival, and films compete for the ultimate prize of the Golden Lion.

Films show constantly at the festival during this time and, available seats permitting, members of the public are able to attend screenings.

Palio Delle Quattro Antiche Repubbliche Marinare (Regatta of the Four Ancient Maritime Republics)

In a nod to Italy's Medieval history, a boat race is held each summer between the four maritime republics of Amalfi, Genoa, Pisa and Venice. The location of the regatta alternates each year between the four cities.

The regatta is opened with a historical pageant through the host town, with participants in period costume parading through the streets, playing music, riding horses and waving flags. Later the four galleons of each city state, distinguished by differing colours and mastheads, race along the coastline.