Start planning your festival tour in Italy
Italy has great festivals to enjoy all year round, and many of the country’s carnivals are scheduled around religious holidays. Expect to see flamboyant parades and magnificent floats traveling through city centers, and don’t miss an opportunity to feast on incredible Italian food at any of the events.
What makes Italy's festivals and carnivals so special?
The Italian peninsula is gifted with great food and music. It’s also home to a brilliant arts and culture scene, much of which is always on display during the many Italy festivals that take place throughout the year. From the Italian Riviera towns to islands like Sardinia, carnivals in Italy are always bright with color. Elaborate floats and curious disguises turn the streets into moving galleries, while plentiful pizzas and moreish gelato remind the world why Italy is a favorite country for food.
The most iconic festivals and carnivals to experience in Italy
Festivals in Italy are bound to wow, whatever the season. There are carnivals, boat races, and re-enactments of ancient jousts. Plus, plenty of food and drink to indulge in and lots of wholesome Italian joviality.
Party at Viareggio Carnival
One of the most iconic Italian Riviera towns hosts a very elaborate carnival held on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. Those who attend will join thousands of visitors, witnessing some of the finest floats in Europe. Spectators are encouraged to get their faces painted and dress up in colourful costumes.
Watch a re-enactment L'Ardia di San Costantino
In Sardinia, locals gather in July to commemorate Constantine's victory over rival Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge. Brave horsemen ride their powerful steeds to fictional battles in a throwback to events in AD 312. Join the fun, enjoy the entertainment and seek out snacks at the many food stalls serving Sardinian specialties.
Watch jousting at Quintana d'Ascoli Piceno
A medieval jousting tournament probably isn’t how you envisaged spending a summer in Italy. But in Ascoli Piceno, La Quintana is a huge, historical festival with unusual medieval sports like flag-throwing, archery, and wooden jousting competitions. Once the action is all over, hundreds of citizens march through the city on the second Sunday in August to celebrate the winners of the competition.
Watch the Regatta of the Ancient Maritime Republics
This boat race is no ordinary regatta. Commemorating the fierce rivalries among Italy's four former maritime republics, Amalfi, Venice, Genoa, and Pisa, this race is all about pomp and ceremony. The four cities rotate hosting rights every year between May and July, so check to see which location you could attend, and expect to be wowed by the loud trumpets, drums, and a pageant full of medieval colors, all before the race.
Party at the Venice Carnival
Arguably the star of Italy’s festivals, the carnival of Venice is an ancient tradition of masquerade balls and festive parades with elaborate floats. The piazzas fill up with spectators, and on Shrove Tuesday, look out for the “Flight of the Angel” from St Mark’s Tower to the Doge’s Tower.
Tips for visiting one of Italy's festivals and carnivals
Summer draws thronging crowds in Italy, so prepare to pay a premium if you want to visit any of the festivals that happen from June through August. Fall is a great time to enjoy festivals in Italy, though, and there is the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception on 8 December as well as All Saints’ Day on 1 November. With thinning crowds, hotels and resorts are cheaper and readily available at this time of year. It is important to book hotels in advance to avoid disappointments.