Festivals & Events: Holidays to Make the Most of Them

Laura

Italy has a packed calendar of events and festivals throughout the year. But what if you fancy ticking off more than one on your next trip? We’ve put together three sample itineraries that’ll allow you to experience two fantastic events (and two fantastic destinations) in one holiday.

 

Calcio Storico + Palio di Siena

Palio-di-SienaSuggested duration: 11 nights (4 nights Florence, 7 nights Tuscany)

When to go: Late June

This June itinerary combines two of Italy’s most historic sporting events. Start off with four nights in Florence. You’ll need to ensure you’re in the city for 24 June, so you can catch the exhilarating final of the Calcio Storico. This quirky mix of football, rugby and wrestling is played in Piazza Santa Croce, with players representing Florence’s four historical neighbourhoods (Santo Spirito, Santa Maria Novella, Santa Croce and San Giovanni) dressed in historical costume. You can buy your tickets online in advance (they generally go on sale towards the end of May), or queue up on the day for a standing ticket.

On your remaining days in the city, you can marvel at the frescoed halls of the Palazzo Vecchio, gaze up at the artworks hanging in the Uffizi Gallery, or graze your way around the stalls and shops of the Mercato Centrale. If the weather’s a little too hot, retreat to the shady Bardini Gardens or cool off with a scoop of gelato beside the River Arno.

For the second part of your trip, you’ll head out into the Tuscan countryside for a week. You’ll be bound for Siena for your next event, so we’d recommend picking a hotel close by (Hotel Garden, Relais La Suvera, Borgo San Luigi and Castel Monastero are all good options).

Spend your days relaxing by the pool, touring wineries and discovering sleepy hilltop towns, before heading to Siena on 2 July for the famous Palio di Siena. This historic horse race has been taking place twice annually for centuries. After an afternoon of parades and fanfares, riders from 10 of Siena’s 17 districts line up to compete in a race around the fringes of the oval-shaped Piazza del Campo. It’s fast and furious, and a real spectacle to watch. We can organise tickets for grandstand seats or arrange for you have access to an apartment that overlooks the square.

 

Verona Opera Festival + Puccini Festival

verona opera one of Italy's must see eventsSuggested duration: 1 week (3 nights Verona, 4 nights Viareggio)

When to go: Mid July-mid August

Opera fan? Try this itinerary for size – it covers off two of Italy’s biggest opera festivals. Start off in Verona, where we can arrange tickets for performances at the city’s annual summer opera festival. Classic stories such as Aida, Nabucco and Carmen play out in Verona’s grand Roman amphitheatre under a starry night sky.

If you’re following our suggested duration, you’ll spend three nights in the city, so there’s plenty of time to explore – don’t miss Juliet’s Balcony, the Castel San Pietro and the Torre dei Lamberti. You’re also only half an hour from the southern edge of Lake Garda; if the temperatures are soaring, a day on the lake is ideal.

From Verona, it’s a three-hour drive to the Tuscan beach resort of Viareggio. Stop off at the half-way point for lunch, either in Modena or Parma. Both cities are big on their cuisine, so you’ll find some delicious local specialities to try out.

Viareggio is a 15-minute drive from the lakeside theatre at Torre del Lago. Each summer, the theatre pays tribute to local composer Giacomo Puccini with a series of performances of his most famous work. We’ll arrange your tickets for you, whether you’re looking to experience the dramatics of Tosca or the romance of La Bohéme.

Aside from the opera, there’s plenty to keep you busy during your stay in Viareggio. The beach is the big attraction (long, sandy and lined with exclusive beach clubs), but you can also admire the town’s Art Nouveau architecture, or pay a visit to the nearby cities of Pisa or Lucca. La Spezia – gateway to the colourful Cinque Terre towns – is around an hour’s drive north.

 

Lucca Summer Festival + Umbria Jazz Festival

PerugiaSuggested duration: 10 nights (5 nights Tuscany, 5 nights Umbria)

When to go: Mid-July

This Italian music festival itinerary takes you to Italy’s rural heartland, from the vineyards and sunflower fields of Tuscany to the rolling hills of Umbria.

Which way round you visit each region will depend on which artists or bands you fancy seeing. In Umbria, you’ll be heading for Perugia, home to the Umbria Jazz Festival. Over 10 days (for 2018, it’s 13-22 July) the city’s historic piazzas act as stages for well-known bands, while jazz musicians perform pop-up sessions on the streets. There are only a handful of acts confirmed at the moment, but they include Massive Attack on 16 July and David Byrne on 20 July.

Over the border in Tuscany, it’s the Lucca Summer Festival that’ll be on your agenda. Concerts in the walled city’s town square (Piazza Napoleone) take place between mid-June and the end of July, so you can time your visit for before or after Umbria Jazz based on who you’d like to see. Acts announced for 2018 include Ringo Starr on 8 July, Gorillaz on 12 July and Lenny Kravitz on 18 July.

The drive between Lucca and Perugia is a great one – choose a route that’ll take you through the vineyards of Chianti and around the shores of Lake Trasimeno. And when it comes to day trips, don’t miss Assisi when you’re in Perugia and Pisa’s Leaning Tower while you’re in Lucca.

 

Which are your favourite Italian events or festivals?