Little Known Festivals in Italy

From the Roman Forum to the watery canals of Venice, Italy is one of the most iconic destinations: lovers and friends throw coins into the Trevi fountain and travellers hike Cinque Terra. Boasting Etruscan antiquities, Renaissance architecture, some of the best wines in the world, the country truly has it all.

Italians are quirky and friendly – they are the heart of Italia because people infuse the beauty here with culture and traditions. While Italy is well-known for its Venice Carnival, many other interesting festivals aren’t always in the spotlight. And many should be!

This is why we are bringing to you the top 5 lesser known festivals in Italy that you should attend next time you’re in Europe.

Gelato Festival

Eating in Italy is one of the most delicious experiences. Maybe travellers enjoy numerous cooking classes in Italy, while others prefer to eat out as much as possible. Especially when it comes to Italian ice cream!

You can join the quest for the best gelato in the world as well. Gelato Festival isn’t unique to Italy; however it originated here. This Festival was first hosted in Florence, hometown to Bernardo Buontalenti, universally considered the father of gelato. In 2013, the Gelato Festival was transformed into an roving event travelling to Milan, Rome and Turin, three of Italy’s capitali del gusto. It now crosses Italy, Europe, the United States and Japan in large food trucks in search of the best gelato in the world, rewarding the creativity of the best gelato artisans. In Italy, the delicious festival crosses 12 Italian cities from April to September.

We recommend catching Gelato Festival in Rome – this three-day festival guarantees to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Gelato Festival is almost the equivalent of the Milan Fashion Week for ice cream and ice cream makers, with loads of gelato lovers showing up to see what’s up in the business and trying the best recipes of the year. Delicious! Delicious!

Since the Gelato Festival travels around the world, you can taste some of the best ice cream flavours in many parts of the world – check out the official Gelato Festival website for more details.

Battle of the Oranges

You cannot miss this 12th century Italian skirmish, reenacted with 500,000 pounds of flying citrus.Each year in the days preceding Fat Tuesday (in March), Italians in the city of Ivrea (northwestern Italy) divide into nine different squads, dressed in their battle attire, ready to go to “war”. Over the course of the next three days leading up to the holiday, men, women and children hurl oranges at each other, attempting to “kill” the other teams.

If this sounds a little too dramatic, you are hearing it right – although the origins are historically unclear, most people know the tale of the evil marquis, which is a very dramatic story full of violence and righteous battles.

If you don’t feel like leaving Italy bruised, you are more than welcome to watch this spectacular tradition without getting a single drop of orange juice on you. No-one’s forced to compete. You can watch the battle from behind large plastic nets, draped from the surrounding buildings. Moreover, the orange throwing tradition isn’t a brawl but a well-organised and meaningful festival – all spectators wear a red cap called the Berretto Frigio, which basically means ‘No Throwsies’. You’re off-limits to orange hurling.

The battle takes place every year on the Sunday afternoon of Carnevale. This is the Sunday before Good Friday, and so the exact date changes annually. More information is available on the site for the Historical Carnival of Ivrea. Book your accommodation early if you want to stay in the town.Alternatively, you can stay in Torino – Ivrea is about an hour from Torino by regional train, which costs €5.75 each way.Tickets into the city to watch the Orange Battle are €8 per person for Sunday. Monday and Tuesday are free.Wear waterproof shoes (it gets juicy) and clothes you don’t mind getting a bit pulp-y. Even bystanders get splashed a little!

If you need more help planning your battle of the oranges trip while exploring Italy, just give us a call on 1800 242 353 and we’d be glad to assist.

Calcio Storico

June is one of the best months to find yourself in Florence, as it can be a lot of fun to watch the semi-final games ofthe Calcio Storico.

If you enjoy Spartan movies and a good sports game, Calcio Storico is a very special treat. The Calcio Storico Fiorentino is a combination of soccer, rugby and big time wrestling that originated in 16th century Florence and is played today in historical costume. The four teams of the historical neighborhoods of the city play against each other, first in two semi-finals and then the final match to determine the winner.

This sport is dangerous but it carries an almost 500 year’s of tradition, which is widely enjoyed in Italy.

The game is played on a rectangular field with a length roughly twice as long as the width covered with sand. It’s divided down the middle into two matching squares, with goal nets at each end. Two teams of 27 players take part in the matches which last for 50 minutes. The ball is thrown into the centre of the pitch, and the teams descend on it in an effort to gain possession and kick it over a fence at the opposing team’s end of the field. Things can get pretty violent – though there is a long list of rules aimed at keeping injuries to a minimum. The winning team gets a free ready-cooked dinner at a restaurant. There’s no official prizegiving or a medal handing ceremony – the players play for glory, like true Spartans!

Tickets can be purchased online or you can go to any Box office Toscana vending points to buy tickets in person. If you’d like to find out more about how to attend Calcio Storico when travelling in Italy just give us a call on 1800 242 353.

Opera Festival in Arena

The Verona Arena is a Roman amphitheatre in Piazza Bra in Verona, Italy built in the first century. The setting of the arena is what makes the opera festival so special. Built in 30 A.D., Verona’s arena originally served as a kind of Colosseum. It was here that gladiators fought to the death before the eyes of 30,000 spectators. After the Empire fell, the arena became the scene of jousts, tournaments, and trials. And, like Rome’s Colosseum, Verona’s arena became a quarry. Between the pesky habit of locals to remove materials, and Italy’s predisposition to earthquakes, the arena today isn’t exactly what it would have been in ancient times. But it’s not too far off – and while it’s seen better days, it’s definitely not a ruin.

Many travellers really enjoy Verdi’s “Aida” in Verona, which is known for its extravagant stage productions. Attending an opera in a Roman amphitheatre that dates back thousands of years is a surreal experience indeed, and add the grandiose production of Aida with props, horses and hundreds of cast members, it surely makes for an unforgettable evening. The cheapest tickets on the stone steps costs €22 and if you want to splurge, the most expensive seats go for €188. To fully enjoy your evening here do some homework before going to Verona. Look up more information online to get a little more familiar with the plot and the main features of the opera you are planning to see – this makes such a difference!

From June to September the Arena Opera Festival 2019 is on stage with five amazing opera titles, one Concert, one special Gala Night and a Ballet in the spectacular setting of the Verona amphitheatre. Roberto Bolle and Friends is back to the Arena for the 2019 Opera Festival. The program varies annually – please check out more details online.

Medieval Archery Festival in Fivizzano

July in Italy is a great time to go to a festival or outdoor concert. The Disfidadegli Arcieri di Terra e di Corte is one of the Italian festivals you may really enjoy on your journey. It is the reenactment of the Lunigiana inspired by an ancient medieval battle of 1572, a tradition that combines the enchantment of folklore and tradition in the magical Piazza Medicea, in the heart of Fivizzano. This tradition has been rediscovered since the 1970s, and since then every year is enriched with details that made the event more interesting. The traditional 16th century costumes have added new characters, improved the scenery, and added a bunch of Renaissance music and flag-waving with beautiful choreography.

The various local villages and neighborhoods around Fivizzano get together once a year to see which geographical location has the most accurate archers. It’s one of the biggest festivals in Fivizzano even though not well-known to many Aussies.

If need more help planning you visit to Fivizanno, just give us a call on 1800 242 353 – we’d be happy to help.

If you want help picking your best Italian experience, just give our team a call on 1800 242 353.