Five Festivals For Italian Fall
Summer might be coming to an end, but there are still plenty of reasons to celebrate in Italy. A country known for its rich culture and history—as well as a knack for living la dolce vita—it’s no surprise that Italy boasts numerous festivals and celebrations each month of the year. Whether you’re a food connoisseur, a history buff or simply want to have a good time, these five festivals in Italy this September are bound to be an experience to remember.
Dan and Casey are two adventurers extraordinaire documenting their travel tales at A Cruising Couple – adventure travel with a dash of class.
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1. The Historic Regatta in Venice
Iconic Venice is known around the world for its romantic canals and waterways; one of the best ways to experience these famed canals is by attending the Historic Venetian Regatta. Held each year on the first Sunday in September, the Historic Regatta is a traditional gondola parade and rowing race on the Grand Canal. It’s commonly believed that regattas date back to the 13th century, but Venice’s Historic Regatta specifically commemorates the welcome given to Caterina Cornaro in 1489 after she renounced her throne in favour of Venice.
The festival begins with a colourful procession of 16th-century boats, manned by gondoliers wearing the traditional costumes of the time. After the parade, the intense and prestigious gondola races begin. Only Venetians are allowed to participate in the regatta, resulting in a lively local event where excited crowds of Italians cheer on their favourite gondoliers.
To get the best view of the Historic Regatta, head opposite the Santa Lucia Railway Station on the Grand Canal or to the Sant’Elena Gardens. Just make sure to claim your spot early; spectators are not allowed on the bridges during the races and standing room fills up fast.
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2. The Joust of the Saracen
Travel back in time to the Medieval Ages at the annual Joust of the Saracen in Arezzo. Known to locals simply as “Il Saracino,” this one of a kind jousting festival is believed to have its roots in the Crusades.
The Joust of the Saracen is held in Arezzo’s Piazza Grande on the first Sunday of September. During the festival, spectators watch and cheer their town quarter on, as horsemen charge against a massive model of the Saracen, attempting to strike the figure’s shield with their lances. The horsemen must avoid the Saracen’s heavy whip as they joust to earn the highest score—and the coveted Golden Lance that goes to the winner. Along with the jousting, there are musical performances and flag wavers to truly set the scene of the Medieval period.
There is standing room where spectators can observe the joust, but for the best views and comfort, consider purchasing tickets for the seated areas.
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3. Feast Day for Saint Gennaro in Naples
It’s not uncommon to stumble upon an Italian celebration in honour of a Catholic saint or patron, but the Feast Day for Saint Gennaro is particularly unique. On September 19th of every year, devout Catholics make the pilgrimage to Naple’s gorgeous Duomo to witness “the miracle of the blood”.
The event dates back hundreds of years in honour of San Gennaro, a Christian martyr and the patron saint of Naples. After San Gennaro’s death, a woman collected two vials of his blood, which was then transferred with the saint’s skeleton to Naples. Years later, the solid mass of blood liquefied—a miracle that is now celebrated each year.
Many Catholics believe that if the vial of blood liquefies, it is a sign that San Gennaro will bless the city of Naples. As such, thousands of people fill the Naples Cathedral and Piazza del Duomo in hopes of seeing the miracle of the blood take place. After the solemn procession and liquefaction, the lively celebration begins. Eight days of festivities take over Naples, complete with traditional feasts, parades and vendors.
The Feast Day for Saint Gennaro is celebrated in Italian communities around the world, but there is something undeniably special about being in Naples during this holy festival.
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4. Juliet’s Birthday
If you’ve ever swooned over the epic romance between Romeo and Juliet, then don’t miss the opportunity to celebrate the love-struck Juliet’s birthday in her hometown of Verona.
During the first weekend of September, the “City of Lovers” hosts a lively celebration for the beautiful heroine. Juliet’s birthday party is hosted by the Juliet Club, the same society responsible for personally replying to over 10,000 letters that arrive addressed to Juliet each year.
The festivities include parades, dancing, street artists, musicians, and of course copious amounts of food. Begin the birthday party by taking a guided tour to famous sites such as Juliet’s home, tomb and balcony. Then head to Piazza dei Signori and Cortile del Mercato Vecchio to enjoy the artists set up in the square. In the evening, make your way to the Teatro Stabile del Veneto for a brilliant showing of Romeo and Juliet. Finally, end the epic day of celebrations with a toast in honour of Juliet, complete with exceptional local wines from Verona.
Juliet has long captivated the hearts of lovers from around the world. The opportunity to celebrate her birthday is a captivating one, both for literature lovers and romantics alike.
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5. The Vino al Vino Wine Festival
No visit to Italy is complete without trying the famous Chianti wine – so this is one day you’ll want to leave the hire car at the hotel! However, Chiantis’ are some of the most diverse wines in the world, so one glass is typically not enough to actually understand the various blends and local flavours. Luckily, there’s a festival where you can sample up to 19 different wineries all in one place: Vino al Vino.
The annual Vino al Vino Wine Festival in Panzano, the heart of Chianti Classico, is the perfect place to indulge your palette. Held on the third weekend in September (and the Thursday and Friday that precede it), Vino al Vino features numerous wine varieties from the local Panzano wineries. Purchase a tasting glass for 12 euros in Piazza Bucciarelli and then enjoy the rest of the day sipping your way from booth to booth. Typically there are also food stalls and live music, making this a great outdoor event for the whole family.
Tuscan wine hasn’t always had the best reputation, largely because of the straw flasks (fiascos) they were once widely exported in. But in recent decades the quality of Chianti wine has increased dramatically. As such, a visit to Vino al Vino is bound to be a delightfully delicious one.
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Italians know how to throw a lively celebration. This September, when everyone else is lamenting the end of summer, take the time to join in the celebrations going on around Italy. From gondola races to birthday celebrations, you’re bound to stumble upon a unique festival you’ll remember for years to come.