4 Can't Miss Summer Festivals You'll Love in Italy

by Christopher Atwood

Festivals in Italy were once local affairs. But today, popular events like Carnival can lure millions of visitors. With so many travelers, you might be wary of Europe’s big festivals when you travel to Italy. Thankfully, towns — big and small — host celebrations year round. Some fête beloved regional foods. Others reenact historic events or honor time-tested traditions.

Crowd-averse travelers can escape the sea of onlookers in Italy’s smaller towns — home to festivities frequented by locals. In major cities, like Venice, visitors can be awed by the shear spectacle of large-scale parties.

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Below are some of the best things to do in Italy in the summer months:

1. Verona Opera Festival, (June-August).  Just an hour from Venice, Verona offers a quiet charm all its own. During the summer, the city’s open-air Roman amphitheater – one of the best- preserved of its kind – becomes a mecca for opera aficionados. For two months, spectators can behold operas such as Carmen, La Traviata or Aida outdoors. Verona’s stone arena seats up to 15,000 audience members – making for a once-in-a-lifetime viewing experience.
Verona Opera Festival
2. Festa del Redentore, Venice (July). If fireworks mean the 4th of July in the U.S., in Venice they mean   la Festa del Redentore (Feast of the Redeemer). Occurring on the third weekend of July, this much-loved festival hails the end of a killer plague in 1576. Venetians stream into St. Mark’s Square or bob in decorated boats on Saturday night – awaiting a fireworks  display that lasts up to an hour. Imagine the   canals of Venice lit up by flickering fireworks.
Feast of the Redeemer
3.   Festival of Rediscovered Films, Bologna (June & July). Film fans go gaga for Bologna in the summer. It’s home to the Festival of Rediscovered Cinema. Taking place in the city’s cinemas and squares, this feast of films honoring the moving picture  – showcasing retouched films from decades past. At night, audiences can sit under the stars in the stunning Piazza Maggiore  to watch the pictures of yore. Movie buffs will swoon for silent films, paired with music by Bologna’s orchestra. 
Bologna cinema ritrovato
4.   Il Palio, Siena (July 2nd & Aug. 16th)  Each summer, the city of Siena in Tuscany comes alive for the Palio. With origins in the 1300s,  the Palio is a horse race in Siena’s main square  – Piazza del Campo. Seventeen neighborhoods - called   contrade in Italian – vie to race. Only ten jockeys and horses, each from a different ward, run the Palio. Riding bareback,  Palio participants sprint around the dirt-covered square three times. In the days before the event, the contrade host open-air banquets. Locals also partake in ceremonies like the “blessing of the horses.” Last year, See Italy arranged a viewing of the race from inside a Renaissance palace! Discover more   here.
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Whether you're craving fireworks over Venice's canals or the sweet sound of opera, Italy's summer festivals can wow every style of traveler.
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