Celebrate Halloween in Italy

Halloween treats
Halloween treats in a shop in Genoa. Martha Bakerjian

Although Halloween isn't a recognized holiday in Italy, it's becoming more common every year to see young people in costumes, stores selling jack-o'-lantern decorations, and even children trick-or-treating. Most of these traditions are imported from the U.S. and Halloween is mostly just another excuse for partying, although Italy does have a long history of celebrating the dead, just one day later.

All Saints' Day, or Ognissanti, is a national holiday celebrated on November 1, and just one day later Italians celebrate giorno dei morti, or Day of the Dead. These are primarily religious holidays where families traditionally visit the cemetery to clean the graves of deceased relatives and attend church. While modern-day Halloween traditions are mostly American inventions, the concept of Halloween itself is much older and does originate from Europe, known as All Hallow's Eve to celebrate the night before All Saints' Day.

Halloween Celebrations in Italy

Halloween costumes and decorations are on display in shop windows and can be found in many stores throughout October, especially in larger cities. Children's costume parties are mainly held during the day and, later in the evening, kids in costume may head out for trick-or-treating, or dolcetto-scherzetto. In the city center, you may see local shops handing out candy to young trick-or-treaters.

In the evening many nightclubs, bars, and restaurants advertise special costume parties for adults—look for posters hung up around town if you're in an Italian city on Halloween. Keep in mind that Italians typically dress up in the prototypical "spooky" class of costumes, such as zombies, vampires, or witches. If you dress up as something different, locals may question your costume.

Wherever you go, don't expect the degree of celebration that is carried out in the U.S. Halloween is not part of traditional Italian culture, and some Italians object to the event being celebrated in their country at all.

Italy's First Halloween Event

The Halloween Celebration at the Devil's Bridge in the Tuscan town of Borgo a Mozzano calls itself the first and largest Halloween event in all of Italy. It's about an hour north of Pisa or 90 minutes outside of Florence, and it's a mandatory stop for superfans of Halloween who happen to be in Italy on October 31.

The Passage of Terror is a frightening path that is sure to terrify even the most diehard fans of Halloween thrills. Meanwhile, the Black Night is an interactive game that transports players to the historical region of Tuscia. You'll need to solve puzzles and complete tasks in order to escape from this medieval land of vampires.

If you prefer the less-scary side of Halloween, there's plenty more to celebrate as well in Borgo a Mozzano. As All Hallow's Eve takes over the entire town, you can walk around and admire the decorations while also listening to live music at stages set up in every square of the city.

Spooky Places to Visit on Halloween

It's easy to create your own spine-chilling itinerary around Italy for those seeking the eeriest places to visit. From underground catacombs with dark histories to massive crypts filled with real-life mummies, Italy offers plenty of options for some authentic Halloween scares.

  • Rome: You can visit some of Italy's most macabre attractions without leaving the capital city. Many of Rome's oldest churches, such as Saint Priscilla and Saint Sebastian, include catacombs that either once-housed—or still house—the bodies of ancient Christians and pagans. But without a doubt, the spookiest place in the Eternal City is the Capuchin Crypt, where the walls, chandeliers, and clocks are all made out of the skulls from past monks.
  • Corinaldo: The medieval walled town of Corinaldo, northeast of Ancona in central Italy's Le Marche region, calls itself the Italian Capital of Halloween. During the last week of October at la Festa delle Streghe (the Festival of the Witches), the town features entertainment, spooky attractions, and taverns serving food and drink, culminating on Halloween night with a show of music, fire, and lights all around the town.
  • Triora: An inland village on the Italian border with France in northwestern Italy's Liguria region, Triora is famous for its 16th-century witch trials during the Inquisition. In modern times, Triora holds a yearly Halloween festival with events lasting all day and concerts often continuing past midnight.
  • Lake Garda: Located almost directly between Milan and Venice, Lake Garda is a scenic alpine lake that's beautiful to visit at any time of year. If you happen to be there in October, the amusement park Gardaland—Italy's largest theme park—holds a Halloween party every weekend throughout the month with a ghostly parade, music, and fireworks. Right next door, the theme park Movieland has "Horror Ween" every weekend in October and is open until midnight on Halloween night with DJ music continuing until the wee hours.