Italy's Liberation Day, or Festa della Liberazione, on April 25, 2020, is a national public holiday marked by ceremonies, historic re-enactments, waving the Italian flag, and celebrations commemorating the end of World War II in Italy. Many towns hold fairs, concerts, food festivals, and/or special events. Much like D-Day celebrations in the U.S. and elsewhere, it is also a day that Italy honors its war dead and veterans, called combattenti, or fighters. Most cities and smaller towns still ring bells to honor the day of liberation for Italy, and wreaths are placed on war monuments.
Unlike on some other big Italian holidays, most major sites and museums are open on Liberation Day, although businesses and some stores are likely to be closed. You may also come across special exhibits or exceptional openings of sites or monuments not normally open to the public.
Since the May 1 holiday of Labor Day falls less than a week later, Italians often take a ponte, or bridge, to have an extended vacation from April 25 through May 1. Therefore, this period can be very crowded in top tourist destinations. If you're planning to visit any museums or top places, it's a good idea to ensure they are open and buy your tickets in advance.
Visiting World War II Sites in Italy
April 25 is a good day to visit one of the many sites, historic monuments, battlegrounds, or museums related to World War II. One of the best known in Italy is Montecassino Abbey, the location of a major battle near the end of the war. Although almost completely destroyed by the bombing, the abbey was quickly rebuilt and is still a working monastery. Sitting high on a hilltop midway between Rome and Naples, Montecassino Abbey is well worth a visit to see the beautiful basilica with its stunning mosaics and frescoes, the museum with historic memorabilia from World War II, and great views.
Thousands of Americans died in Europe during World Wars I and II and Italy has two large American cemeteries that are open to the public. The Sicily-Rome American Cemetery at Nettuno is south of Rome (see southern Lazio map) and the Florence American Cemetery is south of Florence.
For more World War II spots that you can visit, see Anne Leslie Saunders’ book, "A Travel Guide to World War II Sites in Italy: Museums, Monuments, and Battlegrounds."
Liberation Day Events in Venice
Venice celebrates one of its most important festivals, the Festa di San Marco—which honors Saint Mark, the city's patron saint—on April 25. There will be a gondoliers' regatta, a procession to Saint Mark's Basilica, and a festival in Piazza San Marco (Saint Mark’s Square). Expect big crowds in Venice and if you're visiting the city during this period and be sure to book your hotel in advance.
The famous city also celebrates the traditional festa del Bocolo, or blooming rose, a day when men present the women in their lives (girlfriends, wives, or mothers) with a red rosebud or bocolo.
Liberation Day Events in Rome
In the Italian capital of Rome, visitors can find some of the country's biggest Liberation Day events such as a parade through the heart of the city, rallies, and other gatherings.
There is also a visit by the Italian president and a commemoration at the Ardeatine Caves Mausoleum—a national monument at the spot where the Nazis killed more than 300 Romans in 1944.
You may want to arrive a few days early to experience Natale di Roma, Rome's birthday festivities, on April 21, 2020—a party of several days that honors the founding of the city by Romulus in 753 BCE and includes mock gladiator battles, a costumed parade at the Circus Maximus, and more.
Liberation Day Events in Milan
Located in the northern Lombardy region, Milan typically hosts events such as a parade, plus a themed show or short movie. Officials lay wreaths at important city memorials in honor of the lost military, civilians, and others who suffered in wars. Community members join in on the anthem "Bella Ciao," which is famously sung around the country on April 25 by proud Italians remembering their country's resistance movement.
Liberation Day Events in Turin
Turin in the northern part of the country usually spends about 20 days celebrating Liberation Day in the spring, with various cultural events and live music in commemoration of the holiday.