July is a great month for festivals in Italy. Siena's famous Palio takes place July 2. Two of my favorites are in July, the Festa della Madonna Bruna and L'Ardia di San Costantino. Almost everywhere in Italy, you'll see posters for a festa or sagra, in large towns and small villages, where you can often sample inexpensive regional food.
Throughout Italy, you'll find outdoor music festivals, often in the main square, as well as these big summer music festivals.
Be sure to plan ahead if you want to attend a famous festival.
Il Palio di Siena - Siena's famous horse race around the central square, Piazza del Campo, takes place July 2 and August 16. You might be able to snag a standing place, reserved seats are sold out in advance. Before the race, there's a spectacular procession with people in medieval costume. More:
Festa della Madonna Bruna is celebrated July 2 in the city of Matera, an interesting town with cave dwellings, sassi, in the Basilicata region of southern Italy. A huge float of the Madonna Bruna is paraded through town. Finally, the statue is attacked, torn apart, and burned accompanied by a spectacular fireworks display over the sassi, the best fireworks display I'd ever seen. Read more about the Festa della Madonna Bruna.
A Medieval Festival is held the first week of July in Brisghella, an interesting medieval hill town and spa center in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy.
Nostra Signora di Montallegro is held at the beginning of July in the Ligurian coastal resort town of Rapallo. The highlight is the procession. A fireworks display culminates the festival July 3.
Giostra della Quintana is a joust held in Foligno the first Saturday in July and the second Sunday in September.
Over 600 participants compete wearing traditional 17th-century clothing. There are usually several thousand spectators, but even if you can't see the joust, you'll probably see people walking around in their costumes.
L'Ardia di San Costantino is a horse race around the Sanctuary of San Costantino in the central Sardinian town of Sedilo, July 5-7. The race takes place twice, in the evening and again the following morning after most of the riders have been up drinking all night! There are also food booths so it's a good chance to try some Sardinian specialties. Read more about L'Ardia di San Costantino.
U Fistinu of Saint Rosalia is one of Sicily's biggest festivals held July 10-15 in Palermo. The procession centers around a 50-foot high float with a statue of Saint Rosalia and a musical band inside. There is lots of feasting and music.
Redentore Church Feast Day is the third Sunday in July on Venice's Giudecca Island. There is a parade of decorated boats and a big fireworks display around midnight.
Disfida degli Arceri di Terra e di Corte takes place in mid-July in Fivizzano, northern Tuscany. Archers from each neighborhood compete in a re-enactment of a medieval festival with costumes and flag throwers.
Festa de'Nontari street fair is held in the Trastevere neighborhood of Rome during the last two weeks of July. Also in Rome in late July is an international fashion show at the Spanish Steps, Donne Sotte Le Stelle.
Terzieri Palio takes place from the third through the fourth Sundays in July in the small historic town of Montecassiano, in central Marche region. The palio re-enacts historic competitions from the early 1400's amongst the town's three neighborhoods (terzieri). Other events include parades with participants in medieval costume, medieval street scenes, music, and food stands.
La Giostra dell'Orso, Bear Joust, on July 25 in Pistoia celebrates St. James, patron saint of Pistoia.
Feast of Sant'Andrea the Apostle is celebrated in Pescara, on the Adriatic coast, the last Sunday in July with a huge parade of fishing boats off the coast.
Festa del Cristo degli Abissi has an unusual procession - to the underwater statue of Christ in San Fruttuoso on the Ligurian coast, July 29. The 2.5-meter high bronze statue, molded from medals of mariners and athletes and parts of ships and bells, is dedicated to those who lost their lives at sea. A laurel crown is placed at the base of the statue and mass is held on the beach.
Look for music concerts in castles, churches, and squares throughout Italy during the summer. Although you'll find outdoor music and performing arts in many towns and cities in Italy during the summer, here are a few recommendations. If you're going to one of the big festivals, be sure to book a room ahead as hotels will usually be full.
For more major music festivals see Top Summer Music Festivals in Italy.
Festival dei Due Mondi, Festival of two Worlds, is one of Italy's most famous performing arts festivals, attended by some of the world's top artists, and features concerts, operas, ballets, films, and art. The festival was first started in 1958 by composer Gian Carlo Menotti with the intention of bringing together the old and new worlds of Europe and America. It's in Spoleto in central Italy's Umbria region.
The Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia is one of the larger music festivals, drawing performers from around the world. Besides the ticketed performances, there is lots of music on the streets of Perugia during the days of the festival.
Estate Romana is a festival of music and performing arts with events throughout Rome during the summer. Look for information in the tourist office or on posters in Rome or check the web site for updates.
Verona Opera is one of the most popular summer opera series. Operas are performed open-air in the stunning Roman amphitheater of Verona, a city between Milan and Tuscany.
Map and Verona Travel Guide | Verona Opera Site | Verona Opera Tickets from Select Italy
LakeComo Festival: Music on LakeComo has summer performances around the lake starting in July.
The festival features international performing artists and composers each year in beautiful locations around Lake Como, with great vistas and convenient to hotels.
Puccini Festival is held at the open-air theater in Torre del Lago Puccini, 5 km from Viareggio and 25 km from both Pisa and Lucca. Performances in July and August include several operas. Other concerts and dance performances are sometimes held in the theater, too. Puccini Festival Tickets can be bought from Select Italy in US dollars or on the web site.
InterHarmony International Music Festival is held in the medieval mountain town of Arcidosso, Tuscany, for 4 weeks in July. The festival features chamber music, solo performances, voice, and two symphony orchestra concerts. Each session has around 150 classical musicians that come from around the world.
Incontri in Terra di Siena - Cultural Encounters in Southern Tuscany hosts a series of four concerts, usually in late July, at the beautiful La Foce Estate (where you can also rent weekly apartments) in the Val d'Orcia south of Siena.
There are also summer art exhibits.
Soundlabs Festival, late July or early August, is small, "hand-made" independent music festival with major international independent music acts from the UK, US and Italy. It's held in Roseto degli Abruzzi, about two hours from Rome in the Abruzzo region of central Italy. The Abruzzo is a very scenic region that sees fewer tourists than some of Italy's other regions. Roseto degli Abruzzi is near Pescara airport. See more about the Abruzzo Region The city of Pescara usually holds an international jazz festival in July, too.
Music Fest Perugia is a big classical music festival featuring young musicians. Concerts are held in late July and August in Perugia, Umbria, in several of Perugia's historical monuments and churches. Schedule and ticket information on MusicFestPerugia
Opera fans won't want to miss the chance to see opera in a beautiful outdoor setting. Rome and Verona are two of the best places for summer opera. See our Top Italian Opera Houses for details.