July is a busy period on Italy's cultural calendar, with interesting and well-loved festivals taking place all month, and all over the country. Aside from famous events like the Palio horse race in Siena, there are festas, or sagra, in large towns and small villages. These are open to everyone and offer great chances to 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, as hotel rooms and festival tickets may be hard to come by – and very expensive – at the last minute.
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Siena's famous bareback horse race around the central square, Piazza del Campo, takes place on July 2 and August 16. You might be able to snag a standing place; reserved seats are sold out months, and even a year in advance. Before the race, there's a spectacular procession with people in medieval costume. See our Siena Travel Guide for more information about visiting this lovely Tuscan city.
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On the third Sunday in July, one of Venice's biggest festivals, the Festa del Redentore, or Festival of the Redeemer, marks the end of a big plague epidemic in 1576. During the Redentore festival, a temporary footbridge from the mainland to Redentore church on Giudecca Island is created from a connected flotilla of boats. The festival ends with an exciting fireworks display and there is also a gondola regatta associated with the event.
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This horse race takes place around the Sanctuary of San Costantino in the central Sardinian town of Sedilo, on 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.
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Giostra della Quintana
This colorful jousting match is held in the Umbrian town of Foligno the first Saturday in July and the second Sunday in September. More than 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.Continue to 5 of 12 below.
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Medieval Festival in Brisighella
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. With its 13th-century castle, the town makes the perfect setting for this costumed event.
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Festa della Madonna Bruna
The curious Festa della Madonna Bruna is celebrated on July 2 in the city of Matera, an interesting town with cave dwellings, or 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.
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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 among the town's three neighborhoods (terzieri). Other events include parades with participants in medieval costume, medieval street scenes, music, and food stands.
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Festa del Cristo degli Abissi
Festa del Cristo degli Abissi (Christ of the Abyss) 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.Continue to 9 of 12 below.
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Nostra Signora di Montallegro
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.
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U Fistinu of Saint Rosalia
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.
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Disfida degli Arceri di Terra e di Corte
The Disfida degli Arceri di Terra e di Corte archery contest 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.
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Feast of Sant'Andrea the Apostle
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.
Based on the original article by Martha Bakerjian