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 sagre, 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.
Siena's famous bareback horse race around the central square, Piazza del Campo, takes place on July 2 and August 16. While 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.
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.
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.
This colorful jousting match is held in the Umbrian town of Foligno in mid-June or early July, and mid-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. A corteo storico, or historic parade, takes place the day before the jousting match.
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 town.
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 1400s among the town's three neighborhoods (terzieri). Other events include parades with participants in medieval costume, medieval street scenes, music, and food stands.
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 on the last Sunday of July. 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.
U Fistinu of Saint Rosalia is one of Sicily's biggest festivals held mid-July in Palermo. The procession centers around a 50-foot high float with a statue of Saint Rosalia and a musical band inside. It culminates with a big fireworks show in the Foro Italico.
Disfida degli Arcieri di Terra e di Corte
The Disfida degli Arcieri 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.
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