March is a great month to visit Italy. Springtime weather starts to take hold in most of the country, and there are fun and interesting events taking place in all corners of the nation. Note that unless Easter falls in March, there are no legal holidays this month, but there are still plenty of festivals and events. Many local festivities occur around March 21 for the beginning of spring.
Keep in mind that if you're visiting Northern Italy in March, you may still run into some winter weather, including cold, rainy days and even the occasional late-season snow storm.
Depending on the date of Easter, Italy's Carnival or Mardi Gras, occasionally falls in early March. It's celebrated with parades, masquerade parties for little kids, and, in cities like Venice, elaborate masked balls.
Festa della Donna (nationwide)
Festa della Donna, or International Women's Day, is celebrated March 8 all over Italy. On this day, men bring flowers, usually yellow Mimosa, to the women in their lives. Restaurants have special Festa della Donna meals and there are often small local festivals or concerts. Groups of women frequently have dinner together that evening, and some museums and sites offer free or reduced admission for women.
St. Patrick's Day (nationwide)
Saint Patrick's Day is March 17. Although not widely celebrated in Italy there are a few festivals, especially in Northern Italy. And since there's at least one Irish pub in most larger Italian cities, you're sure to find someplace to drink a Guinness with fellow revelers on March 17.
Festa di San Giuseppe (nationwide)
Feast Day of San Giuseppe (Saint Joseph, Mary's husband), March 19, is also known as Father's Day in Italy. The day, which used to be a national holiday, is traditionally celebrated with bonfires and sometimes pageants with scenes from the life of Saint Joseph. Children give gifts to their fathers on San Giuseppe Day. Zeppole, a filled, doughnut-like pastry, are traditionally eaten on Saint Joseph's Day.
Easter sometimes falls in late March with events during Holy Week, the week leading up to Easter Sunday. Second to Christmas, it's the most important religious holiday in Italy, and is observed with piety by most Italians. As the seat of the Catholic Church, Vatican City in Rome is at the center of the action during Easter week, with masses, processions and papal ceremonies. If you plan to be in Rome during this time, make your hotel and flight bookings well in advance.
Festa della Primavera (nationwide)
Festa della Primavera, a spring festival, is held many places in Italy on March 21. Often the festival is centered around a regional food. Spring festivals are sometimes held to coincide with Saint Joseph's Day on March 19, too. Le Giornate FAI is usually held the first weekend of spring and is sponsored by FAI, Italy's national trust. Numerous sites, including castles, palaces and archaeological sites not normally open to the public are open for a rare glimpse inside.
Commemoration of Caesar's Death (Rome)
Caesar may have met his fate a few thousand years ago, but he's still remembered in Rome on the Ides of March, March 15. Cultural events are usually held in the Roman Forum near the statue of Caesar and a re-enactment of Caesar's death is held at the site of his assassination in the Torre Argentina archaeological site.
Rome Marathon (Rome)
The Rome Marathon, held the third Sunday in March, is a 42km run through the streets of Rome. Starting at the Roman Forum, the course passes some of Rome's most famous sites and the Vatican before ending at the Colosseum. Runners from all over the world participate. More than 30,000 casual runners participate in a shorter run that ends earlier. The city streets in Rome's historic center are closed to traffic for the event.
Mandorla in Fiore (Sicily)
All things almonds are celebrated at Mandorla in Fiore, a delightful spring festival in the Agrigento region of Sicily. The name literally means "almonds in bloom," and the festival includes culinary, artistic and cultural aspects. It's usually held the first part of March.
Palio dei Somari (Tuscany)
The Palio dei Somari, a donkey race between neighborhoods, takes place in Torrita di Siena (a medieval village near Siena in Tuscany), on Saint Joseph's Day, March 19. The festival also includes a colorful historic parade.