May in Italy is a good time to find spring festivals. You'll find flower festivals, food and wine festivals, medieval reenactments, and events celebrating rituals of spring. Although you'll probably come across other local festivals, here are some of the highlights organized by region.
May Day, May 1, is a public holiday all over Italy as the day of the worker. Many services will be closed but you may find interesting parades and festivals to celebrate the day.
Expect big crowds in popular Italian tourist destinations.
Giro d'Italia, Italy's big bike race similar to the Tour d'France, starts in early May and lasts most of the month. The race takes in scenic countryside and it's fun to watch a leg or two. Giro d'Italia schedule
Night of Museums is held on a Saturday in mid-May. Museums in many Italian cities are open late, often with free admission and special events. website
Cantine Aperte, open cantinas, is a big wine celebration throughout Italy the last weekend of May. Many cantine or wineries are open to guests and have special events. See Open Wineries by region (in Italian).
The Snake Handlers' Procession is the first Thursday in May in Cocullo in the Abruzzo region. A statue of St. Dominic, the town's patron saint, is carried through town covered with live serpents.
The Flower Festival of Bucchianico in the Abruzzo includes a re-enactment of a 13th-century military stratagem with a parade, the third Sunday in May.
The Daffodil Festival in the Abruzzo town of Rocca di Mezzo celebrates spring with folk dancing and a parade the last Sunday in May.
Il Palio di Ferrara, a historical horse race dating from 1279, is run the last Sunday in May. There are parades, flag throwing contests, and other events every weekend in May including a historical procession to the castle with over 1000 people in Renaissance costumes on the Saturday night of the weekend before the race.
Medieval Parade and Jousting Tournament in the Emilia Romagna region town of Grazzano Visconti is the last Sunday in May.
Latium and Lazio
The Wedding of the Trees, Sposalizio dell'Albero, takes place May 8 in the northern Lazio town of Vetralla. A couple of oak trees are decorated with garlands, horsemen offer bouquets of the first spring flowers and new trees are planted while everyone enjoys a free picnic lunch. The ceremony revives Vetralla's sovereignty over the forests and continues the right of each citizen to a cubic meter of firewood annually.
La Barabbata is celebrated May 14 in Marta on the shores of Lake Bolsena. In this procession, men wear costumes representing the old trades and carry their tools while white buffalo pull floats carrying the fruits of the trades.
The Fish Festival of Saint Fortunato, patron saint of fishermen, is celebrated in the Italian Riviera village of Camogli, south of Genoa, the second Sunday in May. Saturday night there is a huge fireworks display and bonfire competition followed by free fried fish on Sunday.
The Risotto Festival the first Sunday in May in the Piedmont town of Sessame is a huge feast of a special rice dish dating back to the 13th century.
Roman Fest is a 3-day re-enactment of a typical ancient Roman festival in the Piedmont town of Alesandria, the last weekend of May. The festival includes parades, feasts, staged gladiator combat and chariot races.
Sardinia and Sicily
The Sagra di Sant Efisio on May 1 one of the most important festivals in Sardinia. A colorful 4-day procession leads from Cagliari to the Romanesque church of Saint Efisio on the beach at Nora. Decorated oxcarts and horsemen accompany the saint's statue in a parade followed by food and dancing.
Infiorata di Noto, a huge festival with flower petal art displays and a parade, takes place in Noto, Sicily, the third weekend of May.
Pinocchio's Birthday is celebrated May 25 in the Tuscan town of Pescia.
The Chianti Wine Festival, the last Sunday in May and first Sunday in June, takes place in Montespertoli in the Chianti wine region of Tuscany.
Ring Race and Procession, re-enactments of 14th-century contests and parades, continues in Narni in the Umbria region through May 12 (starts near the end of April).
Calendimaggio is celebrated in early May in Assisi, Umbria. The festival is recommended by Manuela of Italian Ceramics who says "it is a spectacular evocation of Medieval and Renaissance costumes and life." The two ancient medieval wards, the "Parte di Sopra" and the "Parte di Sotto," engage in a spectacular challenge which takes the form of theater shows, concerts, songs and choruses, dances, processions, archery, crossbow, and flag-waving displays. The districts compete in a singing contest among the spectacular floral decorations, flags, torches, and candles. Calendimaggio website
La Palombella, in Orvieto, is a festival representing the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. The festival is held on Pentecost Sunday (7 weeks after Easter) in the piazza in front of the Duomo and ends with a fireworks display.
The Festa dei Ceri, a candle race and costumed parade in Gubbio, takes place May 15 and is followed by a Historical Cross-Bow Exhibition on the last Sunday of May.
Festa della Sensa, or Ascension Festival, is held on the first Sunday after Ascension Day (40 days after Easter) in Venice. The ceremony commemorates Venice's marriage to the sea and in past times, the Doge threw a gold ring into the sea to unite Venice and the sea. In modern times a regatta heads from Saint Mark's Square to Saint Nicolo' culminating with a gold ring being thrown into the sea. There is also a huge fair. Dates and Information