Italians love festivals, and they love fireworks, and during New Year's (il Capodanno), you'll find an abundance of both. In cities and towns all over Italy, there are celebrations marking the end of the old year and the beginning of the new.
La Festa di San Silvestro is celebrated December 31 on New Year's Eve. As with most Italian festivals, food plays a major role, and families and friends get together for huge feasts. Tradition calls for lentils to be served on New Year’s Eve – actually just after midnight, so technically January 1 – because they symbolize money and good fortune for the coming year. The dinner in many parts of Italy also includes a cotechino, a large spiced sausage, or a Campione, stuffed pig's trotter, as pork symbolizes the richness of life in the coming year.
New Year's Eve sees many festive events in towns throughout Italy, and they’ll be crowded, so plan your visit in advance (including parking, which will be at a premium).
New Year’s Fireworks and Dancing
Most towns in Italy have public fireworks in a central square, but Naples is known for having one of the best and biggest displays in the country. Many towns have public music and dancing before the fireworks, too. Rome, Milan, Bologna, Palermo, and Naples put on huge popular outdoor shows with pop and rock bands, and these events can sometimes be seen on television as well.
New Year's Eve Traditions
Guests of private or public parties are sometimes entertained with a game called Tombola, which is similar to Bingo. The New Year is also celebrated with spumante or prosecco, Italian sparkling wine, and New Year's parties, whether public or private, will often last until sunrise.
An old custom that is still followed in some places, especially in the south of Italy, is throwing your old things out the window to symbolize your readiness to accept the New Year. So, keep an eye out for falling objects if you're walking around outside near midnight.
Don't forget to wear your red underwear to ring in the New Year. Italian folklore claims this will bring luck in the coming year.
Rome's traditional New Year's Eve celebrations are centered in Piazza del Popolo. Huge crowds celebrate with rock and classical music, dancing, and fireworks. On New Year's day, children will be entertained in the square by performers and acrobats.
Another good place to celebrate is near the Colosseum on Via di Fori Imperiali where there will be live music and midnight fireworks. There's usually a classical music concert outdoors on the square in front of the Quirinale, off Via Nazionale, which is also followed by fireworks at midnight. Several theaters present symphony or opera on New Year's Eve and Rome nightclubs also have special events.
Rimini, on the Adriatic coast, is one of Italy's most popular nightlife spots and a top place to celebrate the end of the year. Besides parties in numerous nightclubs and bars, Rimini holds a huge New Year's Eve festival in Piazzale Fellini.
Here, guests can enjoy music, dancing, entertainment, and a spectacular display of fireworks over the sea, all of which are usually televised in Italy.
Naples’ legendary New Year's Eve fireworks are preceded by a huge outdoor music event in Piazza del Plebiscito in the city center where there are usually classical, rock, and traditional music concerts. In some parts of Naples, people still throw their old things out of their windows.
A tradition called Lo Sciuscio originated in Naples, and although it’s not as widespread as it once was, it still exists in some smaller towns nearby. Groups of amateur musicians (now mainly children) go from house to house playing and singing on New Year's Eve. Giving them a small gift of money or sweets is said to bring good luck in the new year, while turning them away may bring bad luck.
On the island of Capri near Naples, local folkloric groups usually perform in the Piazzetta in Capri and Piazza Diaz in Anacapri on January 1.
Bologna traditionally celebrates New Year's Eve with the Fiera del Bue Grasso (fat ox fair). The ox is decorated with flowers and ribbons from horn to tail, and the church bells are rung while spectators light candles and fireworks are set off. At the end, a special lottery is held with the winner getting to keep the ox.
The procession ends just before midnight in Piazza San Petronio, and in Piazza Maggiore, there are live music, performances, and a street market. At midnight an effigy of an old man, symbolizing the old year, is thrown into a bonfire.
Many restaurants in Venice go all out with huge feasts on New Year's Eve, starting at 9 p.m. and lasting until after midnight. Although expensive, they tend to be very good with many courses and lots of wine, but be sure to make a reservation ahead of time because restaurants will fill up early for these special events.
St. Mark's Square has a huge celebration with music, a giant fireworks display, Bellini Brindisi (bellini toast), and a huge group kiss at midnight; the group kiss is also held in Piazza Ferretto in Mestre.
On New Year's Day, many bathers take a chilling dip in the waters of Venice's Lido Beach, so if you're planning on staying in Venice, there's plenty to keep you entertained throughout the first of the year, too.
Many restaurants in Florence will have extravagant meals as well, but you’ll want to be sure to reserve early for these, too. Fireworks will be set off at midnight and the bridges on the Arno River provide a perfect vantage point. Florence also usually holds public concerts in Piazza della Signoria and Piazza della Repubblica.
New Year's Eve in Pisa and Turin
Pisa has music and good fireworks show over the Arno River in the center of town, and the Verdi Theater usually has both a New Year's Eve and New Year's Day concert.
The city of Turin, in northern Italy's Piedmont region, holds public festivities in Piazza San Carlo. Live music, DJ music, a parade, and fireworks highlight the evening's events.