Venice, Italy, is one of the most popular summer destinations in Europe, but the peak travel season draws 60,000 tourists (more than its permanent population) to its picturesque alleyways and canals daily. Despite its notorious crowding, the iconic floating city still tops most people's bucket lists. The best time to visit is perhaps during the month of October, after the warm-weather visitors flee.
The first full month of fall brings opera—Italy's cultural gift to the world—along with wine festivals and artsy happenings galore. It's a great time of the year for budget travelers, too, considering the low rates on transportation and hotels. In 2020, many events have been canceled or altered, so check the websites of organizers for updated information.
Italy is the birthplace of opera, and Venice's famous opera house, Teatro La Fenice, is the perfect setting in which to experience one even if you're not an aficionado of the art form. Initially opened in 1792, the stage of this iconic venue played host to opera greats like Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, and Verdi during the 19th century. Teatro La Fenice's 2020 season begins on September 25 with a new (socially distanced) production of Verdi’s “La Traviata.” If you plan to attend, be sure to bring the appropriate attire: Opening night etiquette requires a dark suit for men and an elegant dress for women; for other evening events, nice jeans and a collared shirt are permissible.
Festa del Mosto
On the first weekend of October, the locals spend a day in the countryside on Sant’Erasmo, the biggest island in Venice's lagoon. Sant’Erasmo is where the first wine pressing occurs in the country and also where much of the area's produce is grown. Festa del Mosto is a celebration of the grape harvest featuring tastings, a rowing regatta, and live music. Guests get to see firsthand how Venetians eat, drink, and relax, but must book accommodations well in advance as hotels fill up fast. The Festivities Committee of Sant' Erasmo has not confirmed 2020's event.
What started as a race from the Riviera del Brenta at Stra to Campo Santi Apostoli in the Cannaregio district in 1986 is now an annual Venice tradition that turns parts of the city into day-long festivals of sports and fitness. The Venice Marathon takes place on the fourth Sunday in October and both starts and concludes in the famous Saint Mark's Square. The route includes Ponte della Libertà, the "Bridge of Liberty" that connects Venice to the mainland, and Parco San Giuliano, a large urban park overlooking the lagoon. Additional 10K, family fun runs, and an expo located in San Giuliano Park are also part of the event. In 2020, the marathon will be held virtually.
Venice may not be your first thought when Halloween comes to mind, but the city's eery and mysterious air certainly increases the holiday's spook factor. Although Halloween is not an Italian holiday, it has become popular, especially among young adults. You're likely to come by Halloween decorations in shop windows and people wearing costumes in bars, restaurants, and nightclubs on the trendy Lido sandbar. For a more full-on celebration, head to Borgo a Mozzano (north of Lucca) to attend Italy's longest-running and largest holiday party, the Halloween Celebration at the Devil's Bridge. No celebration has been confirmed for 2020.
From June through November, several festivals take over venues throughout the city for the Venice Biennale, a prestigious showcase of international art in a variety of mediums. The biggest event, Art Biennale, only takes place on odd-numbered years, but events for cinema, music, dance, theater, and architecture may occur on even-numbered years. Along with the separate festivals for each art form, the Venice Biennale organization also offers educational programs for hopeful students and artists in each field. The biannual Venice Art Biennale is one of the biggest festivals in the region for contemporary artists, and more than half a million international enthusiasts attend the event. The 2020 iteration will proceed with new health and safety measures in place.