There's lots to celebrate in Italy and naturally they have many holidays that vary depending on locality, as well as twelve public holidays that everyone enjoys. It's important to know the calendar dates for these, especially if you are looking to get the most out of your trip.
Italy is a country that is filled with festivities year-round. Many of these Italian holidays have roots in Catholicism and while some still celebrate the faith-based meaning of the day, for others it has become a day for celebration and feasting, partying and spending time away from work, with family and friends.
During many Italian holidays, stores, businesses and government buildings will be closed. It is therefore very important that you research which holidays may fall during your stay in Italy, so that you can plan your shopping and sightseeing around them and can ensure that you are able to fully experience all that the holiday or festival has to offer.
January 1st - New Year’s Day: Just like most other countries in the world, New Year’s Day is a statutory holiday and most businesses and attractions will be closed in Italy.
January 6th - Epiphany: This day is a day filled with feasting and festivities in Italy. It is thought to be the day that, in Christian faith, the three wise men brought gifts to baby Jesus after his birth and the day that John the Baptist baptised Jesus, many years later. More modern folk lore also says that on this day, a witch in a long black shawl, named La Befana, flies over the cities on a broomstick, searching for the newborn Jesus. Similar to the story of Santa Claus, she passes out gifts to children while on her journey. This day in Italy is a day of great feast and celebrations and many towns host festivals and parades. It is a statutory holiday and most stores, schools, attractions and government buildings will be closed.
February 14th - Festa degli Innamorati - San Valentino (St. Valentine’s Day): Also known as the “Feast of Lovers”, Valentine’s day is celebrated throughout the country as a day to pay tribute to your loved ones. This is not a statutory holiday and most businesses will be open on this day.
Carnevale: Carnevale is celebrated 40 days before Easter and is the last day before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. In the Catholic religion, Lent is recognized as a period of self-denial, where something is given-up (for example: meat, smoking, drinking etc.) to allow for better reflection and focus on Jesus and his sufferings. Carnivale is the final feasting and partying before the 40 days of lent begins and is similar to the Mardi Gras celebrations in the United States. People dress in colourful costumes and masks, and street parties and parades are held in many cities across Italy. This celebration can last for many days leading up to Ash Wednesday and is not a statutory holiday.
April 25th - Festa della Liberazione (Liberation Day): Each year, on April 25th, Italians celebrate the Day of Liberation with ceremonies and historical re-enactments. This is the day, in 1945, when Italy was liberated from their fascist regime and Nazi occupation ended. This day is a statutory holiday and all businesses are usually closed.
June 29th - La Festa di San Pietro e Paolo (Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul): This day is a day for paying homage to Saint Peter and Saint Paul, patron saints in the Catholic religion. This day is often celebrated with mass services at church, feasting and firework displays at night. It is a national holiday and therefore most businesses will be closed for the day.
August 15th - Ferragosto (Assumption of the Virgin): This day commemorates the death of the Virgin Mary and is a day of feasting and celebrations in Italy. During the few weeks prior to and after this day is the time when many Italians take their summer vacations and therefore tourist sites, beaches and airports are at their busiest. Although August 15th is a national holiday, most attractions remain open.
November 1st - Ognissanti (All Saint’s Day): November first a national holiday in Italy and it’s a day for celebrating and remembering all of the Catholic saints. It is a day for religious practices and feasting.
November 2nd - Il Giorno dei Morti (Day of the Dead): The day after Ognissanti is a day for Italians to celebrate and remember all of their loved ones and family members who have passed away. The day usually starts with mass and prayers at church followed by a visit to the graveyard to remember those who are no longer with us.
December 25th - Natale (Christmas Day): Christmas day is a very important day in Italy and in the Christian faith. It is the day for celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ and is a day for celebrations, feasting and mass at church. This day is a statutory holiday and all businesses and tourist attractions are closed.
December 31st - La Festa di San Silvestro (St. Sylvester’s Feast, New Years Eve): New Years Eve in Italy is also known as St. Sylvester’s Feast. St. Sylvester was an early pope in the Catholic church who was buried on this day. Although many will celebrate by feasting in his honour, many more will continue their celebrations by ringing in the new year with parties and fireworks.