... celebrate


Italy has twelve days that are national holidays. On these days banks and most shops will be closed although in main tourist areas you will still find some things open. Public transportation runs on a Sunday and holiday schedule.

January 1 is Capodanno, or New Year's Day. While most things are closed you'll probably find special events going on in the main squares of top cities.

January 6 is the end of Italy's Christmas season and the day when children traditionally get presents or sweets from la Befana. In Vatican City, a procession of hundreds of people in medieval costumes walk to the Vatican, carrying symbolic gifts for the Pope who says a morning mass in Saint Peter's Basilica to commemorate the visit of the Wise Men bearing gifts for Jesus.

Easter Sunday is celebrated with a mass, the biggest and most popular being the Easter mass said by the Pope in Saint Peter's Basilica. Florence celebrates Easter Sunday with the Scoppio del Carro, explosion of the cart, that takes place in front of Florence's Duomo after mass. While you won't see the Easter bunny, you will see big chocolate eggs. During Holy Week, the week leading up to Easter there are many processions and special events throughout Italy.

La Pasquetta, or the little Easter, is a national holiday that's celebrated on the day after Easter. On this day Italians traditionally head to the countryside for a picnic but if you're in a city you may find concerts, dances, or unusual games like cheese-rolling. Top sites and museums are usually open.

Liberation Day, Festa della Liberazione commemorating the end of WWII in Italy, is a national holiday marked by ceremonies, historic re-enactments, and celebrations. Most major sites and museums are open and many towns hold fairs, concerts, food festivals, or special events. In Venice it's also the feast day of Venice's patron saint, Saint Mark, celebrated with a procession and other festivities in Saint Mark's Square.

May 1, the day of the worker, is another Italian national holiday with more festivals, parades, and special events. Since it's so close to Liberation Day, many Italians take a vacation from April 25 through May 1. Some museums, such as the Uffizi Gallery and Naples Archeology Museum, are closed on May 1. Top tourist destinations like Venice and Alberobello in the south are extremely crowded. One of Sardinia's most important festivals, the Sagra di Sant Efisio, starts on May 1.

Festa della Repubblica, June 2, commemorates the birth of the Italian Republic. Most major sites and attractions are open and it's another day when you may find concerts, parades, and other special events. In Rome there's usually a big parade presided over by Italy's president and military bands play music in the gardens of the Quirinale, open to the public.

August 15, Ferragosto, is the traditional start of Italy's vacation period so if you're in a city during the second half of August you may find a number of restaurants and shops closed for vacation (chiuso per ferie) although most major sites and museums will remain open. Many Italians head to the beach for Ferragosto, so the coast (and coastal roads) are usually very crowded. There are special events, parades, festivals, and fireworks in many places both on August 15 and August 16.

All Saint's Day, Ognissanti, is a day honoring all the saints and is normally celebrated with a mass on November 1. On the following day, All Soul's Day (which is not a holiday), Italians place flowers on the tombs of their ancestors so you'll see lots of flowers on sale leading up to November 2 and if you visit a cemetery it will be full of flowers. All Saints's Eve, or Halloween, is becoming popular in Italy as well.

Immaculate Conception, a holiday celebrated on December 8, is the start of Italy's winter holiday season. You'll find many Christmas markets starting up on or around December 8.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are usually spent with family and big meals are prepared. Most churches hold a midnight mass on Christmas Eve and the traditional nativity scene is often unveiled or completed then. Nativity pageants are often performed during the period from December 24-26. On Christmas Day nearly everything will be closed, including many restaurants, so if you're looking for a restaurant it's advisable to book ahead.

December 26, the day following Christmas, is a public holiday for Santo Stefano with banks and most shops close although many museums and tourist sites will be open.


Closings are also observed in the following cities on feast days honoring their patron saints: Venice, April 25 (St. Mark); Florence, Genoa, and Turin, June 24 (St. John the Baptist); Rome, June 29 (Sts.Peter and Paul); Palermo, July 15 (St. Rosalia); Naples, September 19 (St. Gennaro); Bologna, October 4 (St. Petronio); Cagliari, October 30 (St. Saturnino); Trieste, November 3 (St. Giusto); Bari, December 6 (St. Nicola); and Milan, December 7 (St. Ambrose).


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