Not only is May the best time to visit Italy for pragmatism, but it’s also a vibrant time of year filled with festivals and events. With warmer weather and longer days, towns and cities are buzzing with that new lease of life spring brings. You’ll find plenty of cultural, culinary, and artistic celebrations that offer a unique glimpse into Italian culture and traditions.
This famous event takes place in Venice on the Sunday after Ascension Day, dating back to the 9th century. Celebrations include a regatta, where traditional Venetian boats compete in a race along the Grand Canal, a boat parade, and traditional food and wine. Here you’ll find a symbolic ritual with a procession of boats sailing from St. Mark’s Square to the lagoon, where the mayor of Venice drops a gold ring into the water. This commemorates the historical marriage between the city and the sea.
In Rome, May marks the beginning of the outdoor opera season at the Baths of Caracalla. Built in AD 212, these grand ruins have set a majestic stage for Rome’s open-air opera festival since 1937. Here, you can enjoy performances of the world’s best opera under the stars in a stunning ancient setting.
Sagre are local Italian food festivals akin to country fairs. They take over towns, villages, and communes and celebrate Patron saints, as well as food. These are truly the best kept local secrets of Italy, where you can find some really special delicacies.
They happen all year round, but the May (Maggio) sagre are particularly special. In Liguria you’ll find a wonderful fish festival with music, dancing, and all the seafood you can eat. That’s not mentioning the main event: 30,000 portions of fish cooked in the world’s largest frying pan in the town’s main square, all given away for free. In nearby Piedmont there’s a festival dedicated to the universally loved dish of Risotto, and in Umbria you can indulge in a 3-day Porchetta festival.
These little community festivals offer a great opportunity to taste traditional dishes, meet local producers, and learn about the culinary heritage of different regions.
You may also like: Gastronomic Sicily for the hedonist