As you know, there is never a bad time to visit Italy and for many spring and early summer is the best time, especially if you are a culture fiend and city explorer. By April it's getting pleasantly warm with temperatures averaging around 14°C in the north and around 19°C in the south, although the weather can be a little unpredictable with the likelihood of the odd shower. For me it's perfect, fresh and not too crowded.
Apart from the beautiful cities and towns, the culture, the atmosphere, the aperitivo and the food, here are some more reasons to visit Italy.
Festival delle Mongolfiere
April 6-7th and April 13-14th 2019
What greater spectacle could you have than a hot air balloon festival. Set on the horse racecourse of the old Roman garrison town of Cesana in the beautiful region of Emilia- Romagna. This colourful event is set over two weekends and is the perfect day out for the whole family with recreational and educational workshops set alongside the balloon display. There is even the chance to experience a flight in one these colourful giants of the sky.
The show carries on into the evening with a spectacular light display where the balloons are illuminated by their gas flames, all to the accompaniment of music.
Cesana is placed midway between the medieval city of Ravenna and the coastal resort of Rimini which are two of the most popular tourist destinations in the region so you may want to consider this as a day excursion with a difference. One of our favourite suppliers Anna Cecere is based in Rimini so I can confirm that it is a beautiful place for a beach holiday.
Scoppio del Carro (Explosion of the Cart)
April 21st Easter Sunday 2019
Italy is a religious country so it's no surprise that Easter is celebrated in a big way. There are lots of parades and ceremonies going on throughout the country but one of the most unusual is the one performed in Florence. It is called the Scorpio del Carro or the Explosion of the Cart. It's a ceremony that dates back to the 15th century and it is in fact in honour of a Florentine nobleman who fought in the crusades in 1099. His name was Pazzino de' Pazzi and he took part in the first crusades in the holy land where he showed true courage by scaling the city walls of Jerusalem to plant a christian banner on the top. For his bravery in the name of the holy church he was awarded three flints taken from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which he duly brought back to Tuscany. Ever since these symbolic flints have been kept safe at the Church of Santi Apostoli.
This is a very unusual ceremony set on the Easter weekend. The cart itself is very ornate and stands around 10 metres tall and is packed to the gunnels with pyrotechnics. The procession starts in the morning at the Church of Santi Apostoli where the priest lights a candle using the three sacred flints. He then carries the flame to the cart where he then ignites a container of coal in the centre of the cart. It is then pulled through the streets by two oxen along with a procession of drummers and banner wavers to its final destination, outside the duomo. At this point the Archbishop carries a flame from the cart to the altar where he then duly lights a dove shaped rocket suspended on a wire which shoots out of the church and collides with the cart which in turn set off a spectacular fireworks display along with huge cheers from the crowd.
If all of this complex ceremony goes well it is seen as good luck.
Festa dei Ceri, Gubbio
May 15th 2019
Gubbio is charming town located on the slopes of Mount Ingino in the region of Umbria. This place is worth a visit anyway as it's one of the most ancient medieval towns in the region with numerous and impressive palaces and churches.
The Festa dei Ceri is one of the oldest events in Italy and is in honour of St. Ubaldo, the patron saint of Gubbio and stems back to the 12th century. This is a somewhat bizarre event where the townsfolk gather in the main piazza dressed in their ceraioli which originally their colours according to their saint, blue for St Giorgio, black for St Antonio and yellow for St Ubaldo. These are also represented by three giant wooden ‘candle’ towers which are ornately decorated and are carried from the town to the Basilica of St. Ubaldo at the top of Mount Ingino. This is no easy feat as these candles are topped with a statue of their respective saint and can weigh well over 300kg. It's not a fast race but it's certainly very exhausting for the participants.
Vogalonga Regatta, Venice
June 9th 2019
In Italian terms this has to be one of the youngest festivals around but that doesn't take away from what an exciting spectacle it is. The idea for this regatta originate in 1974 by a group of likeminded amateur oarsman and is basically a 30km rowing marathon that anyone can participate in. It is a joy to watch the procession of all kinds of craft winding there way through some of the most famous parts of Venice.
This event has grown and grown over the years and today over 1,500 boats with nearly 6,000 rowers participate in this wonderful event. There is even a giant gondola race which was set up as a protest against all the motorised boats that now blight the waterways.
Why not consider a short break to visit one of these fantastic events. Of course, you will need to arrive with some Italian style.