Being a Catholic nation, Italy has religious events throughout out the year but particularly at Christmas and Easter.
Furthermore there are probably more mad celebrations, historic events and art festivals in Italy than in any other European country – with the possible exception of Spain – especially in the summertime.
February/March: Carnevale (Carnival), although the one in Venice is the most extraordinary for its costumes, atmosphere, and huge crowds, Verona is the best place to go for authenticity. Viareggio (Tuscany) and Arcireale (Sicily) are also good.
Easter: Lo Scoppio del Carro, (Explosion of the Cart), fireworks display on Easter Sunday in Florence at the Duomo of Santa Maria del Fiore.
early May: Cocullo L’Aquila, the Festival of Snakes to celebrate Saint San Domenico.
May: Corsa dei Ceri, (Gubbio), a bizarre medieval event held annually, with a group of men carrying three ceri (20 ft wooden pillars) and racing up to the Basilica.
mid June-August: Verona Opera Season takes place in the Arena, a huge Roman theatre and is perhaps the best-known open air opera in the world. Fantastic performances in a fantastic environment. Tickets start at €10(£6).
early July and mid Aug: Palio in Siena, a mad, medieval bare-back horse race in the 12th century square. Crazed, colourful and crowded.
late Aug: Venice Film Festival, the world’s oldest international film festival.
September: La Regatta di Venezia (Venice regatta), historic gondola race along the Grand Canal, with people in medieval costumes.
Oct: Olive Oil Festival, (Nationwide).
For some precise dates see: European Festivals or Arts Festivals.