What’s On in Italy in January

For some January is the month of detox, diets and denial as the New Year’s hangover subsides and resolutions kick in. But for those of us who love Italy it’s often a great time to dust off our passports and get packing for an Italian trip as there is plenty to see and do without peak-season prices or huge queues. Perfetto! So if Italy is calling you this month here are my suggestions for what’s on in Italy in January. Happy travels – Buon Viaggio!

What’s on in Italy in January – UPDATED January 2018!

1st January – New Year’s Day dive into Tiber River, Rome

what's on in Italy in January

Whilst many people are still nursing a hangover after celebrating New Year’s Eve, thrill-seeking divers are taking to the railings of Rome’s Cavour Bridge to take a morning dip in the River Tiber below. The annual tradition has been going since 1946 with several courageous, some would say foolhardy, divers braving all weathers to plunge head first into the cold, grey waters. Some, like Maurizio Palmulli who will be making his 30th dive in 2018, are veterans who come year after year dedicating their dives to their nearest and dearest. Others come just to watch joining the hundreds of spectators wrapped up against the chill that line the riverbank. 3-2-1-jump!

1st January – Angelus speech by the Pope, St Peter’s Square, Rome

After celebrating mass, this year in the Sistine Chapel, the Pope takes to his Vatican window overlooking St Peter’s Square to deliver his weekly Angelus prayer and thoughts for the week. Several thousand people come to listen, gathering below the window to the right of St Peter’s Basilica and apart from a quick security check entry to the square is open to everyone for free.

Note : the Pope delivers the Angelus every Sunday of the year, except when he is away from the Vatican.

1st January – 4th February 2018 – Bernini exhibition at the Galleria Borghese, Rome

whats on in italy in january

What’s on in Italy in Italy in January varies so much with new exhibitions taking place every year so its always best to check beforehand. This month sees the final few weeks of an extraordinary exhibition of Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s finest sculptures at Rome’s Galleria Borghese. It’s well worth a look as this is probably the largest collection of Bernini’s work that has been brought together for years, all in his spiritual home of Roma. For more information check out the Galleria’s website.

6th January – Celebrating the Festa della Befana and Epiphany

Retired Venetian rowers and gondoliers race along the Grand Canal dressed as La Befana

Retired Venetian rowers and gondoliers race along the Grand Canal dressed as La Befana

In the Christian story of Christmas January 6th marks the date when the 3 wise men finally arrived in Bethlehem bringing their gifts for the baby Jesus. Today, while British families like mine are taking down their decorations for another year, Italians continue to celebrate marking Epifania and the arrival of La Befana, an old witch who brings presents for children who’ve been good.

The religious side of the day is celebrated with processions, nativities and masses around the country. In Rome the faithful process to St Peter’s Basilica, dressed in medieval costume and bringing gifts for the Pope who then leads morning prayers. In other towns and cities you might see live nativities, or presepi viventi, and re-enactments of the arrival of the 3 kings, often followed by free concerts so keep your eyes peeled!

As for La Befana, many consider her bigger than Santa Claus, who is a recent import, with the old crone bringing the presents rather than the red beardy one. And different regions welcome the witch in different ways. In Venice men dressed up as La Befana race up the Grand Canal to the Rialto Bridge. Meanwhile in Rome they celebrate with a market selling toys, sweets and sugar coal in Piazza Navona between Christmas and Epiphany. Romans even believe that La Befana will appear in the window of one of the palazzi in the piazza at midnight between the 5th and 6th January and go, hoping to spot her. But if you don’t see her there make sure to keep a look out for her crossing the midnight skies on her broomstick!

Sunday 7th January – Free entry to over 300 state museums

whats on in Italy in January

Free admission at over 300 Italian state museums, archeological sites, gardens, monuments and galleries

If you’re travelling on a budget, make sure to book for the first Sunday of each month, not just January, as over 300 state museums open their doors for free under the #DomenicaAlMuseo national initiative. Free venues include gardens, monuments, archeological sites and some big name museums such as the Accademia in Venice or the Museo di Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. More information including the list of museums and calendar can be found here.

Sunday 7th January – Giornata Nazionale della Bandiera Italiana (National Day of the Italian Flag)

The Italian Tricolore flag will be flying with pride on January 7th

The Italian Tricolore flag will be flying with pride on January 7th

Celebrated mainly in Reggio Emilia and Rome January 7th marks the birth of the Italian flag or Tricolore. Formal changing of the guard ceremonies take place in Piazza Prampolini in Reggio Emilia and at the Quirinale Parliament building in Rome. Meanwhile around the country public buildings and businesses will fly the flag with just a little more pride than usual. It’s not a big celebration but if you happen to be in Rome or Reggio Emilia, might be worth a look.

12th- 15th Jan 2018 – Men’s Fashion Week, Milan

Men’s Fashion Week, also known as Milano Moda Uomo, offers fashionistas and professionals the first glimpse of the Autumn-Winter collections of over 100 fashion houses. If you’re lucky enough to have an invitation you can watch the models as the strut down the catwalks. If not, and if you can’t wrangle a standing space at the back, then you can always watch the lifestream on www.Cameramoda.it. And if you want to make a purchase, pop in to Via Gesù, home of men’s fashion, to pick up this season’s must-haves.

14th January – Festa della Radicchio, Mirano, Venice

Check out Mirano's radicchio festival in January

Check out Mirano’s radicchio festival in January     Photo source : Marieke Kuijjer from Leiden, The Netherlands (radicchio) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Italians love food and love to celebrate the seasons too so January sees the festival of the radicchio, a white-stalked red-leafed cichory grown in the Veneto region. The vegetable has a bitter taste but this mellows once its cooked, usually by grilling in olive oil, roasting as a poultry stuffing, chopped into a risotto or alongside pasta. Its roots can also be mixed with coffee.

The festival itself brings 30-40 local producers together in Mirano, a little mainland town around 21km from Venice. Musicians, street performers and artists provide the entertainment whilst the radicchio, in all its different varieties, is celebrated alongside other typical local products. Don’t miss the chance to taste this traditional Venetian dish.

More information in Italian click on the festival website here

20th – 25th January – Deejay XMasters World Rookie Fest, Livigno

The World Rookie snowboarding festival tours the world all year round but this month finds it in Livogno’s Mottolino snowpark, one of the most famous in the Alps and an ideal venue for some freestyle action. For more information check out the World Rookie Fest website.

27th January to 13th February – Venice Carnival

A gentleman stands in front of the famous Bridge of Sighs during Venice Carnival

A gentleman stands in front of the famous Bridge of Sighs during Venice Carnival

Venice carnival is famous around the world and draws in thousands of visitors over the duration of the festival. The origins are thought to go back to the pagan rituals of the ancient Romans but the current traditions are firmly linked to Catholic traditions from the 12th century and the lead up to Lent and Easter. Before the faithful start the frugal, fasting 40 days of Lent, carnival enables them to feast and party like there’s no tomorrow to use up all the forbidden foods like meat and sweets. And no-one does it better than Venice!

More information is available here but the main Venice Carnival 2018 dates to look out for are as below

Saturday 27th January 2018 – 6pm Opening of the Carnival with a water show along the Rio of Cannaregio and an encore at 8pm
Sunday 28th January 2018 – 11am Boat procession along the Grand Canal from Punta della Dogana to the Rio di Cannaregio.
Saturday 3rd February 2018 – Carnival Parade of Marie to St Mark’s Square
Sunday 4th February 2018 – 12pm Flight of the Angel in St Mark’s Square
Thursday 8th February 2018Ballad of the Masks with the beheading of the bull, St Mark’s Square
Sunday 11th February 2018 – 12pm Flight of the Eaglefinal of the Best Mask competition
Tuesday 13th February 2018 – 5pm Flight of the Lion, proclamation of the Mary of Carnival.

Note : the date for Carnival changes depending on when Lent and Easter fall so always check before you book to ensure you catch the main attractions each year.

For more information check out the official website here

27th January – 17th February – Carnvale di Viareggio, Tuscany 

Like Venice, Viareggio on the Tuscan coast goes all out for carnival with enormous papier-mâché puppets towering over the crowds that turn out to watch the grand parades. Over 600,000 spectators are expected to watch the floats and celebrate carnival with the masked parades taking place along the seafront on 27th January,  4th,   11th,   13th17th February. For more information check out the official carnevale website.

27th January – International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust

Venice ghetto will mark its 500th anniversary in 2016

Venice ghetto will mark its 500th anniversary in 2016

On this day in 1945 the gates of Auschwitz were finally thrown open by the Allies and the full horror of what had gone on behind them was discovered. 27th January is a United Nations designated day of memorial for the people who lost their lives during the holocaust and as in many countries in Europe and around the world Italy will mark it with ceremonies and events. Last year Bologna, Turin, Milan, Venice and Rome, amongst others, programmed exhibitions and events illustrating their histories at the time so look out for similar events to mark this. (As and when I get more information I will update this page).

2016 also marked the 500th anniversary of the foundation of the Jewish ghetto in Venice on the 29th March. And the ghetto in Rome was formed just 40 years after Venice, so make sure to check them out when you visit the cities to discover their unforgettable histories and fascinating futures. Oh and make sure to pop into one of the kosher bakeries for a bagel or biscuit – yum!

28th January 2018 – Free entry to the Vatican Museum, Rome

On the last Sunday of every month the Vatican Museum throws its doors open for free between 9am and 2pm with the last entry at 12.30pm! Unfortunately it’s not possible to reserve or book tickets in advance, you just have to turn up and take your chance so go early and hopefully the queue won’t be too bad!

Note: normally the Vatican museum is closed on a Sunday.

29th January – Fire at the Fenice 21 years ago today

The opulent Fenice theatre in Venice is worth a visit even if you can't bag a concert ticket!

The opulent Fenice theatre in Venice is worth a visit even if you can’t bag a concert ticket!

At 20:58 on January 29th 1996 the Venice Vigili del Fuoco, Fire Brigade, received the phone call that they dread saying smoke had been spotted pouring out of the historic Fenice Theatre in the heart of the city. Over the course of the next 2 days the fire roared through the building sending plumes of smoke over the rooftops as the firemen battled to bring it under control. Sadly, though, the fire destroyed the stage, seating and ceiling leaving just the brick shell.

This wasn’t the first time La Fenice, appropriately meaning the phoenix, had burnt down but Venetians are nothing if not determined and straight away vowed to find the culprits, which they did, and to rebuild “where it was, as it was”. And after years of planning, 650 days of round the clock building by a team of hundreds of workmen and an estimated €90 million the theatre re-opened, as good as new, on the 14th December 2003. If you want to see what Venetians can do with a bit of blood, sweat and tears, why not take the tour of the opulent, gilded theatre or take in a opera. You won’t be disappointed!

More information available on the Fenice theatre official website

29th, 30th & 31st January – I Giorni della Merla

I giorni della Merla or the “Days of the Blackbird” isn’t so much a festival or event but a time of the year to avoid for Italians who consider these 3 days the coldest of the year! Bbbrrrr!!!!

If you’re visiting around these dates, make sure to pack an extra jumper or scarf just to be on the safe side!

31st January – Mercatone dell’Antiquariato del Naviglio Grande monthly antiques market, Milan

Milan's monthly canal side antiques market is full of treasures of every kind

Milan’s monthly canal side antiques market is full of treasures of every kind

Milan in north-west Italy is famous for its designer fashion houses, but if you prefer vintage or antiques don’t worry as the monthly canalside market in the Naviglio district is perfect for a Sunday morning’s shopping. Over 2km of canal path is packed with 400 stalls laden with collectibles, antiques and all manner of vintage treasures including books, paintings, nic-nacs and furniture. Open from 9am to 6pm on the last Sunday of every month (except July) this is one market not to miss. And if you need a snack or lunch to keep you going why not pop into the Mercato Metropolitano for a tasty pause!

Average temperatures for January in Italy

Italy is a diverse country with warm southern beaches in Sicily providing a contrast to the snow-covered, craggy Alpine and Dolomiti slopes in the north so its difficult to give general advice, but here goes!

Popular cities such as Milan will generally avoid the snow with daytime temperatures around 7-8 degrees centigrade (44’ F) whilst Rome might hit 10-12’ C and Palermo is positively basking in 15’ C. Obviously the ski slopes in the northern Alps or central Apenines will be considerably colder as is the countryside and locations at higher altitudes will usually have snow this month. And finally if you’ve booked to go to Venice pack an extra jumper as the watery city can be very chilly in January.

Lakes freeze up in the Dolomite mountain range from November through to Springtime

Lakes freeze up in the Dolomite mountain range from November through to Springtime

So, there you have it. Hopefully I’ve given you some inspiration for what’s on in Italy in January to beat the winter blues! If you know of any other events please leave me a comment below so I can add them to the calendar or tell me about your favourite January entertainment! In the meantime, happy New Year everyone & happy travels!!!

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Siena Palio – which contradas are racing on 16th August 2016?

Tuscany’s Palio di Siena horse race is world famous. 10 jockeys ride mixed breed horses 3 times around Siena’s iconic Piazza del Campo as around 40,000 locals and visitors watch on from the sidelines. And the levels of anticipation and excitement are stratospheric. There’s just one slight problem – there are 17 contradas or districts in Siena but only 10 can compete in the race. So before each Siena Palio – one on 2nd July and one on 16th August – there is a draw to decide which contradas will take part. After the Lupa or Wolf contrada won July 2016’s Palio, lets take a look at which contradas are racing on 16th August 2016?

siena palio

Siena’s famous Palio horse race draws over 40,000 spectators and lasts just 90 seconds

Estrazione – which contradas are running in the Siena Palio on August 16th 2016?

Siena Palio

Competing contradas are drawn

The draw to select the competing contradas for August’s Palio takes place in Siena’s Palazzo Pubblico town hall no later than the second Sunday in July (or on the last Sunday in May for July’s Palio). The city’s Mayor and the captains of all 17 districts attend the ceremony inside whilst many contradaioli or Senese citizens wait outside in the Piazza del Campo to watch which flags will be flown from the windows of the town hall, signalling a contrada’s selection. It’s a tense moment for all involved.

Siena Palio

Seven contradas are automatically entered to race as they missed out last year and then 3 more are chosen by lot and their flags are flown from the Palazzo Comunale town hall – seen here are Valdimonte and Chiocciola

This year the estrazione took place on Sunday 10th July so here are the 10 contradas selected to run in Siena’s Palio runners for August 16th 2016.

Which contradas are racing in the Siena Palio on 16th August 2016?

The draw took place in 2 parts. First the 7 contradas that didn’t run in the August 2015 race get an automatic pass to this year’s Palio. Those 7 contradas, drawn in order, are –

  1. Leocorno – Unicorn
  2. Bruco – Caterpillar
  3. Aquila – Eagle
  4. Pantera – Panther
  5. Drago – Dragon
  6. Civetta – Owl
  7. Giraffa – Giraffe
siena palio

Children of the Aquila or Eagle contrada practicing their flag work in Siena

Next up is the draw to select the final 3 lucky contradas. These are drawn from the 10 contradas that ran last August and are selected by pre-selected contrada captains picking coloured balls out of a tombola. For 16th August 2016 the final 3 contradas competing will be……

  1. Tartuca – Tortoise
  2. Nicchio – Seashell
  3. Lupa – Wolf, July 2016’s winner
siena palio

Contrada flags

So there you have it! We now know the 10 contradas that will compete in Siena’s historic Palio horse race in August 2016. Who will you be supporting? Will you be there? Leave me a comment and let me know what your favourite Italian event is. On your marks, get set, goooo!

Siena Palio

Jockeys line their horses up at the Siena Palio starting line

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Hand carved cameo jewellery in Venice : a classic art

People have been carving cameos into glass, gems, shells and stones for centuries, millennia even. The art goes back at least to the ancient Romans and Greeks with stone cameos surviving from as far back as the 3rd century BC Greece. In ancient times cameos were often carved into large signet rings to be used as seals for documents, used as jewellery or even as keepsake portraits of loved ones. Today the art continues in small pockets around Italy, particularly in one third-generation family run shop in Venice. Lets take a look at how the Eredi Jovon jewellers are keeping cameo jewellery in Venice alive and well!

cameo jewellery in venice

What is a cameo?

When most of us think of a cameo we imagine a carved object with a raised 3D image in relief don’t we? And it’s usually two-tone with a darker background and a classical image carved into the lighter coloured material on top. But did you know that cameos can also include a negative image or intaglio – usually used as a document seal in wax – carved into a piece of stone or shell too? The materials and methods to produce both are very similar however and the art continues to be a speciality in Italy to this day making jewellery and objet d’artes.

cameo jewelry in venice

Shell cameo artwork. Photo by Invertzoo – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7849256

How to make cameo jewellery

Most cameo jewellery starts life as a gemstone, shell or stone. In the case of shells, cameo makers like the Jovon family look for examples that have 2 flat layers of contrasting colours so their design stands out better.

cameo jewellery in venice

Cameo making in the Eredi Jovon jewellers workshop

  1. First the basic shape is cut out in the scoppatura phase and then shaped or rounded in the aggarbatura phase. Many cameos, for example, will take an oval shape for a pendant, brooch or ring whilst other Jovon cameos are more freeform.
  1. The basic blank cameo is then fixed onto a wooden handle or grip with warm pitch to give the carver a steady surface to work on.
cameo jewellery in venice

Cameo carving

  1. Next is the when the design is marked onto the blank shell or stone.
  1. And then the carving begins. The carver brings their experience, skill and passion to the carving, looking to release the image from its shell or stone incarceration. It takes time and patience and cannot be rushed but the wonderful result is well worth the wait.

cameo jewellery in venice

  1. Once the cameo is finished, the pitch fixing it to the grip is gently heated so the cameo can be released.
  1. The final stage is to mount the cameo in a silver or gold frame. And as you might expect from a quality jeweller like Eredi Jovon, they make each frame by hand to suit the individual cameo depending on its colouring, thickness and style.
cameo jewellery in venice

Blue agate cameos are a wonderful alternative

And cameos come in a few different colour combinations, the most common of which are the orange/brown and white shell colours or blue and white variety from blue agate (my favourite!)

Portrait Cameos by Eredi Jovon

Historically cameos have often depicted portraits. The ancient Romans, for example, used cameos as an early type of photo, giving them as keepsakes or to potential lovers to illustrate their beauty. And today the Eredi Jovon specialises in beautiful portrait jewellery carving cameos from photographs of your loved ones, children or even pets.

cameo jewellery in Venice

Eredi Jovon jewellers in Venice can make a cameo portrait from your photo

The whole process can be done by email with you approving a drawing from your photo before any carving begins. It makes a very personal piece of jewellery and is a wonderful gift for friends and family alike.

cameo jewellery in Venice

The Eredi Jovon history

The Gioielleria Eredi Jovon, meaning the heirs of Jovon jewellers, cameo story starts in 1934 when Luciano Jovon, a cameo maker from Naples, decided to open a shop in Venice. He chose a location on the legendary Rialto Bridge, famous for its jewellery shops, hoping that it would give him and his beautiful work the best exposure. He was right!

eredi jovon cameo jewellers in venice

Luciano’s son Bruno followed him into the family business in 1943 starting his apprenticeship in the shop’s nearby workshop aged just 13 years old. He grew up with a passion for making cameo jewellery in Venice and became a driving force for the business.

The 1950s saw a golden age for jewellery in Venice with many visitors making a bee-line for the Eredi Jovon collection as cameos enjoyed a revival in popularity. It helped Bruno to expand into coral jewellery too and in total he oversaw 55 years of business before he sadly died in 1998.


The business passed to Bruno’s wife Gabriella. And today Eredi Jovon, pronounced Yovon, continues to be a family business. Gabriella still works in the shop with son Marco, the third generation of Jovon cameo makers. Meanwhile more members of the family work in the 2 nearby Jovon workshops, one of which creates the cameos whilst the other makes the frames and settings. It’s a real family affair and you can feel the love when you walk into the shop!

cameo jewellery in venice

Marco,  his mum Gabriella and brother Alessio in the Eredi Jovon jewellers at the Rialto in Venice

For more information on the history of the Jovon family jewellers why not download Marco’s free eBook here.

Call in and say hello!

So if you’re looking for a unique momento of your trip to Venice or would like a keepsake of a loved one, why not pop into the Gioielleria Eredi Jovon jewellers on the St Mark’s side of the Rialto bridge and say hello to Marco and his mum Gabriella! They’ll be delighted to see you and to help you pick out the perfect piece of cameo jewellery. Or, if you can’t get to Venice, why not check out their website or drop them a message with a photo for a personalised cameo of your child or loved one? They’ll be only to happy to help! Leave me a comment to let me know what design or whose portrait you’d choose. And in the meantime, remember that each piece is hand-crafted so you’ll be taking home a totally unique cameo. Now that’s what I call a perfect souvenir!

cameo jewellery in Venice

All photos are copyright of the Gioielleria Eredi Jovon unless otherwise specified.

Note : My visit to the Gioielleria Eredi Jovon was hosted by A Taste of Venice and Vivo Venetia a sustainable tourism organisation promoting the real Venice and offering an easy way to book interesting tours of the city’s hidden gems. All opinions are my own, as always!

A Hole In My Shoe

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Italy 101 – What to pack for Italy

What’s the first thing that goes into your suitcase when preparing for a holiday in Italy? Your swimsuit? Your passport? Your phrasebook? For me it’s always my snorkel, unless I’m going to the mountains, of course! But wherever you’re off to in Italy there are a few basics that should always be in your suitcase. Here are my suggestions for what to pack for Italy to make sure you have a stress free trip. Leave me a comment if I’ve missed anything off and happy holidays!! Buona vacanza!!

1. Sunglasses

what to pack for italy

By Joel Zimmer – originally posted to Flickr as Sunglasses, CC BY-SA 2.0

Italians are superbly cool sunglasses wearers so follow their lead and protect your eyes from the sunshine’s glare.

2. Suncream / Sunscreen

Italy is summer is hot, hot, hot so the need to cover up with a strong SPF is imperative to avoid sun-damage and burning. Italians spend their lunch indoors to avoid the height of the sun’s rays so follow their lead with a long lunch or family siesta and for all other times cover up with suncream or sunscreen!

3. Sunhat

If you’re going to be out in the sunshine for a lot of the day, whether on the beach or sightseeing then a hat can be a welcome addition to keep the rays off your face and to keep you cooler.

4. Insect repellent

If you’re particularly tasty or susceptible to mozzies, bring insect repellant, especially for the summer evenings as whilst Italy is not a malarial area, it does still have mosquitoes that pack quite a bite (as I know to my cost!) Note : You can also buy mozzie plugs in most supermarkets that help keep the little buggers away indoors.

5. A sarong or large scarf

Italy is a religious country and requires respect and modesty from visitors to its churches so if you want to see inside most religious buildings you’ll need to cover up. You won’t be allowed entry to many churches, including St Peter’s Basilica in Rome or St Mark’s in Venice if you’re bare-shouldered or wearing a vest top, shorts, mini-skirt, crop top or, in some cases, cropped trousers for men. But when its 35’C outside, you don’t want to be wearing long sleeved shirts, trousers or long skirts so the easiest way to be respectful is to carry a sarong or large scarf that you can either wrap around your shoulders or use as a skirt to cover your legs or knees. Easy-peasy!

6. A folding umbrella

OK, so chances are you’re off to Italy to enjoy the Mediterranean sun so an umbrella might seem like a strange suggestion but bear with me on this one! Italian summers are hot, it’s true, but with the heat come the occasional, most almighty thunderstorms so a small, folding umbrella in the bottom of your handbag or backpack might just save you from a sudden downpour. You can also usually buy plastic ponchos in many of the big tourist spots like Venice, Florence or Rome if you need them! Alternatively, an umbrella makes a great parasol to shade you or small children from the sun’s power if it gets too much.

7. Comfortable shoes

If you, like me, like to explore Italy you’ll be lots of walking so a comfortable pair of shoes is essential. I’m not suggesting walking shoes, just a pair that you can walk in all day without getting blisters. Personally I wear cushioned Birkenstock flip-flops (also known as thongs in Australia) as they keep my feet cool and comfortable and I’m sure you have your own favourites – leave me a comment with your suggestions!

8. Tissues

If you’re a parent you probably carry a pack of tissues everywhere as standard, but if not I recommend you take a couple for Italy in case you get caught short as not all bathrooms or toilets are fully stocked (unless you’ve managed to find one of the rare public loos in Italy!)

9. Wipes

What to pack for italy

Similarly wipes are a big favourite with many parents who never leave the house without a pack in their bag. Personally I carry Milton Antibacterial Wipes for surfaces like fold-down plane trays or toilet seats etc as they kill 99.9% of germs and are 100% biodegradable.

10. Adapters

Italian plug sockets are generally 2 pin affairs that differ from the UK and USA formats so don’t forget your adaptors so you can keep your phones, cameras and gadgets charged. An adaptor with one or two USB ports saves on plugs allowing you to charge 2 or 3 things off one socket so think clever! Note : Even with an adaptor, though, some appliances may not work as the Italian voltage is 220V rather than 240V in other territories.

11. A plastic bag 

Smart travellers always pack one at the bottom of their bag as they can come in so handy for anything from carrying the freshest fruit and veg ever from the cute little market you fell over to keeping your dirty laundry separate or to packing your dirty shoes. Personally I always have a couple in my bag and always find a use for them.

12. A simple first aid kit

Italy isn’t the end of the earth so pharmacies are easily accessible but I prefer to have a supply of Band Aids, antiseptic cream, anti-diarrhoea tablets, headache tablets, scissors and tweezers on hand just for emergencies as I have a well-known tendency of falling over and no-one enjoys an upset tum when travelling!

13. Travel-sized or partially filled toiletries

Anything that saves on the weight of my luggage gets my vote so I never travel with full, full-size bottles unless I’m going for more than a month. Travel toiletries, or even the little bottles from your last hotel stay, are perfect for short breaks. And even for a fornight’s vacation its unlikely you’ll get through a full-sized bottle of shampoo unless you’re all using the same one so just take what you’ll need and then recycle the empty bottles in Italy, saving you more room for presents on the return leg! You can always buy more in Italy if you need it!

14. Earplugs

If you need peace and quiet to sleep, bring some earplugs as whilst most cities are quiet overnight, they may still be noisier than you’re used to. They’re useful on flights too but I wouldn’t use them on trains just so you don’t miss your stop!

15. Guidebook, phrasebook & map apps

There is a plethora of guidebook and map applications for phones and tablets these days so its hardly necessary to carry a big, heavy, paper guidebook around anymore. Many are specific to a city or region so do some research before you leave home, pick one that can be viewed offline without the need for expensive overseas WiFi and download it before you hit the airport. Alternatively – and I apologise to all the book lovers out there for this sacrilegious suggestion – only take the pages from the guidebook that you need so you cut down on weight.

And finally….one last suggestion for what to pack for Italy

If you want to avoid having to carry a phrasebook check out some of my Italian 101 essential phrases including how to say hello, how to say please and thank you, do you speak English and how to ask where is the toilet in Italian?! If there are any phrases you’d like me to add to my list, leave me a comment with a request!! Happy travels!

A Hole In My Shoe

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What’s On in Italy in July

Summer and Italy, two of my favourite words! Add in a festival or two and you’ve got a trip that is close to perfection! And boy does Italy know how to do a festival! In fact there’s so much to choose from that I’m only going to give the briefest of descriptions here so we can mention as many events as possible! Links to official websites are included wherever possible. And please leave me a comment with any suggestions or additional events that you know about or have visited in the past so this is the most comprehensive list possible! So here we go – here’s what’s on in Italy in July!

Siena Palio - What's on in Italy in July

2nd July – Festa della Madonna Bruna, Matera, Basilicata

Established in 1389 AD the festa celebrates the Madonna, protector of Matera. Celebrants parade a statue of the Madonna through town from dawn on a papier-mâché cart pulled by mules. And it all concludes on the steps of the city’s cathedral where the cart is destroyed and fireworks set off. Locals welcome visitors to witness their religious procession.

What's on in Italy in July 2nd July & 16th August – Siena’s world famous Palio horserace, Tuscany

Twice a year Tuscany’s hilltop city of Siena erupts with the electrifying Palio horserace dating back to medieval days. The city is decorated with multi-coloured flags and lanterns for most of the summer and tribal songs ring out around the city in the run up to the race as contradaioli or citizens taunt each other. You can watch for free from the center of the piazza or buy bleacher tickets if you book well in advance. Just don’t miss this passionate piazza Palio! More info including details of who’s running on 2nd July here.

2nd – 3rd July – Festa della Lavanda, Lavender festival in Tuscania, Lazio

For two days each year this beautiful little town turns lilac as the 20 lavender producers bring their products into the historic centre. The perfume permeates throughout the town and it’s a great place to stop to admire the old Etruscan history too! For more information check out my article on Tuscania for L’Italo-Americano here.

18th June – 3rd July 2016 – The Floating Piers art installation, Lake Iseo

American artist Christo has constructed series of bright yellow walkways across northern Italy’s stunning Lake Iseo near Brescia. Visitors can walk across the pontoons taking in the views of the lake and surrounding countryside. Guided tours are available here or check out the official website here.

whats on in Italy in JulySunday 3rd July – Free entry to over 300 Italian gardens, galleries and museums

For lovers of art, history and gardens this is the perfect scheme – free entry to over 300 state-run galleries, gardens and museums on the first Sunday of every month. FREE!! Venues include the Uffizi in Florence, the Academia in Venice and Rome’s ancient Colosseum. If you’re planning a visit make sure to check out what’s on in Italy in July and which institutions are participating in your destination! More info here.

What's on in italy in jUly

Copyright : UEFA

10th June – 10th July – Euro 2016 Football Tournament

OK so the Euro 2016 football championship is actually in France not Italy but Italians are fanatic football fans so expect to see the Italian flag drapped everywhere! Forza Azzurri! Come on the blues! Italy was drawn in Group E and has already qualified for the knock-out stages. For more information on what’s on in July and the team click here.

24th June – 10th July 2016 – Festival dei due Mondi, Spoleto, Umbria

Combining opera, theatre, art and dance events the festival promises to entertain. Events include Beethoven recitals, a play written by Andrea Camilleri and The Marriage of Figaro opera. The hardest bit will be choosing what to see!

5th – 10th July – Festa Patronale di Santa Domenica, Scorrano, Puglia

Honouring St Domenica, this festival is quite unique. Every year the town of Scorrano is decorated with millions of little coloured lights and buildings are draped in illuminated displays. You won’t see anything else quite like it in Puglia or anywhere else in Italy. Don’t miss it! More info here.

whats on in Italy in July2nd June to 21st July – Lucca Music Festival, Tuscany

The 2016 calendar includes dates from international stars Van Morrison, Anastacia, Simply Red, Lionel Ritchie and half a dozen other artists. All gigs take place at the heart of Lucca in Piazza Napoleone, known locally as Piazza Grande. For more info on what’s on in July and for tickets check online here.

6th – 7th July – L’Ardia di San Costantino, Sardinia

Commemorating the Battle of Milvian Bridge, locals re-enact the battle each year in period dress, mounted on horseback and bearing arms. It’s a memorable event and not to be missed if you’re in the area. More info here.

7th – 17th July 2016 – Festa Medievale, Monteriggioni, Tuscany

Every July during the first and second weekends of the month Monteriggioni celebrates with a medieval festival of banqueting, costumes, music and games. Full details and tickets here.

7th July – 25th August – Milano Arte Musica, Milan

Dedicated to music the festival program includes choral, symphonic and classical music from composers including Handel, Vivaldi and Bach. Check out the program here

What's on in Italy in July8th July to 17th July 2016Umbria Jazz Festival, Perugia

The Umbria Jazz Festival draws global artists to Perugia with performances taking place throughout the city’s bars, piazzas and palazzi. Check out the world-class lineup and what’s on in July on the festival website.

19th March – 24th July – From Kandinsky to Pollock art exhibition, Palazzo Strozzi, Florence

If you love contemporary art, Florence’s Palazzo Strozzi has a spectacular exhibition this month with paintings from the Peggy Guggenheim collection in Venice. It includes works by Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Roy Lichtennstein and Man Ray to name just a few! More info here.

14th – 15th July – Festa di Santa Rosalia, Palermo, Sicily

Each year Palermo’s faithful offer thanks to their patron saint Rosalia, or La Santuzza (the little saint) as she’s known locally. The streets are illuminated with lights and lanterns whilst a decorated cart is processed through the streets before celebrations culminate in a spectacular fireworks display. More info on the Visit Sicily website here.

What's on in Italy in July15th July to 13th August – Puccini Festival in Torre del Lago, Viareggio, Tuscany

Giacomo Puccini composed many of his operas in Torre del Lago, a small Tuscan lakeside town near Florence. Today the town hosts his operas at an open air festival running throughout the summer. What better way to lap up some Tuscan opera! Tickets here.

16th to 17th July 2016 – Venice Redentore

The Redentore Festival is the most important date in the Venetian calendar. It celebrates the city’s escape from the plague with an enormous free fireworks display on the third Saturday in July. A temporary floating bridge also allows the faithful to make a pilgrimage of thanks to the Church of the Redentore on Giudecca. The key to this festival is location, location, location so you have the best view of all the decorated boats and the spectacular fireworks display! The show begins at 11.30pm on Saturday.

19th – 24th July 2016 – Midsummer Jazz Festival, Stresa, Lake Maggiore

whats on in italy in july

Midsummer Jazz at Stresa Festival

The fifth edition of the Midsummer Jazz Concerts runs from 19 to 24 July 2016. The six concerts, which are part of the Stresa Festival, are held mostly along the Lake Maggiore, in the Promenade La Palazzola, an open-air enclosure overlooking the Borromeo Islands but the first two concerts will be in the newly opened Centro Eventi Il Maggiore in Verbena this year. More details of the jazz festival and the wider Stresa Festival which runs through to late August are here.

22nd July – 7th August – Palio dei Colombi, Amelia, Umbria

The Palio die Colombi dates back to 1346 and includes spectacular medieval battle re-enactments, crossbow competitions, a costumed parade and flag bearers. The main event is a horseback contest during which riders from each of the city’s five medieval districts or contradas compete in a game of quintain. The winner releases a caged pigeon or colombo. All very evocative and well worth a visit!

what's on in italy in july22nd July to 14th August – Sferisterio Opera Festival, Macerata, Le Marche

Macerata’s open air Arena Sferisterio is one of Europe’s premier operatic venues, set in the scenic Le Marche region. This year’s program includes Otello, Norma and Il Trovatore. Encore! Ticket information here.

27th July to 1st August – Mandrea Music Festival, Lake Garda

This is a wonderfully laidback festival devoted to dub and reggae music and the environment. The idea is to exploring your surroundings whilst enjoying some fabulous sounds so bring your boots, mountain bikes and climbing gear as well as your tent! More information on the festival website.

What’s on in Italy in July – events running all month 

4th March to 30th August 2016 – San Giacomo Festival, Bologna, Emilia-Romagna

The Basilica of San Giacomo Maggiore in Bologna plays host to over 80 concerts covering some of the great composers of classical and choral music. And it is all in aid of a food kitchen run by the Augustinian monks. Check out what’s on in Italy in July and enjoy a spot of music into the bargain!


whats on in italy in July - Banksy street art in Rome24th May – 4th September – “War, Capitalism & Liberty”, Banksy exhibition at Palazzo Cipolla, Rome

This exhibition is a rare chance to see some of the secretive artist’s best work and one not to be missed if you like street art. For more information check out my post Banksy Street art : a new exhibition in Rome.

18th March to 31st October 2016 – Ravello Concert Society festival, Amalfi Coast

The Ravello Concert Society Festival is based around Villa Rufolo in Ravello, an illustrious location that inspired composers including Wagner, Toscanini, Caruso and Bernstein. The calendar includes classical, chamber and jazz music, so is guaranteed to delight! Tickets here.

10th June – 27th November – Peggy Guggenheim in Photographs, Ikona Gallery, Venice

Peggy Guggenheim was quite a character! See her here through 20 iconic photographs in her beloved Venice. More info here.

Dream of Venice Architecture17th June – 21st August 2016 – Into the Labyrinth photographic exhibition, Fondazione Querini Stampalia, Venice

If you love Venice, architecture or photography this is the one for you! Based on his new book Dream of Venice Architecture, Riccardo de Cal brings the hidden architectural gems of Venice to life in his wonderfully atmospheric photos. More information and photographs here!

Whats on in Italy in May

28th May to 27th November 2016 – Venice Biennale of Art or Architecture

The Biennale runs every year alternating between art and architecture. This year its architecture’s turn under the “Reporting from the Front” title. 64 countries are participating with exhibitions across the city. For more information on what’s on in Italy in July, check out the official website.

22nd June to 10th August – Teatro dell’Opera, Baths of Caracalla, Rome

Rome’s Teatro dell’Opera and the nearby historic terme or baths of Caracalla provide a spectacular backdrop for opera, ballet and pop music this summer with stars including Lang Lang and Neil Young in concert. More ticket information here.

D_D_Italia - Whats on in Italy in June - Verona opera festival24th June to 28th August – Verona Opera Festival

Verona’s Opera Festival is world famous, attracting the biggest opera stars in the world. If you’re planning a visit to the city of Romeo & Juliet, this is an essential evening out! Full information on the official website. 

Sunday 31st July – Mercatone dell’Antiquariato del Naviglio Grande monthly antiques market, Milan

If you prefer vintage to designer fashion or are an aficionado of antiques, make your way out to Milan’s Naviglio canal district on the last Sunday of every month for its wonderful market. It’s heaven for bargain hunters and collectors alike with around 400 stalls laden with all manner of antique goodies! Open from 9am to 6pm. Check out my post & pics here!

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Dream of Venice Architecture : a new book & exhibition by Riccardo de Cal

Venice is a magical city. Its streets, alleys and canals form a maze to be explored and history literally drips from the walls. Whether its womanizer Casanova’s old haunts, ceremonial buildings built for the republic’s government or simply the sites of trysts between young lovers, every building has a story to tell. Add in the unique architecture drawing influences from the East, classical Rome and the Baroque and you have a real treat for all the senses. And this summer photographer Riccardo De Cal presents his exhibition, Into the Labyrinth, taken from his new book Dream of Venice Architecture at Venice’s famous Fondazione Querini Stampalia. Here’s what to expect.

Dream of Venice Architecture

The exhibition – Into the Labyrinth, Venetian architecture

De Cal graduated in architecture at the Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia before going on to develop a career as an award winning documentary maker and photographer. His work focuses on space and time and this summer’s exhibition certainly captures both with his evocative shots in and around the city.

St Mark's porticoes

St Mark’s porticoes

Inspired by novelist Jorge Luis Borge’s statement that the maze “is a building built to confuse people,” De Cal spent 3 months in late 2015 exploring La Serenissima before selecting views that evoke the labyrinthine structure of the city.

Sottopassagi underpassages dot the mystical city

Sottopassagi underpassages dot the mystical city

He describes the experience as being “like listening to a melody coming from the calli, and trying to find its origin within the labyrinth. I felt like a dowser in search of water. Photographing Venice was not an intellectual approach, but rather instinctive and subliminal instead.”
Dream of Venice Architecture

Zattere waterfront

From the multiple columns of St Mark’s Square, to the long low island of Giudecca, to the dark sottopassaggi underpassages through the heart of Venice De Cal captures the magic, mystery and magnificence with ease. The autumnal mists cloaking the city add an air of secrecy, bringing to mind the masked balls of Venetian carnival as everyone hides behind costume and disguise.

View of the Salute church's dome through the mist along the Grand Canal

View of the Salute church’s dome through the mist along the Grand Canal

And as you walk amongst the 20 or so photos of the exhibition, voices quote from a number of contributing architects who have built in Venice adding another dimension to the experience. Quoting from the likes of Japanese architect Tadao Ando, American Louise Braverman whose own work can be seen at this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale and Italian designer Enrico Baleri, the audio brings the architecture to life.

Dream of Venice Architecture

The misty, magical and mysterious canals of Venice

The venue – Fondazione Querini Stampalia

The Fondazione Querini Stampalia is one of Venice’s most prestigious and best preserved “house-museums”, right in the heart of the city between St Mark’s and the Rialto Bridge. Originally owned by the noble Venetian Querini Stampalia family, the house has been open to visitors since 1869 presented as an historic family home depicting daily life.

Dream of Venice Architecture

Inside the noble rooms of the Fondazione Querini Stampalia

The noble floor recreates the sumptuous living quarters, filled with precious furniture, paintings, porcelains and luxurious frescoes. And the foundation also includes an extensive archive, a library and an art gallery including paintings by Bellini, Tiepolo and Pietro Longhi.

Located just south of the Church of Santa Maria Formosa, in the district of Castello, the Querini Stampalia is the perfect Venetian setting for Riccardo De Cal’s reflective review of Venice’s stunning architecture.

Detail on the iconic Rialto Bridge over the Grand Canal

Detail on the iconic Rialto Bridge over the Grand Canal

The book – Dream of Venice Architecture

Riccardo De Cal’s book, Dream of Venice Architecture, published by Bella Figura Publications is dedicated to Venice as a living city. And just like the earlier book Dream of Venice, includes stunning photographs conjuring up the most familiar and the most secret views of this beloved city accompanied by quotes from Venetophile contributors.

Dream of Venice - another fabulous collection of Venetian photographs

Dream of Venice – another fabulous collection of Venetian photographs

Do you dream of Venice?

Personally I’ve been dreaming of Venice since I was a youngster and have been lucky enough to experience the joys of actually living in the city. If you ever have the chance, I can definitely recommend it! And I’m thrilled that this new exhibition and book are bringing together some of the most beautiful, atmospheric and evocative photos of our beloved city. So if you’re visiting this summer, make sure to check out Into the Labyrinth at the Fondazione Querini Stampalia. Or give yourself a boost with the book if you can’t make the trip and bring the magic of Venice to you at home. In the meantime, leave me a comment with your memories of Venice’s architecture – what’s your favourite building and why? Ci vediamo lì, See you there!

Venetian rooftops

Venetian rooftops


Useful information

Exhibition website (in Italian) here 

Dates : Friday June 17th – Sunday August 21st, 2016

Where : Fondazione Querini Stampalia, House number 5252, Campo Santa Maria Formosa, Castello district, 30122 Venice

Buy the books : Dream of Venice Architecture or Dream of Venice

Dream of Venice Architecture

Into the Labyrinth

All photos © Riccardo De Cal 2016

A Hole In My Shoe

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UEFA Euro 2016 – all you need to know about Italy’s team!

OK, so let’s get one thing out of the way before we go any further – I am not a football pundit (that’s soccer for those of you on the other side of the Atlantic!) so if you’re looking for detailed squad or game analysis you’ve come to the wrong place! But as the UEFA Euro 2016 football tournament hosted by France is upon us I thought I’d have a look at the Italian team to see what their chances are. So heres almost all you need to know and a few interesting, fun facts about the squad to “kick off” with (did you see what I did there? Genius!)!

UEFA Euro 2016

Official photocall for the Italian National Team. Copyright – FIGC

1. The Italian national football team is known as Gli Azzurri

The Italian national team is known as Gli Azzurri, or “the blues”, as they wear azure blue shirts and white shorts. The sky blue colour comes from Azzurro Savoia, or Savoy blue, the colour usually associated with the Savoy royal family who helped to unite Italy in 1861.

UEFA Euro 2016

Copyright : Italian Football Federation

2. Forza Azzurri! Come on Blues!

To cheer the team on, the shout is Forza Azzurri! or “Come on blues”!

3. Antonio Conte is the team coach

The national coach for the team is Antonio Conte who’s been in charge since August 2014. He started out as a mid-field player for his hometown team, Lecce in Italy’s Serie A League. And later transferred to Italian giants Juventus, where he spent 13 seasons, winning 5 league titles, the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Cup.

He was also capped 20 times for Italy and played in the squads that finished up runners-up at the 1994 FIFA world cup and UEFA Euro 2000. Not too shabby eh?

UEFA Euro 2016

Copyright : UEFA

4. The Italian team for Euro 2016 was announced on 31st May 2016

Coach Antonio Conte announced the final 23-strong Italian squad on 31st May, but his choices weren’t without controversy. Veteran midfielder Andrea Pirlo and notorious AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli had already been dropped but fans were apparently surprised that popular midfielders Jorginho and Montolivo were also left out, especially given Conte’s comments that Italy is lacking in strong young talent to add into the team!

Keep your fingers crossed that experience wins out over youthful energy!

For the full squad click here

Official photocall for the Italian National Team. Copyright - FIGC

Official photocall for the Italian National Team. Copyright – FIGC

5. Italy’s team has a transfer value of €272 million!

If you wanted to buy the Italian squad you’d need to stump up €272 million according to www.goal.com. But they’re not the most valuable team; in fact Italy are only 8th on the list. The most expensive team is Germany’s team valued at a whopping €562 million and England come in at 5th valued at €446 million! Mamma mia!!

6. Italy is drawn in Group E of the UEFA Euro 2016 Tournament

Italy has been drawn in Group E along with Belgium, the Republic of Ireland & Sweden. The Azzurri are second favourites, after Belgium, to make it out of the group stage to the knock-outs so with 2 squads going through from each group we’ve got to hope Italy can do enough to avoid going home early! The 4 best third-ranked sides from the group stages also go through, but Italian fans would clearly qualify resoundingly with wins, rather than as the best of the leftovers!

Their group stage matches are –

Monday 13th June, 8pm – Belgium v Italy – RESULT 0 v 2, Italy won!
Friday 17th June, 2pm – Italy v Sweden – RESULT 1 v 0, Italy won and are through to the next stage already!
Wednesday 22nd June, 8pm – Italy v Republic of Ireland

All times are in British Summer Time (GMT+1) so add an hour for European times and add/subtract whatever you need to for all other territories!

7. Italy’s team are the 5th oldest!

Based on the average age of the players in each squad, UEFA have calculated that Italy is the 5th oldest in the competition with an average age of 28.43 years, 9 players over 30 and only 7 under 25!

The Republic of Ireland is oldest, followed by Russia, Czech Republic and Slovakia. If you want to know which teams are the shortest, tallest, youngest or even their average weights click here for all UEFA’s stats!

8. Three Italy players make the ultimate fantasy Euro team

In the run up to the tournament UEFA asked the public to vote for their ultimate Euro squad, made up of the best players for each position regardless of nation.

UEFA Euro 2016

Photo Credit : Football.ua

Over 3.5 million votes were cast! And over 300,000 teams were selected by fans! And the nation who had the most ultimate players? Italy, of course, contributing 3 players to the fantasy line-up – they are Italy’s captain Super Gianluigi Buffon in goal, Paolo Maldini and personal favourite Andrea Pirlo!

For the full line up – including Zidane, Ronaldo and Beckenbauer – check out the VivoAzzurri webisite!

9. Italy to win?

Italy is one of the most successful national teams in the history of the World Cup having won four times and making the final twice more. But in the Euro tournament, Italy has only won once, in 1968, although it has made the final twice since in 2000 and 2012 so there is still hope!

UEFA Euro 2016 kicks off in Paris on Friday 10th June

The tournament kicks off on Friday 10th June and runs at stadiums throughout France for a month up to the final on Sunday 10th July so there is plenty of time to catch some football. To follow the action go to the official website hereFORZA AZZURRI!!!

UEFA Euro 2016 Italy

Photo credit : Liondartois

All photos are credited as appropriate or are Creative Commons. None of these photos were taken by DreamDiscoverItalia.

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Siena Palio – which contradas are racing on 2nd July 2016?

The Siena Palio horserace in Tuscany is world famous. It runs twice a year – once in July and once in August – and attracts around 40,000 spectators to the Piazza del Campo. There’s just one problem; the track round the Campo is only big enough for 10 horses to race, but Siena has 17 contradas or districts all keen to compete. The solution is simple; a draw to decide which contradas are racing on 2nd July 2016. So let’s have a look at who will be on the starting line. See the footnote for the winner……!

siena palio

Siena’s famous Palio horse race draws over 40,000 spectators and lasts just 90 seconds

L’Estrazione – Selecting the contradas to run the Siena Palio

The estrazione or draw takes place at 7pm on the last Sunday in May (for July’s Palio) in Siena’s fabulous Palazzo Pubblico Town Hall. (The draw for August’s Palio is held no later than the second Sunday in July).

Siena Palio

The Mayor and the captains of all 17 contradas attend the ceremony inside whilst the crowds of anxious contradaioli citizens wait outside for news.

And for those whose contrada has been the longest without victory, known as the Nonna or Grandma of the Palio, this is certainly a key moment to see whether they’ll have a chance to race again. But there’s more than one step to the draw, so they have to be patient!

Siena Palio

Each contrada processes through the city in the run up to the Palio

First, seventeen coloured balls representing each of the contradas are placed in an urn to mix up the balls and the Mayor selects 10 balls in succession. Is that it?!

Well no, actually the first 10 contradas are not runners for the Palio – that would be a bit of an anticlimax wouldn’t it?! This is just to select the 10 contrada captains who will then select the Palio participants!

The 7 contradas that didn’t compete in 2015 get an automatic pass to this year’s Palio and each is drawn in turn and announced with trumpets. The contrada’s flag is then flown from a window on the first floor of the Town Hall so that the waiting contradaioli citizens know who has been picked.

Siena Palio

Past years – Valdimonte and Chiocciola flags being flown from a previous estrazione

And then on to the final stage of the estrazione.

The 10 remaining contradas that have not yet been picked are placed in an urn and the captains pick the 3 final competitors for the horserace to great fanfare! And again, their flags are flown outside the town hall to huge cheers!

By the end of the estrazione 10 fabulously fluttering flags should be flying outside the Palazzo Communale. Its a fabulous sight and marks the start of the countdown to the Palio.

Which contradas are racing on 2nd July 2016?

So now we know how the draw works, who will be racing? The 7 contradas with a guaranteed place at the starting line on 2nd July 2016 are –

  • Bruco – Caterpillar
  • Lupa – Wolf
  • Drago – Dragon
  • Giraffa – Giraffe
  • Chiocciola – Snail
  • Aquila – Eagle
  • Istrice – Porcupine

And the final 3 contradas joining them are….drum roll please…..

  • Tartuca – Tortoise
  • Oca – Goose
  • Nicchio – Seashell
Siena palio flags

Each of the 17 contradas in Siena has its own flag, symbol and colours

What’s next in the preparations for the Palio?

There’s plenty of preparation still to happen before the Palio actually takes place!

The horses that will compete have yet to be selected. The contrada captains will whittle the selection down to 10 closer to the Palio. But they don’t get to choose their own horse as horses are assigned by another draw on 29th June. You’ve just got to keep your fingers crossed that you get a good one!!

Siena Palio

In the meantime, the next few weeks will see the city come to life! Each Sunday a contrada processes through the city, flags flying and drums pounding. The streets are decorated with bright lanterns and multicoloured flags. And ceremonial dinners within each contrada will be held in the run up to the big day. You’ll be able to feel the build up if you’re visiting Siena!

Siena Palio – which contradas are racing on 2nd July 2016?

The streets of Siena are decked out with flags and lanterns

There’s just one question left – who will you be supporting? Leave me a comment with your favourite Italian festival and in the meantime on your marks, get set, g-g-g-g-goooooooooo!!!!

And the winner of the Palio di Siena 2nd July 2016 is……

La Lupa!!! Well done to Lupa, the wolf and the Nonna of the Palio – i.e. the contrada that had gone the longest time without a win – a full 27 years in Lupa’s case! Their horse Penelope just pipped Drago and Nicchio to the post at the last turn in a fabulously exciting final lap. L’Aquila now becomes the Nonna, desperate for a win! Well done all round to Lupa and may the celebrations continue long into the night……!!!

Useful Palio information

Assignment of horses to the contradas – 29th June. The ceremonial draw takes place in the Piazza del Campo and is open to the public, just don’t get too close to the horses in case you scare them!

Palio della Madonna di Provenzano – 2nd July
Palio dell’Assunta – 16th August

Tickets can be booked via various agencies depending on whether you want seats on the bleachers or balconies.

For balcony seats click here
For bleachers click here 
Entry to the middle of the Piazza del Campo to stand is free

Schedule of the Palii here

TV coverage – Rai2 transmit live from the Palio from 6pm in both July and August.

Arriving in Siena information here

Film & Book – A fabulous new film about the Palio was released in Autumn 2015. If you are interested in Siena, horse racing or both you need to watch it, its fascinating and gripping! Details here

A Hole In My Shoe

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