Italian destinations are expected to be more popular than usual this spring. Rome is drawing thousands of extra visitors for the Pope’s special Jubilee year. The northern lakes continue to stun tourists with their Alpine scenery whilst the Adriatic coastline is increasingly attracting beach-lovers of all nations. And the little known Puglia and Calabria remain fascinating, magical regions to explore in the south. Not to mention staples such as Florence, Venice and Naples. There’s so much to choose from and here’s just a selection of what’s on in Italy in April!
1st April –Pesce d’Aprile, April Fool’s Day
Pesce d’Aprile or the fish of April in Italian, is a day when Italians play practical jokes on each other. No-one’s quite sure where the tradition comes from, it may not even be Italian. There are suggestions that the Roman are to blame, that it dates back to the 16th century or that fishermen returning to port without a catch on April 1st would play jokes on each other. Who knows? Either way, it really took off in Italy in late 1800s with national newspapers, and more recently TV and online media, getting in on the act with fake news headlines.
And pretty much anything goes. One of the best Italy related hoaxes was when the BBC appeared to show Swiss farmers dealing with an “exceptionally heavy spaghetti crop” harvesting pasta strands from trees and laying them on the ground to dry! Hundreds of British viewers called in asking where they could buy a spaghetti plant to grow their own!!
Keep your eyes peeled for pranks and hoaxes on April 1st. And beware, one of the most popular wind-ups, especially amongst youngsters, is to stick paper fish to people’s backs. Don’t get caught as the April Fool!
1st – 3rd April European Artistic Crafts Days
This is a European-wide initiative to promote artisan arts and craft. Many art studios, workshops and ateliers open their doors with special events, demonstrations or even the chance to have a go yourself so watch out for events on FB and in local press.
To find out what’s on in Italy in April check out the website here (in Italian)
1st – 3rd April – Palio della Rana, Fermignano, Le Marche
You’ve heard of the Palio di Siena, Tuscany’s world famous horse race. And last month saw the Palio dei Somari, or donkey race, in nearby Torrita di Siena. But this month has a slightly more off the wall Palio; the Palio della Rana or frog race of Fermignano on Sunday 3rd April!
Celebrations start from the 1st with an artisan market, gastronomic stalls, period costumes, musicians and entertainers. The blessing of the frogs takes place at 11am on the morning of the race, Sunday 3rd April this year, and then a series of heats during the afternoon lead up to the grand finale at 6.15pm when frogs are raced in wheelbarrows 170m along the Via Martiri della Libertà, one of the main streets in town. The winner is the person whose frog is still in the wheelbarrow at the finishing line! It’s definitely a one-off and sounds like a lot of fun if you’re in the area! More information here
2nd April 2016 – International Pillow Fight Day in Milan, Bergamo & Padua
On Saturday 2nd April 2016 cities around the world will host massive fights for the 7th annual International Pillow Fight Day. The events attract thousands of people, all keen to have fun and this year pillow fighters in Milan, Bergamo and Padua will be joining in. Don’t forget to take your feather pillow so you can join in too!!
Sunday 3rd April – Free entry to over 300 Italian state museums, galleries and gardens
Don’t forget, over 300 Italian state museums are on the first Sunday of EVERY month so before you travel always check which museums, galleries, gardens and monuments participate in your destination – it’s a fabulous, fascinating and free way to explore more of Italy’s cultural heritage!
3rd – 10th April – Lucca Film Festival and Europa Cinema 2016
Held by the Tuscan cities of Lucca and Viareggio, the Lucca Film Festival attracts many Italian and international films. This year’s line up includes George Romero, William Friedkin, Marco Bellocchio and Oscar winning director Paolo Sorrentino with tributes, screenings and masterclasses.
For the first time, the festival will also include a new International Feature Film Contest, with 12 films in competition and premiering in Italy. And the program also incorporates retrospectives such as George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, American William Friedkin’s Sorcerer, Paolo Sorrentino’s Il Divo and Federico Fellini’s unforgettable masterpiece Amarcord, to mention just a few highlights.
8th – 10th April 2016 – 66th Sagra del Carciofo Romanesco
If you ever visit an Italian market in Spring, you’re bound to see artichokes, as Italy is by far the greatest producer in the world followed by Egypt and Spain. The artichoke heart is a particular delicacy and this month Italians will be celebrating the much-loved vegetable with the Sagra del Carciofo Romanesco, or the festival of the Roman artichoke in Ladispoli, to the west of Rome, Lazio.
The 3-day festival is dedicated to all things artichoke with produce and producers coming from around the country. And apart from the chance to satisfy all your artichoke shopping needs, there are opportunities to taste the freshest produce and recipes, along with entertainment, artisan crafts and art.
8th – 11th April 2016 – VINITALY and the City
Every year Verona hosts VINITALY, the largest trade-only wine event in the world, attracting wine professionals from around the globe. The trade-show runs from 10th – 16th April 2016.
But if you’re not a wine producer don’t despair as wine lovers and connoisseurs can enjoy a parallel public event, “VINITALY and the City” in the heart of the historic city centre from Friday 8th to Monday 11th April. Tastings, cultural events and live music will fill the central Piazza dei Signori as professional sommeliers explain take you through a wide selection of Italian wines paired with gastronomic specialities. Cin Cin!!
10th April 2016 – Rome Marathon, Jubilee Edition
All roads lead to Rome, as the saying goes. But on Sunday 10th April all roads will be closed as the Jubilee edition of Rome’s marathon takes over the Eternal City.
The route kicks off near the Roman Forum, taking in many of the city’s attractions including St Peter’s Basilica, Piazza Navona, Piazza del Popolo and much of the riverside. It has to be one of the most scenic historic marathons in the world.
21st – 24th April – Natale di Roma, Rome celebrates its birth day
This year Italy’s capital, Rome celebrates its 2769th birthday on 21st April, commemorating its founding by the famously wolf-suckled twin Romulus in 753 BC.
Some events will take place on the day but many occur on the nearest Sunday which this year falls on the 24th April. If you’re visiting the city, expect gladiator shows, Roman feasts and many celebrations. And keep an eye out for one of the main events as over 2000 historic re-enactors parade through the Eternal City, starting from Circus Maximus at 11am on Sunday. The parade will snake its way around the city, watched by around 200,000 spectators, before passing through Piazza Venezia around an hour later and stopping to lay a wreath at the statue of Julius Caesar on the Via dei Fori Imperiali. The procession then marches through the Roman Forum, around the Colosseum and finishes back at the Circus Maximus.
If you’re staying overnight, check out the beauty of the Aventine Hill illuminated by torchlight as fireworks light the Roman sky later in the evening.
Oh and it’s also a great day to check out Rome’s fabulous museums and city parks as all are free to the public for the day, in addition to the normal free admission on the first Sunday of every month as mentioned in all our What’s On in Italy posts. For more info on events etc check the Natale di Rome website.
21st April – 8th May 2016 – La Corsa all’Anello, Narni, Umbria
La Corsa all’Anello or Race of the Ring is an historical re-enactment that takes place in the medieval town of Narni, famous for its underground discoveries, southern Umbria from the last week of April to the second Sunday in May, the day of the race.
The festival is based on Medieval celebrations of St Giovenale, the patron saint of Narni, and involves a horseback race between the town’s 3 ancient districts or terzieri to capture a silver ring. The fortnight also includes jousting, costumed parades, horse racing, music medieval cooking and an artisanal market all building up to the race of the ring on the final Sunday. Get ready to party into the wee small hours with the winning district!
22nd – 25th April 2016 – Finger Food Festival, Bologna
After the success of last year’s inaugural festival, the Bolognese are celebrating with another Finger Food Festival in Piazza Liber Paradisus this month.
For 4 days you can sample delicious street food from the region and around the world under cover of the Tettoia Nervi. Add in a wide range of craft beers, live world music and DJ sets and you have quite a day out in the heart of Bologna! More information here.
22nd April – 4th June 2016 – On the Road with Vespa exhibition, Piaggio Museum
On 23 April 2016 scooter manufacturers Piaggio celebrate the 70th birthday of their iconic Vespa scooter. They’re celebrating with an exhibition looking at the history of the little “wasp” at the Piaggio Museum in Pontedera, outside Pisa in Tuscany. So if you’re a Vespa fan or have tales to tell of a misspent youth riding around on this Italian classic, Piaggio are waiting to welcome you. And they want to know your stories too! More information here.
23rd April 2016 – Venice Night Walk
Saturday 23rd April sees the first edition of Venice’s new Night Walk when 2000 athletes are expected to race through the streets of the Serenissima.
The Venice Night Walk – all 16km and 51 bridges of it – is a unique opportunity to race through the magical city by night. It starts and finishes in the southern district of Dorsoduro, kicking off at 9pm before racers take in all the sights of Venice from the Calatrava Bridge over the Grand Canal to St Mark’s, past the Fenice opera house and over the Accademia Bridge before finishing along the Zattere canal side.
Entrance is now closed for this year’s race but if you’re visiting why not check out the route and cheer on the racers – both competitive and non-competitive – as they circumnavigate the city via its calli and alleys.
24th April – Mercatone dell’Antiquariato del Naviglio Grande monthly antiques market, Milan
Milan in north-west Italy is famous for its designer fashion houses and haute-couture, but if you prefer something a bit more vintage check out the monthly antiques market down by Milan’s Naviglio canal. Its perfect for a Sunday morning’s shopping as over 2km of canal path is packed with around 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 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 food market at one end of the antiques market. Its open till late and perfect for a tasty break from your shopping!
25th April – the Bòcolo di San Marco or legend of the rosebud, Venice
La leggenda del bòcolo di San Marco, or the legend of the rosebud of St Mark’s, is a one of those little known traditions that warms the cockles of your heart. Legend has it Maria, the daughter of Venice’s Doge Orso I Participazio, fell in love with a handsome young man called Tancredi. But the father-in-law to be wasn’t very impressed as the chap was not of noble birth. So the young lovers set about proving their love.
If you want to know how the story ends you can read more on my post. And in the meantime April 25th is the day when Venetian men give their beloveds a red rosebud as a sign of their true love. It’s a beautifully romantic idea!
25th April – The Festa di San Marco or St Mark’s Day, Venice
April 25th also sees Venetians celebrating their patron saint and author of the Gospel of Mark, St Mark. The day marks the death of the saint and is celebrated with a procession in St Mark’s Square, a mass in St Mark’s Basilica where the saint’s remains are kept and a gondolier race up the Grand Canal. Nine teams of 4 gondoliers will row from the Biennale Gardens up the Grand Canal to the finishing line at the Rialto Fish Market. The race kicks off at 9.45am with the prize giving taking place at the Rialto market by the President of the Gondoliers Association. Viva San Marco, Long live St Mark!
25th April – Festa della Liberazione, the Liberation of Italy
Italy’s Festa della Liberazione or Liberation Day celebrates the end of the Italian Civil War and the end of Nazi occupation towards the end of World War II. It commemorates the day when the National Liberation Committee of Upper Italy (CLNAI) claimed power and declared a death sentence for all fascist leaders including Benito Mussolini who was shot 3 days later.
Northern Italy was liberated by the beginning of May with Genoa, Milan and Turin all free and the rest of the country followed. The liberation finally put an end to 20 years of dictatorship and ended the war in Italy. The festa also signposts the end of the Italian monarchy as liberation led to a referendum on 2nd June 1946 when Italians voted for the creation of the Italian Republic.
Today towns and cities around the country mark the liberation with parades and the day has been declared a national holiday so Italians don’t forget.
All month – Piera della Francesca exhibition in Museo di San Domenico, Forlì, Emilia-Romagna
Forlì is famous for hosting high calibre art exhibitions and has excellent gallery space in which to display them. One of this year’s main attractions is a retrospective of Piero della Francesco, a talented Renaissance painter, nicknamed the “king of painting” who was a contemporary of Michelangelo and Da Vinci. His paintings are often extremely symbolic, offering many important messages if you know how to read them.
The exhibition opened on 13th February and runs to 26 June 2016. For more information check out the official exhibition website here
Get packing for what’s on in Italy in April
So there you have it! If you thought the first few months of the year were busy then you’re going to be exhausted by April’s calendar of events!! And it’s an absolutely perfect time to have a great Italian vacation as the weather is warm enough to sit outside with a spritz or even for lunch, but the peak season tourists have yet to descend. Why not check out what’s on in Italy in April and book yourselves a wonderful Spring city break or vacation! Buon Viaggio tutti, Happy travels everyone!