What’s On In Italy In June

We’re nearly half way through the year and the calendar just keeps filling up with more festas and fantastic fun-packed events – 33 so far this month! So if you’re planning a trip to Italy check out what’s on in Italy in June for some inspiration. And don’t forget to leave me a comment with your favourites! Buon viaggio!

Whats on in Italy in JuneUntil 26th June – Piero della Francesca exhibition in Museo di San Domenico, Forlì, Emilia-Romagna

Piero della Francesco, nicknamed the “king of painting,” was a talented Renaissance painterand little-known contemporary of Michelangelo and Da Vinci. The exhibition in Forlì runs to 26 June 2016. For information check the official exhibition website here.

Whats on in Italy in June2nd June – Festa della Repubblica Italiana, Italian Republic Day

Just as Americans celebrate the 4th July, Italians have the 2nd June – the Festa della Repubblica Italiana – to commemorate the moment in 1946 when Italy became a republic. The decision was taken by public referendum after the fall of fascism at the end of World War II. And as the Italian monarchy had rather unfortunately backed the wrong side during the war it was resoundingly deposed, ending 85 years of rule. Expect state-led celebrations including a military parade and spectacular fly-past by the Frecce Tricolori aerobatic team in the centre of Rome.

2nd – 12th June – Gelato festival, Milan

The Gelato Festival kicked off in Florence on 21st April, visiting Parma, Rome, Naples and Turin before arriving in Milan. It continues to London, Berlin and Valencia, returning to Florence for the final on 1st September. Gelato makers bring up to 100 new flavours of Italian-style ice cream for judging by a panel of experts and the public. What is your favourite flavour?

2nd – 12th June 2016 – La Giostra dell’Archidado, Cortona, Tuscany

A week of medieval celebrations culminates with a costumed parade and crossbow competition on the final day. Festivities include a medieval fair, flag throwing, a medieval dinner and a horseback parade through Cortona’s historic centre. The event commemorates the marriage of Francesco Casali, Lord of Cortona, to Antonia Salimbeni of Siena in 1397 and crossbowmen compete in the Piazza Signorelli for a golden arrow.

whats on in Italy in June2nd June – 21st July – Lucca Music Festival, Lucca, Tuscany

Lucca Summer Festival is one of Tuscany’s main music events & includes concerts from Van Morrison, Anastacia, Simply Red, Lionel Ritchie plus half a dozen other international artists. The gigs take place in the central Piazza Napoleone, known locally as Piazza Grande, so you can enjoy a perfect musical evening under the sultry Tuscan sky. For more information on what’s on in Italy in June or for tickets check out the official website above.

3rd – 5th June 2016 – Mercatino Campo San Maurizio Antique market, Venice

This lovely little antique market in the Campo San Maurizio near St Mark’s Square is perfect for lovers of vintage trinkets and antique jewellery. There’s everything from 1950s and 60s Murano glass, to old books, paintings and even lighting so make sure to leave some space in your suitcase for a spot of shopping!

whats on in Italy in JuneSunday 5th May – Free entry to over 300 Italian galleries, gardens and museums

For lovers of art, history and gardens Italy has the perfect scheme – free entry to over 300 state-run galleries, gardens and museums on the first Sunday of every month. FREE!! The national programme includes the Uffizi in Florence, the Accademia in Venice and even Rome’s ancient Colosseum. If you’re planning a visit to Italy make sure to check which institutions participate in your destination!

4th & 5th June – Bellaria Igea Marina Air Show including the Frecce Tricolori display team, Emilia-Romagna

For the third year running, Bellaria Igea Marina, on the Adriatic coast, is hosting an airshow including a spectacular aerobatic display by the national Frecce Tricolori team on the Sunday. One not to miss!

10th – 11th June – Sagra del Pesce or Fish festival in Fiumicino, Rome

The sagra, now in its 46th year, is all about fish, obviously(!), but especially fried fish. Over 250kg of fresh fish, squid and prawns are fried in an enormous pan before being served up to hungry customers queueing patiently for a paper poke of deliciousness! Frying starts from 8pm – midnight on Friday and Saturday and then from midday on Sunday. More information is available on the official sagra website here. Yum!

whats on in Italy in June10th June – 10th July – Euro 2016 Football Tournament

OK, so this is a bit of a fib; the Euro 2016 championship is in France not Italy! But Italians are fanatic football fans so expect lots of passion! Italy is drawn in Group E and for more information on the team’s chances, check out my post covering (almost) all you need to know!

Their group matches are –

Monday 13th June – Belgium v Italy, kick off 8pm GMT
Friday 17th June – Italy v Sweden, kick off 2pm GMT
Wednesday 22nd June – Italy v Republic of Ireland, kick off 8pm GMT

11th & 12th June 2016 – Regata Delle Antiche Repubbliche Marinare, Amalfi

The regatta of the Ancient Maritime Republics is a competition between the 4 great Italian naval republics – Amalfi, Genoa, Pisa and Venice – and takes place in each city in rotation. This year it’s Amalfi’s turn.

Heats take place on Saturday before Sunday’s festivities. Proceedings start with a solemn procession of all 4 republics, dressed in sumptuous medieval costume along with flag bearers, drummers and trumpeters into the centre of the city. And then the regata begins on Sunday afternoon pitting 4 colourful figure-headed galleons against eachother, rowed by 8 rowers and a coxswain. Competition is fierce between the friendly foes!

whats on in Italy in June11th – 18th June 2016 – Festival Dei Bambini, Cesenatico, Emilia-Romagna

If you’re holidaying on the Adriatic with kids this month, check out the Children’s Festival that promises to be an explosion of colour, entertainment, games, bouncy castles and shows especially designed for our little people! Events are set in a variety of locations along the 110km Adriatic coastline from Comacchio in the north, down through Rimini and Bellaria Igea Marina to Cattolico in the south. Fantastic family fun for all!

11th – 18th June – Taormina Film Festival, Taormina, Sicily

Lights, camera, action! The Taormina Film Festival started way back in 1955 and today takes place in the city’s ancient Greek Theatre overlooking the bay. It hosts both Italian and international films with many premiering at the festival and competing for the Nastro d’Argento (Silver Ribbon) award. Richard Gere is 2016’s honorary president. And as well as opening the festival Gere will oversee an evening dedicated to homeless causes, an issue close to his heart.

Photo : Lorenzo Noccioli 11th, 12th & 24th June 2016 – Calcio Storico Fiorentino, Florence, Tuscany

Florence’s famous Calcio Storico football match is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before! A cross between rugby, American football, soccer, wrestling and bare knuckle boxing it commemorates a similar Renaissance match played back in 1530. And all takes place in 16th century costume! (Photo credit : Lorenzo Noccioli)

Teams representing four neighbourhoods in Florence compete; Santa Croce (blue), Santa Maria Novella (red), Santo Spirito (white) and San Giovanni (green). Two matches are played in the caged pitch in Piazza Santa Croce on the 11th and 12th June to decide who plays in the final on the 24th June. Expect fierce competition and even fiercer fighting!

16th – 17th June – Luminara Di San Ranieri & Regatta Di San Ranieri, Pisa, Tuscany

Festivities to celebrate Saint Ranieri kick off on 16th June with the Luminara, or Pisa by Candlelight, that illuminates the city with over 70,000 lights. The lighting tradition dates back to 1688 and today involves the illumination of palaces, churches, towers and bridges along the River Arno after sunset. Fireworks complete the evening’s fabulous light show. Pick your spot carefully to avoid the crush as the city gets very busy!

The regata takes place the following day, pitching Pisa’s 4 districts against eachother on the river. The winner not only has to cross the finishing line first but also climb a 25 foot high rope to reach the flag of victory! Fabulous!

16th to 19th June 2016 – Taormina Tango Festival, Taormina, Sicily

This year sees the first Taormina Tango Festival in conjunction with the well-established Taormina Film Festival. Focusing on the Argentinian tango, dancers will take to the streets and squares of the town to entertain visitors whilst the film festival plays host to numerous international films.

whats on in Italy in June17th – 26th June – International Festival of Contemporary Dance, Venice Biennale

The 10th edition of the Venice Dance Biennale sees 25 dancers and choreographers presenting 32 shows throughout the city. 9 are world premieres and 9 are Italian premieres so you really have a wonderful chance to see some world class dance. Venues are spread out across the city including Biennale venues at the Arsenale so check the website for more information.

whats on in Italy in June17th – 19th June – Sagra Del Lambrusco E Degli Spiriti Divini Wine Festival, Albinea, Emilia-Romagna

Dating back to 1951 this local country festival celebrates the Lambrusco wine of Emilia-Romagna together with its many traditional products. It is a simply wonderful way to pass a sultry summer evening, sipping from Emilia’s wine cellars in Piazza Cavicchioni e Parco Lavezza.

17th – 19th June 2016 – Infinito Wine Festival, Recanati  

Wine tastings, good food and culture await visitors to the Palazzo Comunale town hall of the historic centre of Recanati.

D_D_Italia - Whats on in Italy in June - Art night in Venice18th June 2016 – Art night in Venice

Many museums, galleries and private venues open up on Art Night, offering special concerts or just the chance to visit historical buildings normally closed to the public. The full programme is yet to be announced.

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

He’s wrapped islands in Miami, enveloped Berlin’s Reichstag building and swathed Pont Neuf in Paris in plastic. This summer American artist Christo will construct a series of bright yellow walkways spanning 3km across northern Italy’s stunning Lake Iseo near Brescia. Visitors will be able to walk across the walkways for totally original views of the lake and surrounding countryside. Guided tours are available here.

21st June 2016 – Festa del nodo d’amore tortellini festival, Valeggio sul Mincio, Veneto

On the third Tuesday of June the restaurateurs of Valeggio sul Mincio, near Lake Garda, organise the festival del nodo d’amore, or belly button, a nickname for the local tortellini pasta. Up to 4000 dinners sit down at long trestles set up along the village’s ancient bridge to enjoy the tortellini, whose recipe is known only to 15 local chefs. If you’re stuck for inspiration for what’s on in Italy in June and love pasta, this is the one for you!

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

Rome’s Teatro dell’Opera is another prestigious festival with a series of concerts at the historic terme baths of Caracalla. The Roman baths are a breathtaking backdrop for the summer’s open-air opera, ballet and pop music with big names including Lang Lang and Neil Young providing the entertainment. Tickets for a range of artists can be booked here, guaranteeing an historic evening under the Roman stars.

23rd June 2016 – Reopening of the Museo degli Innocenti, Florence, Tuscany

The museum, designed by Brunelleschi, reopens this month after a €13 million restoration. It’s collection features work by art legends Botticelli, Ghirlandaio and Piero di Cosimo and the new layout will highlight the museum’s architectural history.

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

Verona’s Opera Festival is famous the world over, attracting the best tenors and sopranos alive. Add in that its all performed in the spectacular ancient Roman arena at the heart of the city and you have a truly fabulous festival. With seating for over 14,000 spectators and hosting over 700,000 visitors every year this is easily one of the largest opera festivals in Italy. For more information about what’s on in Italy in June check the website but make sure you book early as tickets sell out fast!

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

Combining opera, theatre, art and dance events the festival of two worlds 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!

Saturday 25th June 2016 – Il Gioco del Ponte Battle on the Bridge, Pisa, Tuscany

The Battle on the Bridge is a contest between 2 armies dressed in elaborate 16th century Spanish costumes. Divided into 5 phases it ends with a series of “push-of-war” battles as 12 teams from the north and south banks of the city shove a 7-tonne carriage over the Ponte di Mezzo. The contest dates back to 1568.

whats on in Italy in juneSunday 26th June – Mercatone dell’Antiquariato del Naviglio Grande monthly antiques market, Milan

We all know Milan for its designer fashion and haute-couture. But if you prefer vintage or antiques, get down to Milan’s Naviglio canal district on the last Sunday of the month for its fab antique market. It’s heaven for bargain hunters and collectors alike with around 2 kilometres of canal side and over 400 stalls laden with all manner of antique goodies! Open from 9am to 6pm.

29th June – Festa di San Pietro e Paolo, Roma

The feast of Rome’s patron saints, Peter and Paul, is celebrated on 29th June, the 180th day of the year. Celebrations end with the most impressive fireworks display from the Castel Sant’Angelo on the banks of the River Tiber. It’s a stunning setting for a truly spectacular lightshow.

29th June – Palio della Vittoria, Anghiari, Tuscany

Every year on 29th June Anghiari celebrates the victory of Florentine troops over their Milanese enemies in 1441 with a costumed parade and palio or race. The race starts at the Chapel of Victory ending in Baldabccio Square, the central square of the medieval town. It’s one of Tuscany’s oldest palios seeing competitors running 1400 meters to the finishing post whilst dressed in medieval costume. And competition is strong with runners having no qualms about pushing their adversaries into the ditch! Read all about what to expect here with my fellow blogger  Chestnuts and Truffles post on the Palio della Vittoria here!


ravello music festival18th March to 31st October – Ravello Concert Society festival, Amalfi Coast

This music festival is based in Villa Rufolo in Ravello, an illustrious location on the Amalfi coast that inspired many composers including Wagner, Toscanini, Caruso and Bernstein. The calendar is varied with classical, chamber and jazzperformances. Why not add concert tickets to your Amalfi vacation or check the Society’s website for full details. 

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

If you love contemporary art, Palazzo Strozzi in the centre of Florence has a spectacular exhibition this month from the Peggy Guggenheim collection in Venice. It includes pieces from Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Roy Lichtennstein and Man Ray to name just a few!

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.

4th March – 25th September – San Giacomo Classical Music Festival at the Church of San Giacomo Maggiore in Bologna

Concerts take place every week in the church of San Giacomo Maggiore from the beginning of March through to the end of September each year, with a varied selection of classical and choral music. Proceeds are used to fund a canteen for the homeless.

whats on in italy in june28th May to 27th November 2016 – Venice Biennale of Art or Architecture

Venice Biennale runs every year with the focus alternating between art and architecture. This year its architecture’s turn with the exhibition entitled “Reporting from the Front”. 64 countries are participating with expositions at a variety of sites across the city including the Biennale Garden pavilions, Arsenale dockyard and various historic palazzi. For more information on what’s on in Italy in June, check out the official website.

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Banksy street art : a new exhibition in Rome

If you like street art, you’re probably familiar with the enigmatic, anonymous artist known as Banksy. His wonderfully satirical, sardonic, subversive and increasingly political images including “Girl with a Balloon”, “Naked Man” “Love is in the air” have been gracing walls and buildings everywhere from Bristol to Beirut for decades. And today Banksy street art commands multi million pound prices. But if you can’t afford to buy one – and lets face it, who amongst us could? – you can still admire it if you’re in Rome this summer as the Palazzo Cipolla Museum is launching one of the largest exhibitions of his work to date. War, Capitalism and Liberty kicks off on 24th May running through to the 4th September so let’s take a look at what is in store when you visit.

Banksy street art in Rome

Who is Banksy?

Who knows?! Despite several tabloid attempts to unmask him Banksy remains satisfyingly anonymous and part of me is actually glad as it maintains an aura of magic around him. Knowing who he is would burst that bubble and, for me as a fan, would ruin things. I hope we never find out!

D_D_Italia - Banksy street art - a new exhibition in Rome

Banksy street art

What we do know is that he started out as a stencil graffiti artist in Bristol in the United Kingdom, influenced by another Bristolian, 3D, who went on to form Massive Attack. Bristol was clearly the place to be in the 1980s!

What set him apart from the casual spray painter was the way he tackled different contemporary issues such as war, politics, animal welfare and immigration with an enormous tongue wedge firmly in his cheek. Some motifs like rats and monkeys appear repeatedly representing those without a voice. But underneath his cheeky humour and provocative designs, he was quietly, pointedly pointing out society’s hypocrisies to tweak our consciences, if we still have one, and make us think.

He’s now considered the world’s best street artist with global influence on the urban art movement and is probably the most notorious but least known artists alive. Fans hail him as an artistic genius not least because no other artist in western art has managed to bring such important societal issues as the refugee crisis and West Bank Barrier to the attention of a global audience.

Banksy street art in Rome

Banksy graffiti at the Israeli West Bank barrier in Bethlehem. Photo by Markus Ortner

And his art can be found around the globe from the UK to Italy and Palestine to Timbuktu in Mali. Keep your eyes peeled, though, as he rarely signs pieces anymore, enhancing the air of mystery.

War, Capitalism and Liberty : the exhibition

This summer’s exhibition in Rome includes around 120 original paintings, prints, unique sculptures, creations and rare pieces from private collections, many of which have never been seen publically before. It won’t, however, include any works cut off buildings or removed from the street.

Banksy street art in Rome

The retrospective of Banksy street art will span his entire career and promises to be a groundbreaking display of the different formats, techniques and topics tackled by him, demonstrating the sheer scale and scope of his work over the last 30 years.

From his black and white stenciled sandwich board-wearing monkeys declaring ‘Laugh now but one day we’ll be in charge’ to the unsettling image of ‘Kids on Guns’ the exhibition, like Banksy, examines war, consumerism and politics aiming to make you really think.

Exit through the gift shop!

Banksy street art in Rome

Personally, I’ve been a fan of Banksy’s clever, thought-provoking artwork for around 20 years and am thrilled that War, Capitalism and Liberty will bring together some of his lesser known pieces. And if its anything like as good as previous shows, including when he unofficially took over the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery in the summer of 2009, fans and art lovers will be queuing round the block for a chance to enjoy so much Banksy street art in one place. I’d love to know what you think of Banksy, his art or even graffiti in general so leave me a comment with your favourite artwork or painting and why you love it. In the meantime, make sure to book early for this one, I suspect it’s going to be a popular attraction in Rome this summer! See you there!

Useful information

War, Capitalism & Liberty is a non-profit exhibition conceived and promoted by Fondazione Terzo Pilastro – Italia e Mediterraneo and curated by Stefano Antonelli, Francesca Mezzano & Acoris Andipa.

Exhibition website here http://www.warcapitalismandliberty.org

Dates : The show runs from 24 May – 4 September 2016

Venue address : Palazzo Cipolla, 320 Via del Corso, 00186 Rome.

Tickets cost €13.50 (€9.50 for reduced entry) and can be pre-booked here

Opening hours : Doors open at 11am with last entry at 7pm, closed Mondays. Pre-booked tickets are for timed entry so please check your ticket as entry may be refused if you are late.

PLEASE NOTE : The artist known as Banksy is not associated or involved in this museum show and all the artworks in this exhibition are from international private collectors.

A Hole In My Shoe

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What to see and do in Roman Chester

Despite what you might think, you don’t have to be in Italy to discover Italian history, culture and cuisine. Italian pasta is cooked and eaten around the world. Italian wine is easily available in supermarkets. Italian masterpieces fill our art galleries and museums. And if you, like me, live in or visit Europe, you’re probably not far from an ancient Roman site, even if you’re not within Italy. That’s because 2000 years ago the Romans were ambitious empire builders, conquering lands from Spain to Croatia, Britain to Egypt and Morocco to Armenia. So if you’re looking for a little bit of Italian history you might not have as far to travel as you expected. For our first trip beyond Italy’s borders, let’s take a look at Roman Chester, to discover what the centurions, gladiators and legions were doing in the north of England all those years ago.

What to see and do in Roman Chester

When did the Romans arrive in Chester?

Roman troops first invaded England in 43 AD but they faced resistance from the English tribes so progress up through the land was slow. It would be further 30 years before the 20th Victorious Valeria Legion, or Legio vigesima Valeria victrix, finally arrived in the northwest in 79 AD. They set up camp on the river bank and they’d call that spot home for the next 200 or so years.

Roman Chester

The 20th victorious Valeria legion’s banner showing the boar, their emblem

What did Romans do when they arrived in Chester?

The legion didn’t waste time settling in. They quickly set up a fort or castrum on the banks of the River Dee. But they needed a Roman name for it. So they took the last part of the local name for the river – Afon Dyindwy or Little Dee – and latinised it to Deva Victrix, pronounced Dee-wah.

Roman Chester

Chester’s Roman walls run alongside the River Dee in front of the old medieval weir

Deva was strategically important from a military point of view, set between southern England, Wales and the north, including those pesky Scots! Its harbour enabled the trade and transport of lead and copper between nearby north Wales and the rest of the Roman Empire. And although it started out as one of three main legionary army camps in Britain, it gradually evolved into a major civic settlement with fortified walls, port, public baths, a gladiatorial arena, religious shrines and even central heating, a lot of which is still visible in the modern day city centre.

So where can we find the Romans in Chester today?

  1. Walk along the longest city walls in Britain

Chester boasts the largest stretch of unbroken city walls in Britain with construction dating back to the Romans, although they can’t take all the credit! But whilst you see a large stone built wall today, originally it would have been little more than an earthen rampart with a wooden palisade or fence on top. The walls weren’t built in stone until around 100 AD when construction in sandstone started and it would take over a century for the Romans to finish the job – they were legionaries, not builders after all!

Roman Chester

The foundations of old Roman fortifications have been found next to the sandstone city walls

Fortunately for us, the walls have stood the test of time. And although they’ve been added to, improved and rebuilt a few times over the years, Roman building work is still visible at various spots along the route, including at Newgate where fortication foundations have been excavated.

The Roman walls went on to protect Chester during both the 11th century Norman conquest and the 17th century English Civil War, but since then have largely been decorative rather than defensive. And today they draw thousands of tourists who just like to walk some or all of the 2 mile circuit for pleasure. I wonder what the Roman soldiers would have made of that?!

  1. Discover the largest known Roman amphitheatre in Britain

Roman Chester

Chester’s Roman amphitheatre

Together with the longest intact city walls, Chester is also home to the largest known Roman amphitheatre in Britain. Situated just outside Newgate, the arena is actually two semicircular theatres built facing eachother to make a circle and would have been used for gladiatorial games, public executions and general entertainment.

Roman Chester

Model of the entire amphitheatre

Only half of the arena is visible as the rest has yet to be excavated. But from what archeologists have found it was originally built in wood before being rebuilt in stone and would have accommodated up to 8000 spectators. Can you imagine all 8000 baying for the blood of a slave gladiator or petty criminal sentenced to death? It must have been quite spectacular!

  1. Relax in the Roman gardens 

Right next to the amphitheatre is a delightful garden filled with Roman ruins.

Chunky column bases from the public baths line the path into the quiet oasis. And as you walk into the peaceful park, away from the modern day inner ring road, you see more and more Roman relics. Grave tops are set into the ground, more columns rise up out of it and a reconstructed hypocaust or under floor heating system sits to one side.

Roman Chester

The quiet gardens with the Roman wall in the background

All are fascinating, although sadly none was actually found here which is a shame as the original Roman baths that they all come from were not only one of the largest buildings in town but also the most technologically advanced. There were vaulted ceilings and under floor heating throughout to keep the baths nice and toasty through the chilly northern weather. And the baths were more like a luxurious spa, gentleman’s club, library and gym all rolled into one. It must have seemed quite exotic to the locals!

The gardens themselves were created at the end of the 19th century after the stones and columns were excavated from the northern end of the old Roman town, particularly under Northgate Street. And whilst they may not be entirely authentic, they do give a lovely, peaceful environment to admire some of Chester’s Roman ruins.

  1. Discover Roman central heating under Spud-U-Like!

If you want to see a hypocaust, or Roman central heating system, in situ where it was originally built, you need to go on a little high street adventure.

Roman Chester

Come in and see our Roman ruins!

Dig deep enough and you’ll find Roman ruins beneath most of the shops and offices in the city centre although not many are open to the public. Unlike the hypocaust in the cellars of a baked potato restaurant called Spud-U-Like at number 39, halfway down Bridge Street, or Via Praetoria to the Romans.

Roman Chester

The Roman central heating system underneath Spud-U-Like

There is a sign inviting you to visit their hypocaust and if you pay a nominal 50p entry fee, you can descend down a dozen steep steps and go back 2000 years into an old, original Roman hypocaust.

Small pillars separating a raised floor from the ground create a cavity that would have been heated with hot air from a central fire or furnace. The fire would have heated the floors, and thereby the rooms, of villas and baths around town and were a wonderful Roman invention that wouldn’t be rediscovered for centuries, more’s the pity!

  1. Visit the Dewa Roman Experience & museum

If you want to know more about how the Romans used to live in Chester, visit the Dewa Experience opposite Spud-U-Like.

Roman Chester

It tells the story of how the legionaries arrived and takes the visitor through a series of scenes and vignettes depicting the transport gallion, baths, kitchen and even a legionary’s bed.

But its not all staged settings, there are real Roman ruins under the museum and you can look down onto the original floors and rooms from the museum.

Roman Chester

Dewa Experience ruins

And the final room allows a more hands on experience with costumes and games for children to fire up their imagination and bring the Romans to life.

For more information on the exhibition, prices and opening hours check out the website here.

  1. Take the Roman Patrol Tour

The Dewa Experience also runs a Roman Patrol tour of Roman Chester, guided by a real life legionary soldier!

Roman Chester

Taking part in the Roman Patrol Tour

Starting off at the Experience , kids and adults alike are drilled in Roman marching and then marched, shields in hand to the Roman gardens where the soldier explains life in the Roman army. Expect lots of fabulous audience participation, learning how to fight in Roman formation and how to avoid getting your head cut off in battle!

You’ll then march over to the amphitheatre where a gladiatorial battle is recreated, with your help, again breathing life into the ruins and captivating the group.

Roman Chester

Re-enacting the gladiator games in Chester’s Roman arena

If you’re looking for a serious, academic tour of Roman Chester, this is not the one for you. But if you like history to be interactive, fun and entertaining, the tour is a fabulous experience. And I’d heartily recommend it for your youngsters as long as they don’t mind stories of fighting, lost limbs and gory deaths – or maybe that’ll be the clincher to book the tour!! Tickets cost £3.50 and can be purchased from the Dewa Experience before you set off. The tour leaves at 1.30pm on Saturdays and Sundays and can also be arranged for school groups. More info here. Perfect!

  1. Say a prayer at the shrine to Minerva

From the gladiatorial games and war of the Roman Patrol, let’s turn out of town, through the city gates and out into a nearby park to find peace and religion.

Set between the River Dee and medieval Handbridge road is a lovely little riverbank park called Edgar’s Field. It’s a hive of activity at the weekend as local families bring their little ones to the playground. But set about 100 meters away, on a grassy slope is a little rocky outcrop and 2nd century shrine to the Roman goddess Minerva.

Roman Chester

The shrine to Minerva in Edgar’s Field Park, Chester

Minerva was the goddess of wisdom, trade, music, medicine, magic, the arts and strategy, to name just a few of her attributes. She had a sacred owl that is often shown with her, reinforcing her wisdom and strategic abilities. And with all those talents, you can understand why the Romans might have prayed to her and asked for her help in times of conflict.

The shrine is apparently the only known Roman religious monument still in its original location in Europe and is therefore a Grade 1 listed building. And although she’s a bit hard to make out after 2000 years of weathering Minerva still holds a magical position in Roman Chester’s heart.

  1. Can you spot the Roman harbour wall?

Deva was originally an important river port before the waterway silted up and became impassable by ship. So there was once a Roman harbor and the remnants of it can still be seen at the foot of the medieval city walls on Nun’s Road near the horse racing course. The best view is apparently from the racecourse, although I have to admit I didn’t find this final ruin in dear old Roman Chester!

2000 years of history in Chester

Roman Chester

Chester’s historic city centre

Ultimately Chester is well known for many things. Its racecourse, its cathedral, its zoo and its wonderful half-timbered, covered shopping walkways – The Rows – dating back to the 13th century. But delve just 3 meters underground and you’ll find that it’s all built on top of the original Roman fort founded 2000 years. In fact, the city has enjoyed permanent occupation ever since, even owing some of its road layout to those clever Romans. So next time you’re yearning to dive into a little Italian history, just remember, it doesn’t necessarily mean a trip to Italy as the Romans brought Italian history to our doorsteps! I hope you have a fabulous time exploring! And in the meantime, if you have a spot of Italian history or culture in your neighbourhood, why not leave me a comment telling me all about it. Maybe it will even inspire another trip! Happy travels!!

Roman Chester

This way to the Roman amphitheatre!

A Hole In My Shoe

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29 of the best things to do in Venice with children

Venice is an enchanting city not only for adults, but for kids too. Decorated palazzi line the Grand Canal. Gondolas glide gracefully through the narrow canals just as they have for centuries. And there are no cars or traffic to spoil your visit. In fact its probably one of the few cities in the world where you and your family can walk around safely without worrying. And despite what you might think, there is no history of kids falling in the canals – it’s usually drunk adults who do that! So if you’re planning a trip to La Serenissima, here are 29 of the best things to do in Venice with children!

things to do in Venice with children

  1. Take a boat from the airport

Venice is built on water so if you want a truly Venetian arrival, take the boat from the airport. It takes a little longer (40-60 mins depending on where you’re staying) but is a great way to arrive watching the horizon as the mysterious lagoon city slowly appears! Options include the Alilaguna boat transfer or motoscafo water taxi depending on the size of your family.

Activity : See how many towers you can spot or who is the first to see St Mark’s bell tower

  1. Take a gondola ride

things to do in Venice with children

Gondolas parked up along the waterfront in St Mark’s Basin, Venice

I know, I know, it’s a bit of a cliché but a gondola ride offers a unique perspective on the city. Palaces seem grander, life slows and quietens as you escape the crowds and you see the real city away from the modern hubbub. It’s magically evocative and is a hit with little ones, sending their imaginations into overdrive! Perfetto!

Top tip : At €80 for a 30 minute ride for up to 6 people a private gondola isn’t for everyone. But you can have a gondola ride for just €2 per person if you take one of the traghetto gondolas that cross the Grand Canal. They’re little ferries taking people to and fro across the canal, and can be found at San Tomà, the Rialto Market or near the Giglio vaporetto water bus stop amongst others. They cost €2 per person, carry around a dozen people and take a couple of minutes to cross so its not quite as glamorous but it’s a great way to have the gondola experience without the enormous dent in your budget!! 

  1. Visit a Squero or gondola boatyard.

things to do in Venice with children

A classic gondola glides past one of the last remaining boatyards on Rio di San Trovaso

If your little ones like to see how things are made a trip to the squero or gondola boat yard is a great idea. There are only a couple left in the city centre but the easiest to find is the 17th century squero located on the Rio di San Trovaso canal in the Dorsoduro district, between the Grand Canal & the Zattere waterfront. Sadly they only offer tours for groups of over 25 people but you can watch from across the canal as the gondola makers build and paint the boats out on the canal side during the warmer months and can often also see into the workshop if the doors are open. It’s a fascinating stop as you walk around town.

Activity : see if your little ones can count the gondoliers’ old hats on the wall overlooking the boat yard.

  1. Visit a traditional remer or oar and oarlock maker

things to do in Venice with children

Piero Dri is one of Venice’s last oarmakers. Check out his Forcalaio Matto workshop in Cannaregio

As well as the gondola yard, there are also a couple of traditional remer or oar makers in the city centre so you and your family can see how all parts of a gondola are made. My favourite is Piero Dri at Il Forcolaio Matto or the Mad Oarlock Maker, but don’t worry, despite the name he’s very friendly! And there’s no need to book, just pop into Piero’s sawdust-strewn workshop just off Strada Nuova in Canareggio and say hello – he’ll be happy to show you and your family exactly how his traditional craft helps Venice’s gondoliers steer. It’s more complicated than you’d think and totally fascinating for any budding carpenters, rowers, historians or engineers! Maybe he’ll even inspire the next generation of gondoliers!

  1. Mask making in Venice

things to do in Venice with children

Create your own mask with Peter Pan Masks near San Stae

If your youngsters are more hands on there is nothing more Venetian than mask making – it’s the ideal thing to do in Venice with children! And there are lots of mask workshops who offer lessons but my favourite is Peter Pan Masks near the San Stae vaporetto water bus stop. Local sisters Elisabetta and Valentina help your little ones (and adults too!) to pick out a handmade blank mask for decoration and then take them through some traditional designs although ultimately your little artists are free to decorate them however they choose! And after all that artistry your children get to keep their handiwork as a truly Venetian souvenir. Just watch out for the glitter as it gets everywhere!! More info is available here. 

  1. Murano glass making

Venice is also world famous for is glass making so if you’re in need of things to do in Venice with children take a water bus out to Murano to explore the furnaces, workshops and showrooms. The glassblowers will keep your children transfixed as they magically mould molten glass into vases, horses, candelabra and all manner of glass art right in front of your eyes. And several furnaces offer free demonstrations. So whether you get off at Colonna and turn left walk down towards the furnace at the far end on the water’s edge or get off at Navagero and walk straight into the furnace 100 meters to the right of the stop, you won’t be disappointed. And after the demonstration your exit is usually through the shop so you can take a truly Muranese souvenir home with you. Bellissimo!

  1. Murano glass bead making

D_D_Italia - Things to do in Venice with children - Muriel Balensi beads

Murano glass is also used to make stunningly delicate beads and jewellery although the process is on a much smaller scale than the blowing furnaces. Fortunately some bead makers like Moulaye at Muranero in Castello or Muriel Balensi, hidden away on Fondamenta Radi, have their workshops in their shops. And many will give you a demonstration of how they conjure glass rods into flowers, gossamer threads and galaxies within a molten globule of glass. It’s totally spellbinding watching Moulaye and Muriel at work as they meld glassy universes into baubles continuing a craft that has been handed down over centuries. Moulaye will also let you have a go for around €25 for an hour’s lesson – call into his shop and make an appointment, its one of the most satisfying things to learn as long as you’re prepared to feel like you’re patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time at first!!

  1. Burano lace making museum and multi-coloured houses

things to do in Venice with children

If you’re visiting Murano, why not add a trip to nearby Burano to see its rainbow cottages and beautiful handmade lace. Many of the lace shops offer demonstrations of lacemaking by the ladies of the island so you can watch how delicate the work is as each stitch gradually builds the fine filigree. And then take a stroll through the multi-coloured streets that look like they’ve been coloured in with a huge paintbox! It’s a great addition to your day out on the lagoon and fascinating for your youngsters.

Top tip : The number 12 boat goes from the Faro or lighthouse boat stop on Murano so both islands can be visited on the same day.

  1. Lion hunting in Venice!

Venice’s symbol is a winged lion and you’ll find it all over the city. So whether you’re walking through St Mark’s Square or just walking through the backstreets, you’ll always find a lion on top of a column, on the front of palaces or used as a door knocker.

Activity : As kids love a treasure hunt why not see how many lions you can spot, looking for the biggest, the smallest or the strangest located lions. They’re pussy cats really!

  1. Take the vaporetto water bus down the Grand Canal

To see Venice’s Grand Canal palaces from the water, take the number 1 vaporetto (water-bus). It goes all the way from the train station, under the Rialto, past Accademia, in front of St Marks and out to the Lido island and also offers unmatched views of the ornate Ca’ D’Oro, 7 star Hotel Aman and the decorative Salute church. So if your youngsters like architecture, photography or just sightseeing, this is definitely one of the best things to do in Venice with children. And as the vaporetto travels at around 5 miles per hour you have plenty of time for photos!

Useful info : Tickets cost €7.50 for anyone over 6 and are valid for 75 minutes so you can hop on and off anywhere along the route as long as you keep going in the same direction. Make sure you buy a ticket before you board AND validate it on the yellow machine on the vaporetto station or ask the conductor for a ticket as soon as you get on otherwise you face a fine of around €65 – ouch!

29 of the best things to do in Venice with children

  1. Rialto Fish Market

If your kids are interested in cooking why not hop off the vaporetto at the Rialto fish market to check out the monkfish and maritime monsters. Open from 8am to 12pm, Tuesday to Saturday the market is a great experience for budding chefs and a great place to stock up on all the ingredients for a typically Venetian fish supper.

Activity : see how many different seasonal specialities and shellfish you can find

  1. Climb the bell tower of St Mark’s or San Giorgio Maggiore

If you want a fantastic birds eye view over the city’s rooftops to the lagoon then a trip to the top of one of Venice’s tallest bell towers is the trick. Both the St Mark’s and San Giorgio Maggiore towers have lifts to make life easy and both offer stunning views, even out to the Dolomite mountains on a good day!

  1. Natural History Museum

If, like me, your children are fascinated with all things natural from dinosaurs fossils to the tropics and all things in between the Natural History Museum is an interesting stop for older children. It kicks off with an enormous dinosaur that would have stood more than 7 metres tall followed by a vicious crocodile skull and, after several rooms finishes off with whales so there’s plenty to see. And towards the end you can even check out all the freshwater fish that live in Venice’s lagoon so there is a local link too.

Useful info : Most, but not all, rooms have notes in English so a little Italian or language app can help.

  1. Museo Storico Navale di Venezia or Naval History Museum

The Naval History Museum has now reopened after its refurbishment and is a fascinating museum for anyone interested in boats or the navy. Walk to or get off at the Arsenale water bus stop and its just across the bridge – there’s a huge anchor in front of it so you can’t miss it!

  1. Peggy Guggenheim contemporary art gallery

things to do in Venice with children

As a contemporary art gallery the Peggy Guggenheim Collection is more suitable for older children who’ll love the fantastic surreal, multi-coloured modern art. Big names including Jackson Pollock, Picasso and Kandinsky are included in the collection and it’s a great way to spend a morning or afternoon. My 8 year old niece loved it and we loved it as under 10s go free!

  1. Public beaches on the Lido

If you like a bit of beach time when you’re on holiday, take vaporetto number 1 out to the Lido. The island borders the Adriatic Sea and has a couple of large public beaches offering respite from the madness of St Mark’s! The beaches are sandy, well kept and well-suited for children with only the occasional little jellyfish to be aware of early in the season.

  1. Cycle on the Lido island

If you’re an outdoors family one of the great things to do in Venice with children is to go cycling on the Lido island. Just take vaporetto number 1 out to the Lido and you’ll find bike hire shops amongst the shops in front of the vaporetto stop. From there, get peddling out of town to explore the Lido’s long, flat countryside bordered on one side by the lagoon and the Adriatic Sea on the other! You can have a wonderful day cycling and don’t forget to call into one of the public beaches to cool off!

  1. Lido Planetarium

And if you’re over on the Lido during the off-season monthes, why not check out the Lido planetarium open between September and June when the night skies are darkest.

  1. Venetian-style rowing lessons

Or if your youngsters fancy getting their hands on a boat and doing a bit of rowing, why not try out Venice’s specialized standing rowing style with a rowing lesson in the quiet canals of Canareggio.

  1. Libreria Acqua Alta bookshop, Calle Longa Santa Maria Formosa, St Marks district

Back in the historic centre, there are plenty of hidden gems for kids. The Libreria Acqua Alta, literally meaning high water bookshop, is one of those treasures. It’s a quirky little second hand bookshop with cats roaming free, a gondola parked right in the middle of the shop, as you do!, and steps made of books! And although a lot of the books are in Italian, most people go just because it’s a bit different and daft!

  1. Handmade Children’s bookshop

D_D_Italia - Things to do in Venice with children - Dromadaire bookshop

Staying with the book theme, the Dromadaire bookshop in Castello is a great little stop for smaller children as they hand make beautifully vivid posters, pull-out and pop-up books. Many are in Italian or French but they also offer workshops for kids to make their own books on Saturdays and during some school holidays that anyone can join. Florence, the owner, speaks French & a little English and is very welcoming.

  1. Take a watery ghost tour by boat

If your youngsters like a good old ghost story and aren’t afraid of the dark then this ghost tour is perfect! Hosted by Daryl, an Irish man by birth but a Venetian in his heart, you’ll climb aboard his low-slung Venetian boat to glide through the canals of 5 of the city’s 6 sestiere or districts listening to tales of mystery, murder and ghoulish mayhem. Each story is told exactly where it happened and whether its your first time or fifty first time in Venice I guarantee you’ll be bewitched!

The tour is in English and lasts around 2 hours with a minimum of 3 people and a maximum of 4. To book you can contact Daryl via his MeetUp link (free to register) here.

The cost is €30 per person and warm blankets are included although your shivers are more likely to be due to the stories not the cold!!


  1. Kids playground at Sant’Elena park

If your little ones need to run off some steam there is a great little playground in the Sant’Elena park near the Bienale Gardens in Castello. The park has two play areas – one for young children and one with a climbing frame and mini zip wire for slighter older kids from 7 or 8 years upwards. Both offer great entertainment and are great to help wind down youngsters before bed!

  1. Try the Venetian cicchetti 

things to do in Venice with children

Try the cicchetti

And finally to Venetian cuisine. Cicchetti are small snack sized nibbles, a bit like tapas including sea food, cheese, prosciutto ham, fried fish and fried mozarella. They are delicious so if you have adventurous youngsters happy to try new food, make sure you call into one of the many cicchetti bars like El Sbarlefo, Un Mondo di Vino or Enoteca da Roberto around town and pick out a plateful! Yum!

  1. Have a gelato ice cream

things to do in Venice with children

Italy is renowned for its mouth-watering gelato icecream and Venice is no different with lots of gelaterie shops dotted around the city. So if your kids love ice cream there is plenty of choice of flavor. The biggest decision is cone or cup?!

  1. Pizza by the slice

Pizza is a Neapolitan creation but is popular all over Italy and around the world so you will find lots of little pizza shops selling pizza by the slice. My personal favourite is Antico Forno Venice, one of the oldest and tastiest pizza take outs in Venice. Situated in San Polo between the Rialto Market and San Silvestro water bus stops, its always recommended in tour guides for its great toppings including gorgonzola and mushroom. And at around €2.50 per slice is a bargain as few can eat more than two slices!

  1. Vizio Virtu chocolatier

29 things to do in Venice with children

Vizio Virtù also offers a variety of local Venetian biscuits

This is one for the kids and the adults too as Marie-Angela and the team make THE most delicious chocolate in Venice, if not Italy! There are fancy truffles for Mum and Dad and decorated biscuits and chocolate lollipops for the kids

  1. Take a walking Venetian ghost tour

On a totally unrelated tack, Venice is a magical mysterious place with tonnes of history and mystery! So if your kids like a bit of murder, mystery, blood and gore it’s the ideal location for a ghost tour! This isn’t one for infants obviously but could be a great way to spend an evening with your older kids as the tours go into murders and vampires etc! Its all on foot and lasts a couple of hours so make sure you’ve had some pasta and have comfy shoes on!! For more info on one of the ghost tours check here

  1. Boat spotting in Venice

AND FINALLY! Venice, as we know, is built on the water but have you or your children ever stopped to think what that actually means for day-to-day life? Basically everything, and I really do mean EVERYTHING has to come in and out by boat. So whether you’re waiting on a parcel from DHL or a wine delivery, or the emergency services or just the bus there is a boat for that.

Activity : see how many different types of delivery boats, emergency services or transport boats can you spot? Here’s a list to get you started –

Fire boat
Police on a jet ski
Coast Guard
Vaporetto water bus
Alilaguna airport transfer
Removals barge
Delivery barge – icecream, vegetables, wine etc
Rowing club practicing
Dragon boat

But please dont……

Venice is a wonderful place but there are a few things that the locals kindly ask that you don’t do so that Venice stays that way. So please don’t feed the pigeons in St Mark’s Square – it’s illegal anyway with a fine of €500 but its their droppings that cause the problem as the chemical composition damages Venice’s stunning buildings. Please don’t paddle in the aqua alta high tide water – if you knew that the water wasn’t just seawater but included drainwater too, you wouldn’t let your tootsies near it!! Please don’t swim, paddle, bathe in or dive into the canals – there’s always someone who does it every year but Venice’s canals are neither swimming pools nor baths! And don’t forget, Venice has its own beaches so you don’t need to sunbath by or swim in the canals! It’s all common sense really!

29 of the best things to do in Venice with children

So there you have it! I realise it’s a loooonnnnnnnnnnng list but hopefully it’s given you some great inspiration for things to do in Venice with children, whatever age your little ones are! If I’ve missed anything please leave me a comment so I can add it on! And in the meantime please make sure you subscribe to DreamDiscoverItalia so you get all the latest news straight to your inbox, or join us over on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest for more Italian inspiration. Have a wonderful family holiday, buon viaggio tutti!

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What’s On In Italy in May – Part 2

Finally the month of May seems to be hotting up, and so too is the calendar of events. The first half of the month saw 23 events taking place across the peninsula (see Part 1) and the second half looks set to be just as entertaining with a dozen more fabulously colourful events. So whether you like to get out into the countryside, celebrate ancient tradition or are licking your lips for the food and wine festivals to come, we have the something for everyone. If your bags are packed and you’ve got your Euros, let’s take a look at what’s on in Italy in May – part 2!

Whats on in Italy in May

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4th March – 25th September – San Giacomo Classical Music Festival, Church of San Giacomo Maggiore, Bologna

What's on in Italy in May

Set in the church of San Giacomo Maggiore, dating from 1344, in the city centre of Bologna. Concerts take place every week from the beginning of March through to the end of September each year, with a varied selection of classical and choral music. Proceeds are used to fund a canteen for the homeless run by the church. More details of the calendar are available on the church website here.

13th – 15th May 2016 – European food festival in Lecco, Lake Como

What's on in Italy in May

The sixth edition of the festival kicks off this weekend in the Cermenati Square, Lecco and along the banks of Lake Como. Traders from 10 different European countries will be there with food and products to enjoy. And obviously Italian cuisine will be well represented with traders from the regions including Lombardy, Piedmont, Sicily and Puglia. Opens 12pm on Friday 13th, 9am-Midnight on Saturday and 9am-8pm on Sunday.

13th – 22nd May – Festa di prosciutto, Montagnana, Veneto 

With prosciutto producers, bakeries, cheese, pasta and a bar, this sounds like heaven on earth for foodies! Set in an enormous 1400 m2 pavillion over 10 days, it will be a great treat for prosciutto lovers. And there will also be guided tours of Montagnana so make sure to make a beeline if you’re in the area this month. Open from 7pm to midnight each day. Details here.

17th – 20th May – L’Amerigo Vespucci tall ship docks, Venice

What's on in Italy in May

L’Amerigo Vespucci is an 85 year old Italian navy tall ship, named after one of the first explorers to land in America. Its based in La Spezia near the iconic Cinque Terre coastline and is used as a training ship. This month, after a recent refurbishment, it sets sail to visit some of Italy’s main ports, arriving in Venice’s St Mark’s Basin on May 17th. The ship will be open to the public whilst in port, hosting exhibitions and cultural events before moving on to Trieste.

20th – 22nd May – Mostra Mercato di Florovivaismo Specializzato in Todi, Umbria

What's on in Italy in May

Todi in bloom is a traditional event dedicated to floral and plant producers. For three days the Piazza del Popolo of Todi and surrounding porticoes will host the flowers of local producers. This year’s theme is Biodiversity. More info here.

21st – 22nd May 2016 – Concorso d’Eleganza vintage cars motor show, Villa d’Este, Lake Como

The Concorso d’Eleganza at Lake Como’s lakeside Grand Hotel Villa d’Este is one of the leading events celebrating vintage cars built between the 1920s and the 1980s. The event was first held in 1929 and since then has attracted thousands of petrol heads and vintage car admirers down the years, not least because of its stunning setting. It’s a great day out if you like beautiful things on four wheels. More information here.

22nd May 2016 (3rd Sunday) – La Ciammaichella parade, Bucchianico, Abruzzo

What's on in Italy in May

If you like colour and tradition, this is the one for you! The event commemorates Saint Urbano, who was the Bishop of Rome, one of the first Popes of the Catholic Church and a Christian martyr in the early 3rd century AD. Around 4pm eleven decorated wagons and over 1000 costumed participants set off from the sports field to process through town into the centre. The parade is headed by a group of men carrying an image of St Urbano leading hundreds of costumed women carrying multi-coloured flower baskets on their heads. The flowers themselves are made of paper and will have taken months to make with women starting preparation for the parade back in January each year. And the procession culminates in Piazza Roma in the centre of town. Details here.

22nd May 2016 (and 14th August) – Balestro del Girifalco, archery competition, Massa Marittima, Tuscany

The Balestro del Girifalco is a twice-yearly archery competition held on the fourth Sunday of May and the 14th August just before Ferragosto or August bank holiday. The festival dates back to the 12th century and pits the 24 archers from 3 different sectors of the city against each other in a medieval archery competition for a symbolic golden arrow. These days the costumed procession, archery and medieval pageant constitute one of the largest festivals in southern Tuscany. So expect plenty of flag waving sbandieratori, drummers, arrowmen and general Medieval festivities centred around the beautiful Piazzo del Duomo. 

24th May – 4th September – “War, Capitalism & Liberty”, Banksy exhibition at Palazzo Cipolla, Rome

Whats on in Italy in May

Banksy, a British graffiti artist is known around the world by name but his face has never been seen. This exhibition is a rare chance to see some of the artist’s thought-provoking work all together 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, the gallery website or exhibition website. Enjoy!

25th – 29th May – International Horse Show, Piazza di Siena, Villa Borghese, Rome

The International Horse Show in Piazza di Siena is a Roman equestrian competition held annually since 1922 in the grounds of Villa Borghese, north of the city centre. Its part of the international horse jumping circuit and attracts top riders from around the world. If my Italian is correct, entrance is free if you just want to sit on the grass slopes, but you need a ticket for the benches or VIP area. If I’ve got that wrong please leave me a comment with the correct details so I can correct this! Grazie!!

28th – 29th May 2016 – Cantine Aperte, open cellars, nationwide

What's on in Italy in May

Open cellars is one of the most important and largest wine events in Italy. Members of the Movimento Turismo del Vino, wine tourist board, throw open their doors to the wine-loving public on the last Sunday of May offering the unique chance to taste some wonderful, smaller Italian wines. Check out the website for details of participating wineries and special events.

28th – 29th May 2016 – Festival del Formaggio Ubriacato, San Pietro di Feletto, Veneto

This year kicks off the first festival of the drunken or intoxicated cheese in San Pietro di Feletto in the Veneto region. There’ll be tasting tables, workshops and plenty of artisanal drunken cheese, including award-winning cheeses (and personal favourites) from the Latteria Perenzin. And the event, sponsored by the Accademia Internazionale dell’Arte Casearia, is also part of the events celebrating Conegliano-Valdobbiadene as European Capital of Wine Culture 2016. More information and directions on their Facebook page here.

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

Whats on in Italy in May

The Venice Biennale runs every year with the focus alternating between art and architecture. This year its architecture’s turn with the exhibition entitled “Reporting from the Front”. 64 countries are participating with expositions at a variety of sites across the city including the Biennale Garden pavilions, Arsenale dockyard and various historic palazzi. For more information, check out the official website.

29th May 2016 (Last Sunday) – Festa del Narciso, The Daffodil Festival, Rocca di Mezzo in Abruzzo

Whats on in Italy in May

Photo credit : Adriano Rotondo

Local legend has it that this festival dates back to 1947 when a group of youngsters decided that the area needed cheering up with daffodils after World War II. The flower grows wild in the area so was the obvious bright, cheerful flower. The festival has grown over the years from a simple parade to something akin to carnival with folk dancing and huge decorated floats, inspired by the daffodil and stories from local history. And today it can attract around 10,000 visitors kicking off around 3.30pm on the Sunday afternoon. There’s even some suggestion that it then led on to the Parade of the Roses in Pasadena California when locals emigrated to the US. Details here.

29th April – Mercatone dell’Antiquariato del Naviglio Grande monthly antiques market, Milan

Milan is famous the world over for its designer fashion houses and haute-couture, but if you’re a vintage chick check out the monthly antiques market down by the Naviglio canal. Its a perfect spot to spend a Sunday morning rummaging through over 400 stalls laden with collectibles, antiques and all manner of vintage treasures including books, paintings, nic-nacs and furniture. And if you need a break, why not pop into the Mercato Metropolitano food market at one end of the antiques market for hand made pasta, pizza and all manner of foodie goodies!. Its open till late and a perfect spot for tasty refreshments after a busy morning of shopping!

What’s On In Italy in May

With over 35 events across just 4 weeks May is unquestionably the busiest month so far this year – at least there is absolutely no danger of being bored!! If you know of any events I’ve missed for May, please leave me a comment so I can add it in. And in the meantime don’t forget to subscribe to DreamDiscoverItalia (above right) to get updates straight to your email inbox or join us on Twitter, FacebookInstagram or Pinterest so you don’t miss out on what’s coming up. Buon viaggio, happy travels!

Whats on in Italy in May

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What’s On in Italy in May

What’s on in Italy in May – Part 1

As the weather in Europe continues to flip flop between snow and sunshine it’s hard to believe it’s May already! And I hope you’re ready, because May is packed with art, regattas, medieval processions and all manner of foodie and family fun! In fact there is soooo much going on that I’ve decided to split this post in two so it doesn’t go too long!! Part 2 is also now available as a separate post here. In the meantime, pack your suitcase, grab your passport and let’s dive in to see what’s on in Italy in May!! Andiamo, let’s go!

What's On In Italy in May

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

What's On In Italy in May

Check out the From Kandinsky to Pollock exhibition at Florence’s Palazzo Strozzi this month

If you love contemporary art, get yourselves down to Palazzo Strozzi in the centre of Florence for the first of two spectacular art exhibitions for 2016. First up is the From Kandinsky to Pollock show from the Peggy Guggenheim Gallery in Venice with pieces by personal favourite Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Man Ray, Roy Lichtennstein and Willem de Kooning to name just a few!

The second exhibition kicks off from September 22nd through to January 22nd 2017 showcasing some of the most influential contemporary artists at work including Chinese master Ai Weiwei. Make sure you make a note in your diary for later in the year!

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 taking place in the medieval town of Narni, southern Umbria from the last week of April to the second Sunday in May, the day of the race. The festival dates back to 1371 and is based on medieval celebrations of St Giovenale, the patron saint of Narni. The climax of the celebrations involve a horseback race between the town’s 3 ancient districts or terzieri to capture a silver ring. But 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, 8th May 2016. Get ready to party into the wee small hours with the winning district!

1st May – La Festa dei Lavoratori, International Workers Day

May in Italy kicks off with the Festa dei Lavoratori, or Labour Day, celebrating workers who fought for equal working practices and rights both in Italy and around the world. Celebrations usually include trade union marches and open-air events so look out for events throughout the country.

Note : When the festa falls on a weekday it’s a public holiday so government and financial offices are closed.

1st May – I Serpari di Cocullo, The Snake Handlers’ Procession in Cocullo, Abruzzo

Warning : If you don’t like snakes, this is not the festival for you!

Held on the 1st May each year (previously the first Thursday of the month), the festivities see a statue of the town’s patron, St Dominic, processed through the streets of Cocullo in Abruzzo. But the twist is that this statue is covered in a writhing, wriggling nest of serpents collected from the surrounding countryside by locals in the run up to the parade. The ancient parade climbs up through the town, ending with a huge banquet and fireworks to close the evening. More info (in Italian) here.

1st May – Venice Music Project baroque opera season opens

What's On In Italy in May

Venice Music Project’s soprano Liesl Odenweiler sings her heart out!

The first time you hear soprano Liesl Odenweller hit the high notes of a baroque opera piece by Vivaldi or Haendel it sends tingles down your spine! And the exquisite baroque musicians of the resident orchestra will transport you back to Venice’s heyday. Its no wonder the New York Times puts the Venice Music Project at number 3 of what not to miss if you’re in Venice! Here’s the new season’s calendar.

Sunday 1st May – La Sagra del Risotto, The Risotto Festival in Sessame, Piedmont

Risotto is a popular first course rice dish in Italy, especially in the northern regions of Veneto, Piedmont and Lombardy. And the Sessame festival has been celebrating the dish on the first Sunday of May since the 13th century. If you are in the area, expect plenty of deliciously creamy risotto together with other seasonal dishes, a street market and lots of entertainment! Note : Sessame is approximately 44 miles from Turin but without a train link, requires a car to get there.

Sunday 1st May – Free entry to over 300 Italian state museums, galleries and gardens

What's on in Italy in May

Over 300 Italian museums, galleries & gardens throw open their doors on the first Sunday every month!

On the first Sunday of EVERY month over 300 Italian state museums open their doors for free! The national scheme includes some of the largest museums including the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and the Colosseum in Rome. So before you travel always check which museums, galleries, gardens and monuments participate in your destination – it’s a fabulous way to explore more of Italy’s cultural heritage for free!

1st – 4th May – The Sagra di Sant’Efisio or Feast of St Efisio, Cagliari, Sardinia

What's On In Italy in May

Photo credit : Cagliari Turismo

The Sagra di San Efisio or Feast of St Efisio is the most important in Sardinia, the longest and one of the oldest processions in Italy and the largest in the Mediterranean. Celebrated every year since 1657, the 1st May festival commemorates the city of Cagliari’s escape from the clutches of the deadly plague. It is said that the people of Cagliari prayed to St Efisio to help them defeat the plague that had gripped the island since 1652 and almost halved the city’s population. Finally, in desperation, the Council of Cagliari made a pledge to St Efisio, a Christian martyr from the 4th century AD, that if he stopped the plague, the city would hold a procession to his honour every year from then onwards. And so, each year the city takes to the streets, processing a statue of the saint over 65km during 4 days of festivities. It’s a colourful, spectacular sight, not to be missed. More info can be found on the Cagliari Tourist Board website here.

2nd – 15th May 2016 – Internazionali BNL d’italia Tennis Open, Rome

As Spring warms up, the tennis courts begin to fill and the Internazionali BNL tennis tournament kicks off in the Foro Italico in Rome. The prestigious clay court event is considered second only to the French open and consequently attracts world champion star players including Britain’s Andy Murray, America’s Williams sisters and Switzerland’s Roger Federer.

4th, 5th, 6th & 7th May 2016 – Calendimaggio in Assisi, Umbria

Assissi’s Calendimaggio festival can trace its roots back to some of the earliest pagan traditions of celebrating spring. The ancient Romans appropriated festivities and they were further transformed in the Middle Ages becoming the Kalende di Maggio celebrated from the first Wednesday of May each year.

Rival revellers from the Parte de Sopra and Parte de Sotto, or upper and lower areas of the city, sing and dance through the streets rejoicing the return of spring. And on the last day of celebrations the Calendimaggio jury awards the “Palio” to the parte that has best interpreted the tradition. It’s a spectacular costumed celebration with singing, dancing, theatre shows, processions, flag-waving and much much more.

5th May – Cooking lessons with Nonna Violante in Bellaria Igea Marina

What's On In Italy in May

Cooking with the wonderful Nonna Violante!

Italy is heaven for foodies. But if you’ve ever wanted to know how to make some of the delicious regional dishes, now is your chance as culinary queen Nonna Violante is offering cookery lessons every Thursday in May. Classes are set on the beautiful Adriatic Coast, in the fabulous family resort of Bellaria Igea Marina, and home to Nonna Violante and her family. Learn how to make passatelli, piadina flat bread and much much more! Details of how to book are here in EnglishDelizioso!!

6th – 29th May 2016 – Giro D’Italia Cycle Race & Festival

What's On In Italy in May

Italy’s gruelling Giro D’Italia sets off this month

If you’re not familiar with the Giro D’Italia cycle race – literally the Tour of Italy – just think of the toughest, grittiest, most exhausting cycle race ever and double it! It makes the Tour de France look like a nice little Sunday afternoon jaunt as riders conquer some of the most difficult mountain climbs and endurance time trials over 21 days of racing. Catch a glimpse of the cyclists or check out the cycling village as they kick off in Holland. Or pick up the trail in Italy from day 4 as the racers cycle down through the peninsula and back to the finish in Turin. More information on the stages are available on the official website here.

7th – 8th May 2016 – Anteprima Vini della Costa Toscana Wine festival, Real Collegio di Lucca

For the Anteprima Vini della Costa Toscana, over 80 wine producers come together to present some of the best wines from the Tuscan coast. Events include wine tastings, show cooking and demonstrations from the vineyards of Grosseto, Lucca, Livorno, Massa Carrara, Maremma and many more. So if you like wine, this is the place to be! Cin CIn!

7th & 8th May – Sposalizio dell’Albero, The Wedding of the Trees, Vetralla, Lazio

The wedding of the trees festival is an annual celebration of spring and fertility. It dates back centuries to 1432 and includes a symbolic wedding between two giant oak trees, dressed with veils and garlands of flowers. This is one of the oldest green festivals connecting the people with the care and protection of the land and culminates with the granting of one cubic meter of firewood for each citizen. Visitors can enjoy a free picnic and music.

7th & 8th May 2016 – The Fish festival of Saint Fortunato, Camogli, Genoa

St Fortunato, the patron saint of fishermen, is celebrated on the second Sunday of May in the beautiful coastal port of Camogli, on the Italian Riviera. Think Portofino before the tourists arrived! Celebrations date back to the Second World War when the wives of local fishermen offered fresh fish up to the Madonna to give thanks for protecting their husbands.

Today festivities kick off on Saturday evening with a huge fireworks display around 10pm before a bonfire competition in which two enormous wooden structures are set alight on the beach. The flames reach 6 stories into the sky making a spectacular sight. But the main event is on the Sunday when fresh fish is fried in the world’s largest frying pan in the main square and given out to visitors for free. It’s well worth a visit!

8th May 2016 – Festa della Sensa, Venice

What's On In Italy in May

Venice’s glorious Festa della Sensa sets off from St Mark’s Basin and concludes at San Niccoló on the Lido

Forty days after Easter Venice celebrates the Festa della Sensa with a colourful water parade from St Mark’s over to the Lido island for a uniquely Venetian ritual. The ceremony commemorates not only the ascension of Christ but also Venice’s relationship with the sea. Over the centuries water brought trade and naval dominance making the city rich. And so the morning’s boat parade culminates with Venice marrying the sea by throwing a gold ring into the lagoon near the church of San Niccoló. The day’s celebrations close with boat races in the afternoon; it’s a distinctly Venetian day and one not to be missed.

8th May – Wings for Life run, Milan

D_D_Italia - What's On In Italy in May - Wings for Life World RunAfter 2 years in Verona, the Wings for Life World Run is moving to Milan in 2016 for this unique event to fund research into spinal cord injury. The race is run simultaneously in 34 cities around the world so everyone is running at the same time whether they’re in Milan, Melbourne or Guadalajara, Mexico. Each race is basically a massive game of “tiggy you’re it” or chase as competitors try to outrun catcher cars that set off 30 minutes after the start.

Runners in Milan will set off from Piazza Castello and the winners are the last man and woman standing. And depending on how fast they are they’ll have run 5km, 10km or even further before they’re caught! It’s a great idea and great fun whether you run a mile or a marathon!

8th May 2016 – Mother’s Day

Sons and daughters around the world will be celebrating their Mums this weekend with International Mother’s Day or Mothering Sunday. Around 54 countries including the United States of America, Italy and New Zealand will pay tribute to the special women in our lives and the miracle of motherhood with flowers, presents and treats. It’s a relatively new idea in Italy, having been initiated in Assisi in 1957 but quickly gained traction and is now a recognised national holiday on the second Sunday in May.

8th, 9th & 10th May 2016 – Antique market in Campo San Maurizio, Venice

What's On In Italy in May

Venice’s antiques market in Campo San Maurizio

If you like a spot of vintage or antique shopping check out this lovely little antique market in the Campo San Maurizio close to St Mark’s in Venice. You’ll find everything to satisfy a vintage heart with Murano glass from the 1950s, old beads and buttons, silverware, paintings, jewellery and more. The market takes place half a dozen times each year so check the calendar to see if its on when you’re visiting Venice.

12th – 15th May 2016 – Infiorata di Noto, flower festival in Noto, Sicily

As the Spring flowers bloom, Noto in Sicily blossoms with spectacular multi-coloured petal art displays. The event started around 40 years ago and today the city is enveloped in fantastic floral displays on the third weekend in May. From balconies to windowsills and all the way up the steps of the Via Corrado Nicolaci, flowers adorn the city. But rather than the traditional flower show, the displays are made from just the petals, creating soft mosaics on the pavement and down the staircase. It’s one of the most beautiful events on Sicily’s calendar and a sight to behold! But it only lasts 2 days so you’ll need to be quick!

13th – 15th May 2016 – Verona Legend vintage cars exhibition at the Verona Fiera 

Whats on in Italy in May

From 13th to the 15th May the Verona Fiera exhibition centre will be hosting a vintage car roadshow. From Tesla to Aston Martin, Porsche to Jaguar this is a great opportunity to celebrate 60 years of the Giulietta Spider and 80 of the Jaguar! Directions and more info here.

15th May – Cars and coffee super car and vintage car enthusiasts club meet, Montepulciano

Whats on in Italy in May

If you actually own a super car – and let’s face it, who doesn’t (magari, if only!!!) – Cars and Coffee is the event you want as its Italy’s largest network of enthusiasts, owners and collectors. Dream cars including sports, super and vintage marks converge from all over Italy, and the world, for a 3 day meet starting in Turin, a quick espresso and a bit of a spin around the roads of Italy. Normally it is a private chance for owners to get together and compare glamorous motors (the meet actually starts from 13th May) but the event is also open to the public on the final day, Sunday 15th May 2016.

So if you like cars, get yourselves down to the Cantine Avignonesi, 4 Via Colonica in Montepulciano (in the district of Siena) from 12.30pm on Sunday 15th where the cars will be on public display.  Be prepared to drool over some of the most sought after cars in the world! If you actually want to join in on the entire event, you need to sign yourself and your car up here!

13th – 15th May 2016 – 6th edition of the Festival del Verde e del Paesaggio, Rome

This 3-day flower festival dedicated to designer gardening and horticulture takes place in the roof gardens of Rome’s Auditorium Parco della Musica. You’ll find terrace displays, landscape installations and gardening themed workshops together with kids play, competitions and readings.

13th & 14th May 2016 – Venice Canoe & Dragon Boat Festival, Venice

The weekend of the 13th, 14th and 15th is definitely a must-see if you are at all interested in rowing, dragon boats, kayaks or just being out on the water! Keep your eyes peeled on Friday 13th for the opening ceremony parade of around 20 dragon boats down the Grand Canal. Racing begins on Saturday (times etc are still to be confirmed so keep your eyes on the website!) with 2 heats before the 200 metre long final, all hosted on the Grand Canal.

Sunday 15th May – Venice’s Vogalonga rowing regatta

What's On In Italy in May

Venice’s Vogalonga or long row allows entry by crafts of all shapes and sizes

Every year Venice holds the Vogalonga, literally meaning long row, from St Mark’s, round Murano in the lagoon, down the Cannaregio canal and back to St Mark’s. It’s an exhausting 30km long so you need to be in reasonably good shape to take part. But this is a regatta with a difference as its not a race, anyone can enter as long as their water craft – whether canoe, kayak, gondola, dragon boat or water bike – is man-powered. It’s a fabulous day for all the family as thousands of locals and visitors line the route to cheer the boats and crews on. Make sure you bag your vantage point early! More info on the route etc here in English

15th May – Festa Dei Ceri, Festival Of The Ceri, Gubbio, Umbria

Every year on the 15th May Gubbio in Umbria erupts with one of the regions most exciting events of the season. Young and old “Eugubini” citizens gather in the main square, dressed in their neighbourhood’s, or “ceraioli”, colours and carrying ceri or massive wooden sculptures, flags and banners of the saints. The ceri weigh between 300 – 400kg are run, yes RUN, up through the streets by 10 men apiece, to the Basilica of St Ubaldo on the summit of Mount Ingino overlooking the city. There’s no winner of the Festa dei Ceri, the test is just to complete the run, keeping the ceri as upright as possible which takes enormous strength and skill. If you want to see the ceri make sure to get there early to bag a good spot and get ready to be carried along with the crowds! Flat shoes are recommended!! Enjoy!

15th May – Rose petal mass at the Pantheon, Rome

The Pantheon in Rome is a breath taking building. Built in 125 AD by the ancient Romans, it’s glorious concrete vault is still the largest unreinforced dome in the world; bigger even than St Paul’s in London and St Peter’s in Rome. On Sunday 15th the Pantheon will hold a mass for the feast of the Pentecost. The mass will be followed by a poignant rose petal ceremony that will see hundreds of thousands of petals fluttering down from the oculus hole in the roof symbolising the Holy Spirit’s descent to earth. It is a very popular event so if you want to attend, you need to be inside the Pantheon by 9.30am, ready for the mass’s start at 10.30am.

All month – Piera della Francesca exhibition in Museo di San Domenico, Forlì, Emilia-Romagna

Forlì is famous for it’s world-class art exhibitions. One of this year’s main attractions is a retrospective of Piero della Francesco, a talented Renaissance painter, nicknamed the “king of painting.” He was a contemporary of Michelangelo and Da Vinci but his work is only now getting the recognition it deserves. 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

What’s On In Italy in May – to be continued…….!

As you can see, with over twenty events in just the first two weeks of May, Italy is a busy place this month!!! So whether you like flowers or fish, medieval mayhem or rowing, there is something to keep you and the family entertained! Leave me a comment with your favourites or if you know of any events that I’ve missed. In the meantime part 2 of the calendar will follow very shortly with more celebrations and festivities. So don’t forget to subscribe via email or join us on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram so you don’t miss out on everything Italian from DreamDiscoverItalia. Buon viaggio, happy travels!

What's On In Italy in May

A Hole In My Shoe

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Beatrice Cerocchi Architect – Artist

It’s not often that I reblog fellow bloggers’ content. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever done it before! But this post on Italian architect and designer Beatrice Cerocchi really caught my eye this week and deserves sharing! I hope you agree! Leave me a comment with your thoughts. And if you have a favourite Italian artist, please let me know, whether they’re from the Renaissance, Rinascimento or are modern creatives like Beatrice! Enjoy!

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