July in Italy is a great time to go to a festival or outdoor concert. For an unusual experience try to go to a concert in one of these ancient Roman sites. Many cities have summer music festivals and even small towns may have outdoor performances in a main square. Umbria Jazz Festival is one of the top musical events of July.
Medieval festivals are very popular and usually include a parade with participants dressed in medieval costume, some type of competition between the historical districts, and food. Often they also have flag throwers, music, or fireworks, too. Tickets are often required for the actual contest but parades and other events are usually free.
- The horse race for the Palio of Siena, held on the main square of Siena on July 2 and August 16, is probably the most famous medieval competition. Read more about the festival in my Siena Travel Guide.
- An even more thrilling horse race is L’Ardia di San Costantino, held July 5-7 on the island of Sardinia, commemorating Constantine’s victory at the Mulvian Bridge in 312.The first race is held in the evening and then it’s repeated the following morning after most of the riders have been up drinking all night.
- Another of my favorites is the Festa della Madonna Bruna in Matera, held on July 2. A huge float carrying the Madonna Bruna is paraded through town, then it’s torn apart and burned. The finale is an amazing fireworks display over the sassi.
- Some towns hold archery contests between neighborhoods. A good example of a typical local festival is the Disfida of Fivizzano, a small town in an off the beaten track part of Tuscany called the Lunigiana where I spend half the year. The event starts with a medieval procession, then flag throwers perform followed by the archery contest and fireworks.
- One of the more unusual festivals is La Giostra dell’Orso, or Bear Joust, held on July 25 in Pistoia, Tuscany. 12 costumed knights on horseback participate in this medieval jousting tournament, trying to hit a bear-shaped target with their lances.
- Venice holds one of its most important beautiful festivals the third Sunday in July, Festa del Redentore, or Festival of the Redeemer, marking the end of a plague in 1576. It takes place at the Redentore church, built to thank God for ending the plague, on the island of Giudecca. A pontoon bridge from the mainland to the island is created for people to walk across to the church. A big fireworks display is held the night before and the basin is filled with decorated boats.
Another thing to look for as you travel in summer is a sagra, or food festival, celebrating a food specialty of the region. Look for posters around town – here’s how to find a sagra and read the poster.
July is also a time when many Italians head to the beach so beaches can be crowded, especially on weekends. Here’s what to know about going to the beach in Italy.
- Continue reading: Italy in August