Italy has 12 public holidays celebrated throughout the country. Many shops and services are closed and holiday schedules are in effect for most public transportation. In addition to national holidays, some cities have their own holidays, primarily on the city’s saint day.
A variety of festivals and special events are usually held on holidays, although on Christmas day things are generally pretty quiet. On Christmas and New Year’s Day, many sites and museums are closed and some are also closed on Easter and May 1 and possibly on other holidays. Always check the web site of the places you plan to go to see if they’re open.
Italy’s 12 National Holidays
January 1 is Capodanno or New Year’s Day. After celebrating New Year’s Eve into the early morning hours, there’s not much going on during the day although there are some events for kids in the cities. In Venice, the new year starts with a chilly dip in the sea on the Lido.
January 6 is Epiphany, the end of the season following the 12th day of Christmas. Processions commemorate the wise men bringing gifts. The biggest, in Vatican City, has hundreds of participants in medieval costume. In Italy, children hang up their stockings the night before and la Befana fills them with gifts.
Easter Sunday is one of Italy’s most important holidays. Religious processions during Easter week, precede the Easter celebration. Easter Sunday is a day of feasting after mass. The most important event is the Easter Holy Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica. At noon the Pope delivers a special Easter message. If you’re in Florence, don’t miss the Scoppio del Carro, explosion of the cart, at the duomo. The date of Easter, in late March or April, varies each year.
Easter Monday, La Pasquetta or the little Easter, is the Monday following Easter. Italians traditionally head to the countryside for a picnic. Most sites and museums are open, including some that are normally closed on Mondays.
April 25 commemorates Liberation Day at the end of World War II and is often celebrated with ceremonies or historic re-enactments. Sites and museums remain open as do some shops and businesses. April 25 is also Saint Mark’s day, celebrated in Venice with a procession and special events.
May 1, the Day of the Worker, is one of Italy’s, and most of Europe’s, biggest holidays. Expect huge crowds in top tourist destinations. Many sites and museums are closed, although that’s slowly changing in popular places. The day is celebrated with special events and festivals as well as protest rallies. Many Italians take a vacation from April 25 – May 1 since the holidays are so close together.
June 2, Festa della Repubblica, is celebrated as the day the Italian Republic was formed. There are parades, concerts, and festivals. Most sites and museums remain open.
August 15 is Assumption Day. Also called Ferragosto, August 15 is the traditional start of the summer holidays and many Italians still take their holidays the last 2 weeks of August so you’re likely to see signs saying chiuso per ferie, closed for vacation, on some shops and restaurants. Most museums and sites will still be open. August 15 and 16 are celebrated with special events, festivals, and fireworks. Find out more in August in Italy.
November 1 is All Saints Day, Ognissanti, a religious holiday celebrated with a special mass. Most museums and sites remain open. Families take flowers to the cemetery the following day for All Souls Day (no longer a holiday in Italy).
December 8, Immaculate Conception, marks the traditional start of the winter holiday season. Christmas markets often start on December 8, although recently they’ve been starting even earlier. Nativity scenes, the traditional Italian Christmas decoration, are put on display along with other decorations. Museums and sites are usually not affected.
December 25 is Christmas, Natale, usually celebrated by feasting with the family, as is Christmas Eve. Most museums and sites are closed or have limited hours and many restaurants may be closed also so be sure to book in advance.
December 26, the day after Christmas, is Saint Stephen’s Day. Living nativities often take place on December 26 and sometimes also on Christmas Eve. While businesses and shops are generally closed, most sites and museums are open.