How much do you know about holidays in Italy? All those days marked in red on the Italian calendar are considered festività (holidays). If you think there are too many, or that they are only an excuse for italiani to take a day off from work, you might be wrong. Italians love celebrating their holidays because they are part of their history, religion and culture.
Before traveling to Italy, check this list and plan your vacation accordingly as most offices, banks and many stores close on these days. Moreover, public transportation might have a different schedule. Museums in the major tourist cities are open on holidays with the exception of Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Read on and discover the list of national holidays in Italy and their meaning.
List of National Holidays in Italy
January 6: Epiphany
The Epiphany is celebrated on January 6th. It is a very important day for the Catholic church, as it represents the 3 Kings’ arrival in Bethlehem, when they came to visit Jesus and brought the three famous gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. Therefore, many people go to church to celebrate it.
On this day, friends and relatives usually gather together for a big lunch or dinner, either at home or in a restaurant.
Aside from the religious aspects, Epiphany is also a favorite day for kids, as it is il giorno della Befana (Befana’s day). Children believe this old woman is Santa’s wife and, on that night, she visits their houses on her broomstick to fill their Christmas stockings with candies and chocolates. Parents tell their children that this only happens if they have been good the whole year. If not, the Befana will only bring them carbone (coal). To avoid this fate, kids behave well during that period and listen to everything their parents say.
However, as the famous Italian saying states: l’epifania tutte le feste porta via (Epiphany takes away all the holidays) so you better make the most of it since there will not be other important holidays after that, at least until Easter time!
April 25, Liberation day
Liberation day is celebrated on April 25th and it dates back to the Second World War. It represents the liberation of Italy from the German invasion, thanks to the Allies.
On Liberation day, schools and shops are closed and people enjoy their day off by traveling (especially if it comes on a Thursday or Friday, allowing for a longer weekend) or simply enjoy spending time with their time with friends.
May 1, Labor Day
Also known as festa dei lavoratori (labor day) it is celebrated to emphasize all the achievements that people have reached in their working lives. On this day, schools and shops are closed. Italians celebrate it in many ways, with family or friends, either in the city, or at the beach if it is a sunny day, or by traveling somewhere in Italy or Europe. However, the best way to celebrate primo maggio (first of May) is to go to Rome for the famous concerti del primo maggio (May first concerts). Every year, Italian and international singers perform in Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano in the afternoon, usually around 3 PM. The concerts attract thousands of people every year, especially young people (or students). Also, these concerts are free and they are televised by RAI TV, Italy’s national public broadcasting stations.
If you want to celebrate primo maggio (first of May) like a real Italian, buy a ticket to Rome and join in these amazing free concerts. You may end up being on Italian TV!
June 2, Republic day (Festa della Repubblica)
It is celebrated on June 2nd and dates back to 1946, when Italy had to choose between becoming a republic or remaining a monarchy. The people voted to abolish the monarchy, creating the new Italian Republic in the process. The best way for you to enjoy this day is to go to Rome and enjoy the Armed Forces parade there!
August 15, Ferragosto
Ferragosto is celebrated on August 15th. According to the Catholic Church, it is the day the Virgin Mary went to Heaven to sit next to Her son Jesus. You can either choose to spend this day on the beach, as it is still very hot in Italy, or look for a cooler place in the mountains with friends or family and have a picnic. Don’t be surprised if you look for a nice restaurant to find them all closed, or you try to buy something and the store doors are locked. Ferragosto is such an important holiday in Italy – as much as Christmas and Easter – that everyone takes the day off and closes down their stores and restaurants.
November 1 and 2, All Saints and All Soul’s day
Il giorno di tutti i santi and il giorno dei morti (All Saints and All Soul’s day) are celebrated on the 1st and the 2nd of November. All Saints day remembers the saints of the Church, their lives and their martyrdom. As it is an important day for the Catholic Church, attending Mass would be the traditional way of celebrating it. The same on November 2nd, when people also spend also some time in the cemetery to visit all those beloved people who passed away. Unlike November 1st, All Soul’s day is not marked in red, so there might be shops open.
December 8, Immaculate Conception (Immacolata)
It is celebrated on December 8th. According to the Catholic Church, this is the conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the womb of her mother, Saint Anne, free from original sin by virtue of the foreseen merits of her son Jesus Christ. For many Italian families, this is the start of Christmas time so people decorate their Christmas trees on that day. Moreover, it is time to start Christmas shopping!
December 26, Saint Stephen’s Day
On December 26th the life of Saint Stephen, the first Catholic saint who was martyred, is celebrated. For some Italians, it is considered the best day of the year because you still have plenty of leftover food from your Christmas meals so you don’t need to cook for the next few days! The best way to spend December 26th would be with your family or friends, usually going to the cinema to watch a Christmas movie.
Have you ever experienced one of these national holidays in Italy? How was your experience?