Have you ever thought about attending one of the many unique September festivals in Italy?
As a travel planner focused on immersive, cultural experiences in Italy, many people ask me for easy ways to make their trip to Italy more authentic, unique, and connected to traditions and culture. Keeping your trip focused on these type of experiences will make your trip so much more meaningful!
I always answer these questions with my go-to easiest tip for double-dipping on the culture without necessarily spending money…
What’s my go-to tip? FESTIVALS!
Attending a traditional festival in Italy is one of the easiest possible ways to entertain the whole family while learning about the culture, seeing (or even participating in) traditions, and having a more authentic and unique trip to Italy! Italians are so good at celebrating and putting on events. I’m always surprised by how even tiny villages put on really professional and impressive events!
With so many incredible places, it can easily be overwhelming to know where to even start planning your trip. Choosing a unique local festival in Italy to base your trip around can help anchor your itinerary and give you an area to narrow in on.
For an example, you can check out the trip Creative Edge built around a Chestnut Festival!
Photo by Giulio Aprin, Wild Man Life
When it comes to festivals in Italy, the Fall season has the most to offer, although you’ll find some fun festivals in every season throughout Italy. To show you just how varied these Fall festivals can be and get your ideas flowing, I put together this list of interesting, fun, and unique September festivals in Italy!
When talking about Fall festivals, the first thing that comes to your mind is probably harvest festivals and wine festivals in Italy. But in typical Creative Edge fashion, I’ve decided to make this more interesting by focusing on more unique and unusual events and festivals in Italy that you probably wouldn’t have thought of!
Read on below to learn about 10 unique September festivals in Italy! Or, if you prefer you can watch my Coffee Chat about it here:
10 Unique September Festivals in Italy
1. Medieval Festivals
I’ll start us off with the general theme of medieval festivals. There are tons of medieval festivals in Italy throughout the year. These types of festivals all vary but many take place in September and most are themed around daily life in the 500-1400s and are really fun– especially in the setting of an authentic, small medieval village where it can all really come to life in a realistic and convincing way.
At a medieval festival, you can expect parades with people dressed in costume, staged banquets, and royal weddings. You’re also likely to see jesters, witches, craftsmen, knights, fire dancers, and all kinds of performances and demonstrations. Some even have a joust or a palio (bareback horse race) as part of the festival’s events.
Note that not all medieval festivals in Italy are created equal. I’ve been to some where the costumes really seemed cheap and fakey while others convinced me I had stepped back in time!
If you’re interested in learning more, I wrote a whole blog post about my experience at the medieval festival in Monteriggioni, Tuscany. (Amazing!)
2. Corsa Degli Asini - (Donkey Race)
You’ve probably heard of festivals based on horse races, but have you heard of donkey races in Italy? On the first Sunday of September, you can experience the “Corsa Degli Asini” festival in Fagagna (Friuli-Venezia Giulia), the local townspeople transform the main piazza into a race track and race donkeys with carts attached where the rider sits. It may seem silly and lighthearted, but they take it very seriously! 2022 marks the 131st Corsa degli Asini festival in Fagagna.
3. Baroque Music Festival
On the last three Saturdays in September, music lovers will be captivated by the Baroque Music Festival in San Gimignano, Italy. Imagine hours of opera and baroque music concerts by professional singers and musicians in a charming medieval setting– wow!
4. Corsa Degli Zingari (Gypsy Race)
This unique festival takes place in the region of Abruzzo, Italy, usually on the first Saturday in September. Though it’s called the Gypsy Race, “gypsy” in this case means “the one who walks barefoot” in local dialect rather than the term we’re familiar with which refers to a type of nomad. Clearly the two are related.
No matter the meaning, they take this festival in central Italy very seriously! So, what does it consist of? Young boys (and sometimes girls) run a hard path that goes through mountain brush, rivers, and through the village to the church of Madonna di Loreto. But here’s the catch– they do it BAREFOOT.
To give you an idea of how serious this festival is, they have a team of doctors and nurses waiting at the altar to treat the participants’ bleeding feet. The winner is then paraded down the street and his/her/their parents serve wine in front of their house to celebrate the victory.
This unique September festival has been happening in Italy for 500 years!
5. Festa dell’Aquilone (Kite Festival)
This gorgeous kite festival, or Festa dell’Aquilone, takes place in Urbino, Italy each September. There’s a competition to see who can fly their kite the highest, but the catch that makes this festival more interesting is that it has to be their own handmade kite!
6. Clown Festival
Tons of clowns gather in the village of Monte San Giusto in late September for the annual Clown & Clown Festival in the Marche region of Italy. At this fun and creative event, you’ll catch shows, plays, exhibitions, workshops, and conferences for clowns who are serious about taking life less seriously! More than just clowns, I’ve heard this festival in Italy is like if the circus just took over your entire town…think acrobats, performers, dancers, magicians and more. This is definitely a fun and entertaining festival in Italy!
7. Tor des Géants (Tour of Giants)
While most of the festivals in Italy are age old traditions, this one which started in 2010 is new to the scene. It blows my mind that it takes 2000 volunteers to pull off this festival in northern Italy each year. The event is centered around the most difficult trail in the world and the challenge is to run all 205 miles of the winding trails in the Alps– in less than 150 hours. The total elevation gained during the race is 78,700 ft which explains why only about 60% of the participants actually make it to the finish line.
F.cadioli, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
8. Pistachio Festival
The rest of the Italian festivals in this list are dedicated to one of my favorite types of festivals: SAGRE, or traditional food festivals! Starting with the Pistachio Festival in Bronte, Sicily, sagre are village gatherings to celebrate one specific traditional dish or food product. Bronte, in Southeast Sicily, produces about 80% of the island’s pistachios, so it makes sense that it hosts this Italian festival each year. The Pistachio Festival isn’t only about delicious pistachios, though. It also involves cooking, music, art, and nature, so there’s lots to see and do! This unique Fall festival in Sicily takes place at the end of September and/or beginning of October.
9. Pasta Fest
In Italian this festival is called “I Primi d’Italia”, a four-day event dedicated to first course dishes. In Italy the first course dish consists of pasta, risotto, polenta, or even soup. Enjoy several days of tastings, demonstrations, and cooking shows dedicated to the first course of the meal (the most important course if you ask me)! You can experience this traditional Italian festival on the last weekend in September.
10. Cowboy Show
Cowboys in Italy?! Yes, my friends, Tuscany has a cowboy culture of its own which is centered in the area called Maremma along the coast. You can catch one of several “Spettacoli dei Butteri”, or Cowboy Shows, offered each year to demonstrate the culture, traditions, and skills of the cowboys and their horses. This link shows a list of Cowboy Festivals and Shows in Tuscany.
I hope this list gives you a quick understanding of how unusual and interesting it can be to attend one of Italy’s many festivals. This is just a sampling of a few festivals held in September, but almost every little village at some point in the year has a sagra. Naples throws an annual Pizza Party Fest with pizza performances, workshops, music, and shows. The town of Capalbio in Tuscany throws a Sagra del Cinghiale (wild boar). In Lombardy there’s the sagra for Mushrooms which they call Fungolandia and another festival for the Tortello di Zucca (pumpkin ravioli). And in Le Marche region there’s even “Il Festival Internazionale del Brodetto e delle Zuppe di Pesce”! (“The International Festival of Broth and Fish Soups!”).
Like I said at the beginning, visiting these very local events is such a fun way to soak up a LOT of culture in a short time.
If there’s one tip I can leave you with, it’s to always search the name of the region you’ll be visiting + the Italian terms “Sagra” or “Festivale” or just “eventi”. Then use Google Translate to help you understand the results if they’re in Italian.
For an example of how to build an itinerary around a special event in Italy, you can check out the trip Creative Edge built around a Chestnut Festival!
So, which festival in Italy would you pick first? Leave your comments below!