Summer brings festivals and events galore to Italy this month. June plays host to medieval football breaking out in Florence, light and sound in Venice, film and arts in Sicily, jousting skills in Arezzo and a good old tug-of-war in Pisa.
8-11 June – MORE Festival
Never let it be said that Venice is stuck in the past. Now in its fifth year, the MORE Festival is dedicated to re-energising the city’s ancient architecture and waterways via a programme of electronic music, light shows and art installations. Among this year’s guests are Norwegian house producer Todd Terje, Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard and French DJ Jacques, who’s been known to make music out of everyday household objects. What would Casanova have made of it all?
14-21 June – Taormina Film Fest
An ancient Greek amphitheatre with an ocean backdrop is the stunning setting for this annual celebration of the Italian and international movie industries – part of the Sicilian town’s summer-long culture festival Taormina Arte. Glamour is very much the key word, as some of the world’s top stars jet in to quaff cocktails, attend film premieres and collect awards in a number of different categories – Robert De Niro and Colin Firth are among the recipients of previous gongs.
14-24 June- Calcio Storico Fiorentino
If you think rugby’s brutal, you ain’t seen nothing yet! Every year, hundreds of bloodthirsty fans gather around Florence’s historic Piazza Santa Croce to watch Calcio Storico – a sport, dating back to the 15th century, in which teams of 27 men chase a ball around a pitch while doing their level best to beat the hell out of each other. There’s two semi-finals and a final, with the winning team taking home the kudos of being the toughest in the city.
17 June – Battaglia di Fiori
You’ve heard of the Wars of the Roses – but what about the Battle of the Flowers? This rather more harmless spectacle (providing they remove the thorns) is the main event in a delightful folk festival held every year in the Ligurian coastal city of Ventimiglia. But the fragrant fun doesn’t end there – either side of the petal throwing, there’s live music, street artists, floral displays and a procession of horticulturally decorated floats. Dare we say it, it’s blooming marvellous.
17 June – Giostra del Saracino
How often do you get to see (virtually) a whole city turn up to an event in medieval costume? Well, in Arezzo, Tuscany, it happens twice a year – in June and September – as the locals amass for the Giostra del Saracino (Joust of the Saracen). Dating back to the Middle Ages, it sees four teams of ‘knights’ on horseback – each representing a quarter of the city – attempting to skewer a hanging target. The team with the most points wins the Golden Lance.
18-20 June – Bellavita Expo – London
Whether you’re passionate about pizza, bonkers about bolognese or fancy discovering something completely new from the great Italian recipe book, Bellavita is the place to be. For three days, London’s Business Design Centre is transformed into the largest ‘Made in Italy’ food and drink show in the UK, with Italian chefs, hoteliers and sommeliers lining up to tease and tempt you with their wares. It’s expected that over a thousand new products will launch at this year’s event – dare you miss out?
24 June – Feast of Saint John the Baptist
Few things are more romantic than watching fireworks illuminate the night sky above Florence’s Piazzale Michelangelo – the spectacular finale to this annual homage to the city’s patron saint. Earlier in the day, there’s a civic parade where an offering of candles are delivered to the Florence Baptistry, special boat trips take tourists up and down the river Arno, while the restored San Niccolo Tower (one of the oldest buildings in the city) opens its doors for the summer season.
24-28 June – Market of the Gaite
For five days every year, the Umbrian town of Bevagna steps back in time for its popular Market of the Gaite festival. To start with, the town’s four districts (gaite) compete in a series of medieval disciplines, from woodworking to embroidery; then, on the last two days, there’s a market where you can buy their wares. To make the experience even more authentic, local taverns serve up sumptuous traditional treats. Who said medieval days were such a bad time to live?
25 June – Depeche Mode
In their early-Eighties synthpop heyday, few people would’ve predicted that Depeche Mode would be relevant and selling out stadia more than 30 years later. But the boys from Basildon are still going strong, and tonight their latest world tour – a promotional run for their new album Spirit – arrives at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico. Expect Gahan, Gore et al to showcase tracks from the record, while breathing New Life into old classics like Just Can’t Get Enough, Personal Jesus and Enjoy The Silence.
25 June – Il Gioco del Ponte
Everyone likes a good old game of tug o’ war, but in Pisa they take it very seriously. Dating back to the 16th century, Il Gioco del Ponte (The Game of the Bridge) sees 12 costumed teams from the north and south sides of the city take part in a series of battles atop the Ponte di Mezzo. The rules are easy: the first team to pull a seven-tonne carriage over the dividing line wins. The effort involved is anything but.
26 June – The Cranberries
Considering how big they were in the early to mid Nineties, you can’t really blame Irish indie-pop outfit The Cranberries for drawing on past glories with their latest album, Something Else. Their first long-player in five years, it contains new acoustic arrangements of their greatest hits, including Zombie and Linger. No doubt Dolores O’Riordan and the gang will be running through some of those when their world tour arrives at Cavea in Rome’s Auditorium Parco della Musica tonight.