As befits such a rich and fertile land, with such a peaceful population, it is no wonder that Tuscany is home to some of the best cultural events and festivals in the world. The range of festivals here ranges from music and art events, the February carnival that takes place all over Italy and does not miss Tuscany, mass food fairs and even a bicycle festival. You can read about some of the festivals and events in our article about festivals and events in Italy, but since Tuscany is truly a special place, and its capital Florence is the icing on the cake of the special place it is – it is worth devoting separate attention to them and detailing the events for which it is especially worth coming to the region, even if you did not plan to this.
As the capital of Tuscany and one of Italy’s most important cities, it’s no wonder that Florence’s calendar is packed with events of all kinds. There are one-time events, and many others are events held every year. Some of them have a tradition of many hundreds of years, so it is a real sacred tradition as far as the Florentines are concerned. Here is the crème de la crème of the events in Tuscany, and in Florence in particular.
May Music Festival in Florence (Maggio Musicale Fiorentino)
For all classical music and opera lovers, this is the festival for you. Between the end of April and the beginning of June, Florence is filled with ensembles, orchestras, theater actors and opera singers from all over the world, who gather for the city’s music festival. The festival was founded in 1933, and since then it has been held every year. It was originally intended to fit in with the traditional spring celebrations of Tuscany, where musical performances, dances and theater performances were held all over the province, designed to celebrate the end of winter and the beginning of blossoming (the celebrations were mainly held on the first day of May, so they were traditionally called Calendimaggio).
Among other performances, you can find ballet and opera performances, concerts by symphony orchestras and smaller ensembles, and. For opera lovers, this is the time to attend a concert at Florence’s Teatro della Pergola, the oldest opera house in Italy that has been active for more than 350 years, hosting opera singers only during this festival.
Fiorentina football games (Calcio Fiorentino/Storico)
This football game is different from anything you have known until now, and will probably know in the future. This is a tournament held exclusively in Florence, between the four teams whose players are selected from the four traditional neighborhoods of the city (the Holy Cross, Holy Spirit, New Santa Maria and San Giovanni neighborhoods). The game, whose rules were established in 1580 and have not been changed to this day, combines the rules of football, rugby and wrestling, which means that in practice there are not many things that are not allowed.
As part of the games, which are held every year in June, the teams (27 players in each, dressed in traditional costumes) compete in two semi-final games, which are followed by a magnificent final game. The games are held in the piazza in front of the Church of the Holy Cross (Santa Croce), and are a feast for the eyes and ears. Almost all the residents of the city come to watch the games, and of course the tourists (who by the way crowd the city during this period) also come to participate in the celebration.
The semi-finals are held on a selected weekend at the beginning of June, and the finals are always held on June 24, at five o’clock in the evening. They open with a colorful and noisy procession that leaves from the Maria Novella church, and eventually arrives at Santa Croce square.
The Carnival of Florence (Carnevale)
As in many other cities in Italy, a large, noisy and impressive carnival was held in Florence during the month of February. During the festival, a grandiose procession is held, which includes various performances from a variety of cultures and countries (and even a giant dragon). Among other events, you will find horsemen, street artists, bands and dancers at the festival.
Every year a special program is determined by a city committee, and many countries are invited to participate in the colorful festival. Among these we can name Brazil, Peru, Mexico, China, USA, Germany and many more.
The procession starts in the square of All Saints (Piazza Ognissanti), and at the end of its long journey throughout the city ends in Piazza Signoria. At the end of the procession, prizes are awarded to the group with the most impressive and authentic costumes in the procession.
The music and dance festival “Fiesolana Summer” (Estate Fiesolana)
This is one of the important annual festivals held in Florence, or rather in Faisola which is right next to it (and was mentioned above). This is the oldest festival in Florence including several art forms, and is held in the open air.
The festival is held every year between June and August, and offers a huge variety of concerts, performances, performances and dance performances of all kinds. Among the events in the program are events that repeat themselves every year, including concerts of classical and modern music, plays and other shows, in addition to events unique to the festival of that year.
Many of the festival’s events are held in the Roman Theater of Faisola, which gives them an even more authentic atmosphere. If you are coming to Florence during these months, it is recommended to get up to date with the festival’s program in advance, in order to plan in advance which events you want to go to during your stay in the city.
Lucca Summer Festival
If classical music is less your thing, or if you are looking for performances of more modern music in a young atmosphere, the Lucca Summer Festival is the place for you. This is one of the most talked about music festivals in Italy, and it presents a very respectable list of artists and bands that have performed within it. The performances are held in Piazza Napoleone during the month of July every year. However, smaller performances and street artists can also be found not only in this piazza.
If you are a music lover, you definitely won’t want to miss this festival. Among the big names that appeared as part of the festival in Lucca are Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, Lenny Kravitz and other legendary names. It is only recommended to book tickets and accommodation in advance, as these are taken up quickly.
The Heroic Bicycle Festival (L’Eroica)
For the sporty among us (and those who aren’t), this is an event you won’t want to miss. This is your opportunity to experience Tuscany in a very unusual way. And some Tuscany. The various allocations include routes between 46 and 209 kilometers in length, and it is mandatory to register for them in advance. The routes go through Tuscan natural gems such as the area surrounding Siena, the Orche Valley (see above) and more.
This festival was held every year on the first Sunday of October, starting in 1997, in the town of Gaiole in Chianti, and its model was copied to many places in the world (such as Cape Town in South Africa, Mount Fuji in Japan, etc.). This town, as its name suggests, is in the heart of the Chianti region between Florence and Tuscany. It is attended by no more (and usually no less) than 5,000 riders, who are obliged to ride exclusively on old vintage bikes.
If you missed the registration, or you didn’t happen to be in Tuscany on that exact date but you still want to experience Tuscany by bike, you will be happy to know that the route is maintained throughout the year, and you can ride it on routes that range from one day of riding to several days. Various companies offer guided bike tours along the route, and in some you will even receive a certificate.
Viareggio Carnival in February
If you think you’ve already seen it all, the way the Italian Carnival of February in Viareggio is celebrated will probably prove to you that this is not the case. Starting from that day in 1873, when the young people of the city decided to celebrate the carnival with a parade through the streets of the city, it grew to dimensions they had not imagined. Today, thousands of visitors from all over Italy and the world come here to celebrate the carnival like nowhere else.
The stars of this carnival are the enormous paper sculptures carried in the streets of the city, designed in the form of satirical characters, most of them based on Italian public figures. In addition to these characters, you will find in the carnival a noteworthy selection of performances, concerts, street artists and souvenir stands for the most part, which will not let you forget that you are participating in the biggest celebration of the year.
These parades are held for several consecutive Sundays during the month of February, in addition to “Fat” Tuesday and the day when the Grand Finale of the carnival was held. However, the carnival atmosphere lines the city throughout the month, when on the weekends of February you can find a selection of parties, music and dance performances and more in the city districts.