Love and carnivals are in the air along with plenty of other great Italian February festivals! John Bensalhia takes you through what's on this month...

February in Italy means two key things: Valentine's Day celebrations and the spirit of carnival! There are many events dedicated to both, along with various other events celebrating – amongst other things – patron saints, chocolate and antiques. Here we go – February Fun galore!

Carnevale, Throughout Italy

Various Dates In February 2017

It's Carnival Season! February is chock-a-block with some vividly memorable carnivals guaranteed to brighten up those chilly February days.

One of the best known is the Viareggio Carnival, one of the longest running celebrations of its kind in Italy. The familiar masked parades are a key ingredient of the Viareggio Carnival, and these will be taking place on the 5th, 12th, 18th, 26th and 28th of the month. Another well-known element is that of the massive papier-maché floats – colourful, eye-catching and completely in tune with a Viareggio tradition of building large-scale boats.

Another biggie in the carnival pantheon is in Venice, with events running between 11th and 28th February. Many of the events revolve around San Marco's Square, and the event kicks off on the 11th with its grand opening which combines music, dance and colour to great effect.

Other traditional events in this year's carnival include the Festa delle Marie, where each of the 12 Marias will be dressed in Venetian period costumes to go from the parade along via Garibaldi and Riva degli Schiavoni to reach the ultimate destination of San Marco stage. There are also special parades dedicated to kids on the 27th of the month as well as the final day's event Svolo del Leon in which the symbol of the city, a lion is depicted on a massive canvas – the lion canvas is then then flown up to the bell tower over the watching crowds in the square.

Another carnival in its second century is Bologna's Carnevale Storico Persicetano. San Giovanni in Persiceto will play host to this brilliant carnival on 19th and 26th February 2017.

One of the real selling points is the way in which the floats start out as one thing and then change into another. These ingenious transformations are accomplished with clever, advanced technology used in the construction of the floats. Also, watch out for the character of King Bertoldo. This comic character is the creation of Bolognese writer Giulio Cesare Croce, Bertoldo, and along with his retinue, the King leads the parade of floats.

Ferrara In Jazz

Throughout February 2017

Jazz music continues to reign in supreme in Italy this season, and Ferrara In Jazz is no exception.

This is a whole lotta jazz music and it's packed into a stretch from late January to late April. The February roster includes Trio Bobo (4th February), Overseas featuring guitarist Francesco Diodati (6th) and cellist Eric Friedlander (11th) in his performance entitled Oscalypso.

Later on in the month, there are some darn tootin' musical treats from the likes of the Alessandro Lanzoni Quartet (13th), the Tower Jazz Composers Orchestra (17th), the Fred Frith Trio (18th) and the Ben Wendel Group (25th).

A great atmosphere conjured up for all, and there are also DJ sets for those who are looking to bop the Winter blues away with the latest modern sounds.

Pistoia Capitale Culturale D'Italia 2017

Throughout February 2017

Pistoia has been chosen as the Cultural Capital of Italy for 2017, and it's inviting you to come and celebrate!

Pistoia will be holding a wide range of events every month, showcasing a broad choice of all things cultural. Art exhibitions, classical music shows and jazz/blues town square performances are a coming, along with theatre events, book presentations and learning labs.

This month alone includes a bit of magic from Francesco Micheloni, music from cellist Mario Brunello and violinist Giuliano Carmignola, a celebration of Mozart and Beethoven from Olli Mustonen, and an appearance from British blues legend John Mayall!

Check out the above website for more details – it's sure to be an unforgettable year for Pistoia!

Patron Saint Celebrations, Throughout Italy

Throughout February 2017

February is a month of occasions to mark some well-known patron saints of Italian regions. Carrying on from the Valentine's theme, Terni marks the 14th February by honouring its patron saint Saint Valentino with a special parade late in the day – complete with torch illumination.

The next day is traditionally connected with the patron saint chosen by singletons, St Faustino. St Faustino parties are celebrated with gusto, and who knows, any singles party could well be the last if love is around the corner! In addition, St Faustino is the patron saint of Brescia.

Earlier in the month, on the 3rd, San Biagio Day marks the patron saint of cereals, crops and the healing ailments of the throat, as well as being one of the Holy Helpers. Back in the day, people would pray to San Biagio in times of crisis and trouble – a notable exception was in 1542, when the threat of locusts endangered the population of Salemi. Once the people had prayed to the saint, the locusts were no more, and on the 3rd the people of Salemi mark this with religious commemoration and a medieval tribute. San Biagio also aided the people of Fiuggi in 1298 when troops of the Cajetani clan were warded off by flames said to have been provided by the saint. An appropriately flamey commemoration is held in the region where piles of wood (Stazze) are set alight.

Another early February saints festival occurs in Catania. Its patron saint, St Agatha (Christian saint and virgin martyress) has sparked one of the biggest religious processions worldwide. The main occasion is the silver carriage, which is taken in procession through the roads and streets, bearing the saint relic's stored in her statue.

Fiera Antiquaria, Arezzo

4th - 5th February 2017

While the latest shiny and new goodies bought from the shops, antiques are equally as popular. There's something about that good-time retro feel that adds to the unique value of these antiques, and if you happen to be around Arezzo in early February, then Fiera Antiquaria could be just what you're looking for.

One of the oldest and largest antiques fairs, Fiera Antiquaria gathers around 400 exhibitors from around the country, all here to showcase and sell their different types of product. Practically everything in the antiques field is here – furniture, art, books, toys, musical instruments... The sectors of the fair will be segmented into modern antique, vintage and craft quality. So come along and see if you can pick up that rare find or in a case of serendipity, chance upon a priceless antique!

Opening hours are 8am to 7pm on both the Saturday and Sunday.

Cioccolando per il Castello, Castellarano

12th February 2017

The Castellarano Chocolate Festival is a timely one, given that Valentine's Day is only two days away. If you're seeking the ultimate chocolate gift, then this is a good place to be, with a good number of chocolate producers and artisans showing off their tastiest confections!

This event takes place all day on the Sunday, and entry is free of charge. Mind you, if you or your other half isn't that big on chocolate, then there are actually plenty of other foods and drinks to sample – including cakes, biscuits, cold cuts and dumplings, as well as hot tea and chocolate to warm everybody up!

Cioccolando per il Castello provides plenty of food for thought and also lots of other fun things to do. There's a special cake contest, demos on how to design a cake, tours, photo exhibition, and in keeping with the month, there's a fantastic carnival parade at 4pm.

Valentine's Day 2017, Throughout Italy

14th February 2017

As Burt Bacharach once proclaimed, What The World Needs Now Is Love. Well, come 14th February, there's plenty of love for everyone as couples everywhere will be frantically seeking gifts for each other, making clandestine restaurant bookings, and picking the best red roses.

In Italy, Festa di San Valentino will celebrate the love in all kinds of ways, from the traditional to the modern. You name it, the Italian regions will bring Valentine's Day to vivid life. Terni, for example, opts for a massive feast around the local basilica (incidentally, this is the location of where the saint's remains are interred). It's also the chance to prove just how strong the love is in the competition for what's known as the Year of Loving award.

Meanwhile, Camogli is packed with special Valentine's initiatives, such as a themed market which sells all kinds of love-themed items such as jewellery, cakes, sweets and also wooden ornaments. There are again special competitions to find the most dedicated poets and artists in the spirit of Valentine's Day.

It's also the location of a quaint tradition in which you tie your personalised red heart to a fishing net on the Camogli Harbour Wall and leave it there for a week. The story goes that if your heart remains there at the end of the week after an onslaught of elements, then your love will last forever!

The Venetian Carnival this year is also celebrating Valentine's Day this year, and will do so with considerable panache. Lido In Love is full of Valentine's-themed things to do, see and experience, including its own Love Market, a parade of paired Venetian masks, a Love Chain Run, as well as dinners and special entertainments. It's also a source for the modern way to celebrate Valentine's Day, thanks to a Flashmob at ACTV pier and what's known as Selfie In Love!

Milan Fashion Week

22nd - 28th February 2017

The fashion season continues apace in Italy as one of the keystone global fashion areas holds a special week devoted to new and upcoming clothes.

Milan Fashion Week is traditionally hosted twice a year, and the February event looks ahead to the forthcoming Autumn and Winter fashions in 2017.

The top Italian and international designers meet at Fiera Milano Exhibition Centre, and while the event itself is reserved for invited attendees, the region of Milan still celebrates with a number of fashion-related events in various areas. If you're into fashion, then Milan is definitely the in place to be this February!