Summer's well and truly here, along with a bunch of hugely popular festivals and events. John Bensalhia takes a look at what's on this month.
It's a month that marks Summer in style. With an emphasis on tradition, many events this month remember the past – either with quiet reflection or with re-enacting gusto. It's also a month that sees an emergence of music festivals, with the ever-popular Umbria Jazz Festival boasting a number of headline-making famous names this year...
IL PALIO DI SIENA - 2nd July
The annual horse race comes to Siena again this July – a tradition that is said to date back to the 13th century, when the first mention of this event was mentioned in a document in 1238. The first official document of the Palio was announced in 1656, with the familiar pattern of the modern day Palio first introduced in 1729. In this year, it was announced that only 10 jockeys would compete, in order to allow for greater safety.
The horse race on the 2nd July is the first of two, with the other being held a month later. 10 bareback horse riders compete in the competition, representing 10 of the 17 city wards (contrade). The race itself isn't that long in the length of time – the winner is the first to reach the finish point after three laps of the Piazza del Campo. And that includes any horse that has dislodged its rider!
Accompanying the race are a multitude of celebratory elements including a pageant, period costume and flags, packing in the visitors who come to see this memorable spectacle.
FESTA DELLA BRUNA - 2nd July, Matera
One of the most memorable aspects of Festa Della Bruna, an annual festival that honours Matera's patron saint, is the destruction of the purpose built float that bears the statue of the Holy Mother.
The statue is ferried on the specially designed wagon through the streets from the Church of Piccianello to the Cathedral Square. The wagon is a momentary sight to witness, made from papier mache and festooned with ornaments and statues. The load is accompanied by knights on horseback and marching bands. The procession makes its way at a leisurely pace so that the crowds can appreciate the sight of the wagon. Following the traditional Three Turns(representing the taking of the city by the Holy Patrol), the wagon is then destroyed by the crowds (don't worry, a new one is prepared for the next festival!). It's said that anyone who gets their hands on a piece of papier mache wagon will come into some good luck.
Even if you don't grab a piece of the wagon, you can still enjoy the amazing fireworks display, costumes and evening celebrations.
L'ARDIA DI SAN COSTANTINO - 5th - 7th July, Sardinia
One of the best known re-enactments this month goes back a long way to the days of 312. The Battle of Milvian Bridge saw Emperor Constantine (Costantino il Grande) achieve a victory over his rival Maxentius. The troops of the Emperor saw off Maxentius' troops at this historic battle, ensuring victory for Constantine.
To mark this piece of history, L'Ardia di San Costantino re-enacts the battle between both sides. The locals come together to don period dress and mount the horses to represent both sides of the battle, two sides of imposing, flag-bearing armies. It's a faithful salute to the past and an event to stick in the mind.
UMBRIA JAZZ FESTIVAL - 10h - 19th July
A whole host of treats is in store for the jazz connoisseur at this year's annual Umbria Festival. This year's line-up boasts a diverse and exciting roster of performers, ranging from the classic era to the present day.
The list of key performers includes special Subsonica project (comprising saxophonist Emanuele Cisi, trumpeter Flavio Boltro, and trombone player Mauro Ottolini), the Paolo Fresu Brass Bang and the unique, creative, free-flowing sounds of The Bad Plus who have just released their 10th album called Inevitable Western.
Elsewhere, UK band Incognito will be dropping in for a performance (the band are well known in their native country for their hit Always There) as will Brazilian legends Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, who last performed at the Umbria Festival in 1994.
Grammy winning musician Robert Glasper will be gracing this year's festival on the 16th July – Glasper's latest album, Covered, features cover versions of songs by artists such as John Legend, Razorlight and Joni Mitchell. Further coup draws for this year's festival include the duo of Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock – neither of these two pianists need any introduction, having worked with Miles Davis and released classic albums such as The Leprechaun, Headhunters and Sunlight. Both have performed together, as far back as 1978.
Another unmissable performance will be the duo of Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, who have recently teamed up for their Cheek To Cheek album. The album features a string of duets and solo performances of jazz songs and their appearance at the Umbria festival is part of their tour of the same name. Rounding off this year's festival will be Taylor McFerrin, Orlando Julius and The Heliocentrics. This year's festival offers a feast of jazz music for all fans of the genre in an unmissable set of shows.
U FISTINU DI SANTA ROSALIA - 10h - 15th July, Palermo
In 1624, on Pellegrino Mountain, it is said that a Palermo hunter witnessed a miracle.
His city suffering from the plague, the hunter is said to have seen a vision of Saint Rosalia. The saint is claimed to have told the hunter the location of her dead body which had vanished without a trace. Returning home, the hunter told others of what he had seen, and so, along with an assembled group, sought the very spot instructed by the vision. Not only did this very spot contain the resting place of Saint Rosalia, the plague vanished the moment her body was found.
This double miracle is celebrated in July and is one of the most famous festivals of the region. To house the saint's ashes and a statue bearing her likeness, a special 50 foot high float is made from wood, cardboard and cloth. The float is then paraded through the region and is accompanied by a wealth of entertainers. Drums and singing fills the air as dancers and bands provide a memorable accompaniment to the parade.
DISFIDA DEGLI ARCIERI DI TERRA E DI CORTE – c. 10th - 12th July, Fivizzano
How are your archery skills? Can you aim for the bullseye with all the pinpoint accuracy of a blindfolded William Tell? This month's medieval archery festival in the Fivizzano region puts these skills to the ultimate test.
Local competitors in Fivizzano are pitted against each other to see who will be crowned the victor of this contest. The competition tends to happen at night from around 10.30pm to midnight. A medieval flavour is added in the form of period costumes, music and entertainment. Indeed, the event is heralded with some fine entertainment courtesy of jugglers, flag throwing and traditional dancing.
FESTA DE NOANTRI - 15th - 30th July, Trastevere, Rome
The famous religious procession dates back to 1535. The legend goes that a group of local fishermen caught a statue of the Madonna Fiumarola. Carved from cedar wood, the statue was taken by the fishermen and donated to the Church of Sant' Agata.
Today, the annual festival sees the transportation of the statue from its home in Sant' Agata to the Church of San Griosogno in Trastevere, where it remains on display for eight days.
The streets are packed with people who have come to see the transportation of the statue in procession flanked by 10 men and led by the local bishop. In addition to the parade, there is plenty of opportunity for celebration with street theatre, dancing and musical performances providing entertainment. Food and wine will be available from local street vendors, adding a local taste of delicious class to the occasion.
SFERISTERIO OPERA FESTIVAL - 17th July - 9th August, Macerata
One of the best things about July is its diverse range of music festivals and shows. If you're an opera fan, then you'll come to the right place for this year's Sferisterio Opera Festival.
The 51st edition of this festival has assembled a strong line-up of performances this year. Ruggero Leoncavallo's Pagliacci will be given the Sferisterio Opera treatment as will Cavalleria by Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti and Guido Menasci (with music by Pietro Mascagni). In addition, the line-up will boast the classic Rigoletto by Verdi and Francesco Maria Piave as well as La Boheme by Puccini, Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica.
FESTA DEL REDENTORE - 18th - 19th July, Venice
Festa del Redentore dates back to 1577 in honour of the construction of the Palladio's Redentore Church. The Church was built on the Gindeca Island as a way of giving thanks for the end of recent plague in that year.
Since that moment, Festa del Redentore combines religious contemplation and colourful celebration. Holy Mass is held as well as a religious procession that leads to the Palladian Basilica (the route includes the crossing of the 330m Pontoon Bridge).
A spectacular fireworks display attracts many visitors to witness the colourful illumination of the city's buildings, domes and towers. Crowds also gather to see the regatta of boats which are specially decorated with flowers, balloons and Chinese lanterns. The boat race wraps up the weekend's principal celebrations which will also undoubtedly include second helpings of some of the finest local foods and drinks.
FESTA DEL CRISTO DEGLI ABISSI - 25th July (TBC), San Fruttuoso
Festa Del Cristo Degli Abissi is a salute to all those who both committed their lives to the sea and to those who died at sea. The event is due to take place on 25th July this year.
The event chiefly revolves around a submerged statue known as the Christ of the Abyss which is 17m deep in San Fruttuoso Bay. The statue is a landmark that is in memorial of all those who lost their lives at sea – during the event, a laurel wreath is given to the statue and placed at its base to honour the fallen.
Mass takes place on the beach and to add to the quiet solemnity of the event, lit candles illuminate proceedings. With all power off, the candles provide an ethereal and beautiful natural glow.