John Bensalhia kicks off 2017 with a look at some of the best events and festivals to see, enjoy and do in Italy this January

Welcome to 2017! And if you're looking for events to enjoy this month, you've come to the right place. Let's see what January has in store for everyone – whether your taste is in art, fashion or ice skating (not to mention plenty of traditional festivities!).

Epiphany Holiday Events

6th January 2017, Throughout Italy

The 6th of January is traditionally a bit of a downer throughout the world. Decorations come down (or bad luck will fall), leaving rooms looking a bit sparse and bare. It's back to work and for kids, it's countless weeks of school until Easter.

But in Italy, Epiphany is a cause for celebration and is partied with gusto all over the country. It's a day that marks the 12th day of Christmas when Jesus received his gifts from the Three Wise Men.

One of the most commonly known aspects of Epiphany is the witch, La Befana, who comes bearing gifts of good for the well behaved kids and nuggets of coal for the not so well behaved youngsters (although, to sweeten the mood, the coal tends to be a lump of coal-shaped sweet).

Many areas put on special celebrations for the legend of the old woman who encountered the Wise Men on their route to the manger. These include the somewhat bizarre sight of grown men dressed as La Befana, who take part in a boat race on the Grand Canal. A more conventional take on the La Befana celebration is in Urbania, which really goes to town with a four-day spectacular during which kids can meet the lady herself in La Casa della Befana.

Another familiar element of Epiphany is the Nativity, and a good number of regions act out the scene, following the living nativities of the Christmas period. One of the best known of the nativities is the one in Rivisondoli, which relives the moment in which the Wise Men arrived – and it does so on a large scale with lots of extras in costume and a genuine atmosphere.

Vatican City also sees another annual commemoration of Epiphany when people dressed in medieval costume make their way to the Vatican, bearing symbolic presents for the Pope – after which the Pope himself delivers morning mass in St Peter's Basilica to remember the moment in which the Wise Men arrived with gifts for baby Jesus.

Commencing The Carnival

Storico Carnevale di Ivrea, 6th January 2017

The historic carnival of Ivrea begins in earnest this Winter. Ahead of a slew of events in February, a day to kick off the carnival takes place this 6th January. The day kicks off with the opening march of the Carnival. This will navigate along a wide route allowing as many people as possible to see the march – among the locations are Corso Massimo D'Azeglio, Chiesa San Lorenzo and Corso Cavour.

Other events during the day include the Ceremony of the Salt and Bread, Holy Mass and the Ceremony of the Candles. The event programme will begin later in the month of February (11th) where there will be plenty of things to see and do until 1st March. For now, though, let the event be launched in style!

Total Fashion

Men's Fashion Week, Milan, 14th - 17th January 2017; Pitti Immagine 10th - 29th January 2017

January turns over a new leaf – and so it's no wonder that fashion shows hold court in Italy this month.

Two locations – Milan and Florence – are hosting two fashion shows. The Milan Fashion extravaganza begins with the fashions for men. Fashions have come and fashions have gone, whether tank tops, cheesecloth shirts or flares, but the Milan show will feature the latest in men's clothing and accessory trends. The likes of Diesel Black Gold, Billionaire, Versace and Prada will be exhibiting at the event, which can also be seen on the Cameramoda.it website on a live stream.

Meanwhile, in Florence, Pitti Immagine will kick off with its own fashion fair for men, featuring a broad cross-section of clothing and designers. This takes place on 10th to 13th January 2017 at Piazza Pitti Palace, and a few days later on the 19th (through to the 21st), it's the turn for the kids' fashions which will again be explored through a good selection of designs and clothes.

Finally, on the 27th to 29th January, Pitti Immagine Filati will showcase woven textiles and designers. It's a good spread of designs, ideas and samples and for the dedicated followers of fashion in the Milan and Florence regions, these events will wear well.

Salute The Saints

San Antonio Abate Celebrations (c. 17th January 2017) and The Feast Day of San Sebastiano (c. 20th January 2017)

Two saints are honoured this month. First up is San Antonio Abate (St Anthony), who was among other things an abbot and the patron saint of domestic animals.

The events are a mix of sombre contemplation and processions, parades and parties. For example, in Nicolosi, Sicily, the saint is remembered from the moment dawn strikes on 17th January as monks make their vows of dedication to St Anthony and to God – before events including religious ceremonies and parades are held later in the day.

Meanwhile on the island of Sardinia, musical and dancing events mark the saint, but the most striking remembrance is the lighting of huge bonfires that burn for hours. A horse race of Buti is another memorable celebration, pitting the local neighbourhoods against each other on the first Sunday after 17th January (this year, it's due on 22nd January).

The other saint to be celebrated this month is the Christian saint and martyr, St Sebastian. Sicily dedicates the day of 20th January to San Sebastiano in various ways – whether it's the parade of the saint's statue in Mistretta, the lighting of the Vaporetto (a papier mache, decorated boat) in Ortona or the San Sebastiano ceremony's explosion of coloured paper at the height of Acireale's exit of the St Sebastian statue. Colour – in addition to fun and spectacle temper the serious contemplation of the saint well, and make this a very special day indeed.

Ice To See The Nutcracker

The Imperial Ice Stars' The Nutcracker On Ice, Milan, 17th - 22nd January 2017

The classic Tchaikovsky work The Nutcracker is being brought to the ice this January at Teatro degli Arcimboldi.

The acclaimed and award-winning Imperial Ice Stars will present their own unique take on The Nutcracker. More than 20 athletes will take to the ice to perform, and among the line up are world champions Evgeny Paltov and Maxim Staviski.

You may be missing the cosy environment of the pantomime in December. Or you may be a massive fan of The Nutcracker. Or you may equally be a fan of ice skating. Whichever choice (and you may just want a nice, entertaining Wintry experience), you won't go wrong with this magical performance – you may even be inspired enough to take to the ice yourself afterwards to become one of the ice skating stars of tomorrow.

The Art of Events

Arte Fiera, Bologna, 27th - 30th January 2017

Start the new year off with a bit of culture – and what better way to do so than to visit the oldest and biggest art fair in Italy?

Arte Fiera in Bologna is about to enter its 41st edition and attracts countless art aficionados and experts who come here to admire a wide range of masterpieces and to find out about the latest art trends and innovations.

In addition to the main show, the 41st edition of Arte Fiera will boast a number of extra attractions. These will include Printville, which is a bookshop designed to showcase contemporary and global art and photography – mostly from independent publishers.

Another new initiative is called Special Projects and will be curated by Chiara Vecchiarelli. These special projects will be conducted through lectures, guided tours and conferences – all with the aim of broadening visitors' minds on the subject of art.

The Art Fair will also showcase Agenda Independents which is an exhibition that features the works of artists including Alessandro Calabrese, Stefano Canto, Giuseppe De Mattia, Pedro Hernandez, Joanna Piotrowska, and Alberto Sinigaglia.

There is plenty to learn, admire and enjoy at the Art Fair this January – in addition to the special projects and initiatives, there are of course, plenty of superb art pieces to gaze upon in wonder.

Dali Buds

The Dali Experience, Bologna, Throughout January 2017

For a more specific artistic experience, the Dali Experience in Bologna is worth a visit. Dali had a truly unique mind, producing works such as The Persistence Of Memory and The Elephants.

So come and remember the works of Dali's art at the Palazzo Belloni. The exhibition will boast around 200 works – over 100 drawings, as well as 22 museum sculptures, 10 glass pieces, and 12 gold objects. The aim of the experience is to educate visitors in the lesser known aspects of Dali's work – hence the showcase of other formats besides the traditional painting.

It's an interactive and multimedia voyage through the rich tapestry of Dali's life and talent. While the month continues to chill, a visit to the Dali Experience is an ideal way to pass the time – although if you can't make it this month, don't fret, it's on until May this year.