John Bensalhia kicks off 2019 with an extra helping of Italian events...

Welcome to 2019!

The new year begins with a month crammed full of excellent events and sights. In one way, some of the events in this month's collection clings to the Christmas season, with a last chance to enjoy some festive entertainment. But in another way, it's about looking to the future with musical and artistic talent getting the chance to prove their worth. And for engaged couples, there's a chance to attend an event that will help set them up for the happiest day of their lives.

Riccione Ice Carpet

Till 24th January 2019

While Christmas has come and gone, if you're a big fan of the festive season, there's no need to worry. Because there's still a chance to experience some Winter Wonderlands, such as Emilia-Romagna's Riccione Ice Carpet.

It's a Christmas village that, in addition, to some of the finest local products, foods and drinks, also serves up some excellent events. See in the new year with Radio DEEJAY, which has put on its wintry take on DEEJAY On Stage – DEEJAY On Ice promises to be a fun way to kick 2019 into gear. As well as this, January brings special bags of fun, including an urban dance performance by the MC Hip Hop Contest and a traditional Befana party, celebrating the kindly witch who leaves lucky children an extra haul of presents in the early part of the month.

New Year Grand Ball

1st January 2019, Bologna

2019 kicks off in style with this lavish New Year's Grand Ball at Bologna's Salone del Podestà di Palazzo Re Enzo.

Travel back in time to the 19thcentury, as this special event evokes the dance moves of that period, along with the music and costuming of that era. It's a classic way to travel back in time before the days of technology and excess hustle and bustle.

The event will feature members of a cultural group called Società di Danza. Founded in Bologna in 1991 by Fabio Mòllica, the group both studies and promotes historical dancing, and will be sure to make a memorable contribution to an equally memorable New Year's Day event.

Larino's Illuminations

6thJanuary 2019

Twelfth Night marks the end of the festive season, and there's one last chance to see the spectacular Larino illuminations.

Bright lights and colours combine to bring an extra bit of seasonal magic to the historic centre. The old village is illuminated with a great deal of style and pizazz. These light works of art have been made in conjunction with the builders of the carts of the Carnival of Lombard. It's the last chance to see the wonderful creative fruits on 6thJanuary. For a last chance to grab some of that Christmas spirit before another near-year, have your own lightbulb moment, and visit the Larino illuminations!

Dolomites Snow Festival

San Vigilio di Marebbe: 9thto 11thJanuary 2019 and San Candido: 14thto 16thJanuary 2019

It's snow joke when it comes to creating pure art.

The task is clear cut for the 30 artists who have travelled from all around the world to take part in this competition. Using rapidly freezing water and tools, create the most imaginative, eye-catching snow sculpture possible.

The results will be assessed by both the local residents and the visiting guests at the local resorts. The sculptures will take on different forms during day and night. The cold light of day will allow people to see the sculptures in all their natural glory. At night, special lighting is used to create atmospheric effects that provide a whole new dimension. It's an art exhibition and competition that offers a unique spectacle to anyone who comes to visit.

Sicily International Piano Festival 2019

18thto 26thJanuary 2019

This should strike a chord with any fans of the piano.

The Sicily International Piano Festival aims to provide budding pianists with the learning experience of a lifetime. Through lessons, masterclasses, workshops and lectures, participants can have the chance to work alongside established experts from around the world. It's also a chance to learn all about the culture, heritage and history of Sicily, and all that it has to offer. Everything from buildings to food, and plenty in between, it's a festival that encompasses both music and the abundance of Sicilian culture.

Venues for performances include the Palazzo della Cultura, Museo Diocesano, Museo Belliniano, and Chiesa della Badia di Sant'Agata. On top of that, the festival is also on the hunt to find the best emerging pianists. A special competition will give burgeoning piano talent the chance to showcase what they've got when it comes to making sweet music.

Vicenzaoro

Vicenza, 18thto 23rdJanuary 2019

An event that's worth its weight in gold – literally.

Vicenzaoro is one of the most important jewellery events, showcasing the finest Italian and international jewellery and gold. All kinds of jewels, gems, pearls, silverware items and more will be on display at Fiera di Vicenza this January.

Over 1100 top jewellery experts and industry leaders will be displaying their products at the event, with manufacturers, designers and craftsmen coming together to promote the finest in the field. It's a great way of discovering the modern trends for jewellery, and equally, to find out what the future holds.

It's an event that's massively popular, with in excess of 16,000 trade visitors attending. Growth in both Italian and international traders has been seen, with an 8% increase last year of worldwide traders and an 18% jump for Italian traders. Judging by its reputation, this year's event is set to grow further in popularity.

Winter Marathon

Dolomites Areas, 24thto 27thJanuary 2019

Motoring ahead in the events stakes this month is this vintage sports car race.

A must for any fans of classic old sports cars, it's a race that takes place over a 400km route via nine passes of the Dolomites. Taking place in two key phases, the race begins with a night-time route along the Val Rendena, with the second phase traversing the roads and well-known passes in Trentino-Alto Adige.

Digitech and Eberhard trophies are up for grabs. The former goes to the pre-war cars taking part in this event. Meanwhile, the Eberhard trophy is reserved for the first 32 classified crews of this great race.

A great way to liven up the chilly presence of January, the Winter Marathon is not only an ideal event for vintage car aficionados, it's an excellent one for those who wish to check out the outstanding scenery in the Dolomites.

RomaSposa

31st January to 3rd February 2019

If you're getting married this year – many congratulations!

If there is a downside, then it's the sheer amount of planning. When I got married to Mrs B in 2006, there was so much to consider! What to wear, what to eat, what to say at the hotel venue, what to play at the first dance... it's an ongoing list.

Events such as RomaSposa are ideal for wedding planning. The Spring edition takes place from 31stJanuary to 3rdFebruary, and includes a slew of excellent fashion ideas to present you with some inspiration. All kinds of designs will be presented on the catwalks from traditional through to fairytale.

Forthcoming brides and grooms in the Rome area are well advised to attend this event, which gathers together 200 exhibitors who are on hand to give you some wedding food for thought.