John Bensalhia kicks off 2020 with a selection of Italian events and festivals occurring this January...
New month. New year. New decade.
The 00s and the 10s have flown past in the blink of an eye, and now it's the debut of the 20s. Italy sees in the new decade with a range of events and happenings that are – in some cases – hot tickets. Bonfires... wedding re-enactments... artisan fairs... and much more besides!
1st - 2nd January 2020
Kick off the new year by observing the annual cross-country skiing world cup!
The Toblach World Cup brings together the top competitors in the field of skiing. With both female and male competitors taking part on the fresh Toblach snow, it's a battle to see who can make their way across country in the fastest time. Female skiiers have 10 km to traverse, while male competitors have 5 km extra to work through.
It's an exhilarating race, and one that the locals will love in an area famed for its skiing reputation.
San Candido & San Vigilio, 8th - 15th January 2020
It's snow joke – these really are amazing works of art.
The Snow Sculptures International Festival assembles the best in its field, with 30 competitors from around the world coming to Alto Adige. Dividing into 10 teams, the artists are tasked with coming up with the best snow sculpture using a massive snow block, a saw, a shovel and water.
The competitors have only three days apiece to complete the sculpture, with the first round of snow art taking place in San Candido, with the second in San Vigilio. It's up to the visiting attendants and locals to rate the best one, with the final results illuminated, bringing the region to colourful life at night.
Castellana, 11th January 2020
How appropriate that in Winter, so many January festivals warm things up with a bonfire.
One of the most essential of these is Castellana's Feast of the Fanòve, which recalls a miracle that occurred in the region in the later part of the 17th century.
In 1691, the people of Castellana experienced a terrible plague. Seeking answers to a cure, a ray of hope lay with two priests who had witnessed the same vision. By anointing the afflicted with oil burning in the votive lamp of the Virgin Mary of Vetrana, this would result in a cure. Sure enough, this is what happened. Following this amazing miracle, anything deemed an infection risk was subsequently burned on a bonfire.
Hence the Fanòve Feast, which arranges nearly 100 bonfires in the city to mark this event. Attracting hefty numbers, this event warms the tummies with delicious food and the heart with folk music, too.
Novoli, 16th January 2020
Keeping the bonfires burning with the Lighting of the Fòcara, one of the largest of its kind.
It's an undeniably impressive – and massive flame, with the base coming in at 20 x 25 metres. On top of this, more than 80,000 vine branches are used in the construction! The bonfire is the centrepiece of the Novoli region's celebrations to mark its patron saint, Anthony.<
It's an event that brings in countless visitors who come to Novoli to witness this amazing flamey spectacle – and in addition to the bonfire, there's plenty to keep the folks entertained, including musical and show performances, food and drink, and also art.
Milan, 18th - 20th January 2020
While ebooks are a great and convenient innovation, sometimes, there's nothing like a genuine printed book to leaf through.
Come and take a look at a wide range of books at the Salone Della Cultura Fair in Milan. Whatever your preference of book – old, new, second-hand... there's plenty to please at this fascinating fair, held at Via Tortona's Superstudio Più.
The fair is due to enter its fourth edition, and so far, the reception has been extremely positive. Run by Matteo Luteriani from Luni Editrice and Sergio Malavasi from Maremagnum, the Salone Della Cultura Fair welcomed more than 30,000 people – a testament to the quality of the event. As well as books, visitors can take part in cultural-related workshops.
Attendees 16 or under can get in for free!
19th January 2020
Here comes the bride! In a fascinating recreation of a typical 19th century style wedding.
This re-enactment follows the rural traditions of the 1800s. As the bride and groom tie the knot, the celebrations kick off with a parade through the village. The village follows the happy couple – either by foot or by horse-drawn sleigh – from the church of St Valentine to the centre of Castelrotto.
Dressed in traditional period wedding clothes, the villagers and the couple tuck into a delicious wedding breakfast including local delicacies such as Goulash, Knödel, and Krapfen – not to mention the traditional wedding cake, Hoazetkuchl.
Aosta, 30th - 31st January 2020
The best of local artisan crafts, foods and drinks will be showcased again at the yearly Sant'Orso Fair.
It's one of the oldest annual events in Italy, with this year's edition clocking up a mighty 1020. Visitors come time and again to sample Aosta's artisan offerings, including unique sculptures, artworks and carvings. If you're seeking birthday or general gift inspiration, this is well worth the visit. Special toys, cups and traditional wooden shoes (Sabots) are among the varied gifts on display. Alternatively, you may be seeking items for the home – in which case, specially made furnishings and furniture items are also on display.
Working up an appetite while shopping or browsing? Local foods, meats, cheeses, drinks and wines will satisfy. All the while, in the background, local tunes will be playing, adding to the local ambience.