John Bensalhia packs a lot into the month of May with a wide range of event and festival subjects ranging from the piano to the farm
Italy is covering all the bases in the last month of Spring. May brings culture to the country, provides farm fun, celebrates historical figures and traditions, and tucks into some of the best in local food and drink.
Busy times, starting with a celebration of a simple but tasty Italian dish...
Teramo, 1st May 2019
Don't many of us modern day 21st century types take meals for granted? Many a restaurant provides a fancy feast for both the eyes and the tummy. The rise of fine dining has grown in popularity, with more diners wishing to sample this elaborate cuisine.
But in simpler times, even the combination of basic ingredients resulted in something wonderful. That's why annual festivals such as the Teramo one devoted to Virtù are so important. The old recipes are still popular with all ages, and what's more the Virtù creates more than just a meal – it's about bringing the local families and community together. With families opening their doors to welcome tourists to come and try the meal, it's a heart-warming celebration of the Spring season in Italy.
The essential ingredients of the recipe (which is said to go back to the days of ancient Rome) comprise vegetables, legumes and pasta. What's nice about the dish is that there's no set recipe. Everyone can add their own flavour or unique twist on the meal, which means that visiting tourists can sample many kinds of Virtù.
Savona, 3rd- 5th May 2019
Hungry for more food-themed events? Well, let me oblige with the fourth edition of the now annual DrinkEat festival.
DrinkEat cooks up the very best in Italian food and drink over the course of three days in early May. The clue is in the title with the arrangement of the event, with separate sections for Drink and Eat. Whether you have a thirst for beer or for wine, both tastes are catered for with genuine Italian handcrafted beers and wines to be sampled.
The Food side also brings together some of the finest Italian producers in areas from cheeses to fruits and vegetables. This year's event will include a section devoted to street foods, such as specially prepared lunches, snacks (such as sandwiches) and the finest in regionally made ice cream.
As well as tantalising the taste-buds, the event is designed to educate visitors about the background and quality of the food and drink available. Conferences, laboratories and live demonstrations are all geared towards providing attendees with a greater knowledge of the local cuisine, feeding the mind as well as the stomach.
Rovigo, 3rd- 5th May 2019
That's this year's mantra for the annual Spring cultural festival, Rovigoracconta. Encouraging individuality and to put aside all differences, this year's event looks set to be a winner, with more than 70 artists, musicians and writers taking to the streets and squares of Rovigo. The event includes special performances that are free of charge to attend.
All of the family will find much to enjoy, and special performances, workshops and story-times will be put on for the children. Younger ones will also be able to take part in the Orange Festival themselves.
An impressive line-up from the world of Italian media and culture includes Maria Antonietta, Giacomo Papi, Giacomo Bevilacqua, Nina Zilli, and many more. Among the special events will be an exclusive preview of Stefano Benni's Dancing Paradiso, with readings from the book given by the author himself.
Sant’Antioco, 4th- 6th May 2019
Christian martyr and physician Saint Antiochus of Sulcis is a revered figure in Sardinian culture. While he had spent his time converting individuals to the Christian religion, he was subsequently imprisoned and condemned to death by the authorities, at around the time of 127 AD.
The Feast of Saint Antioco is one of the oldest (660thedition this year) religious festivals of its kind. With time-honoured traditions such as the Is Coccois blessing (a decorated white bread in honour of Antioco) and a procession, it's a hugely popular festival. Anyone coming to the Feast can also enjoy entertainment such as musical and live performances and a fireworks display.
Varese, 5th May 2019
Farm fun is happening in Varese on the 5thof May.
The Agrivarese Fair is the opportunity for both locals and visitors to experience a bit of farm life. The main city and its surrounding streets feature local farmers and food producers, who are on hand to educate all ages about the agricultural sector. It's a great way of teaching important topics such as healthy eating and how to be more environmentally conscious.
A trade fair that entertains as well as educates, Agrivarese is a good one for families. Mums and dads can learn how to perform farming and food production tasks such as extracting honey, shearing and milking. Kids will love meeting the animals and will also be enchanted by the specially put on shows, music performances and workshops.
17th- 19th May 2019
Brush up on the world of contemporary art this May with Lucca's acclaimed Art Fair. As well as exploring some of the finest artwork from the post-war, modern and contemporary eras, the event is geared towards educating and encouraging visitors in the wonders of art.
As part of this commitment, the best of up and coming talent is celebrated with a special award that marks under-35 artists. Even younger in age, six to 10 year olds can enjoy the KidsLAB, which provides children with an introduction to contemporary art through the method of games. It's a fun launch for youngsters who want to begin or develop their artistic talents.
Older visitors can experience a number of art-themed initiatives such as exhibitions, talks, meetings and an Art Night, which involves both artists and audience in performance.
17th- 19th May 2019
A key event this month is Milan's piano festival, which transforms the city into one big celebration of the classic musical instrument.
250 areas of Milan play host to an incredible 400 piano concerts and performances, and since the majority of them don't cost anything to gain entry, it's a great way to spend time without splashing the cash.
A number of locals have taken part in various ways. Along with local piano players, others have offered to provide their private homes or courtyards as venues for some of the performances. That's a tribute to the popularity of this event, which is about to enter its eighth year. Performances can range from classical to contemporary, with something guaranteed to please all musical tastes.
26th May 2019
The final event in this month's round-up undeniably hits the target.
The Palio of the Crossbow is held in Gubbio on the last Sunday of May, and brings back the traditional Middle Ages competition into the modern world.
With Gubbio a keen area of interest for the crossbow, the Palio challenges competitors to have a shot at winning. To tie in with the period feel of the event, participants dress up in medieval costume. The aim of the game is to hit the target from a distance of 36 metres.
As well as the competition, spectators can also brush up on their history of the crossbow at the Bargello Palace. This is the location of the Crossbowmen Society, and also an exhibition of past crossbows and garnered awards.