As Summer officially begins, Italy celebrates a number of significant religious and traditional events. John Bensalhia charts some of the most notable examples to begin the season in spectacular style...
June is a month that features many significant events connected with Italian's heritage. Many historical and religious events are celebrated, often with an extended programme that can spread across days and even weeks. It's also a strong month for the arts with festivals championing the talent that goes into films, plays and artwork. So without further ado, let's June in to some of the best known events and festivals happening this month!
FESTA DELLA REPUBBLICA - 2nd June (National holiday)
69 years ago, a watershed moment occurred in Italy. The 1946 Institutional Referendum saw the Italians decide on what sort of leadership they wanted. The population took to the polls to vote on whether they wanted a monarchy or a republic. The outcome saw those in favour of a republic win with more than 12 million (beating those in favour of a monarchy – more than 10 million voted for this choice).
Since 1948, this event has been marked at the start of June. The main centrepiece of the Festa della Repubblica events is the Rome parade, a large scale military affair that sees the likes of the President of the Italian Republic and the Prime Minister in attendance. Honouring the moment that the Italian Republic was established, the Rome parade features musical performances from the Italian forces and the traditional ceremonial laying of the wreath on the Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier at the Vittoriano.
CORPUS DOMINI EVENTS – c. 4th June, Various
This year's Corpus Domini is set to fall on 4th June. Once again, the country will put on a number of spectacular events to mark the event which takes place 60 days after Easter.
The traditional grand procession in Laterno, Rome witnesses the Ostia (the Eucharistic Host given in Communion) taken from the Basilica of San Giovanni to the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore.
One of the most unique events to mark Corpus Domini is the Festival of L'Infiorata which is held in Spello, Umbria. Infiorata means the lavish floral carpets that grace the streets. These floral arrangements really are something to witness as the flowers, petals and seeds are cleverly used to create religious-themed images and reworkings of sacred art works.
A special musical performance will be provided in Castelrotto by the local band, while a number of events will be held in June in Orvieto to mark the occasion. These include a performance of TS Eliot's Four Quartets, a medieval festival and a unique take on chess using people in period dress.
TAORMINA FILM FESTIVAL – 13th - 20th June
Lights! Camera! Action!
There's a lot of action taking place at this year's Taormina Film Festival in the middle of June. Heralding this year's festival two days before the curtain opens is a special screening of the hotly anticipated Jurassic World, the fourth entry in the popular Jurassic Park series that's sure to have plenty of bite.
Other notable screenings this year are the thriller Beyond The Reach and the 3D film from Disney Pixar called Inside Out. In addition, there will be a section for independent American films as selected by critics from Variety magazine.
Also at the 61st edition of this film festival will be classes and talks from a range of industry professionals including Italian director Gabriele Salvatores. In fact, a big coup for this year's edition is the presence of popular actress Patricia Arquette who has starred in films such as Ed Wood, Lost Highway and True Romance.
LUMINARA DI SAN RANIERI and REGATTA DI SAN RANIERI – 16th June, 17th June, Pisa
Pisa comes to light every year on 16th June, the eve of the feast day of St Rainerius (San Ranieri), the patron saint of Pisa. Luminara di San Ranieri lights up around 70,000 candles to illuminate the Arno embankments between Ponte della Cittadella and Ponte alla Fortezza. It's truly a sight of wonder, thanks to the effect of placing the candles in glass lamps, which add that unique, other-worldly glow. This ethereal sheen adds an extra majesty to the surrounding architecture and the riverside – the end result is a magical sight to behold. To cap it off, there will be a fireworks display and a float bearing lighted candles sent on its way down the Arno.
The next day, the Regatta of San Ranieri takes place, pitting four boats (each from Pisa's districts) against the current of the Arno River. It's a race to the finish line with the winner ascending 25 feet in the air via rope to reach the flag of victory.
VENICE ART NIGHT – 20th June
The fifth edition of the Venice Art Night will be taking place this year on 20th June. Conceived by Ca Foscari University and the City of Venice, this is a great showcase of local art work. Admission is free and will allow visitors to take a look at all kinds of artworks, ceiling canvases and sculptures by the likes of Alessandro Vittoria, Leonardo Corona and Antonio Zanchi.
In addition, there will be a number of exhibitions and workshops for the younger ones, encouraging and inspiring the artists of tomorrow.
SAN GIOVANNI BATTISTA – Various events on and around 24th June
From the ruins of the Basilica of St Euphemia, Lake Como to a medieval-inspired setting in Florence, the Feast Day of St John The Baptist is celebrated with great style and gusto in Italy.
The Basilica of St Euphemia is the setting for the religious tribute to St John at Lake Como. It's a chance for reflection and prayer among the many other events that Lake Como offers, such as musical performances, food stalls and firework displays.
This year's annual Festa della Cultura in Florence will boast a wide range of artists and musicians inspired by the cream of past local talent. Art exhibitions from artists Alessandro Vannini and Antonio Ciccone are on this year's agenda in addition to piano concerts and the fireworks show at Piazzale Michelangelo.
Another notable Florence celebration is the medieval-tinged tournament Calcio Storico Fiorentino, a unique blend of the medieval period, football and wrestling. The heats will take place over two separate days prior to the final on the 24th. The green team from San Giovanni will compete against the red team from Santa Maria Novella on the 13th while the whites of Santo Spirito will take on the blues of Santa Croce on the 14th.
Fabriano will host a wide selection of events that run from the 12th to 24th June including concerts, conferences and kids' activities. Some of the events will feature a historical slant with parades, flag throwers and the Challenge of the Archers in period costume. Mass will be held on the final day of the Fabriano events.
FESTIVAL DEI 2 MONDI - 26th June - 12th July, Spoleto, Umbria
A big plus point of the Festival Of Two Worlds is its eclectic nature. Picking the best of the different sectors of the arts, there are all sorts of innovative, inspiring and creative showcases on display this year.
Among the choices this year are a performance of some of the best known Beethoven compositions and an exhibition that marks the centenary of figure artist Leoncillo Leonardi. Among the performances are a show conceived and directed by Giancarlo Sepe called The Dubliners and a play called Blue Smoke that looks at the lives of a group of thirty-somethings. The European Young Theatre will also bring performances and studies to the festival for its third edition.
IL GIOCO DEL PONTE - 28th June, Pisa
Who comes to defend the Bridge? The annual Game of The Bridge in Pisa plays out this year, as ever, on the final Sunday of June (this year, the 28th).
It's a tradition that has various arguable first sightings, but the first recorded mention of this dates back to 1490. Originally, the battle was played out twice a year, with the other date falling on 17th January, the day that St Anthony the Abbot died.
This event has had something of a sporadic history with lengthy gaps taking place. For example, there wasn't any sign of the event between 1807 and 1935. Upon its return, the advent of World War 2 temporarily halted the Game until its return in 1950, which ran for 13 more years. After a hiatus of just under 20 years, the Game returned in 1982, and since then has been an annual fixture in the Pisa calendar.
It's an event packed full of action and excitement as the battle for the bridge is tested with the aid of a seven ton trolley on tracks. Push the trolley into the enemy side and victory is claimed!
FEAST OF ST PETER and ST PAUL - 29th June, Rome
St Peter and St Paul are the patron saints of Rome and their lives are remembered and commemorated at the end of this month.
St Peter was one of the first disciples of Jesus and is seen as the first Pope of the Catholic Church. St Paul converted to Christianity while on the road to Damascus in the wake of the death of Jesus. He is also known as Saul of Tarsus and was a leader of great influence in the Christian church.
This national public holiday is marked with a mix of serious and fun events that combine contemplative religious contemplation and entertainment including music, fairs and firework displays for all the family to enjoy.