What's On in Italy - July 2014

Sat, 06/28/2014 - 03:00
Umbria Jazz

With summer hitting its stride, John Bensalhia looks at the sights and sounds coming to Italy in July.

July brings a number of historical and traditional festivals and events. It's also a month that loves music, with a variety of events that celebrate the past, present and even the future of musical talent.

FESTA DELLA BRUNA - 2nd July, Matera

Matera will be honouring its patron saint on the 2nd of July at this year's Festa Della Bruna. It's a festival that goes back centuries, culminating in the destruction of the purpose-built chariot.

On the day of the festival, a statue of the Holy Mother will be paraded through a procession on the float/chariot – having been taken into the Church of Piccianello. Its destination will be the Cathedral Square, where in the evening, the symbolic Three Turns occurs, representing the taking of the city by the Holy Patrol. After the statue is placed in the cathedral, the crowds will then set upon and destroy the chariot, which will then be rebuilt and replaced for next year's festival. It's a day full of tradition, as well as spectacle – as seen in the traditional costumes and the climatic fireworks competition.

PALIO DI SIENA - 2nd July, Siena

It's a horse race that commands many visitors and involves a carnival-style spectacle to accompany it. Palio Di Siena is the first of two races (the other taking place in August), and takes place on 2nd July, recognising Madonna of Provenzano and the Feast of the Visitation.

The Palio, which dates back to 1656, comprises 10 bareback horse riders, who represent 10 of the 17 city wards (or contrade). Three laps of the Piazza del Campo, and it's the first horse to reach the finish line – even if its rider has accidentally fallen off.

The Palio attracts much attention and build-up, and in addition to the race itself, there is a carnival-style ambience, with medieval costumes, flags and a pageant all adding to the celebratory flavour.

soundSCAPE - 4th - 17th July, Maccagno (Varese, Lombardy)

Now in its 10th season, soundSCAPE continues to spur on the musicians of tomorrow. Soundscape is a fortnight packed full of workshops, classes and lectures – plus concerts, and has attracted many composers and performers from around the globe.

This year's event features a number of diverse and interesting themes and events. One such initiative will focus on the musical abilities of small groups from duets to quintets, whether vocal or instrumental. This will see some performances from such groups, who will have the chance to showcase their musical skills. In addition to this, there will be a conference on the works and music of composer Gyorgy Ligeti on 14th July. Ligeti's son, Lukas, will be the special guest, and will be performing a concert of his father's music.


This event re-enacts a 1572 duel – or challenge – between the archers of earth (in Fivizzano) and those of the court (those who were outside the province of Massa Carrara). The re-enactment provides much spectacle, with historical costumes and props being the order of the day. Also taking place on the 6th is an official ceremony of the Palio in Piazza Medici.

There is no shortage of traditional entertainment on this day, with acrobats, drummers, jugglers and flag bearers providing colour and historical flair. In addition, there will be food stalls and craft markets to ensure that the day will be an experience to remember.

UMBRIA JAZZ FESTIVAL - 11th - 20th July, Perugia (Umbria)

All Italian jazz fans – that time of year is here again. Some of the all-time jazz legends will be assembling for what's looking to be a spectacular summer of music. The Umbria Jazz Festival takes place in mid-July and boasts a superb line-up that will satisfy all ages.

This year's line-up includes sets from the Daptone Super Soul Revue and a combination of Ray Gelato and Enzo Avitabile. Some of the worldwide jazz and soul legends will be flying in to Umbria to perform with some home-grown Italian musical talent – for example, legendary jazz singer Al Jarreau will be performing on 20th July with Take 6 and Mario Biondi. Dr John will be performing with Galactic on 15th July. Natalie Cole (singer of This Will Be, Pink Cadillac and Miss You Like Crazy) will take to the stage with Fiorella Mannoia on 18th July. Legendary jazz musicians Herbie Hancock (of Headhunters, Maiden Voyage and Sunlight fame) will perform with the Wayne Shorter Duo on 16th July – saxophonist Shorter has not only worked with Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell and Steely Dan, but formed his own band, Weather Report, in the 1970s (best known for their infectious 1977 hit, Birdland).

All in all, a hugely impressive line-up that combines worldwide and Italian jazz sounds. For fans of dance music, there's also the UJ 4/4 Techno-Logical Dance Music Festival on the first day of the event.

FESTA DI SANTA ROSALIA - 10th - 15th July, Palermo

The patron Saint of Palermo will be honoured again in the middle of July in a festival that combines traditional religion, spectacle and history.

The event will see the carro trionfale bearing the statue of Santa Rosalia leave the square outside the local cathedral. Its destination is Foro Italico with a visit along the way to Quattro Canti, where the saint will be honoured by the city's mayor, VIPs and the organisers of the festival. Once the statue reaches its destination, music and fireworks will conclude the procession in colourful and vivid style.

On 15th July, relics of Santa Rosalia will be paraded through the streets of Palermo. The streets will also pay host to vendors, who will offer a wide variety of foods and goods, from potato croquettes to fruits to peas, beans and almonds.

FESTA DE' NOANTRI - 15th - 30th July, Rome

Originating all the way back to 1535, Festa De' Noantri celebrates the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel.

The streets will be packed with people looking to see the procession flanking the statue of the Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. The statue will be carried to the Basilica di San Crisogono in Trastevere, where it will stay for eight days. After the eight-day period is over, the statue will then be taken in another procession back to the church membership.

In addition to the centrepiece procession, this annual event will include Mass, concerts, historical costumes and parades.

PUCCINI FESTIVAL – 25th July - 30th August, Torre del Lago (Tuscany)

2014 strikes two milestones for this year's Puccini Festival. Not only is this the 60th edition, it's also the year in which Madama Butterfly celebrates its 110th anniversary since its initial première. So it's appropriate that the 2014 Puccini Festival shares the love in its main tag line.

The festival will present four all-new productions. Madama Butterfly will be celebrated with a lavish new production gathered together by director and designer Renzo Giacchieri. It will feature the talents of Michela Carosi, Amarilli Nizza and Silvana Froli. Ettore Scola, the acclaimed film director, will helm the production of La Bohème, which will be conducted by Valerio Galli. Daniela Dessì and Fabio Armiliato will head the cast. Meanwhile, Puccini's unfinished Turandot (the home of Nessun Dorma) will be alternately headed by Giovanna Casolla and Lise Lindstrom.

There will also be a chance to see emerging new young stars, courtesy of the 2014 Academy of Superior Studies for Puccini Voices. Students from the Academy will be involved in three one-act operas, comprising Il Tabarro, Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi. Trittico will add to the quality of this year's line-up, which certainly looks to be a musical festival to fall in love with.

FESTA DEL CRISTO DEGLI ABISSI - 26h July, San Fruttuoso (Camogli, Liguria)

Honouring those who died at sea and those who committed their lives to the sea, Festa Del Cristo Degli Abissi will pay tribute again on the 26th July.

This religious festival celebrates Christ of the Abyss, a statue that's submerged 17m deep in the bay of San Fruttuoso, between Camogli and Portofino. The statue is a memorial to those who lost their lives at sea, and during this occasion, a laurel wreath is placed on the statue as a mark of respect.

With all the power temporarily off for the ceremony, the only illumination for this event comes from lit candles. There is a procession that makes its way from the square in front of the Abbey of San Fruttuoso to the bay. The priest will be a key part of the procession, and once he reaches the beach, he will then take to the sea in a boat where he will use the laurel wreath as a blessing.