What's On in Italy - November 2015

Sun, 11/01/2015 - 14:55

Wrap up warm this November with some first class events and festivals. John Bensalhia listens to some more of that jazz, keeps up the pace with a marathon and sheds some light on an annual festival...

There's no place like Italy to counter-act the cold weather and darker nights of November. It's a month that's packed with a diverse array of events and festivals that cover all kinds of bases. In addition to the food festivals taking place this month (see separate feature), November serves up events relating to a broad church of themes such as wool, motorbikes, jazz music and light shows.

JAZZ FESTIVALS – Throughout November

Looking for a cooler alternative to the omnipresent Christmas music? Well, you're in luck. November is packed full of funky jazz festivals in many areas. For instance, the 39th edition of Roma Jazz Festival (14th - 29th November) promises a stellar line-up of acts from all over the world.

The Gregory Porter Quintet (USA) is fronted by a singer blessed with a unique baritone voice. Grammy winner Porter's voice melds jazz, gospel, blues and soul to spellbinding effect. Also flying in from the USA is Ameen Saleem, the acclaimed bass player. This member of the Ray Hargrove Quintet will be performing with The Groove Lab and will showcase his superlative bass skills that combine jazz, soul and funk.

Mixing a touch of his Cuban roots with jazz sensibilities and classical influences is Alfredo Rodriguez. Alfredo was discovered nearly 10 years ago by none other than legendary producer and musician Quincy Jones at the Montreux Jazz Festival, and this year's Roma Jazz performance promises a great deal.

Another act to mix jazz sounds with a taste of his homeland is Tunisian Dhafer Youssef. Dhafer is a supremely talented multi-instrumentalist and singer – his style is to twin European jazz with North African melodies. A notable instrument used in Dhafer's music is an Arabic lute called the 'oud, just part of the universal acclaim that he's received from all parts of the world.

Sarah McKenzie has also received much acclaim, from both critics and fans. This award-winning Australian jazz pianist and singer has toured with the likes of Michael Buble and Enrico Rava, with albums including Close Your Eyes and her latest offering We Could Be Lovers.

Also creating a heady brew of jazz is the Bologna Jazz Festival (throughout November until the 28th). This promises a superb line-up of jazz musicians including saxophonist Mark Turner (performing with his quartet), keyboardist Marcos Valle and singer Mietta.

Meanwhile, the Parma Jazz Frontiere Festival will chalk up its landmark 20th edition this November. This is a festival that promotes projects in the fields of jazz and contemporary music. The Mark Turner Quartet will again be making an appearance as well as acts including Django Bates' Beloved and some special projects including an homage to Giorgio Gaslini and a fantastic anniversary concert.

ROMAEUROPA FESTIVAL – Throughout November

If you're looking for one of the quintessential performing arts festivals, then the RomaEuropa Festival has much to offer.

This year's line-up boasts a typically eclectic selection of performances that brim with innovation and style. These include West End, a work by Italian choreographer Chiara Frigo that looks at the relationship between the West and the notion of decadence through dance and sound. In Io, Nessumo e Polifemo, actress, director, playwright and costume designer Emma Dante interviews Polyphemus. The concept was born out of assigning various authors to impossible interviews. This is a fascinating idea and Dante is set to bring this quirky concept to life with much panache.

Elsewhere, The Winstons and Esecutori di metallo su carta will present a brand new version of Modest Musorgskij's Pictures At An Exhibition. This new presentation will feature live visuals from artist Andrew Quinn which interacts the video art with music in real time. Italian ensemble Tempo Reale will meanwhile be performing their version of Mauricio Kagel's Acustica, a piece that provides an unconventional yet mesmerising take on “instrumental theatre” with its use of sound effects, non-traditional acoustic instruments and free-falling performance.

Cuisine And Confessions will see Les 7 doigts de la main (a group of acrobats, performers and dancers) display a dazzling show of culinary acrobatics against the backdrop of a fully equipped and operational kitchen complete with stoves, fridge and sink. During the performance, food will be prepared live as you've never seen before – with acrobatic displays that synchronise in time with the cooking. Among the notable set-pieces are the first chocolate-tasting kiss, an evening with some herbal tea and a pot of jam, and some family recipe secrets.

ALL SAINTS DAY and ALL SOULS DAY – 1st and 2nd November

The first two days of the month see Italy unite to honour the dead. The first of these, All Saints Day, pays tribute to the Saints of the Catholic Calendar – All Souls Day has been a part of All Saints Day since 998 AD when Abbot Odilo of Cluny declared the day to remember the dead in order to reconcile the living with the departed. In the weeks building up to the laying of the flowers, graves are prepared and cleaned in advance.

The marking of these two days is uniquely observed in many ways all over Italy. Special foods are made including cookies known as Ossi da morti (Bones of the Dead): these are typically served in areas such as Veneto, Piemonte and Sicily. Other notable culinary traditions for All Saints and All Souls Days include servings of broad beans and chestnuts in Liguria and Stinchetti dei Morti in Umbria (cakes that translate as Shins of the Dead). Other common traditions include setting tables for the dead to feast and the ringing of church bells to call the dead to their homes.

CLUB TO CLUB – Turin, 4th - 8th November

The 18th edition of Club To Club promises plenty in the way of electronic music, art and culture. It's an annual event that has received its fair share of acclaim, both at home and internationally.

This event can command an array of fantastic electronic and pop acts and the 2015 line-up is no exception. Among the acts booked for this year are Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke, Tomorrow's Modern Boxes, DJ Nicolas Jaar, Apparat and Todd Terje. Many of the days have already sold like hotcakes – if you're one of the lucky ones to have nabbed a place, then you're in for a real treat.

INTERNATIONAL HORSE SHOW – Verona, 5th - 8th November

Seeking that authentic American horse riding experience? Then gallop on down to Verona's International Horse Show this November for a series of performances and contests that take inspiration from the Wild West.

The 117th edition of the show rounds up a roster of events and competitions including team penning and cutting. Penning involves teams of three horses and riders looking to separate three calves from a herd of 30 in just one minute. Cutting will put horse and rider under the scrutiny of five judges who will assess the strength and performance of 100 pairs of horses and riders. Speed events will also take place – these include barrel racing and pole bending in which the horses and riders must get to grips with (respectively) three barrels and six poles. Young riders between seven and 14 years old can also prove their worth in special youth horse riding competitions.

For an extra special touch of the Wild West, the evenings (between 8pm and midnight) offer all kinds of activities and refreshments including craft beers, vintage markets and line dancing.

LUCI D'ARTISTA – Salerno, From 7th November

There may be darker skies at this time of year but you can always rely on Luci D'Artista in Salerno to shed a little light on the situation.

Boasting a range of amazing light displays packed full of colour and impact, Luci D'Artista conjures up a real show for all in the streets and squares and seafronts of Salerno. For the first time this year, the lights will illuminate the new beach of Santa Teresa.

With this year's theme being “The Forest”, there will also be a forest of Christmas delights later in the month. Christmas markets and celebrations will be coming to the area. Northern lights, fairytale characters and gardens will provide a festive experience for young and old. Youngsters can also enjoy the presence of Pinocchio and Alice In Wonderland who will grace the local stage.

Undoubtedly an event that brings a little light into everyone's lives.

WOOL FAIR – Florence, 7th - 8th November

November time means that it's out with the T-shirts and shorts and sombreros and in with scarves, jumpers and bobble hats to protect against the cold.

So what better time for a wool fair? Florence is happy to oblige with a free outdoor crafts fair that champions local wool products created with natural dyes and the cream of artisan craftsmanship.

The event takes place in Piazza Santissima Annunziata and includes locally made woollen goodies and even a practical workshop for youngsters which teaches kids in the art of working with wool to make cosy garments ideal at this time of year.


It's described as the “Biggest event in the world dedicated to two wheels”. So get motoring down to Milan for EICMA – or Esposizione Internazionale del Ciclo e Motociclo.

This is a must-attend event for anyone who has a keen interest in motorbikes. It's attended by (at the time of writing) 1400 exhibitors and companies who have confirmed their presence. All the major brands will be there as well as a MotoLive outdoor arena and a Temporary Bikers Shop.

As well as being a great exhibition, it's an event that also looks to the future. This year's EICMA will showcase the latest in technological advancements in this field and will unveil 25 new models.


The threat of bubonic plague loomed ominously over Venice back in 1630 and 1631. Sadly, a quarter of the population were killed by the disease – those that did survive the plague at the time gathered together over three days and three nights in prayer to the Virgin Mary.

Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute (the Basilica of Saint Mary of Health) was built in response to a vow made by the city's senate: if Venice managed to survive the plague, then a new church would be constructed in honour of the Madonna. Baldassare Longhena obliged with the task and the basilica was built in 1631.

Festa Della Madonna Della Salute commemorates this piece of history and also remembers the dead. Services and prayers are held – and on a lighter note, street stalls and music offer a more celebratory feel to the occasion.

FIRENZE MARATHON - 29th November

Keep fit and appreciate the breathtaking views that Florence has to offer at the same time!

It's easy to save the keep fit resolutions for New Year, but the annual Firenze Marathon offers participants a chance to start a month and a bit in advance. This year sees the 32nd edition of the marathon, and will again be accompanied by entertainers like folk musicians, comedians and musical groups along the route.

The Firenze Marathon is widely known all over the world and is attended by thousands of sports people and enthusiasts. The runners can enjoy the spectacular views of the countryside, the hills and Piazza della Signoria.

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