For more details on each event below, contact the tourist office of the city or town where the festival is held.
For an exhaustive list of events beyond those listed here, check http://events.frommers.com, where you'll find a searchable, up-to-the-minute roster of what's happening in cities all over the world.
Epiphany celebrations, nationwide. All cities, towns, and villages in Italy stage Roman Catholic Epiphany observances and Christmas fairs. From Christmas to January 6.
Festival of Italian Popular Song, San Remo (Italian Riviera). A 3-day festival where major artists and up-and-comers perform the latest Italian pop songs and launch the newest hits. Late January.
Foire de Saint Ours, Aosta, Valle d'Aosta. Observing a tradition that has existed for 10 centuries, artisans from the mountain valleys come together to display their wares -- often made of wood, lace, wool, or wrought iron -- created during the long winter months. Late January.
Carnevale (Carnival), Venice. Venice's Carnival evokes the final theatrical 18th-century days of the Venetian Republic. Historical presentations, elaborate costumes, and music of all types in every piazza cap the festivities. The balls are by invitation, but the cultural events, piazza performances, and fireworks (Shrove Tuesday) are open to everyone. From two Fridays before Shrove Tuesday to Shrove Tuesday.
Good Friday and Easter Week observances, nationwide. Processions and age-old ceremonies -- some from pagan days, some from the Middle Ages -- are staged. Beginning on the Thursday or Friday before Easter Sunday, usually in April.
Voga Longa, Venice. This 30km (19-mile) rowing "race" from San Marco to Burano and back again has been enthusiastically embraced since its inception in 1975, following the city's effort to keep alive the centuries-old heritage of the regatta. The event is colorful, and every local seems to have a relative or next-door neighbor competing. For details, call tel. 041-521-0544. A Sunday in mid-May.
June & Events That Last Throughout the Summer
Regatta of the Great Maritime Republics. Every year, the four medieval maritime republics of Italy celebrate their glorious past with a boat race that rotates among Venice, Amalfi, Genoa, and Pisa. Call the tourist offices for details.
Biennale d'Arte, Venice. This is Europe's most prestigious -- and controversial -- International Exposition of Modern Art, taking place in odd-numbered years only. More than 50 nations take part, with art displayed in permanent pavilions in the Public Gardens and elsewhere about town. Many great modern artists have been discovered at this world-famous show. Contact the board at tel. 041-521-8711 (www.labiennale.org) for more information. June to October.
Shakespearean Festival, Verona. Ballet, drama, and jazz performances are included in this festival of the Bard, with a few performances in English. June to September.
Arena di Verona (Outdoor Opera Season in Verona), Verona. Culture buffs flock to the open-air, 20,000-seat Roman amphitheater, one of the world's best preserved. The season lasts from early July to August for awesome productions of Aïda and others.
Festa del Redentore (Feast of the Redeemer), Venice. This celebration marking the July 1576 lifting of a plague that had gripped the city is centered around the Palladio-designed Chiesa del Redentore on the island of Giudecca. A bridge of boats across the Giudecca Canal links the church with the banks of Le Zattere in Dorsoduro, and hundreds of boats of all shapes and sizes fill the Giudecca. It's one big floating festa until night descends and an awesome half-hour spettacolo of fireworks fills the sky. Third Saturday and Sunday in July.
Rossini Opera Festival, Pesaro. The world's top bel canto specialists perform Rossini's operas and choral works at this popular festival on the Italian Adriatic Riviera. Mid-August to late September.
Venice International Film Festival. Ranking after Cannes, this film festival brings together stars, directors, producers, and filmmakers from all over the world. Films are shown day and night to an international jury and to the public, at the Palazzo del Cinema, on the Lido, and other venues. Contact the tourist office or the Venice Film Festival (tel. 041-272-6501 or 041-524-1320; www.labiennale.org). Two weeks in late August to early September.
Regata Storica, Grand Canal, Venice. Just about every seaworthy gondola, richly decorated for the occasion and piloted by gondolieri in colorful livery, participates in the opening cavalcade. The aquatic parade is followed by three regattas that proceed along the Grand Canal. You can buy grandstand tickets through the tourist office or arrive early and pull up along a piece of embankment near the Rialto Bridge for the best seats in town. First Sunday in September.
Giostra del Saracino (Joust of the Saracen), Arezzo. A colorful procession in full historical regalia precedes the 13th-century-style tilting contest, with knights in armor in the town's main piazza. First Sunday in September.
Partita a Scacchi con Personnagi Viventi (Living Chess Game), Marostica. This chess game is played in the town square by living pawns in period costume. The second Saturday and Sunday of September during even-numbered years.
Sagra del Tartufo, Alba, Piedmont. The truffle is the honoree of this festival in Alba, the truffle capital of Italy, with contests, truffle-hound competitions, and tastings of this ugly but precious and delectable (and expensive) fungus. Two weeks in mid-October.
Maratona (Marathon), Venice. The marathon starts at Villa Pisani on the mainland, runs alongside the Brenta Canal, and ends along the Zattere for a finish at the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute on the tip of Dorsoduro. For details, call tel. 041-950-644. Usually the last Sunday of October.
Festa della Salute, Venice. For this festival, a pontoon bridge is erected across the Grand Canal to connect the churches of La Salute and Santa Maria del Giglio, commemorating another delivery from a plague in 1630 that wiped out a third of the lagoon's population; it's the only day La Salute opens its massive front doors (a secondary entrance is otherwise used). November 21.
La Scala Opera Season, Teatro alla Scala, Milan. At the most famous opera house of them all, the season opens on December 7, the feast day of Milan's patron St. Ambrogio, and runs into July. Though it's close to impossible to get opening-night tickets, it's worth a try; call tel. 02-860-787 or 02-860-775 for the box office, 02-7200-3744 for a listing of performances (www.teatroallascala.org).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.