Rome is Italy’s most populous city and arguably the origin of civilization as we know it. As you might expect, the city still celebrates an impressive bouquet of holidays and festivals. While visiting Rome you’ll want to embrace the unexpected (keep your eyes, ears, and nose open at all times) but here are a few things you might stumble upon while negotiating the cobblestones this summer.
This is my first post about Rome, and I’m going to do my best to avoid ever using what might possibly be the most overused geo-specific idiom in the English language. I’ll skip instead to a more contemporary saying, still colloquial but almost never rude, and certainly representative of the enthusiastic open mind that’s as essential as a toothbrush to any traveler…
Where’s the party at?
Rome, Italy’s most populous city and arguably the origin of civilization as we know it, has enough swagger to match its est. B.C. wisdom, and would never, never, never miss an excuse to celebrate. Modern Romans are (in)famous for their spontaneity and your best bet to make the most out of your own Roman Holiday is to take a look around and join the fun wherever you see it (yes, essentially a paraphrased version of that old platitude). At any rate, this post is a heads-up: if you see a crowd gathering in Rome this summer, it could be from something in the following list.
April 21: Rome’s Birthday
When’s your birthday? Mine’s August 3rd, and Rome’s is April 21st. There’s no cake big enough to hold 2,700-plus candles, but head to the Circus Maximus (former 150,000-seat venue of chariot races) for fireworks and parades featuring every historical and/ or parodic Roman costume imaginable.
May 1: Primo Maggio
Labor Day promises to draw a serious Roman crowd every year. Piazza San Giovanni hosts a massively attended (well into six figures) free concert, usually featuring a mix of Italian rock and Italian folk bands.
May 15-24: Internazionali BNL d’Italia
Indirectly translated as the Italian Open, this world-class tennis tournament lasts nine days and promises to bring a star-studded cast to Foro Italico’s clay courts. At this writing, the organizers are being a bit stingy with information on the coming year’s attendees, but recent winners have been of the Nadal/Sharapova/Djokovic ilk.
June 2: Festa della Republica
A city this old has died and been reborn more than the Buddha himself, but it’s not going to be left out of the nationwide celebration of the day that Italy became a republic. If you’re in town, head to the Via dei Fori Imperiali (the street between piazza Venezia and the Colosseum) for an all-day extravaganza of military-in-peacetime parading.
June 23-24: Feast of San Giovanni
San Giovanni‘s birthday is June 24th, and no saint with his own Piazza will be neglected on his special day. If you haven’t tried lumache (snails) this is the place to finally close your eyes and embrace the slime. Requisite concerts and fireworks will not be absent.
August 15: Ferragosto
For a holiday that essentially gives the go-ahead to exit the city en-masse and head for the hills (or the beach) for some R&R, Ferragosto has plenty to offer those fortunate enough to still be in Rome. Your local square will probably host a dance performance or two as part of the Gran Ballo di Ferragosto, but don’t stay put long. Ferragosto is a great opportunity to walk from place to place and experience the closeness of this otherwise vast city, bound together in mutual celebration. For many, it’s a day to say goodbye to one another and to the city, as it signals the start of vacation season. You’ll find the Rome to be a much quieter place after Ferragosto.
Estate Romana (Roman Summer) fills in any gaps you might stumble on while visiting Rome this summer. Each day as the hot sun finally relents the entire city blossoms into a web of outdoor cinemas, concert halls, theaters, living rooms, kitchens… Check the schedule for film screenings, concerts, and any other imaginable form of entertainment.
The Villa Celimontana Jazz Festival offers a different perspective on the Celio Hill ruins. From June until September, music can be heard echoing through the haunting ruins and ancient trees of this beloved Roman park. Shows happen most days and usually have a small entrance fee, but it’s well worth it for the atmosphere—and certainly for the music, which features local up-and-comers as well as world class talent. Check the schedule before heading up.