HomeAway travel expert
The birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, Tuscany is filled with enough culture to occupy a lifetime; let alone a fortnight’s holiday. You can certainly try your best to crack it though, by planning an itinerary that encompasses a smattering of art, history, science and nature, all topped off by hearty portions of the food and drink the region's renowned for. Of course, a holiday here is also meant to be relaxing: you’ll want to take days out for doing as little as possible, whether swimming in the pool or lounging on the sands of Versilia.
One of the best ways to gain insight into Tuscany’s rich culture is by planning your break around some of the region’s annual events. From summer through to winter, a range of vibrant celebrations colour Tuscany’s landscapes; and they cover a wide range of themes, from the religious and historical, to the musical, gastronomic and art-based. After treating yourself to a Tuscan villa from HomeAway, you’ll be ready to uncover the region’s charms at your leisure. Visit the local vineyards and explore the medieval city of Florence, but be sure to check out at least one of our recommended Tuscan events.
These annual extravaganzas are the best and brightest way to learn about this diverse part of Italy.
Annual events in Tuscany
Tuscany events: Luminara of San Ranieri, Pisa
Held on June 16, this ancient celebration dates back to 1688, when the remains of Saint Ranieri were placed in the cathedral in Pisa. In the evening, the city comes to life as candles are lit to commemorate the prestigious event. As darkness falls, palaces, churches and bridges along the Arno are illuminated by the glow of 70,000 ‘lumini’. The Arno’s dark waters sparkle and shimmer are they are bathed in this almighty display of candlepower. At 11pm, a fireworks display is held on the Cittadella Vecchia. Find a spot by the river to enjoy the best view of this majestic spectacle.
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Tuscany events: The Palio, Siena
If you’re staying in one of our Siena holiday rentals, be sure to catch the Palio, held in this historic city twice a year. What is the Palio exactly? Well, it’s a horse race like no other; one in which the city’s various divisions compete inside the Piazza del Campo. Each Contrada, or division, has its own emblem and colours: these same emblems that can be seen as you walk through the streets of Siena. Regardless of whether or not you hold an affinity for horse racing, this eagerly anticipated event is worth witnessing. The Sienese have a great passion for the race, whose origins date back to the 6th century. Held on the 2nd of July and the 16th of August, the Palio promises to be a glorious celebration that encapsulates everything that’s great about Tuscany: its people and traditions.
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Tuscany events: Palio Della Balestra, Sansepolcro
Palio Della Balestra is a medieval crossbow contest held twice a year, on the last Sunday in May, and the second Sunday in September. But what’s so interesting about a crossbow competition? Well, there’s the spectacle of two teams dressed in medieval attire to savour, each wielding antique weapons and competing to see who can fire the truest arrows. In the year’s first event, the crossbowmen of Sansepolcro head to Gubbio (Umbria) to compete against the local menfolk. Then, in September, the crossbowmen of Gubbio return the favour, visiting Sansepolcro for the keenly contested rematch.
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Tuscany events: Display of the Virgin’s Girdle, Prato
In a country that is synonymous with Catholicism, it should come as no surprise that many of Tuscany’s largest events are religious celebrations. The display of the Virgin’s Girdle, on the 8th of September, falls firmly into this category. The rest of the year, Prato’s most treasured relic (the Virgin Mary’s girdle) is kept safely locked away. The event harks back to the 4th century, when there was first talk of a holy girdle that circled the Mother of God. The girdle is more than just a religious relic, however: it is the city’s Palladium; a treasured artefact whose presence in the city is held to be integral to the safety and prosperity of Prato itself. Whatever your take on regarding the city’s sacred traditions, there’s no denying its people’s passion and fervour.
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Tuscany events: Carnavale, Viareggio
Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent in the Christian calendar, falls in February or March each year. In the days leading up to this symbolic day, carnivals are held throughout Italy. These are extravagant celebrations in which the townsfolk enjoy the last opportunity to indulge before Lent. Viareggio, in northern Tuscany, throws one of the best carnivals of all, marked by fireworks, parades, a flower show and masked pageants. Sample the excellent wine, meat and cheeses, and watch the locals parade through the streets in their colourful outfits. When Lent looms, Viareggio throws the best party in all of Tuscany.
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