Umbria's best spring and summer festivals by Rebecca WinkeRebecca's verdict on Umbria's festivals
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One of the biggest advantages to visiting Umbria in spring and summer is the number of wonderful festivals—from medieval-themed traditional fetes, to events celebrating the region’s local wine and food, to excellent music festivals--during which the small Umbrian towns awaken from their winter slumber and celebrate the coming of warm days and nights.
Giornata FAI is an excellent way to explore some of Umbria’s lesser-known architectural gems...many virtually unknown by the locals themselves! Cantine Aperte is one of the most popular events of the spring, and a Sunday spent winery-hopping across the region will leave you better acquainted with Umbria’s different wines, vintners, and terroirs. I’ve recommended it before, and I’ll do it again: the Mercato delle Gaite in Bevagna is simply excellent: a great outing for adults and kids, a lovely town, and fabulous food in both the taverns set up for the event and the town’s many restaurants. If you love the fine arts, Festival dei Due Mondi is truly spectacular. The quality of the performances is world-class, and the setting in stately Spoleto is memorable. If, however, you love a good party (with great music), the less formal Umbria Jazz festival is where you should head. Excellent headlining acts, but also fun beer garden outdoor concerts and a party vibe in the centre of Perugia.
Top spring and summer festivals
Umbrian festivals in March
Giornata FAI (Open Day for the Italian Heritage Fund)—FAI is Italy’s National Trust; many of their sites are closed to the public for most of the year, but for one weekend annually some of the most unique and breathtaking of these open their doors for guided tours and visits. This is an event for those passionate about exploring villas, castles, monasteries, and parks.
Umbrian festivals in April
La Corsa all'Anello (The Race of the Ring), Narni. In one of the least-visited hilltop towns in the region, you will find the epitome of the Umbrian festival: medieval pageantry, costumed locals, banner-festooned streets, outdoor taverne with food and wine, torchlit processions, and, of course, jousting. Festa del Tulipano (Tulip Festival), Castiglione del Lago. After World War II, a group of Dutch families resettled on the shores of Lake Trasimeno to cultivate tulips, and with them came the tradition of celebrating the arrival of spring by decorating the town with the petals of the first tulip blooms, which were too short to be sold at market. The Dutch no longer raise flowers here (though there is a concentration of Dutch expats around the lake still), but the tradition continues in decorated floats, flower shows, and petal-strewn streets.
Umbrian festivals in May
Calendimaggio, Assisi. Perhaps the most spectacular of all Umbrian festivals, with its squaring off of the two medieval halves of the town, the "Parte di Sopra" and the "Parte di Sotto" who challenge each other during three days of costumed pageants, medieval re-enactments, concerts, crossbow, and flag corps competitions. Splurge for tickets so you can get a good look at the action in the main piazza. Festa dei Ceri, Gubbio “A candle race” doesn’t quite capture the over-the-top town-wide frenzy that takes over this otherwise stoic village on May 15th each year as three teams carry gargantuan wooden “candlesticks” on their shoulders and precariously charge through the thronged streets to the deafening cacophony of cheering, drums, and bells. Il Palio della Balestra (Cross-bow competition), Gubbio. If you want a piece of the festival action, but maybe a slightly smaller piece than the Festa dei Ceri dishes out, try this historical costumed event the last weekend in May. Cantine Aperte (Open Wineries). Wineries big and small open their doors across Umbria (but concentrated in the Sagrantino producing area near Montefalco) for tastings, guided tours, and special events. La Palombella, Orvieto. A caged dove representing the Holy Spirit descending upon the Apostles follows a wire from the Bishop’s palace over the heads crowding the piazza to end in a fireworks display on the opposite side in front of the basilica’s breathtaking facade. The festival is held on Pentecost Sunday, so dates vary.
Umbrian festivals in June
Mercato della Gaite, Bevagna. Each town district (or gaite) accurately reconstructs functioning artisan workshops using both the techniques and technology of the 1300s to produce items that include silk (from silkworm to cloth), paper, bronze bells, beeswax candles, and religious icons. There are also outdoor taverns serving period dishes. Giostra della Quintana, Foligno Set in the sumptuous 1600’s, with elaborate Baroque costumes, elegant banquet dinners, and a noble equestrian tournament. This historic festival runs twice a year in June and September. The high point of pomp and circumstance is the solemn procession and blessing of the horses the evening before the tournament. Festival dei Due Mondi, Spoleto. The program of this world famous fine arts festival is rich with opera, classical music, dance, theater, and cinema events, all with the stately background of the historic center of lovely Spoleto.
Umbrian festivals in July
Umbria Jazz is the king of Umbria’s music festivals; a juggernaut of an international event which stretches over two weeks and attracts some of the biggest names in jazz. The lively feel in Perugia during Umbria Jazz is irresistible, take a walk down the main Corso and pop in at one of the free outdoor concerts. Trasimeno Blues - A number of blues concerts are held at a different locations around Lake Trasimeno, including Castiglione del Lago’s romantic medieval fortress.