Don't think of Italy as only a summer destination. There are plenty of things to do and to see during the Italian spring, fall, and even winter. This series of articles provides ideas for your Italian vacation, describing regional spectacles, tourist attractions, and special events, at any time of year. Off-season Italian holidays have several advantages: You won't fight the crowds, hotels and other accommodations are easier and cheaper to find. Whatever time of year you go, every region has its own special festivals. Plan your Italian holidays now. Keep reading.
So you are thinking of visiting southern Italy in January, but youíre not sure what to see and what to do. Donít despair; there are lots and lots of special events that simply arenít available in the good old summertime. Here are a few of them. Get rolling; Janaury is almost upon us. A Palio is a horse race that pits neighborhoods against one another. Pignola, Basilicata hosts the Palio of S. Antonio Abate in mid-January. Villa d'Agri, Basilicata celebrates Befana Canterina. You might know that Befana is an old woman dressed as a witch who gives sweets to the good kiddies and coal to the bad ones. In mid-January Rotondella, Basilicata hosts the Feast of SantíAntonio Abate and Feast of Fire Festival on the following day. Corigliano Calabro hosts the Calabria Orange Festival and Procession.
Mamuthones, which month is this character?
If you want good luck in the New Year give kiddies some money or candies. This tradition is kept more in the small towns near Napoli than in Naples itself. Caserta holds its Festival of St. Sebastian in January. Make sure to see its Royal Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was headquarters to the Allied High Command in World War II. Italy celebrates Saint Biago Day on February 3rd. He was the saint of the throat. Itís a traditional to honor him by eating leftover Panettone (Italian Christmas cake) with a glass of wine; your throat will thank you. Some localities celebrate with parades, music, and bonfires.
St. Anthony's Day is widely celebrated in Sardinia on January 16 and 17. Ancient tradition has it that the saint, like Prometheus, stole into hell and brought back fire, so a bonfire is at the center of the festivities. Each town places different herbs and fruits atop the blaze, creating a unique aroma. The women bring sweets and dark fruity loaves of pane nigheddu, while men enjoy wine and aquavit. The most spectacular celebration is said to be in Mamoiada, where 12 frightening masks called mamuthones represent the months of the year.
Every weekend from early January to mid February Alghero holds its Bogamarž Sea Urchin Festival that dates back to the days when Sardinia was ruled by Catalonia; this townís nickname is still Barcelonetta and the old people still speak a form of Catalan. The restaurants offer specials such as Spaghetti al Riccio di mare (Spaghetti a la Sea Urchins) best enjoyed with local white wine.
In early January Piana degli Albanesi holds a Greek Orthodox Ritual and Procession. Nicolosi, near Mount Etna, celebrates San Antonio Abate on January 17. Get up early; ceremonies begin before dawn when the monks repeat their vows of dedication to God and to the Saint. The day continues with parades and solemn ceremonies.
Many places in Sicily celebrate the Feast Day of San Sebastiano on January 20. For example, in Mistretta it takes sixty men to parade his statue through the town. And wherever you go and whatever you do, check out the fine local wines.
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine Italian or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his website www.travelitalytravel.com devoted to Italian travel with an accent on fine Italian wine and food. Visit his central wine website www.theworldwidewine.com with weekly reviews of $10 wine and columns devoted to various aspects of wine including wine and food, humor, trivia, organic and kosher wine and lots more.
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January events, spectacles, and tourist attractions in southern Italy