Italians love to party so they always find a reason. They celebrate anchovies, eggplant, tomatoes, lemon, all the saints, pirates…
So almost every month there is a FESTA (festival) where the people of the village get together to eat, drink, dance, chat and watch the fireworks. In case of a religious holiday, the mass and the procession are also important parts of the FESTA.
In the Cinque Terre as well, from spring until fall, there are several fantastic festivals. Try to time your holiday so that you can attend one of these local events.
Manarola is worth a visit during winter as well, as for the holiday season, Mario Andreoli turns the hillside of Manarola into a huge nativity scene. The 300 characters are made of recycled materials and are placed in a different way every year. Of course, the nativity scene is the most beautiful at night, illuminated. You can see it from the start of December until the end of January. Different scenes are illuminated on August 10, the day of San Lorenzo, and at Easter time which you can see on the photo. It's possible to rent rooms with great views of the nativity scene.
In the Italian folklore, Befana is an old woman with a big nose. She wears an old coat and a black shawl, and her big bag is full of gifts and candies. She flies around on a broomstick and on January 6, she visits all the children of Italy. She enters the houses through the chimney and puts the gifts in old socks. Traditionally, only good kids get presents, while bad kids receive coal. Today coal is usually replaced by dark candy and there is usually a few pieces in each sock.
Italy's liberation – the end of World War II in Italy – is celebrated on this special day.
Italians also celebrate this day with processions in the streets.
The Monterosso Lemon festival is held on a weekend in May. Local people participate in different competitions. You can see who grew the biggest lemon in his garden and who can make the nicest statue out of lemon. Of course, several lemon delicacies can be tasted. Don't miss the limoncino and the lemon pie!
On June 2, 1946, a constitutional referendum was held. The people of Italy voted to end the monarchy and Italy became a republic. (They did not like the monarchy as the king supported Mussolini.) The last king, Umberto II and his family escaped from the country.
On the second Sunday after Pentecost, the streets of Monterosso are decorated with thousands of flowers and petals. In the evening, a procession crosses the historical center.
In Italy, all towns and villages have a patron saint. The saint's day is usually celebrated with procession, music, dancing, eating, drinking and fireworks.
June 24 is also Midsummer Day.
In Monterosso, people celebrate with delicious anchovy dishes and a fantastic firework at night.
A large traditional cake, the "Torta dei Fieschi" is made on this special day. A taste is offered to all the participants of the festival on the main square of Corniglia.
In Vernazza, the patron saint is celebrated with an evening procession which starts from the main square and finishes at the end of the village.
The highlight of the two-day festival is when large crosses are carried along the main street of Levanto. At the start of the procession, you can see the statue of the saint. The 100 kg crosses are being carried by very strong local men, taking turns. It is a honour to carry the cross, all local men want to do it at least once in their life. When everyone gets down to the sea, thousands of candles are let to float on the water which is an amazing sight. The day is finished with fireworks which you can enjoy from the deck chairs on the beach.
On the day of San Lorenzo, you can watch the procession in Manarola and how the sea is blessed. On this day, several artists arrive to paint in the villages and on the hiking trails. According to the legend, during this night, you have to watch the summer sky and if you see a falling star, you have to make a wish. The falling stars are believed to be the teardrops of San Lorenzo.
This seems to be the most important Italian holiday. It was known already in Roman times, originally related to the end of hard summer works in the fields. The Catholic Church celebrates August 15 as the day of Assumption of the Virgin Mary. That's when Italians usually start their summer vacation which lasts until the start of the school year, around the middle of September.
If you can, come to Portovenere on August 17th. It is the day of the Festa della Madonna Bianca, my favourite festival in the area. In the evening, the rocks and the Church of San Pietro are illuminated by hundreds of huge candles, it is an absolutely breathtaking sight!
At the Festival of the Pirates locals celebrate that many centuries ago Vernazza fought back the attacks of the Saracens. The festival does not have a certain date but it surely takes place during the summer.
On the terraces of the Cinque Terre, harvest starts around the middle of September but of course it all depends on the weather.
This gastronomic festival is held every year in September. Here you can taste several local dishes made with the wonderful Monterosso anchovies.
November is the month of olive picking. Colourful nets are spread under the trees and the olives are picked by hand while the higher branches are shaken by a machine. The olives are taken to the olive mill and soon you can taste the fresh, golden extra virgin. Read more about the olive harvest.
The above mentioned Manarola nativity scene can be seen from December 8.