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August 15, Ferragosto (Assumption Day), is a national holiday that marks the peak of the summer vacation season. Many Italians will begin or end their vacations around this day, so many businesses and shops will be closed. You'll find celebrations in many places in Italy on August 15 and the days before and after, often including music, food, and fireworks. In some big cities like Rome and Milan, however, the city will empty out as Italians leave the city for the beaches and mountains.
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Felire in the Veneto region holds a medieval festival the first weekend in August, with a parade and archery competition.
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Ascoli Piceno, in central Italy's Le Marche region, holds a historic jousting tournament the first Sunday in August. The tournament, one of the best medieval festivals in the Marche, is preceded by a huge parade with people dressed in 15th-century costume.
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Palio del Golfo
This rowing race between the 13 maritime villages that border the Bay of La Spezia is held the first Sunday in August in the water off the promenade in La Spezia.Continue to 5 of 12 below.
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Giostra di Simone
In the Tuscany town of Montisi, this festival of medieval games is held the Sunday afternoon closest to August 5. First there's a costumed parade, followed by a tournament of knights representing the four contrade, or neighborhoods, of the town.
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Palio of Siena
The second round of the famous race in Siena is August 16 (the first takes place July 2). Ten of Siena's 17 contrade, or districts, compete in an exciting bareback horse race around Siena's central piazza. The winner gets the silk palio, or banner. Siena gets very crowded around the time of the Palio so plan ahead if you're going.
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Palio of the Pupe
In Cappelle sul Tavo near Pescara, this historic, multi-day festival, usually held in the first part of August, culminates with a night parade of huge effigies that eventually explode with fireworks.
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Festa della Madonna della Neve
Celebrated on August 5 in Rome, this festival celebrates a miraculous summer snowfall in the fourth century that prompted the building of the Santa Maria Maggiore Church, one of Rome's main churches. Read more about the Madonna of the Snow Festival and other summer festivals in Rome.Continue to 9 of 12 below.
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La Fuga del Bove
La Fuga del Bove (Escape of the Ox), is a 3-week festival in Tuscany's town of Montefalco. Events include processions in historic costumes, music, food and drink, and competitions among the town's four quarters.
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Festa dei Candelieri
The festival of the candle in Sassari, Sardinia, dates back to the 16th century. In this exciting festival held on August 14-15, you'll see an arduous, raucous race of teams of men bearing huge and very heavy candles.
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Race of the Launch of the Dish
Castelli a village in the Abruzzo region famous for its ceramics, celebrates August 15 by tossing all the imperfect ceramics from a height, smashing them in a dramatic fashion.
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During August, you'll find outdoor music performances in many cities and towns, usually in the main piazza. Here are some of the biggest music and performing arts festivals in August:
Estate Romana is a festival of music and performing arts in Rome during the summer. Look for information in the tourist office or on posters in Rome. Also in Rome, Castel Sant'Angelo has music and entertainment every evening through August 15.
Estate Firenze has performances throughout the summer in Florence.
Summer opera in Verona is in full swing. See Italy's Top Opera Houses for more information.
Venice International Film Festival, a huge international film festival on the Lido starts in late August. See International Film Festivals in Italy
Settimane Musicali di Stresa, four weeks of concerts in Stresa on Lago Maggiore start in late August.