Italy's public holidays: a quick guide

The annual dates to look out for on your calendar in Italy and a brief look at the reasons behind the national holidays.

Italy has a total of 11 annual public holidays, in addition to feast days for local patron saints of cities including SS. Pietro e Paolo in Rome (29 June) and S. Ambrogio in Milan (7 December).

Italy marks its national feste on the calendar date of the holiday each year, meaning that if it occurs on a weekend there is no extra day off.

This pot luck system is compensated by the Italian custom of taking a ponte or "bridge" - particularly if the holiday falls near the start or end of a working week - to create a long weekend.

Like most countries, Italy kicks off the year with a public holiday on 1 January for New Year's Day.

This is followed on 6 January with a day off for the religious feast of the Epiphany which, according to the Bible, is when the Three Wise Men arrive in Bethlehem bearing gifts for Baby Jesus. In Italy's popular folklore version, the wise men invited a witch-like woman, La Befana, to join them on their journey to bring gifts to the Christ child. Unable to find Jesus the kind-hearted Befana gave the toys to other children. Each year kids in Italy hang up their stockings in anticipation of gifts from La Befana on the night between 5 and 6 January.

In Italy there are annual public holidays for Easter Sunday and Easter Monday (which in 2022 fall on 17 and 18 April respectively).

Next on the list is Liberation Day, or Festa della Liberazione, on 25 April. This commemorates the end of the Fascist regime and of the Nazi Germany occupation during world war two, as well as the victory of Italy's Resistance movement of partisans, or partigiani. Designated a national holiday in 1946, Festa della Liberazione remains a divisive day in Italy, coming under attack each year from politicians on the right who refuse to celebrate the event.

On 1 May Italy celebrates Labour Day - known as the Festa dei Lavoratori or Festa del Lavoro. The event, marked in more than 80 countries, commemorates the labour movement and the social and economic achievements of trade unions on behalf of workers. The first Labour Day celebrations in Italy date back to the late 19th century. The event was cancelled for about 20 years during the Fascist era but was reintroduced in 1945.

Italy celebrates Festa della Repubblica, or Republic Day, on 2 June. The annual event commemorates the day in 1946 when Italians voted in favour of a republic and against the monarchy which had been discredited during world war two. The president of Italy lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Altare della Patria and the Frecce Tricolori jets provide a spectacular aeronautical display in the sky over Rome.

The next national holiday is Ferragosto on 15 August when Italy marks the feast of the Assumption, the day when Catholics believe the Virgin Mary ascended to heaven, body and soul, at the end of her earthly life. The origins of Italy's Ferragosto, however, date back to Roman times, with the Feriae Augusti introduced as a period of rest by Emperor Augustus in 18 BC.

On 1 November there is a public holiday for All Saints’ Day, also known as Ognissanti or Tutti i Santi, a religious feast day when Catholics and other Christians honour the saints of the church.

Next is the feast of the Immaculate Conception, known in Italy as L'Immacolata, on 8 December. This Catholic holy day is also viewed as the official start of the Christmas shopping season. In Rome the pope pays homage to the Virgin Mary by making a pilgrimage to Piazza Mignanelli near the Spanish Steps.

The last three public holidays in Italy are the same as many other countries around the world: Christmas Day (Natale) on 25 December, St Stephen's Day (S. Stefano) on 26 December and New Year's Eve (S. Silvestro) on 31 December.

Photo credit: Daniele de Gregorio / Shutterstock.com.