May 1 (Primo Maggio) is Labor Day and a national holiday in Italy. Closures are common in many businesses, museums and restaurants.
May also begins high season in Venice and the boat season rows off with their best-known race, the Vogalonga. This race accepts competitors worldwide. Also on the agenda is the Festa della Sparesca. This gondolier regatta is at Cavillino in the lagoon. In the middle of May, Venice also commemorates the Festa della Sensa, the “marriage to the sea.” This feast of the Ascension recalls a long-ago ceremony performed by the Doge who cast his ring into the sea from a ceremonial ship, the Bucintoro, to symbolize eternal dominion.
The first Thursday in May (4th) is the Snake Handlers’ Procession in honor of San Domenico in Cocullo (L’Aquila). A statue of the town’s patron saint draped with serpents is carried through the town. St. Domenico purged the fields of snakes in the 11th century and, in a show of gratitude, the townspeople commemorate the event with a parade.
Italy’s big bike race, Giro d’Italia, begins early in the month and lasts almost to the end.
Like the Tour d’France, it draws bikers from all over Europe.
New in Italy is Design Week in Florence the week of May 22. This celebration showcases the latest plans in architecture, fashion, food, and music. Closing out the festivities on Sunday is a big wine celebration. Cantine Aperte welcomes guests to taste the first wines of the latest harvest. There are special wine tasting events. Florence hosts a Cricket Festival which features floats paraded through Cascine park where vendors sell crickets in tiny cages. It is customary for buyers to free the insects in the park.
Popular events across Italy include Mille Miglia, a Vintage Car Race between Brescia and Rome and back, the Feast of San Nicola in Bari, the Feast of Pardon at Ortona (Chieti), the Cross Kissing ceremony at Zuglio (Udine) where crosses from all the churches of the valley are adorned