May 1 - May Day. The “Day of the Worker” is celebrated all over Italy as a public holiday. Many services are typically closed, but visitors and locals can attend parades and festivals.
May 3 – The Snake Handlers’ Procession, Cocullo, Abruzzo. Celebrating the town’s patron saint, Saint Domenico, snake-lovers from around the world descend on the small medieval town. Prior to the celebration day, serpari (snake catchers/charmers) catch four types of harmless snakes and remove their fangs. On May 3, following an early Mass in the town’s small church, locals and visitors ring a small bell, using their own teeth, to protect them against toothache for the following year. Soil is blessed and spread over fields to act as a natural pesticide and the wooden statue of Saint Domenico is paraded around the town with the live, captured snakes dangling from it.
May 8 - Sposalizio dell’Albero (The Wedding of the Trees), Vetralla, Lazio. Two oak trees are decorated with garlands, horsemen offer bouquets of spring flowers and new trees are planted while everyone enjoys a free picnic lunch. The ceremony revives Ventralla’s sovereignty over the forests and continues the right of each citizen to a cubic meter of firewood annually.
May 10 – Feast of the Ascension. Many towns all over the country commemorate Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven with feasts and solemn celebrations.
May 13 – Festa del Grillo, Florence. One of the most peculiar events held here each year, the Cricket Festival is grounded on a rather not-so-public custom of offering crickets to loved ones as a token of well-wishing. Although living crickets have been replaced by artificial ones, the sentiment still rings true.
May 19 – Sagra del Limone, Cinque Terre. The lemon festival boasts local competitions such as biggest lemon grown or best statue made of lemons. You can also taste lemon delicacies like limoncino, lemon marmalade, lemon custard, and lemon pies. Shops are decorated with lemon themes and a prize is awarded while restaurants serve special menus.
May 20 – Vogalonga Regatta, Venice. The 30km paddling/rowing race through the city of Venice and the lagoon of Burano, usually draws over 1,000 boats (of all types). The race is not a competition, there are no winners, it’s all about just being there. All participants are issued a diploma of participation. This regatta was born out of chance in 1974 by a group of Venetian non-professional oarsmen and is one of the most beloved regattas in Venice.
May 26-27 – Cantine Aperte (Open Cantinas or Open Cellars). Knows as the most important wine tourism event in Italy, this large wine celebration has become a philosophy; a way to travel and discover Italian wine territories. Member wineries open their doors to personally meet the public.
May 27 – Il Palio di Ferrara, Ferrara, Emilia-Romagna. Throughout the entire month of May, parades, flag throwing contests, a historical procession with over 1,000 people dressed in renaissance costumes, and other events lead up to the historical horse race in the town’s Piazza Ariostea. The race, itself, dates back to 1279.