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12/30/2018 4:46:03 PM

Celebrate New Year like the Romans do

Italians’ New Year celebrations are unique. If you’re planning for a trip to the country during this festive season, here are a few things you should know.

Traditions in the New Year’s Eve 


According to the Italylogue, in Italian, the festival that marks New Year’s Eve – December 31 – is “La Festa di San Silvestro,” or St. Sylvester’s Feast. As the word “feast” implies, the evening meal is the focus of the day – Italians tend to gather with family and friends for dinner (this is a bit less family-oriented than Christmas dinner) and traditional menu items include pork and lentils.

Pork represents the richness of life, and the lentils symbolize money – think of them as coins – and eating them on New Year’s Eve is supposed to bring prosperity in the year head.


Following the meal, celebrations usually move outdoors (despite the often-cold weather), where some cities set up concerts in public squares or big bonfires. By far the most popular way to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Italy, however, is with fireworks.

Fireworks in Rome

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Most cities and towns throughout the country will have some sort of “official” fireworks display, but people often have their own private fireworks shows in squares, courtyards, and parking lots. It can get very noisy and – if you’re not looking out where you’re going – a little dangerous. It can also be spectacularly gorgeous. Fireworks tend to be a bigger deal the further south you go in Italy.

Some fireworks displays are so popular that people will stake out a spot well in advance of nightfall, so if you’re in a bigger tourist city and you’re anticipating getting a good space at the last minute you might want to check with the tourist information office to find out how things usually go.

New Year in different cities of Italy

In an article published on.tripsavvy on Italy's New Year, blogger Martha Bakerjian gives description on the celebrations in some cities in Italy, including Rome, Bologna, Venice:

"New Year's Eve sees many festive events in towns throughout Italy, and they’ll be crowded, so plan your visit in advance (including parking, which will be at a premium)", the blogger suggests.

New Year in Rome


Robin-Angelo Photography/Getty Images

Rome's traditional New Year's Eve celebrations are centered in Piazza del Popolo. Huge crowds celebrate with rock and classical music, dancing, and fireworks. On New Year's day (while the adults are sleeping), children will be entertained in the square by performers and acrobats.

Another good place to celebrate is near the Colosseum on Via di Fori Imperiali where there will be live music and midnight fireworks. There's usually a classical music concert outdoors on the square in front of the Quirinale, off Via Nazionale, which is also followed by fireworks at midnight. For an elegant evening with dinner in a great restaurant, panoramic views of Rome, and live jazz try the beautiful Casina Valadier in a park overlooking the city. Several theaters present symphony or opera on New Year's Eve and Rome nightclubs also have special events. 

Rimini, on the Adriatic coast, is one of Italy's most popular nightlife spots and a top place to celebrate the end of the year. Besides parties in numerous nightclubs and bars, Rimini holds a huge New Year's Eve festival in Piazzale Fellini.

Here, guests can enjoy music, dancing, entertainment, and a spectacular display of fireworks over the sea, all of which is usually televised in Italy.

New Year's Eve in Naples and Capri


Capri Francesco Iacobelli/Getty Images

Naples’ legendary New Year's Eve fireworks are preceded by a huge outdoor music event in Piazza del Plebiscito in the city center where there are usually classical, rock, and traditional music concerts. In some parts of Naples, people still throw their old things out of their windows.

A tradition called Lo Sciuscio originated in Naples, and although it’s not as widespread as it once was, it still exists in some smaller towns nearby. Groups of amateur musicians (now mainly children) go from house to house playing and singing on New Year's Eve. Giving them a small gift of money or sweets is said to bring good luck in the new year, while turning them away may bring bad luck.

On the island of Capri near Naples, local folkloric groups usually perform in the Piazzetta in Capri and Piazza Diaz in Anacapri on January 1.

New Year's Eve in Bologna


Bologna Flavia Morlachetti/Getty Images

Bologna traditionally celebrates New Year's Eve with the Fiera del Bue Grasso (fat ox fair). The ox is decorated with flowers and ribbons from horn to tail, and the church bells are rung while spectators light candles and fireworks are set off. At the end, a special lottery is held with the winner getting to keep the ox.

The procession ends just before midnight in Piazza San Petronio, and in Piazza Maggiore, there are live music, performances, and a street market. At midnight an effigy of an old man, symbolizing the old year, is thrown into a bonfire.

New Year's Eve in Venice

Fireworks in Venice

Fireworks in Venice Wayne Fogden/Getty Images

Many restaurants in Venice go all out with huge feasts on New Year's Eve, starting at 9 p.m. and lasting until midnight. Although expensive, they tend to be very good with many courses and lots of wine, but be sure to make a reservation ahead of time because restaurants will fill up early for these special events.

St Mark's Square has a huge celebration with music, a giant fireworks display, Bellini Brindisi (toast), and a huge group kiss at midnight; the group kiss is also held in Piazza Ferretto in Mestre.

On New Year's Day, many bathers take a chilling dip in the waters of Venice's Lido Beach, so if you're planning on staying in Venice, there's plenty to keep you entertained throughout the first of the year, too./.

  ( VNF )
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