Befana, the legendary old woman bringing gifts to every children riding her broomstick, is celebrated in all Italian cities!
It is used to say that "Epiphany all holidays take away," but this is only part of the story: Befana also brings many parties and lots of fun, especially for the youngest children, to whom this holiday is more specifically dedicated than Christmas.
Preparations are underway just about everywhere to best welcome this holiday so beloved by Italians. The nice thing is that everyone celebrates it in his or her own way, perhaps with gatherings of masked people as in Fornovo Taro (in the province of Parma), or with bonfires to chase away bad luck as is the custom in Verona (but not only!), but there is also room for some more "romantic" and evocative initiatives, such as the Befana from the sea in Savona.
Or even the aerostatic gathering in Mondovì, in the province of Cuneo, an area well suited for a flying party, for dreamers both young and old. And let's not forget the Befani, a group of singers from the province of Grosseto, who go around spreading traditional Maremma songs. Finally, what on earth will happen during "the night of the cucibocca" in the town of Montescaglioso in Basilicata?
The only certain thing in short is that everyone has a great desire to have fun, and with only a few days to go before the start of the New Year, attracting good luck with all the oldest and most established customs is almost a must! Not forgetting of course, the sweetest part of the Befana: and those who say they do not wish for her stocking are certainly lying.
20. Befana in Lombardy
If you are in Lombardy and want many options to choose from, then it is Milan, as always, to offer many different ways to spend each holiday, and Befana is no exception. One idea to spend January 6th in an original way could be going to the Castello Sforzesco. There will also be The Procession of the Three Kings in Piazza Duomo, with fantastic musical performances and majorettes numbers. A grand style parade promising to be truly outstanding!
Let's also not forget the wonderful initiative called Befana benefical motorcycle ride consisting, as the name suggests, in delivering gifts to children guests of institutions around the Milan city and province.
19. Brusar la Vecia (“burning the old woman”) and other propitiatory rites in Veneto
The Befana in Veneto and particularly in Verona does not exactly meet a good fate, since here the tradition of burning her is maintained: in Veronese dialect it is called “Brusar la Vecia”!
On the evening of January 6th in Piazza Bra, a puppet made of various materials (branches, faggots, wood shavings, jute) and about eight meters high is set on fire to ward off bad luck, a sort of good-luck custom – descending from pre-Roman rituals – at the expense of poor Befana! Its sacrifice is necessary for the transition from bad to good season, to say goodbye to the old and greet the new.
Then in Venice there is the picturesque Befane Regatta, which every year enlivens and entertains spectators around the banks of the Grand Canal.
18. In Bologna and its area, the Befana is on fire!
A procession of 150 figures will also animate the streets of Bologna for Befana: the so-called “Procession of the Magi” will follow a route starting from Piazza VIII Agosto to then continue till Piazza Maggiore, for the laying of gifts in the Church of San Petronio.
In the province, on the other hand, the actual protagonists will be the bonfires, and the most renowned localities for this witchcraft practice are San Giovanni in Persiceto and San Matteo della Decima. The "Vecia" does not fare well in Emilia either, then.
17. In Tuscany, Florence's
For Epiphany, one of the most anticipated events in Tuscany is Florence's Cavalcade of the Magi, a historical reenactment taking place in the center of the city.
The event has deep ties to Florence (even introduced by the Medici family), which has regained its former glory since the 1990s. The parade is inspired by Benozzo Gozzoli's "The Chapel of the Magi," the celebrated fresco cycle. About 700 figures parade through the streets of the historic center starting from Piazza Pitti and ending at the foot of Piazza del Duomo for the laying of gifts.
In Pistoia, on the other hand, the Befana descends from the bell tower to distribute treats to all children. An acrobatic event carried out in collaboration with the Fire Department. Of the funny custom of the Befani in Grosseto, on the other hand, we have already mentioned.
16. Le Marche and The National Feast of the Epiphany
In the Marche region, Epiphany is certainly a beloved holiday, and Urbania's Befana is one of the most renowned in Italy. For many years now, the entire town has been transformed into an enchanted kingdom, with themed decorations and illuminations, thousands of stockings adorning the historic center, and plenty of real-life Befane to enliven the celebration!
Since 2016, an authentic Epiphany House has been established – created from a renovated space in the civic building – where stories are told and coal is made throughout the year.
The events related to Epiphany, in Urbania are really numerous: traditionally there are the descent of the Befana from the Bell Tower and the campanile of the Municipal Palace and the exhibition of authentic handicrafts. Urbania thus keeps the tradition alive and joyfully celebrates this holiday for the little ones.
15. In Sardinia, the most anticipated celebration is in Cagliari
Befana is eagerly awaited by children all over Italy, but the one in Cagliari, Sardinia's capital city, has a peculiarity: she is a particularly fit old lady!
In fact, the delivery of gifts takes place in a super acrobatic way: the Befana will use skates to please the little ones. But this is just the beginning because there will be a show on stilts and a descent from the flying trapeze!
In Sassari, on the other hand, the firefighters will be the protagonists with an enterprising Befana descending from the Palace of the Province.
14. Piedmont among fairy tales, performances and flights
An original idea to spend Epiphany in Piedmont could be going to the Museum of Cinema in Turin, where a very fun themed workshop called "Vola, vola la befana" (“Fly, fly Befana”) will be organized: tricks and special effects will be the master, leaving all children ecstatic!
Also very nice is the initiative of the Toy Museum in Bra, where children will be asked to build presents with natural and recycled materials.
Then we have already mentioned the fantastic international ballooning rally held in Mondovì, in the province of Cuneo, where the Aeroclub Mongolfiere di Mondovì will stage some amazing flights, making January 6th truly magical.
13. Lazio: the Befana in Piazza Navona is back
Befana in Piazza Navona has been one of the most anticipated events this holiday season. It is in fact a return in style after the stop caused by the pandemic. The event will not only cover January 6th, as the typical stalls have already been set up since December 1st! Exhibitions, shows and sweets galore for longer than a month then: what more could one ask for?
Among the many initiatives organized in Lazio for the Epiphany, the one in Ostia certainly stands out, with its very rich program of events entitled La festa della Befana. Stilt walkers, entertainers and dancers will make the party super lively, to the delight of young and old alike.
12. Montescaglioso and the scary stories in Basilicata
We have already mentioned the "Night of the Cucibocca", an event closely related to Epiphany affecting the town of Montescaglioso in Basilicata. But what is it really about?
It is a somewhat creepy legend featuring the aforementioned cucibocca (literally “mouth-sewers”), scary hooded figures with hideous faces half-hidden by large beards, each equipped with a lantern and a large needle. The story has it that these shady figures roam around Montescaglioso on the night of Dec. 5-6th, forcing local people to lock themselves indoors and thus allowing the Befana to do her work.
11. Campania: big celebrations in the Neapolitan capital
This year Befana in Naples is really going wild: as many as three days of events await citizens and tourists, starting with the setting up of a themed village in the historic Piazza Mercato. Then, on the evening of January 5th, La Notte Bianca (“White Night”) will go off, lighting up the streets of Naples with shows and magic.
An alternative (and highly instructive for the little ones) way could then be to spend Epiphany at the Real Orto Botanico di Portici, where a real treasure hunt will be organized, thanks to which the children will discover all the secrets of the Garden's enormous heritage, consisting of all sorts of plants from many different places.
10. Puglia and events designed especially for the little ones
Children in Alberobello are waiting for La Befana in Trullolandia, a full program of fun activities that will last three days, from January 4th to 6th. Trulli Tales entertainers will make sure the little ones don't get bored, filling these days with lots of different activities and adventures, from drawing workshops to discovering Apulian cuisine.
In the province of Brindisi, on the other hand, the realm of the Befana will be Borgo Egnazia, where you can buy handcrafted stockings filled with typical goodness and watch the puppet and marionette shows that will enliven the entire long Epiphany weekend!
9. In Umbria, the Befana is synonymous with culture
If you find yourself spending the Epiphany period in Umbria and in particular in Perugia, here the celebration of the Befana will not only be made of sweets and fun, but will also be dedicated to knowledge and reading.
In fact, in Perugia's major libraries, from Villa Urbani to Sandro Penna, real read alouds will be organized every afternoon, taken from children's books (themed, of course) such as Emma Perodi's The Epiphany Stocking.
8. What to do in Liguria for Epiphany
A very interesting way to spend Epiphany in Genoa could be to take part in beautiful free guided visits that are part of the "La Befana vien di notte" tour (literally “Befana comes at night”). Thanks to this initiative, it will be possible to discover many anecdotes and curiosities about how this period is celebrated in Genoa, and children will be able to learn new and interesting things about their darling bringing sweets riding her broomstick.
7. Sicily: a festive start to the year
The month of January in Sicily means only one thing: celebration! In addition to the festivities commanded throughout Italy, in fact, in Sicily there are other very heartfelt ones such as those dedicated to St. Anthony Abbot and St. Sebastian.
As for Epiphany, on the other hand, there is i.e. the Re-enactment of the Holy Spirit in the baptism of Jesus, a deeply felt religious festival held in Piana degli Albanesi.
Or one could opt for the beautiful procession of biblical characters held every year on January 6th in Aci Platani, a hamlet of Acireale, where the highlights of Jesus' life are staged, with a special focus on the arrival of the Three Kings.
6. In Trentino Alto Adige surprises for all children
Epiphany is also a much-loved holiday in Trentino Alto Adige: in fact, many celebrations are held to celebrate this elderly and generous lady.
In Moena, in Piaz de Sotegrava there will be gifts for everyone, theatrical performances and a nice mulled wine for the older ones. In San Martino di Castrozza games and music to cheer the children. In Predazzo the befana will arrive in the village under the tree dancing to the rhythm of her own music. So there is no shortage of fun, you just have to choose!
5. Epiphany fires in Friuli Venezia Giulia
The region most closely associated with the Epiphany fire tradition is perhaps Friuli Venezia Giulia. This Celtic-derived rite, which in Friuli is called pignarûi, has been passed down over the centuries especially in small communities such as Tarcento and Palmanova, but is still held in large cities such as Pordenone.
The epiphanic fires of Friuli are a great feast of purification and a reminder of good fortune. A puppet with the features of a witch is burned at the top of the bonfires, and afterwards they celebrate with singing, dancing, mulled wine, and a traditional pinza, made with good luck ingredients.
4. In Calabria, the Befana takes the train
The most anticipated event in Reggio Calabria is The Befana Train, organized by the association Incontriamoci Sempre. A sort of Hogwarts-style wizarding train in short, where children will be able to take a ride together with the witchy granny and an entertainment staff that will organize several funny and amusing activities.
Departure will be from Reggio Calabria Centrale to Santa Caterina Station. Once off the train, the Befana will board a buggy, taking her among the children to distribute gifts.
3. Befana in Abruzzo: many many events!
In Abruzzo, people take advantage of the beauty of locations equipped with a sea view to make the celebration of Befana even more evocative: this is the case of Pescara with its Tourist Port and Vasto with its beautiful pier.
Another fun and original event is the organization of the "human tombola" in San Salvo, where participants will be real pawns having to place themselves on giant cards!
2. Molise: protagonists are the children
Christmas and Befana celebrations in Molise focus on children. After all, they are the real protagonists of the whole period since they look with wonder and enthusiasm at the magical figures of Santa Claus and Befana, and their candid souls lead them to be especially happy.
Perhaps the biggest event dedicated to children is Christmas in the City in Campobasso, running until Jan. 7th and featureing a packed program of activities designed especially to entertain children, from shows to make-up sessions, not to mention forays among the candy stalls.
1. Traditional Befana in Valle d'Aosta
So far we have seen acrobatic shows and Befanas from the sea, propitiatory bonfires and ancient and frightening legends. We close our list with a region where celebrations are all in all "moderate": a Befana caring to gifts and to give a smile to the little ones.
In Valle d'Aosta, therefore, we find simple and traditional celebrations, but who says that simplicity is not nevertheless extraordinary in its own way? The important thing is the spirit and the desire to make the children happy!