April 13 , 2023
Throughout the year, many European towns big and small celebrate feast days in honor of patron saints. Over the centuries, some of these festivals have become internationally-known events, such as Saint Patrick’s Day across Ireland or Pamplona’s Fiesta de San Fermín where celebrants participate in the running of the bulls.
Summertime food and wine festivals bring together the true meaning of a ‘feast day’ with sunshine gatherings, and carry on some time-honored traditions that are fun to experience. These festivals provide the perfect opportunity to indulge and immerse yourself in local cultures, while you may also discover a place you’d never heard of.
Camogli Fish Festival
What: The Feast of Saint Fortunatus is a massive fish fry held in honor of the patron saint of fishermen and sailors. Fresh-caught fish is served up from a giant padella (frying pan) in the harbor. The night before the communal feast, enjoy an impressive fireworks display and bonfire competition. Takes place on the second Sunday in May each year.
Where: Camogli, Liguria, Italy
Getting there: Drive 30 minutes south from Genoa, or 30 minutes north from Portofino
Lemon Festival of Monterosso
What: Celebrate the glorious lemon, grown in abundance on the Ligurian Coast. A variety of lemon-themed activities and exhibitions are planned, with typical citrus products and food items. Walk the paths of the Cinque Terre and treat yourself with lemony gelato, cakes and aperitivos. Takes place on the 3rd Saturday of May each year.
Where: Monterosso al Mare, Liguria, Cinque Terre, Italy
Getting there: Take the train from Genoa (1 hour) or Pisa (2 hours)
Cherry Festival in Céret
What: Here’s your excuse to discover the Catalan region of France – the annual Cherry Festival in the pretty town of Céret. Located in the Pyrenees region in the south of France, it’s just next to the border with Spain. The town goes all out with cherry-themed décor, and the festival program offers music, dancing, games and competitions for the whole family. And of course, everything from beer to wine to main courses and desserts with cherries! Takes place on a weekend near the end of May.
Where: Céret, Pyrénées-Orientales, France
Getting there: Drive 2 hours from Barcelona
Taste of Dublin
What: This fun summertime festival is a haven for true foodies – meet chefs and taste artisan products from around the country, and some from the Mediterranean too. If you have an interest in the Irish food scene and perhaps taking a masterclass on Irish whiskey or cocktails, this one is for you. And because it’s Ireland, of course there will be music and dancing. Takes place in mid-June.
Where: Iveagh Gardens, Dublin, Ireland
Getting there: Make it part of your Dublin City itinerary
Bordeaux Wine Festival
What: The handsome city of Bordeaux, known around the world as a major wine capital, puts on a celebration of wine including a ‘wine road’ on the banks of the Garonne, tasting workshops, food and wine classes, concerts and entertainment. Grab a tasting pass to experience the wines of Bordeaux and New Aquitaine with winegrowers and sommeliers. Generally takes place the last weekend in June.
Where: Bordeaux, France
Getting there: Take a high-speed train under 3 hours from Paris
Napoli Pizza Village Festival
What: What better place to show your adoration for pizza than the city where it was invented? This festival runs several days, and you’ll need the time if you want to compare slices made by hundreds of ‘pizzaiolos’ who come from around the world. Learn about the art of making pizza in between live entertainment and pizza sampling. The biggest highlight is the World Pizza Maker Championship – see which pizza will be named best in the world.
Where: Naples, Italy
Getting there: Fly into Naples or take a 1-hour train from Rome and head straight to the seaside promenade
La Batalla de Vino
What: You may have heard of the wine region La Rioja in the north of Spain. These scenic vineyards and the capital town of Haro are the setting for an annual wine battle that’ll have you taking a shower in red wine – after a night of enjoying it first. On the eve of the fight, there’s a huge celebration in the streets that goes into the early morning. On June 29th, put on your white clothes and a red bandana and grab a wine-filled water gun to join in this unforgettable party.
Where: Haro, Spain
Getting there: Fly into Bilbao and drive 1 hour to Haro
Stragusto Food Festival
What: A street food festival, Sicilian style! Sicily is known for its vibrant markets and amazing street food – fried yumminess like stuffed rice balls and chickpea fritters come to mind. Sicilian dishes have a rich and varied food tradition that takes elements from both Greek and Arabic historical influence, and at this food fest you can try dishes from Sicily and around the Mediterranean. Generally takes place the last weekend in July.
Where: Trapani, Sicily, Italy
Getting there: Drive over an hour from Palermo to Trapani
Istrian Pasta Festival
What: You might immediately think of Italy when you think of pasta, but the Croatian region of Istria isn’t far off – these hill towns take a lot of influence from their northern Italian neighbors. This festival in Žminj, smack in the center of the Istrian peninsula, celebrates beloved pasta in all its imaginable variations. Learn how to make different pasta types with a workshop, and discover the old town as you wander in search of your favorite pasta dish. Takes place around the beginning of July.
Where: Žminj, Istria, Croatia
Getting there: Drive 2 hours from Ljubljana, Slovenia, or 3 hours from Venice, Italy
What: Greeks know what they’re doing with eggplant (melitzana), and nowhere is the purple vegetable more prized than in the small Peloponnesian town of Leonidio. The Tsakoniki eggplant, a type particular to the area, is shown off in homemade dishes and celebrated together with jazz music and traditional dancing in this fun festival in a characteristic mountain town. Takes place around the first weekend in July.
Where: Leonidio, Greece
Getting there: Drive 3 hours from Athens
Ardesio DiVino Wine Festival
What: Take a break from the northern Italian Lakes and go for a weekend in Ardesio to pay homage to the wine and food of the Bergamo province. Not only will you discover high-quality local delicacies – wine, salami, cheeses, extra-virgin olive oils, and traditional balsamic vinegar – the town itself is quite charming in a picturesque setting between Lake Como and Lake Garda. The event is rounded out by exhibitions, art shows and live entertainment. Takes place around the first weekend in August.
Where: Ardesio, Bergamo, Italy
Getting there: Drive 1.5 hours from Milan
Sardine Festival of Portimão
What: No tinned sardines here. In the Algarve, these little fish are grilled up salty, crispy, and flavorful, especially at the annual Sardine Festival. At the beginning of the sardine season each August, locals and visitors can eat plates of sardines in a lively atmosphere by the seaside in the pretty village of Portimão. Enjoy other local products, artisan stalls, and a fun musical line-up. Takes place around the first weekend in August.
Where: Portimão, Portugal
Getting there: Drive 1 hour from Faro, or 2.5 hours from Lisbon to the Algarve Coast
What: Near the Amalfi Coast, the city of Agerola produces a particularly soft and creamy fiordilatte, a mozzarella made with cow’s milk. The weekend festival is dedicated to the art of making these local cheese products, and typical dishes locals make with them. Takes place around the beginning of August.
Where: Agerola, Campania, Italy
Getting there: Drive 1 hour south of Naples
What: Have you ever come to the end of summer and just been so tired of eating tomatoes, or overwhelmed with tomatoes from your garden? Andalusians in the village of Buñol have a solution for you – a massive tomato fight! Locals and people from around the world have a blast getting messy and making a red-washed spectacle in the streets. Afterward, enjoy music, dancing and sangria in the old town. Takes place annually on the last Wednesday of August.
Where: Buñol, Valencia, Spain
Getting there: Drive 40 minutes inland, or take a 1-hour train, from Valencia