Italy: Entertainment & Leisure                                   

Soccer

Soccer is known as calcio in Italy. On Sundays between September and June, Italians can be found at the soccer stadium or in front of their TVs rooting for their favorite teams. In the past, calcio was only a man’s sport, but recently more and more women play.

Cycling

The second most popular sport in Italy is cycling. Those who participate in the sport usually do so from May to September. The Tour of Italy is the ultimate in biking and attracts cyclists and media from around the world. The race lasts for twenty days from the end of May into June. Thousands of bicyclists race from town to town creating a kind of fair. Every city where the bikers stop is full of tents and stands with vendors selling food and beverages.

Marionettes

  • Marionettes are hinged puppets that are suspended and manipulated by a series of strings (photo). They are an ancient form of entertainment and have been found in Egyptian tombs as well as in Greek excavations.
  • The popular puppets Punch and Judy were originally English versions of characters in a marionette play by the Italian puppeteer Puccini.
  • A Florentine author, Carlo Collodi, who was unable to pay a gambling debt, agreed to write a series of stories for a children’s magazine. In those stories Pinocchio (photo) was born! The well-known marionette celebrated his one-hundredth birthday in 1981.
  • A popular Italian marionette drama of the late 1600s called Orlando Furioso was a fantasy about Roland, the 8th century knight and nephew of Charlemagne. Productions of Orlando Furioso included 300 characters, among them, foot soldiers, witches, dragons, angels and devils. The wooden puppets were between four and five feet tall. With armor, some puppets weighed as much as 80 pounds.

The Palio

  • The Palio Festival of Siena is one of the best-known Italian festivals in the world. It is a horse race that has been held twice a year for the last 400 years. The customs of the festival have not changed. Two horse races (photo) are held on July 2nd and August 16th each year.
  • The Palio festival started during the time of the Italian Renaissance, which lasted from approximately 1400 AD to 1600 AD. The word renaissance means rebirth in French. Men and women began looking at the world around them with open-eyed excitement—the way a new baby discovers the world. During the Italian Renaissance new artists, such as Michelangelo, painted breathtaking pictures. New writers such as Dante, wrote exciting poems. New philosophers such as Giordano Bruno, had original ideas. New scientists such as Galileo, discovered how the world works.
  • At the Palio Festival, each of the 17 districts of Siena enters a rider for the race. There is a preliminary race to choose the 10 fastest horses. The big race is held in the Piazza del Campo. A piazza is a town square. A special racetrack is made by spreading dirt over the road. Seats are arranged for the spectators but most people stand in the streets to watch the race.
  • There is a parade to the Piazza del Campo. The drummers lead the way. The flag-throwers come next. They twirl their flags and toss them high into the air. The race takes only two minutes. There are few rules. They use long whips on their horses as well as on the horses of the other riders. They sometimes even whip each other to win. Often riders are thrown into the audience. It does not matter whether a rider finishes with his horse or not. The first horse to cross the finish line is the winner.
  • The rider and the people of his district are awarded the patio, a silk flag painted with the picture of the Virgin Mary. The festival is held in her honor.

Places

Italy has so much to see and do such as:

  • Ski in the Alps
  • Swim in the popular lakes of the Lake District in the north
  • Visit the beautiful hills and farms of Tuscany
  • Visit museums in the stylish cities of Florence, Milan, Siena, Turin, Naples, Venice, Rome and the Vatican

Some Top Architectural Structures Include:

Roman Coliseum

Built in 70-84, it is an ancient Roman Amphitheatre with seating for 50,000.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Built in 1063 – 1350 as the bell tower of a church. The tower has become famous because it leans 5.5 degrees to the south.

Venice

This city on stilts is built on 117 small islands and has 150 canals and 409 bridges. St Mark's Cathedral is one of the most spectacular houses of worship in the world.