Yes, even in Italy, there are folletti (goblins), mostri (monsters) and fantasmi (ghosts) this time of year. The more traditional time of year for people dressing up as all sorts of strange creatures in Italy is the two weeks before Lent, for Carnevale, but in the last several years, Halloween is catching on. The Vatican doesn't like the trend, however, because they fear it might change the meaning All Saints and All Souls Day (November 1 - 2) from a day to cherish memories of those who have gone before to just another day to get dressed up and act crazy.
The Vatican has little to fear however... Most Italians are still celebrating the religious holiday of All Saints Day in addition to just plain having fun for Halloween. In the nineties, young Romans started dressing up for Halloween and shops began selling costumes, candles and other Halloween related items. There are Halloween parties and even dress-up and candy sharing in schools for the little ones.
Obviously, the younger generation are driving the trend toward celebrating Halloween through exposure to American TV and Movies. Watching episodes of Cake Boss on Italian TV creating Zombie cakes also helps. Films like Halloween, Friday the 13th and ET (remember the Trick or Treat scenes?) all played a part. Just don't expect there to be Trick or Treating... at least not yet.
Spooky Things to Do in Italy
For one, visit the catacombs at the Museum and Crypt of Capuchins, a church in Rome where you can visit the underground catacombs where thousands of humans skeletons and bones have been arranged in artistic displays. Artistic, but way creepy when you realize that you are gazing unpon human remains.
Corinaldo, a ghostly looking medieval town in Le Marche, has a festival that lasts for days, with nationally famous actors and comics, with lots of food stands, and even a "Miss Witch" contest. For Halloween, the whole town is lit with candles and torches, there are spiderwebs in the narrow streets and alleys, a tunnel of fear, music, food, dancing, and fireworks. On a foggy Autumn night, there couldn't be a more appropriate town to hold a spooky festival in. This is one of the more popular Halloween festivals in all of Italy.
The village of Ostra, Ancona hosts a unique and very scary festival during several days in late October celebrating La Notte degli Sprevengoli--spirits who bother people while they’re sleeping by jumping on their stomach, causing night terrors.
The Hard Rock Cafe in Rome hosts a full blown, American style Halloween costume party, with fun for the kids... carving jack-o-lanterns and more.
In the town of Ravenna there is a theme park that goes all out for Halloween each October--for the entire month. The park is called Mirabilandia, and is a recreation of a medieval castle and village that they deck out with ghosts, ghouls and Jack0o-Lanterns for Halloween.
In the town of Castrocaro Terme, about ten kilometers from Forli, the Middle Ages comes to life each October. The townsfolk dress as ghosts and witches and head to the Castle for spooky goings on, food, drink and mayhem. Visitors can dine in the wine cellar of the castle, transformed for the night into a Tavern of Mysteries.
In the fortress of Bardi, Parma, after tracking a ghost who lives in the castle, Ghostbusters refresh themselves with the "Cold buffet Death", including bloody salami and pasta creations that would be favored by Hannibal Lector, and then they will be poisoned by the best wines from the region.
At the Fiesta dalis Muars (dialect: Festival of Pumpkins), in Ampezzo, the courtyards of the historical center are lit only by torches, fireworks and fabulous light shows with clowns and fire eaters. The festival is held on the night of October 31 and is a reenactment of what Italians call "Celtic Halloween". The muars (pumpkins) are carved, then lit and displayed throughout the streets of the town, where you will also find food, fairies, elves, goblins, fire-eaters, jugglers and magical creatures.
Italian Pumpkin Festival
If you are in Italy around Halloween time you might want to check out the October Festa della Zucca (Pumpkin Festival) in Venzone, a medieval walled town in northeastern Italy. This festival will really give you that autumn, pumpkin fix that you crave. Although you might not find many Jack-O-Lanterns there, you will find pumpkins and squash of all colors, shapes and sizes--giants ones, too. There is food, art, music, and dancing and prizes are awarded for the largest, heaviest, most beautiful, and most unusual pumpkins. Children participate in a pumpkin-carving contest, while chefs demonstrate their skill in carving intricate floral designs.
So, it looks like there are lots of ways to celebrate Halloween in Italy... take your pick. And while most village children won't be knocking on doors yelling "Dolcetto o scherzetto" (Trick or Treat), there is still a lot of good, scary fun for your entire family.
If you enjoyed this post, please sneak up on your closest friends, and yell BOO! Ciao!