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January Festival of the Befana on the 5th, the eve of Epiphany. The Befana is a friendly witch who brings presents to the children.

February Viareggio stages a huge and colourful carnival which rivals the famous Venice version for spectacle.

March/April Easter in Florence is spectacular, with parades, pageantry and the Scoppio del Carro (Explosion of the Cart - fireworks from an ornate cart are set off outside the Duomo at 12 noon).

May Maggio Musicale – major arts festival in Florence.

June Pisa’s Gioco del Ponte tug-of-war involves two groups of people representing the two halves of the city, trying to push a seven tonne cart to the opposite side of the bridge... Regatta di San Ranieri, Pisa  – boat race in traditional costume, and processions of colourfully decorated boats on the River Arno.

July Feast of San Paolino, Lucca: a torchlit parade and crossbow contest in period costumes... Lucca music festival: many famous names, including, in 2006, Eric Clapton, Tracey Chapman and Simply Red. Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, James Brown and Joan Baez have all also graced the Piazza Napoleone stage in past years. Check out the festival website here for the latest news and dates... Joust of the Bear (Pistoia): 12 riders, three from each quarter of the city, gallop in an attempt to spear two “bears” (not real!)... Pistoia Blues international blues festival... Barga Jazz festival... Numerous sagre (traditional festivities) in hill villages.

August Lucca: Puccini festival at the open-air theatre by the lake (Torre del Lago) where he once lived... Opera festival in Barga... Numerous sagre (traditional festivities) in hill villages.

September Feast of Santa Croce, Lucca - torchlit parade through the streets, carrying the Volto Santo (a wooden crucifix, said to represent the true face of Christ, by eyewitness Nicodemus, usually kept in the Duomo).

October Night-time festival of Hallowe'en at Borgo a Mozzano - home to the world-famous Devil's Bridge.

November Feast of Santa Cecilia, Siena - a varied programme of concerts. Festival dei Popoli, Florence.

December Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Bagni di Lucca, followed by a fair... Burning of the Tree, Camorgiano, near Lucca - huge bonfire, accompanied by the sound of the bell from S. Giacomo... Feast of S. Stefano, Prato... Feast of Santa Lucia, Siena – ceremonies, poetry and a ceramics fair.