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Not many carved pumpkins but a day off: What does Italy think of Halloween?

Italy's way of marking Halloween is a little different - and a lot more restrained - than the usual celebrations in countries like the US and UK.

Halloween in Italy is about food and a day off.
Halloween in Italy is about food and a day off. Photo by David Menidrey on Unsplash

While Halloween is less of a big deal in Italy that it is in some other countries, that’s not to say it isn’t celebrated at all.

Its popularity has increased in recent years, even if some politicians and other public figures criticise the holiday for being an American import, too commercial, or not fittng with the country’s strong Catholic beliefs.

READ ALSO: Pumpkin risotto and the great wardrobe switch: How life in Italy changes when autumn arrives

Here’s a look at how Italy feels about the holiday, and how it’s usually marked.

Trick or treat

Unsurprisingly, Italian children have really taken to the idea of roaming their neighbourhood in creepy costumes demanding sugary treats.

So while it’s not as ubiquitous as it is in the USA, you may find you get a few mini ghouls or witches knocking on your door come October 31st, shouting “dolcetto o scherzetto!“ (trick or treat).

Adult celebrations mainly involve halloween-themed dinners. Restaurants across the country are increasingly putting on special Halloween dinner menus – which are more about seasonal produce than anything spooky.

Many members of The Local Italy’s Facebook group told us the holiday here is mainly for children, with shops giving out sweets and villages putting up spooky displays in the piazza.


Photo by Nathan Riley on Unsplash

One place you may find more raucous halloween parties is the city of Florence, which has a sizeable American population.

Italian supermarkets generally stock some Halloween decorations, costumes and candy, and while they’ll no doubt be full of pumpkins at ths time of year, the majority of Italians are buying them to cook, not carve.

One exception is the Fucacoste and Cocce Priatorje or “bonfire and heads of purgatory” – a bonfire, feast, and pumpkin-carving competition held on November 1st in Orsara di Puglia, in the southern region of Puglia.

This event, which looks more than a little similar to the western-style Halloween celebrations we’re more familiar with, is centuries old.

Public holiday

The good news is that Italians do celebrate the season in much more practical way – by having a day off work.

November 1st, All Saints Day, known as ognissanti or tutti i santi in Italian, is an official bank holiday.

There are absolutely no spooky goings-on, though.

READ ALSO: What changes in Italy in November 2021?

In the south of Italy, where onomastici or saints’ name days are observed, November 1st is everyone’s name day at once, and so you’re supposed to say auguri (congratulations) to everyone you know. Here, many families mark the day with – what else? – a big lunch.

Festa dei Morti

As in many Christian countries, November 2nd is when Italians mark their own All Souls’ Day, or Festa dei Morti, the “Day of the Dead”.

Visitors to Rome’s Verano cemetery. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP.

The festival of the dead on October 31st, which has Celtic roots, was celebrated in some parts of Italy long ago. But in 1000 A.D. the Catholic Church created All Souls’ Day on November 2nd in an attempt to replace the Celtic festival with a similar. but church-approved, tradition.

Although the date and name was changed, plenty of fascinating old traditions stuck in various parts of the country.

READ ALSO: Unlucky for some: Thirteen strange Italian superstitions

But this isn’t a chance to don a scary costume, either.

Here in Italy, it’s a much calmer day of remembrance, mainly celebrated with prayers, flowers and, of course, food.

Member comments

  1. Really dislike the commercialism of Halloween. It hasn’t taken off in huge way in Australia thankfully but there are smatterings of it, with only a couple of children knocking on the door on the night.

  2. Eh, no reason to be fuddy duddies! No need to spend tends of money, just enjoy the holiday and spookiness! Don’t have to throw the baby out with the bath water.

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For members


La Bella Vita: Italy’s Easter traditions and how English words are used in Italian

From making the most of an Italian Easter to understanding the English words borrowed into Italian, our weekly newsletter La Bella Vita offers you an essential starting point for eating, talking, drinking and living like an Italian.

La Bella Vita: Italy's Easter traditions and how English words are used in Italian

La Bella Vita is our regular look at the real culture of Italy – from language to cuisine, manners to art. This new newsletter will be published weekly and you can receive it directly to your inbox, by going to newsletter preferences in ‘My Account’ or follow the instructions in the newsletter box below.

Sooner or later, every native English speaker in Italy experiences a moment of confusion upon hearing an Italian use an English-sounding word and having absolutely no idea what they mean by it. For example, I remember being puzzled by Italians talking about going to Rome on a ‘pullman’, which turned out to be a coach, and mildly alarmed when they suggested we go ‘footing’, which I later discovered was what we’d call jogging.

You may have found that there are numerous English-sounding words used in Italian which we’ve never heard before, as well as words we do know but which have taken on new meanings, or at least very different pronunciation. These terms are called anglicismi (‘anglicisms’) in Italian and there are about 9,000 of them recorded by Italy’s Treccani dictionary. 

While such words may seem harmless (if a little bemusing) to foreigners, some Italians really don’t like them – including members of the current government, which last week proposed a ban on being used in public offices, advertising, and business. The announcement has reignited a debate in Italy between those who want to protect the Italian language from outside influence and those who believe languages are fluid, interconnected, and constantly evolving.

The article below looks at what’s going on and explains some of the most common anglicismi used in Italy today.

‘Anglicismi’: The English words borrowed into Italian – and what they mean

And as the Easter weekend begins, here’s a look at the traditional Italian events to take part in, the foods to taste, and also what sort of weather and traffic conditions to expect if you’re planning a weekend away or just a day trip within the country over the coming days.

The essential guide to Easter 2023 in Italy

Enna - procession

People carry statues of the Virgin Mary and Jesus during an Easter procession in the town of Aidone, near Enna, in central Sicily. (Photo by Marcello PATERNOSTRO / AFP)

Easter is a key event on the national calendar in overwhelmingly Catholic Italy, so perhaps it’s not surprising that the Italian language is laden with Easter-related expressions – some of which can be used all year round. 

We’ve put together six of our favourites in the article below. Bonus points if you manage to drop any of these into conversation at Easter lunch with Italian friends or family.

Six Easter-inspired Italian phrases explained

You might have heard of the passeggiata, but what about the struscio? This more extravagent and perhaps flirtatious version of the glamorous Italian evening stroll is typical of southern towns, and it means going all out in order to impress.

Writer Silvia Marchetti explains what it’s all about, and why Italians tend to be so concerned about what other people think of their appearance, anyway.

‘Struscio’: Why Italians care so much about this sacred evening ritual

Remember if you’d like to have this weekly newsletter sent straight to your inbox you can sign up for it via Newsletter preferences in “My Account”.

Is there an aspect of the Italian way of life you’d like to see us write more about on The Local? Please email me at [email protected].