Music in the air

Summer music festivals in Tuscany

Aimee Bateas
June 16, 2011

From Florence to Pistoia, Lucca to Fiesole, there is music in the air. It's the season for Tuscany's summer music festivals, and there is nothing quite like swaying to sweet sounds with the scent of warm grass in the air, cold beer in hand and thousands of years of history surrounding you (Roman amphitheatres often double as major music venues). Summer music festivals in Tuscany are so special that superstars from Elton John to George Michael, Ben Harper to B.B. King are flying for a spot on these stages. Here is your guide to the best upcoming music events throughout the region this season.




Stay in town for the Estate Fiorentina 2011, where ballets and concerts by the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino take center stage all summer. Catch concerts and shows the Roman amphitheater of Le Cascine, and stop by Le Murate, which will become an open-air cinema screening the Stop Making Noise documentary series, or the Oblate Library for literary events and readings (this year a tribute to Hemingway is the works). The official program is still tentative, so check the Estate Fiorentina 2011 Facebook fan page for updates.


The world-renowned Florence Opera Festival, which turns the Boboli Gardens and the haunting ruins of the San Galgano Abbey into stages under the stars, will be in full-swing (despite pedonalizzazione) starting on July 12. This year's classical shows are Carmina Burana, Swan Lake (ballet), Vivaldi's Four Seasons, La Traviata and Don Quixote (


A much-anticipated concert up the hill: on July 3, Max Gazze will perform songs from the legendary Pink Floyd album, The Dark Side of the Moon at Estate Fiesolana, which runs from June 20 to August 30 ( On July 4, Roman singer-songwriter Alessandro Mannarino will promote his latest album, while Nobel Prize winner Dario Fo and his wife, Franca Rame, will tell stories by Boccaccio.


On September 10, George Michael will take the stage in Florence's piazza Santa Croce, shaking his (still tight!) rear and taking you back to the 80s for his Symphonica tour (tickets are getting more expensive by the day, so snag them online ASAP!).




The Lucca Summer Festival, which runs from June 28 to July 24 (, is now among the most anticipated Italian music events of the summer season. Now in its 14th year, the festival features an impressive lineup: Indie rock fans won't want to miss Arcade Fire on July 9. Elton John will sparkle, Ben Harper will woo with his reggae-inspired acoustics and, if she shows up, Amy Winehouse will bring down the house. Joe Cocker, blues guitarist B.B. King, James Blunt, swinging legend Burt Bacharach, funny rockers Blink 182 and legendary singer, actress and dancer Liza Minnelli are all on the list. The 2011 festival ends with the much-anticipated return of Jamiroquai on Sunday, July 24, who comes back under the spotlight after five years to close the festival.


Pistoia Blues (July 8 to 11; is opening with the bang of 90s cult groups. Skunk Anansie, the British band with killer lead lady Skin, will take the stage after having toured Italy earlier this year. Don't miss Italian ska band Skapestrati, American folk blues guitarist Willie Nile, Irish rock combo The Marshals and legend Lou Reed. Marking the 40th anniversary of the death of Jim Morrison is an exhibition features unpublished photos by Michelle Campbell, the official photographer of The Doors (Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger are playing!), as well as videos and other memorabilia. This year, the Pistoia Blues will be the first ‘pet friendly' festival, opening up areas designated for visitors with animals.


From June 20 to July 11, enjoy classical music in the classical setting of the cloisters of Pisa's Museo dell'Opera del Duomo at Music Under the Tower (; search 'Musica sotto la torre'). A special highlight: the jazz evening that pays homage to Blue Note Records, with Maurizio Giammarco on the sax and Marco Di Gennaro on the piano.


Celebrating its 32nd year, Prato's Festival delle Colline, from June 24 to July 28 (, features internationally renowned African guitarist Omar Moctar, aka Bombino, playing at Bonistallo Church on July 1. There will be much to choose from, and this year's theme, The Kids are All Right, will see fables and children's themes interpreted. For example, Bobo Rondelli will tell the tale of Peter and the Wolf accompanied by the Tuscany Orchestra in Caiano.


At this year's La Versiliana Festival, catch contemporary composer Goran Bregovic with a full orchestra, who will perform in Viareggio at the Cittadella del Carnevale. The festival, which is held in Marina di Pietrasanta in an open-air theatre, takes place from July 1 to August 31 ( The program is widely diverse, featuring the mega-musical Cats, A Midsummer Night's Dream, comedian (and more recently politician) Beppe Grillo, a ballet inspired by Caravaggio and another by Dante's Inferno, and much more.


Celebrate both music and dance at Bolgheri Melody from July 9 to August 7 ( Among this year's big names are English musician Brian Ferry; Italian singer-songwriter Gianna Nannini, with a new baby and fresh new hit songs; and Italian pop sensation Moda. On August 2, a unique event connected to the festival, Liszt Nella Notte, features live performances of piano music by the composer in cellars in Castagneto Carducci during tastings.



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