From May to September, Europe’s culturati follow the sounds of Italian music from Piedmont in the north all the way down to the Amalfi Coast. Here, the season’s best festivals and where to stay nearby.

By Valerie Waterhouse
April 29, 2013
Credit: Courtesy of Palazzo Victoria

Festival del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino

Florence, Tuscany; May 2–June 24

This year, the country’s most important classical festival honors the 200th birthdays of Verdi and Wagner. Daniel Barenboim and Claudio Abbado—the current and former musical directors of La Scala— will each lead a concert.

Don’t Miss: Verdi’s tragic Don Carlo, conducted by Zubin Mehta.

Stay: Each of the five rooms at 1865 ($$) is dedicated to a writer who once lived in Florence. Dostoyevsky’s is fittingly theatrical, with a frescoed ceiling and damask fabric draping the bed.

Ravello Festival

Ravello, Campania; June–August (dates TBA)

The dawn concert at the oceanfront Villa Rufolo—the inspiration for Wagner’s Parsifal—is a favorite at this celebration of jazz, ballet, and chamber music.

Don’t Miss: The chance to see a performance at the Oscar Niemeyer Auditorium, one of the late Brazilian architect’s final commissions.

Stay: The Palazzo Sasso, recently reborn as the Palazzo Avino ($$$), is a cliff-edge villa with 43 opulent rooms (Vietri tiles; antique carpets) and a Michelin-starred restaurant.

Arena di Verona Opera Festival

Verona, Veneto; June 14–Sept. 8

An ancient red-marble amphitheater hosts the venerable Verona Opera’s star-studded centennial.

Don’t Miss: Legendary tenor Plácido Domingo in the title role of Nabucco and baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky in Verdi’s Il Trovatore.

Stay: Run by the owners of Florence’s Il Salviatino, Palazzo Victoria ($$) brings a new level of sophistication to the city’s hotel scene, with a modern lobby (tufted white-leather sofas; moss-covered walls) and 71 restrained rooms (neutral tones; wood floors).

Trasimeno Music Festival

Magione, Umbria; June 29–July 5

A medieval castle sets the stage for this intimate music and literature festival, the brainchild of Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt. (A few events take place in nearby Gubbio and Perugia.)

Don’t Miss: Man Booker Prize–winning novelist Julian Barnes reading alongside Hewitt in an evening of words and music.

Stay: Slow Life Umbria ($$) is a wellness-focused inn in the countryside. Farther from the action, Perugia’s turreted Castello di Monterone ($$) offers packages with tickets and transportation included.

Umbria Jazz

Perugia, Umbria; July 5–14

Grammy Award winner Diana Krall kicks off the 40th anniversary of Italy’s biggest jazz event, held at a 4,500-seat outdoor arena with views of the Santa Giuliana church.

Don’t Miss: Veteran saxophonist Sonny Rollins, one of the genre’s most influential musicians.

Stay: Relais Casamassima ($$), a gray-stone house with three colorful suites, has a small pool overlooking surrounding vineyards and olive groves.

Incontri in Terra di Siena

Val d’Orcia, Tuscany; July 19–28

This 25-year-old festival takes place in and around the 15th-century La Foce estate, once owned by the writer Iris Origo.

Don’t Miss: The Argentina-themed tango show, and the comedic violinist/pianist duo (and YouTube sensation) Igudesman & Joo.

Stay: Up a winding country road, you’ll come upon the new Hotel Monteverdi ($$$), a boutique property with seven wood-beamed rooms by Ilaria Miani.

Stresa Festival

Stresa, Piedmont; July 19–Sept. 7

A dedicated ferry from Stresa brings concertgoers to the waterside venues of this classical and jazz event, set on Lake Maggiore’s islands and shores.

Don’t Miss: Julian Steckel performing the Bach cello suites at the Santa Caterina del Sasso convent; pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet in recital at the Borromeo palace, on Isola Bella.

Stay: Hotel Pironi ($), a 15th-century town house—and former Franciscan monastery—in the village of Cannobio.

Time in Jazz

Berchidda, Sardinia; August 10–16

Piazzas, archaeological sites, even the surrounding woodlands: the venues are always a highlight of this series, founded by local trumpeter Paolo Fresu.

Don’t Miss: Medeski, Martin & Wood, known for their funky “avant-noise” sound.

Stay: It’s worth the 30-mile drive to Petra Segreta ($$$), a recently updated hotel near the hilltop village San Pantaleo. Farmhouse-style rooms have private verandas overlooking the Costa Smeralda.

Hotel Pricing Key
$ Less than $200
$$ $200 to $350
$$$ $350 to $500
$$$$ $500 to $1,000
$$$$$ More than $1,000

Palazzo Avino

Formerly Palazzo Sasso

In 1997, when this long-defunct hotel reopened in an ornate 12th-century palazzo, Plácido Domingo set the tone as the first guest. It has remained a consistent fave (often taking top honors for Italy on the T+L 500 list), with rooms layered in 17th- through 19th-century antiques, Vietri tile floors, and Frette and Bulgari appointments. But the main attraction? Sea view, sea view, sea view. Even the gym and heated pool come with sweeping views (the pool from an underwater window), though for the best panoramas head for the rooftop solarium with its twin Jacuzzis. Chef Pino Lavarra’s nouvelle-Italian cuisine has garnered two Michelin stars for Rossellinis Restaurant (open March–October).