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Marche

Why Urbania is the town to visit on the day of the Epiphany

In Urbania the Befana (the Witch of the Epiphany) festival is a thrilling event for the whole family, and one of the longest-running festivals in Italy.

02 January 2023

4 minutes

Whereas Father Christmas lives at the North Pole, the Befana has found her home right here, in the ancient town in the Marche region rich in history and traditions: a village perched in the hills. On 4, 5 and 6 January, there is a succession of shows and fun initiatives linked to the Epiphany.

There is no better way to end the Christmas festivities than by visiting Urbania, to discover ancient crafts, taste local culinary specialities and lose oneself in a fairytale world.

Credits: images provided by the Pro Loco of Urbania

The history of the Befana: do you know where her name comes from?

urbania befana name

The term comes from the Greek word epiphany, meaning 'apparition', or 'divine manifestation'.

The Befana tradition, particularly popular in Italy, mixes religious and pagan beliefs, linked to the cycles of the earth.

In the first case, the Befana's arrival on a broomstick to bestow gifts on children is linked to the Magi's journey to Bethlehem to honour the Baby Jesus with their gifts. More secularly, the rite of the Befana is connected to the calendar and the succession of the seasons: the previous year ends, as old as the Befana, and the gifts are a good omen for the new year that has just dawned, a wish to make it prosperous and auspicious.  

Credits: images provided by the Pro Loco of Urbania

The Befana festival in Urbania is the most picturesque in Italy

urbania befana festival

However one interprets the tradition of the Befana, for everyone it is the event that marks the end of the Christmas festivities. To enjoy a unique experience in honour of the generous old lady, the ideal destination is Urbania, a splendid village in the northern Marche region, in the province of Pesaro-Urbino, the focus of spectacular events that will amaze adults and children alike.

There are many record-breaking figures: the scarf knitted by the Befana is 50 metres long, the stocking that parades along the streets of the town totals 70 metres - the longest in the world - while 420 kilograms of sweets are produced for the celebration. Urbania has been the hub of the festivities in honour of the Befana for 25 years, and attracts 30,000 visitors a year. For this celebration, the town is transformed into a magical toyland, with 4,000 stockings hanging everywhere. Numerous witches enliven the historic centre with dancing, but two in particular will spark amazement. Look up to admire one descending from the Bell Tower with a 36-metre leap, and another flying from the bell tower of the Town Hall amidst music, and a play of lights. 

Credits: images provided by the Pro Loco of Urbania

4, 5 and 6 January 2023: 3 days of events in Urbania in honour of the Epiphany

urbania celebration in honour of the befana

From 4 to 6 January, the town is transformed into the Befana Village. In the heart of the village, in addition to the Post Office and the Befana House, you will find the Bistrot della Befana with traditional dishes and products from the Marche region, from Acqualagna truffles to Marchigiana meat, peaches from Montelabbate, local wines and beers and the ever-present Crostolo di Urbania. From magic soap bubbles, to jugglers, fascinating street theatre shows with stilts, unicycles of over two metres, clowns and white ladies will enchant the public. Among the novelties 2023 a virtual experience with the Befana 3D, walks with four-legged friends and a Befana pedal ride to discover the city of the Befana.

A date to mark on the calendar is 5 January. On this day, the Befana goes to greet the children in person, wherever they are: in homes, camper vans, hotels and holiday farms in the area. And she will certainly not arrive empty-handed.

Once you are in Urbania, there will be many things to discover: the colourful and historical Durantine ceramics, protagonists of countless exhibitions in the Ducal Palace and the Leonardi Diocesan Museum, not to mention the curious and evocative story of the Mummies in the Church of the Dead.

Finally, if you are wondering what to see in Urbania, let the Befana guide you. She will be the one to accompany you on a tour of the town's historical and artistic monuments. She will take you to see the Ducal Palace, the Barco Ducale and the Bramante Theatre, before making you shudder at the mummies kept in the Church of the Dead. You will also be able to experience one of the many crafts that are the pride of Italy: pottery making, an ancient skill proudly kept alive by the inhabitants. 

Credits: images provided by the Pro Loco of Urbania

Welcome to the Casa della Befana in Urbania

urbania befana house

The Casa della Befana, housed in a space in the Civic Palazzo, was designed by the film and television set designer Egidio Spugnini, aka Egidio da Casteldurante, the ancient name of Urbania.

It is open all year round, but during these three festive days it is particularly lively. Here, the Befana teaches people how to make coal, weave the loom, and tells tales related to the territory.

The Befana Post Office has already appeared in the central square of Urbania, ready to welcome the letters of the little guests who will want to ask for gifts and sweets, but beware: the Befana sees all and knows all and is hard at work preparing coal for the naughtiest children.

Credits: images provided by the Pro Loco of Urbania

How to reach Urbania by train

urbania how to get there by train

To reach Urbania, the nearest railway stations are Pesaro, connected by high-speed trains, and Fano. Direct buses leave from both, which will take you to your destination in about an hour and a half.

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