I am trying to understand what is the difference between "festa" and "vacanza" when they mean "holiday" (US term for a day in which most schools, stores and offices are closed because of a public celebration). I am aware of the other meanings of both words and I am not interested in them here.

From the relevant definitions of "festa" and "vacanza" in the Treccani dictionary, I infer the following:

  • festa: used when focusing on the solenity/celebration or on the object of celebration
  • vacanza: used when focusing on the period of rest


  • Il 25 aprile è vacanza in tutte le scuole (not "festa")
  • Domani è vacanza (not "festa")
  • Domani è la festa della mamma (not "vacanza")
  • Ci sono 15 feste religiose/nazionali durante l'anno. ("not vacanze")

Is that right or is there some overlap between both words?

  • 2
    Definitely, there is some overlap between these two words because you can also say "il 25 aprile è festa" and "domani è festa".
    – Charo
    Aug 30, 2019 at 7:55
  • 1
    You can see at Treccani Sinonimi e Contrari that "festa" can be what you have said in your question (point 1. a.), but also "giorno in cui non si lavora", that is, a synonym of "vacanza" (point 1. d.).
    – Charo
    Aug 30, 2019 at 8:03
  • 19 March is traditionally considered “festa del papà” (St. Joseph’s feast in the Catholic calendar), but it's not a holiday (it used to be, a few decades ago).
    – egreg
    Aug 30, 2019 at 9:23
  • Yes, @egreg, "festa" with the meaning of a day of celebration of a religious or civil solemnity doesn't imply that "most schools, stores and offices are closed" as stated in the question. A typical example from my country is "la festa di San Giorgio", a very important celebration in Catalonia which is a working day.
    – Charo
    Aug 30, 2019 at 10:01
  • 1
    @AlanEvangelista: This is the meaning of "martedì grasso".
    – Charo
    Aug 30, 2019 at 16:53

1 Answer 1


Your examples are quite right, I would find it strange if someone doesn't understand you, but I have something to add to them:

  • "Il 25 aprile è festa in tutta Italia, quindi le scuole sono chiuse" (I wouldn't use "vacanza" here for a reason explained in the next example).

  • it's better to say "domani è festa" rather than "domani è vacanza" (as already said in comments), because "vacanza" focuses on a period longer than one day (usually).

  • third example is perfect.

  • "Ci sono 15 festività religiose/nazionali durante l'anno" in fact if you use "feste" here it seems that you mean it like "feasts/parties"

They are usually not overlapping in meaning (but of course it depends on the context) and I believe that you got the differences between the two terms.

  • Welcome to Italian.SE and thank you for your answer! Note that "Il 25 aprile è vacanza in tutte le scuole" is an example from Treccani dictionary.
    – Charo
    Aug 30, 2019 at 17:17
  • Apart from this, note that the OP is asking if there is some overlap between the meanings of these two words.
    – Charo
    Aug 30, 2019 at 17:19
  • Thank you! I edited the answer. Aug 30, 2019 at 17:27
  • Of course "Il 25 aprile è vacanza in tutte le scuole" is correct, but in spoken Italian I would rather use "Il 25 aprile le scuole sono chiuse per festa". But, as I said in the answer, it really depends on the context and on what we want to focus on, the celebration or the period. Aug 30, 2019 at 17:32
  • Thanks for the answer! Is "festività" used for both religious and secular holidays? Sep 6, 2019 at 6:08

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.