In 1991, Verona was home to 10,000 immigrants. By the end of 2023, the number of foreign inhabitants had risen to 110,000, accounting for 12% of the population. The number rises to 130,000 when Italians from migrant backgrounds are included. Despite countless changes over the last three decades, one thing has remained constant: the Festa dei Popoli, which will take place on Sunday, May 26 at Villa Buri in Sal Michele Extra.

The Festa dei Popoli is a day dedicated to celebrating Verona’s various cultures through traditional cuisine, dances, music, performances, and shared experiences. This year’s 33rd Festa dei Popoli will be held under the theme “Walking for Peace,” inspired by Pope Francis’ recent visit and the Arena della Pace event on May 18.

Food and music will be the centerpieces of the event, both recognized for their ability to create connections while generating a cheerful environment. The celebration will begin at 12:30 PM, with the opening of food stands. The entertainment program begins at 3:00 PM and runs until 7:00 PM, including dances, music, seminars, crafts, and children’s shows. The celebration will be alcohol-free, and organizers encourage guests to use public transportation or bicycles to Villa Buri.

Festa dei Popoli celebrates thirty years: Cestim analyzes the changes

Matteo Danese, director of Cestim (Centro Studi Immigrazione), reflects on the Festa dei Popoli over the last thirty years, noticing considerable changes: “In 1991, Verona was only beginning to explore cultural variety. Today, it’s a multicultural reality. This is obvious not only in the statistics but also in residents’ daily lives at work, schools, churches, and communities. While diversity is a fact, many Veronese do not yet experience intercultural relationships on a daily basis”.

Danese emphasizes the subject of ongoing prejudices: “There are still citizens, both Italian and foreign, who do not routinely associate with individuals of different cultures or nations. They live in different worlds that touch but do not connect, sometimes with erroneous ideas of ‘the other’ caused by stereotypes and prejudices.”

This is precisely why the Festa dei Popoli was established: to unite, educate, and encourage people working for equal opportunity. “At Villa Buri, we will not just showcase the richness of diversity through music, food, and crafts,” says Danese. “We will strive to build positive and constructive relationships between old and new Veronese, realizing, in the words of Don Tonino Bello—recently commemorated at Arena di Pace—that ‘conviviality of differences’ remains the ideal goal to pursue.”