Italian Party Theme Ideas

photo of an Italian sidewalk cafe

For this Italian party theme, think old world Italy. Picture a narrow cobblestone road, walls awash in warm yellows, ochres, and oranges,  café tables with damask cloths, delicious aromas wafting on the breeze....let's get this party started!

La Dolce Vita!

An Italian party theme is a great choice if the weather's warm. Being out on a patio, a deck, under a canopy, or simply in your backyard lends a wonderful outdoor café atmosphere to your party.

If you don't want to eat outside, consider just having drinks and appetizers al fresco and come in for the meal and dessert.

If you're entertaining inside, and you can manage it, make room for a few card tables and use folding chairs for seating (you could rent bistro tables and chairs but it's a much more expensive option).

Cover the tables in large squares of fabric in colors that coordinate with your party's palette. Besides warm oranges and ochres, a color palette for an Italian party could include eggplant, Tuscan gold and terra cotta, too. Another choice is to use red and white checkered tablecloths for a more casual look. 

photo of string lights for decorating an Italian theme party

Drape strands of white lights, the kind that look like little round light bulbs, across the ceiling or around your outdoor space. Tiny lights look festive wound around the undersides of patio umbrellas. For texture, add some artificial vines. Place large planters full of colorful flowers everywhere you can. Get as many flower pots and hanging planters as you can find (don't be shy, borrow your neighbor's best specimens for the day). Make your space lush and colorful. Buy a few fake columns from a craft store and place them around for more Old World atmosphere.

Prop up a chalkboard (with the party's menu, or a "Happy Birthday" message) by the entrance or by the food table or bar area.

Play "learn to speak Italian" cds in the background or go the traditional route with Italian music (opera perhaps?) instead.

The ultimate Italian party theme soundtrack?

A real live strolling violinist. If hiring one is out of the budget, maybe you can dig up a relative who plays (heck, even a child would do).

Bring Italy to Your Guests with Your Drink Menu

Putting together the drink menu is one of the things we love most about an Italian party theme. There are so many great choices!

In addition to Prosecco, Limoncello is one of the more well-known Italian beverages. It's a very sweet, very yellow and very filling lemon flavored liqueur from the Amalfi Coast/Capri area. Serve it chilled and keep it in the freezer when you're not using it.

The Bellini is an Italian cocktail that originated in Venice. It's become popular here in the U.S.

A Bellini is a combination of Prosecco and peach juice or fresh peach puree (2 parts Prosecco and 1 part juice or puree). Simple and delicious! 

Some other Italian alcoholic drinks you might want to have on hand:

  • Amaretto
  • Frangelico
  • Sambuca
  • Campari
  • Grappa

The liqueurs (Amaretto, Frangelico, Sambuca and Limoncello) are wonderful poured over a scoop of gelato. It's a delicious way to end the party. 

Non-alcoholic drinks to consider: Italian sodas, espresso, cappuccino, latte, and their decaf counterparts. 

In Need of Some Italian-Inspired Activities, Too?

Keep your guests busy with some of these party activities:

Make your own pizza

Give each table a wooden pizza server with a Boboli pizza crust on it, along with two small bowls, one with shredded mozzerella and one with pizza sauce. Have a bunch of bowls ready with all the toppings you can imagine.

Here's a list of toppings to get you started:

  • pepperoni
  • onions
  • green peppers
  • sausage
  • pineapple
  • ham
  • chicken
  • sliced meatballs
  • olives
  • anchovies
  • bacon
  • jalapenos
  • baby shrimp
  • prosciutto
  • fresh spinach
  • fresh mushrooms
  • feta cheese
  • garlic
  • ricotta cheese
  • sliced tomatoes

Pass the toppings around and have each table create a pizza. Cook them on the grill or in the oven (or both if you have more than a few pizzas).

Olive tasting

If you want to keep it authentic, only offer Italian olives. Some interesting varieties to sample are: castelvetrano, liguria, cerignola (green, black, red and yellow), ponentine, gaeta, taggiasca and lugano.

Prosecco tasting

Prosecco is a dry sparkling wine made from Prosecco grapes from the Veneto (Venice) region of Italy.

Gelato Tasting

Gelato is very similar to ice cream but not as solidly frozen. Offer your guests a variety of gelati and see which turn up as favorites. We have a super gelato store in our city (Philadelphia) with flavors like strawberry spiked with tequila, macadamia nut, coffee with Kahlua, lemon basil, Madagascar bourbon vanilla, the list just goes on and on. Maybe you can find something similar where you are. 

An Italian Theme Party Needs Italian-Inspired Centerpiece Ideas

  • pretty cruets of flavored olive oil (a good DIY project)
  • bowls of grapes 
  • colorful plates of olives
  • a rose in a bud vase
  • sunflowers in a vase (a nod to Tuscany)
  • a bouquet of fresh herbs (basil, sage and flat-leaved parsley are good choices)
  • a glass bowl or hurricane vase filled with water and floating candles
  • a fat white pillar candle wrapped with raffia
  • a wine bottle with a tapered candle (drip some wax onto the mouth of the bottle to keep the candle in place)

Send Everyone Home with Favors

We love these ideas for Italian party theme favors:

  • an espresso cup or a sample sized package of ground espresso (or both)
  • a small bag of "specialty" dried pasta
  • a cruet of flavored olive oil
  • a homemade keychain with murano beads attached
  • a brightly colored mini colander
  • a mini terra cotta pot planted with a sprig of oregano, thyme, basil, or flat-leaved parsley, and wrapped with a pretty fabric or raffia bow
  • a mini bottle of an Italian liqueur (you can include a cordial glass if you like)
  • one perfect cannoli in a mini pastry box