Contrary to other countries, December 24th to 26th don’t carry quite as much Christmas significance in Italy. Even though being frequently celebrated within the family, January 6th (La Befana) remains the most important Christmas holiday. The towns and villages shine festively starting in early December. Fairy lights, decorations full of atmosphere, adorned trees, and the almost mandatory nativity scene line streets and alleys. You’d like to spend Christmas in Italy, yet have no idea where to go? Here are 10 great places to spend Christmas in Italy!
Did you know that Campania’s capital is also known as the home of the Italian nativity scene? There’s even an entire street dedicated to this delicate festive art. Via San Gregorio Armeno is home to numerous woodworking studios producing figurines and settings with meticulous attention to detail. “Christmas Alley” (Via del Presepe) even turns into Naples’ biggest Christmas market, where you obviously can buy one of the magnificent nativity scenes yourself.
Verona is at its most beautiful at Christmas – hard to believe that this breathtakingly stunning city could look any more alluring. Countless Christmas markets line the streets shining in the brightest lights. Among the best-known of its kind is the one outside Verona Arena on Piazza Bra. The Santa Lucia Christmas market also serves the star-shaped cookies named after the saint.
Time seems to stand still in Venice when snow is falling. White gondolas and snow-covered channel banks radiate a magical, almost idyllic aura. The city proves to be impressive even if these harbingers of winter are missing. Having enjoyed a snug stroll through various Christmas markets, you attend the riveting mass in the astonishing St Mark’s Basilica. Look forward to this funny, fuzzy Christmas feeling when Santa’s gondola moves past you.
Molise and Abruzzo
Two regions at once? Don’t worry, you don’t have to be in multiple places at the same time (unless you really want to, which we can totally understand). The charming villages and small towns in Abruzzo and Molise celebrate an old custom you will only find here. Nine days before Christmas the Zampognari hike down the hills into the villages wearing traditional costumes and playing bagpipes. This tradition is evocative of the shepherds that visited the new-born Christ in the stable.
The Sicilian Christmas traditions are as distinct as the weather is mild. Second only to the Neapolitans in the nativity scene tradition, such sets can be found in every corner of every village of the island. Some of them traditionally depict the city life of days long gone. Bonfires light the sky on Christmas Eve in many different locations, particularly near the beaches. They kick off the festivities and abundant feasts. If you want to enjoy atmospheric holidays without wet and cold weather, Sicily is the place to be.
While Murano is technically part of Venice, the special traditions of the lagoon island group deserves its own entry on this list. As you might know, Murano is the home of glassblowing. Artful products have been selling like crazy all around the world for centuries. It won’t come as a surprise that some of these very fine pieces of glass art are also sold on the local Christmas markets. Another thing special about the island festivities is the Murano eel. This traditional Christmas dish is made in the melting furnaces of the glassworks, slightly refined with herbs and cooked at very high temperatures. You will only find this delicacy here!
You are probably familiar with the illustrious history and centuries-old tradition of magnificent Christmas market in German-speaking countries. Thus, you probably won’t be surprised to find some of the most beautiful of its kind in the partly German-speaking region of Trentino-Alto Adige. Most of the times, the weather plays along letting tiny snowflakes dance through the sky resting on the roofs in cities and villages. Markets full of atmosphere meet old customs and a rather fascinating mixture of different cultures.
Located at the Apennine hills of Monte Ingino in Umbria, the small town of Gubbio remains an insider’s tip for Christmas time. More than 250 light dots stretch across the entire mountain forming what is probably the world’s biggest Christmas tree, adorned with numerous colourfully glowing baubles, lighting up the evening and night skies. This unique light installation is activated every December 7th shining for 30 festive days.
A city like Turin is certainly predestined for Christmas markets and atmospheric holiday festivities. We can particularly recommend Borgo Dora during Christmas season. The historical district is home to a very special Christmas market bringing international charm to Turin. Approximately 150 exhibitors from different countries present masterful craftsmanship and traditional culinary treats – a global experience spread across just a few kilometres.
Rom and Vatican City
We’ve saved the festive classic for last. Italy’s capital is particularly beautiful around Christmas. Piazza del Popolo is lined with over 100 nativity scenes, the Pantheon sees a mass with Gregorian chorales, and Piazza Navona turns into one of the country’s largest Christmas markets. You absolutely mustn’t miss a trip to Vatican City. A massive Christmas tree rises high into the sky outside St. Peter’s Basilica accompanied by a life-sized nativity scene. You should also be part of the papal midnight mass at least once in your life, but don’t forget to book your tickets way in advance if you want to find a seat inside the basilica.
With or without snow, old traditions or fascinating light installations, metropolis or sleepy village – Italy celebrates Christmas in many stunning, highly diverse and unforgettable ways. Find the best travel suggestions and much more for your Christmas trip to Italy on ZAINOO!