When it comes to celebrating the magic of Christmas, few places can rival the enchantment that Italy has to offer. With its rich history, deep-rooted traditions, and a palpable sense of holiday spirit, Italy transforms into a winter wonderland during the Christmas season. From the twinkling lights adorning ancient streets to the mouthwatering aroma of festive treats wafting through the air, Christmas in Italy is an experience like no other.
If you plan to spend the upcoming Christmas in Italy, this guide will take you through the best places to visit for the holiday season along with some tips to make your trip to Italy for Christmas as smooth as possible.
Where to Spend Christmas in Italy
Val di Sole
By Sara Rodriguez from Mindful Travel
Located in the heart of the Italian Alps, Val di Sole offers will surprise you with its stunning snow-capped villages and Christmas decorations.
From skiing down the slopes to relaxing at Terme di Pejo, there are plenty of activities to enjoy during your stay.
But what really makes Val di Sole stand out as one of the best places for Christmas celebrations is its picturesque villages such as San Giacomo, Pellizzano, and Ossana, where you can find traditional markets and delicious local treats like torta di Mela with Christmas spices from Agriturismo Solasna in San Giacomo or dining at Baita Tre Larici alpine hut.
Val Di Sole is an ideal destination for those looking for a magical white Christmas holiday in Italy. The region boasts some impressive ski resorts including Passo Tonale and Madonna di Campiglio which offer incredible views while you ski down their slopes!
If skiing isn't your thing then no worries - there are plenty of other activities that will keep you entertained such as snowshoeing through forests or visiting nearby hot springs like the Terme di Pejo which are known for their healing waters.
A visit to Val di Sole during Christmas is an unforgettable experience full of winter activities and charming villages that will make you feel like you’ve entered a winter wonderland!
By Catrina from 24 Hours Layover
Cortina d'Ampezzo is one of the most magical places to visit in Italy for Christmas due to its stunning winter scenery, festive atmosphere, and many events that make the Christmas holiday season truly magical!
Cortina d'Ampezzo transforms into a winter wonderland during Christmas, with the town and the surrounding mountains covered in snow, creating a picturesque backdrop for the holiday season.Cortina is renowned for its world-class winter sports. If you enjoy skiing or snowboarding, Cortina is the place to hit the slopes during Christmas! And if you don’t, fear not - there is plenty to do in Cortina d’Ampezzo town to keep you entertained!
Cortina is beautifully decorated during Christmas, with lights adorning the streets, creating a festive ambiance that is perfect for getting into the holiday spirit. The town hosts charming Christmas markets and traditional Italian celebrations such as torchlight processions, so it’s really an ideal place to celebrate the holiday season.
Since Christmas is a very popular time to visit Cortina, you’ll need to book accommodation well in advance.
Also, booking restaurant reservations beforehand is essential during the Christmas period, especially on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
If you're driving to Cortina, ensure your vehicle is equipped with winter tires or snow chains, as winter conditions can be challenging in the mountains.
By Nausheen from Globe Gazers
While Rome has long been a popular summer destination, Rome is worth visiting during Christmastime as well. The city's historical sites, already breathtaking, take on an ethereal charm under the gentle glow of Christmas lights.
There are plenty of ways to celebrate Christmas in Rome. At the Piazza Navona Christmas market, the aroma of roasting chestnuts wafts through the air as you browse for artisan gifts and traditional holiday sweets. The market begins the first week of December and runs through January 6.
Attend the "Midnight Mass" at the St. Peter's Basilica, where you can witness the Pope’s Christmas message. This takes place at 9:15pm on December 24. Tickets become available in November and must be booked in advance. Alternatively, you can attend a papal blessing in St. Peter's Square at noon on December 25th or 26th. No tickets are required to attend either of these papal blessings in the square.
Take a leisurely stroll down the Via dei Corso, beautifully lit and festive, leading you to the dazzling Christmas tree in Piazza del Popolo. See the giant Christmas tree in front of the Victor Emmanual II monument as it is slowly put up, and once it is finally lit up. Enjoy traditional, seasonal foods like panetone (fruitcake).
Be sure to book accommodations, tours and restaurant reservations in advance if you will be in Rome between Dec 26th through the New Year. While Christmastime itself can be a bit slower in terms of tourism, the buzz does pick back up a fair amount for end of year festivities.
By Jenifer of theeevolista.com
Christmas in Verona, Italy, is filled with festive charm and traditional celebrations. Verona hosts multiple Christmas markets where you can find handcrafted gifts, holiday decorations, and delicious local treats like Pandoro and Nadalin, dating back to the 13th century in Verona. The Nuremberg Christmas Market in Piazza dei Signori and the Santa Lucia Market in Piazza Bra are the most popular.
The city of Verona is beautifully decorated with Christmas lights and illuminated trees but the most dazzling decoration is the Star of Verona, a huge steel comet arcing over Piazza Bra by the Roman Amphitheater. You will also find hundreds of beautiful Nativity scenes (presepi) displayed around town including a must-see international nativity exhibition inside the Arena di Verona that is a highlight of the season.
Christmas concerts and performances are held in churches and theaters. Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve at the Verona Cathedral (Cattedrale di Santa Maria Matricolare) is popular for locals and tourists. If you stay until New Year's Eve, Verona hosts lively celebrations with fireworks.
Make sure to visit Juliet’s house and take a romantic winter walk through the charming streets and over Verona’s bridges. Don’t forget your winter coat and book a boutique hotel in Verona’s center where you can warm up in between sightseeing and shopping.
If you're looking for a magical winter experience, look no further than the Christmas markets in Bolzano. Located in the picturesque region of South Tyrol, Bolzano is known for its charming atmosphere and traditional Christmas markets. Each year, the city transforms into a winter wonderland, complete with twinkling lights, festive decorations, and the aroma of freshly baked treats.
The Christmas markets in Bolzano are famous for their unique handicrafts, such as wood carvings, leather goods, and hand-blown glass ornaments. Visitors can also sample local delicacies, including spicy sausages, hot mulled wine, and sweet apple strudel. Many vendors offer free samples, so be sure to come hungry!
One of the most popular markets is located in the Piazza Walther, where you can browse dozens of stalls selling everything from handcrafted toys to traditional Christmas decorations. Another must-visit is the Christmas markets of crafts, which features over 100 artisans showcasing their handmade goods.
If you're planning a visit to the Christmas markets in Bolzano, be sure to dress warmly, as temperatures can drop below freezing. The markets are open from late November until early January, so there's plenty of time to experience the festive atmosphere. Whether you're looking for unique gifts or simply want to soak up the holiday spirit, the Christmas markets in Bolzano are not to be missed.
By Lori of travlinmad.com
Northern Italy is a dream around the holidays and towns throughout these regions buzz with the promise of snow and the traditional European Christmas markets.
If you’re looking for a special place to celebrate the holidays, make a train stop to Bologna for a few days or a week to get in the holiday spirit. The best part about visiting Bologna in winter is seeing the sights under the miles (27 to be exact) of beautiful covered porticoes that stretch throughout the city, leaving you warm and protected for rain or snow.
Around the holidays, the city comes alive with Christmas decorations and locals are busy shopping, cooking, and of course socializing with friends all around town.
Bologna is Italy’s gastronomic city, so it’s no surprise that cooking and eating are top activities to enjoy. And some of their most iconic dishes liketortellini in brodo are perfect on cold days.
You’ll spend your days strolling the porticoes, shopping for gifts, noshing on roasted chestnuts, and passing an endless stream of delectable pastries in just about every shop window.
There are also several Christmas market stalls around the city selling traditional foods and small ornaments from neighboring countries like France, Germany, and Belgium, giving a lovely international feel to the winter scene.
You may add a few pounds, but the memories you’ll make will last a lifetime!
By Linn Haglund of Brainy Backpackers
Florence is a magical place during Christmas, lit up the historical town with holiday lights giving a warm glow to the city. There are multiple Christmas markets in Florence starting a few weeks before Christmas where you can find cute Christmas presents and traditional Christmas sweets like Torrone (a large and thick chocolate bar, often with whole hazel nuts inside,) Panettone, and Pandoro. The two latter are Christmas cakes, the Panettone usually has dried fruit inside.
The biggest Christmasmarket is found in Piazza Santa Croce. Florence also homes the longest ice skating rink in Europe with its 300 meters. Whether you visit Florence in 2 days or in a week over Christmas, you should go for a skate at the rink. If you fancy going to the Christmas Eve Mass, visit the cathedral at midnight. You might want to come there an hour early at least to get space inside as it fills up quickly. If you want to find a nice place to eat out for Christmas, you should book a table in advance. Though it is customary to eat lunch at home on Christmas Day, the restaurants that are open usually fill up quickly.
By Paul D’ Souza of paulmarina.com
Meran is a charming medieval city located at the heart of the Italian alps. The old town turns into a stunning Christmas themed place during the time before Christmas. The 4 Sundays before the 24th December are called Advent, and traditional celebrations such as the Krampus run on the 5th December and the coming of St. Nicholas on the 6th are part of the pre-Christmas festivities. From ancient times, and integrated into Christian believes, people have also been appeasing the spirits during the Rauhnächte. For 12 days from the 21. December to the 6th January, places and homes are smoked with incense and herbs such as rosemary to keep away bad ghosts. Wonderful aromas wrap around your senses while you discover boutiques run by the people of Meran. Yet, the main attraction and reason to visit Meran during the Christmas week is the classic Christmas market.
Local Christmas cookies, mulled wine and specialties from the South Tyrol region can be found in the colorful and light-filled market stalls. Look out for Zelten- or Kletzenbrot which is a Tyrolean fruit bread prepared during Christmastime and for the Christstollen, which is a melt in the mouth Christmas cake. Look out for the crib with its hand carved figurines and listen to Christmas songs sung in dialect German and Italian. The Christmas market can be visited daily, but it closes earlier on Christmas day, which is celebrated on the 24th December. Most stores and establishments close on the 24th and the 25th of December. The Meran thermal spa will be open daily, and what better way to celebrate the Christmas period than to relax in a hot pool of healing waters.
By Lisa from Travel Connect Experience
If you're seeking warmth, folklore, and authenticity during your Christmas trip to Italy, consider including Naples in your itinerary. This city in southern Italy is world-famous for being the birthplace of Neapolitan pizza.
At this time of year in Naples people eat Pizza stuffed with escarole, which is one of the most popular Italian Christmas dishes.
Naples sits on the Tyrrhenian coast and enjoys mild weather throughout the year. Prepare for sunny days even during the Christmas season. From the historic center, particularly Piazza del Plebiscito, take a short 10-minute walk to reach the Naples waterfront, where you can admire the silhouette of Mount Vesuvius.
It's said that the presence of this volcano is what makes Neapolitans welcoming and passionate (especially about art, music, philosophy, and good food).
Let's return to the historic center of Naples. Here, during Christmas, street artists perform and provide music to passersby. In Piazza del Plebiscito, there's the "blindfolded hug" initiative. Some Neapolitans, both men and women dressed as Santa Claus, blindfold themselves and wait for passersby to approach and hug them—an emotional and warm experience, just like the locals!
The most famous street in Naples is Via di San Gregorio Armeno, which comes alive during Christmas. Here, you'll find numerous artisan shops where craftsmen carve wooden statuettes, the characters used to decorate nativity scenes, which Neapolitans traditionally set up in their homes during Christmas.
Local artisans are highly creative and, in addition to the classic nativity scene characters, also carve contemporary figures like politicians, actors, and footballers in a caricature style.A walk down this street at Christmas is worth the trip to Naples. You'll walk slowly because it's very crowded and you may stop to listen to a performance by some local singer. On both sides of the street, you will find these little stores literally full of colorful figurines and the artisans ready to tell you all the story behind them.
By Cris from LooknWalk
On Italy’s Adriatic Coast, you’ll find the largest city in Apulia: Bari. Thanks to its location, winters are balmy in Bari – albeit it has snowed before. So, if you prefer to escape the colder climates, Bari is a lovely choice for a warmer Christmas in Italy.
Apulia is well-known for a special type of event during the Holidays: presepe vivente. The nativity scenes (presepe) are very common in cities across the country, but the living nativity scene (presepe vivente) makes everything…come to life. Entire areas of historical cities get “transformed” into Bethlehem and a baby from the town is chosen to have the special honor of representing Gesú Bambino (Baby Jesus). You may be able to witness presepe vivente in Alberobello, Locorotondo, Ostuni, or Vieste, for example, all within a short distance of Bari. Make sure to reserve your spot in advance, if required.
During the festive period, Bari is home to a Christmas Market. Hosted in the Old Town, it only comprises a few huts selling Christmas ornaments and various trinkets.
Take advantage of the lovely weather and head up the Gargano Coast. It’s the perfect time to put on your walking shoes and hike either the deserted beaches or in the forest. And make sure to stop at a traditional farm for a very long and very tasty lunch, comprising local staples. You’ll have to call in advance as they typically open only on request.
By Alexandra from The Alternative Travel Guide
The town of Como is a beautiful and romantic place to spend your Christmas vacation. Imagine yourself in a nice, cozy cabin with mountain and lake views, hot cocoa, and lights of Christmas decorations.
In Como, locals start preparing for Christmas long before the holiday. The festive illuminations are ceremoniously turned on every year at the end of November. The traditional Christmas Festival of Magic Lights (Città dei Balocchi) takes place in Como annually. The most beautiful light installations are in the following squares: piazza Volta, piazza Duomo, piazza San Fedele.
Como's Piazza Cavour hosts a Christmas fair and an ice skating rink. Here you can have a fun and exciting time. You can buy souvenirs, jewelry, toys, sweets, farm cheeses, and sausages at the fair, and, of course, hot mulled wine.
Magical houses, festive illuminations, ancient Como town and snow-capped mountain tops create an unforgettable experience.
The stores and restaurants in Como are also pleasantly delightful with festive holiday windows decorated for Christmas.
The only island in Lake Como, Comacina, turns into a Christmas park during Christmas and is decorated with fairy tale characters.
In addition, small towns around Como also host exciting events during the Christmas vacations - puppet shows and workshops for making Christmas decorations.
By Soline from ontheroadiary.com
Christmas in Cinque Terre is an unforgettable experience. Imagine spending your holiday season visiting five beautiful Italian fishing villages with rolling hills, clear seas, and picturesque views.
It's the perfect place to soak in the festive atmosphere of Italy and enjoy some fun activities during the day like exploring the hidden coves or taking a boat ride to explore the coast.
We recommend exploring the villages at night, when the streets light up with their Christmas decor. Manarola is home to the biggest light nativity scene in the world. It is located on a hill and quite impressive, as all the decor is made with recycled materials.
The lighting ceremony is quite an event, it happens every year on December 8th. Then, there are also Christmas markets, religious torchlight processions and even a firework show above the sea.
With all their charm, beauty and festive atmosphere, the five villages of Cinque Terre offer an unforgettable Christmas experience.
By Lavina D’Souza from Continent Hop
The stunning city of Venice becomes even more magical during Christmas. You can feel the holiday spirit while exploring its charming canals and historical streets during your Venice itinerary.
Head to St. Mark's Square to celebrate Christmas in Venice, where a beautiful Christmas tree stands tall and festive lights twinkle all around. Enjoy a romantic gondola ride with your partner through the picturesque canals decked out in Christmas decorations.
Take the chance to sample traditional Italian Christmas treats such as panettone and pandoro in many local bakeries and markets.
For a memorable Christmas Eve, attending the Midnight Mass at St. Mark's Basilica is also a popular Venetian Christmas activity. The grandeur of the church, with its stunning mosaics, intricate architecture, and lovely choir singing, will immerse you in the season's true spirit.
Ensure you have packed warm clothing and booked accommodation and restaurant reservations in advance.
Every corner of Venice exudes a magical glow during Christmas, from the iconic Rialto Bridge to the charming alleyways, creating a sight that will leave you in awe and inspired to capture the beauty on your camera.
Milan is a popular destination for tourists during the holiday season, and it's easy to see why. The city is known for its stylish fashion, delicious cuisine, and vibrant nightlife, all of which are amplified during the festive season. Natale a Milano, or Christmas in Milan, is a magical experience that you won't want to miss.
One of the highlights of Christmas in Milan is the stunning display of lights and decorations throughout the city. The streets are adorned with twinkling lights and festive decorations, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere. You can also find several Christmas markets throughout the city, where you can shop for unique gifts and souvenirs.
If you're a fan of Italian cuisine, you're in luck. Milan is home to some of the best restaurants in the country, and many of them offer special holiday menus during the Christmas season. You can also sample traditional Italian treats like panettone, a sweet bread filled with dried fruits and nuts.
Another must-see attraction during Christmas in Milan is the famous La Scala opera house, which puts on special holiday performances throughout December. The city is also home to several museums and art galleries, so there's plenty to see and do during your visit.
Overall, Natale a Milano is a magical experience that's sure to leave you with memories that will last a lifetime. Whether you're looking to shop, dine, or simply soak up the festive atmosphere, Milan is the perfect destination for a holiday getaway.
By Erin from Pina Travels
Palermo is the capital of Sicily and one of the largest cities on the island of Sicily. The best way to get to Palermo is by flight, or by taking the train from one of Italy’s more northern cities. You can fly into Catania Fontanarossa International Airport, Palermo Airport.
The atmosphere in Palermo during the Christmas season is festive and special. You can visit the city’s markets, see nativity scenes, enjoy holiday lights, and admire poinsettias and mistletoe that decorate the city center.
During the Christmas season there are little holiday markets and nativity scenes all around the city. For a festive Christmas Market, head to Via Magliocco. There, you’ll find wooden gazebos decorated for Christmas, and selling crafts and wares.
You’ll also want to visit Palermo’s traditional markets, Capo, Vucciria, and Ballaro. During the holidays, these year-round markets are decorated for the season. You’ll find Christmas sweets, typical Sicilian foods, and Italy’s famous panettone.
For Christmas lights, head to the Teatro Massimo, the largest opera house in Italy. This beautiful building is located in Piazza Giuseppe Verdi, which is the main square of Palermo. During Christmas, the front of the theater is decorated with Christmas lights. Every year a big Christmas tree is installed in the gardens located to the left of the theater’s stairs.
Tips for Visiting Italy During Christmas
As you plan your journey to experience Christmas in Italy, here are some invaluable tips to ensure your trip is filled with joy, wonder, and memorable moments.
Embrace the Festive Spirit: Italians go all out when it comes to Christmas decorations. From elaborately adorned city centers to charming nativity scenes, take the time to stroll through the beautifully decorated streets and soak in the festive atmosphere.
Savor Seasonal Delights: Don't miss out on the delectable Italian Christmas treats like panettone (a sweet bread), pandoro (a star-shaped cake), and torrone (nougat). Pair these with a glass of mulled wine or a sip of traditional Italian hot chocolate for an unforgettable taste of the season.
Attend Midnight Mass: Midnight Mass, known as "La Messa di Mezzanotte," is a deeply ingrained tradition in Italy. Consider attending one in a historic church to witness the spiritual side of Italian Christmas celebrations.
Explore Christmas Markets: Italy boasts numerous Christmas markets where you can find unique gifts, handmade crafts, and seasonal delicacies. The markets in cities like Rome, Florence, and Bolzano are renowned for their festive charm.
Plan Ahead: While Italy is less crowded than during the peak summer season, it's still a popular destination for Christmas travelers. Make reservations for accommodations and popular attractions in advance to avoid disappointment.
Weather and Dress Code: Be prepared for varying weather conditions, from chilly temperatures in the north to milder climates in the south. Layered clothing is advisable, and don't forget to pack comfortable walking shoes for exploring Christmas markets and historical sites.
Experience Local Traditions: Research and participate in local Christmas traditions unique to the region you're visiting. Each area has its own customs and festivities that add a special touch to the holiday season.
Learn Basic Italian Phrases: While many Italians speak English, learning a few basic Italian phrases can enhance your experience and make interactions with locals even more enjoyable.
Enjoy the Nativity Scenes: Italy is renowned for its intricate nativity scenes, known as "presepi." These are displayed in churches, homes, and even public squares. Take the time to admire these beautiful representations of the Christmas story.
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