This is a sponsored post from Auto Europe.
Once September arrives, the countdown begins for the next big holiday which will break the monotony of winter and fill it with light and colour. Of course we’re talking about Christmas, with many traditions that vary from one region to another. In recent years Christmas markets in Italy have become very popular with both locals and tourists – read on to find out more…
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Christmas In Italy
Almost every family decorates a Christmas tree either inside the house or in the garden, and many also add a nativity scene to commemorate the birth of Jesus. Local councils adorn their streets with illuminations and put up a large Christmas tree in the main square. Very elaborate nativity scenes (or presepi) are assembled in churches or built from scratch by real artists, and sometimes there are even large-scale presepi with life-size figures depicting the Holy Family.
In some areas (from as early as 13 December) St Lucy starts distributing sweets for the kids. She is followed by Santa Claus and sometimes by the arrival of the Baby Jesus on Christmas Eve. Then on 6 January the Befana appears. She is a witch dressed in rags who brings goodies for well-behaved children (or coal for the bad ones). This brings the holiday season to an abrupt end because the schools reopen and it’s back to lessons for everyone the very next day.
Italian Christmas Markets
Of all these customs, Christmas markets (similar to those in northern Europe during the Advent season) were traditionally not very common in Italy. The exception was in the Trentino-Alto Adige and Friuli-Venezia Giulia regions that border Germany and Austria. However, in more recent years they have been gaining popularity throughout the whole country, and can now be found in almost all major cities.
Appealing to young and old alike, Christmas markets offer shoppers a wide selection of gift ideas including locally made handicrafts, hot drinks such as mulled wine, and many delicious Christmas specialities, both sweet and savoury. Following the setback of Christmas 2020 during which streets and squares were sadly empty, the markets have revived and are now an opportunity not to be missed.
How To Visit A Christmas Market
Those who do not have their own car or who are arriving at their destination by plane or train can book a low-cost car rental quickly and easily through the Auto Europe website. Thanks to the company’s numerous partnerships with all world’s top car hire companies (international, national and local) – not to mention almost 70 years in the heart of the travel industry – Auto Europe offers a wide choice of vehicles and rental solutions designed to meet the specific needs of all their customers.
Travellers can also expect an efficient customer service experience operated by a highly motivated team ready to answer all your questions either before, during or after the booking process.
Markets In Trentino-South Tyrol
If you have always dreamed of visiting the famous markets such as the one in Nuremberg or the Austrian ones in Vienna and Salzburg but couldn’t reach them because they were too far away, why not go to Trentino-South Tyrol. Here you will find many similar markets with their typical stalls in the shape of wooden cottages selling a wide selection of local handicrafts. These markets actually have an advantage over those of the Nordic countries, being open for a longer period, from late November right through to the beginning of January.
You will find a variety of hot drinks in addition to mulled wine, such as Feuerzangenbowle (mulled wine with added sugar and rum flambé) and Honigwein (mead). In Bolzano, a large market takes place mostly on Walther Square. A short distance away in Merano the market stalls fill Piazza Terme and stretch along the Passirio River. The list continues with markets in Brixen, Sterzing, Bruneck, Toblach and Innichen, along with many others.
The province of Trento also boasts some very impressive markets, starting with the one in the picturesque village of Rango di Bleggio which operates in conjunction with many working farmhouses. The Levico Terme markets also boast a spectacular setting, most notably in Hapsburg Park.
A visit to Italy’s Christmas markets can be extended with a fun-filled sightseeing itinerary incorporating a museum visit. Or you could spend a weekend enjoying the snow at the many surrounding ski resorts, rounded off with a hearty feast of Austrian-influenced dishes such as dumplings, spek, spätzle and apple strudel, and accompanied by a glass or two of the delicious local wine.
There are many Christmas markets to visit elsewhere in northern Italy, each with its own timetable and characteristics. The most notable examples are in Turin and Santa Maria Maggiore in Piedmont, and in the numerous towns and cities of the Veneto region, such as Verona, Padua and Treviso.
In the Friulian town of Sauris (located on the border between Veneto and Austria) some small but very authentic markets run over the Immaculate Conception weekend. And the port city of Trieste is famous for its Austrian-style Christmas market held from late November until 6 January on Red Bridge Square. This is a legacy of the city’s long history under the Habsburg monarchy.
Those looking for a more classic kind of Italian tourism experience can head for the city of Milan to buy exclusive gifts and enjoy seeing the city well decorated and brightly lit during the feast of the Immaculate Conception. On 7 December (the day of Milan’s patron saint, St Ambrose) the amazing Oh Bej! Oh Bej! fair takes place, a tradition that dates back to the 1500s.The fair includes a number of stalls located near Castello Sforzesco.
From Milan, it’s just an hour’s drive to the markets of Como in a place known as Città dei Balocchi (Toy Town). From late November until 6 January a truly remarkable festive experience is created, with Christmas scenes (along with musical accompaniment) being projected onto buildings in the heart of the town from sunset until the small hours.
From 17 November until 26 December in Bologna the very old Santa Lucia Fair is held at Portico dei Servi on Strada Maggiore. Once there, it’s worth taking a tour of the nativity scenes on display in the churches, all of which are very impressive and made of carved figurines.
On the beautiful Riviera Romagnola, the cities of Rimini, Riccione, Milano Marittima and Ravenna also have their own markets. A particular treat is in Grazzano Visconti, an ancient village in the province of Piacenza, where there is a dedicated Santa Claus House and children’s shows.
Christmas In Southern Italy
In southern Italy, Christmas markets are harder to find, but nativity scenes are of major importance.
In Naples, the street of San Gregorio Armeno is lined with the workshops of artisans making figures for the presepi, often with very striking creativity. Tourists can visit and buy their wares at any time of the year, but it is during the Christmas fair period that the street has a special atmosphere with official entertainment programmes and other festive events.
This more traditional experience can be combined with a visit to the Naples Portici Christmas Market (held inside the Pietrarsa National Railway Museum from late November to late December) where you will find lots of craft stalls and entertainment for the kids.
For those who prefer to visit smaller places, the town of Castellabate in the province of Salerno has an excellent market throughout the second and third weeks of December.
Don’t miss Santa’s Village, an event held in Matera, in Basilicata, from early November until the Epiphany. Here, in addition to all the regular Christmas festivities, you’ll find weekly food festivals, some of which are dedicated to chestnuts, chocolate and codfish.
Christmas Markets In The Italian Islands
The islands are also great places to visit during the Christmas period. The main highlights are the markets of Sardinia (most notably in Cagliari, Iglesias and Sassari) and Sicily (don’t miss those in Palermo, Erice, Catania and Nicolosi at the foot of Mount Etna).
Don’t Miss The Christmas Markets In Italy!
Christmas markets in Italy are a major attraction during the festive period and the best way to visit them is with an Auto Europe car rental. Having your own transport means you can choose from all the many different options available, with each market special in its own way.
Each place has something unique to offer the visitor, both in terms of hospitality and the traditional products on sale. And it’s always a nice way for families and friends to get together to lift the spirits during winter!