Sing it with me everybody: It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Temperatures are dropping, the smell of cinnamon is floating in the air, and Christmas markets are popping up left and right. I can’t fully bathe in the glory of the holiday season until I visit a market or two (or three or four), and luckily for me, Italy has some of the best around. They’re the best place to get a feel for the local traditions, sample the local delicacies, and see the work of local artisans. Most places in Italy are trying their best to steer away from the commercial madness, so it is still possible to experience an authentic culture. Sustainable travel is cool travel, am I right?
Zip up the coat and put on some woolen socks, because the holiday season is here, and it’s time to go to the top 10 Christmas markets in Italy.
Italy’s biggest, and possibly most characteristic Christmas market is way up north in the South Tyrol area. This region is along the border of Austria and Switzerland, and you can instantly feel the collision of the cultures. The town itself is heavily populated with German speakers so expect the street signs to be in both Italian and German. Dozens of wooden stands sell handcrafted local products like wool accessories, toys and ornaments. Sample the mouthwatering delicacies like vin brulè (hot mulled wine) as you shop. The main location of the market is in Piazza Walter, but it winds throughout the town, giving you the perfect opportunity to explore the uniquely special atmosphere.
November 24th-January 6th
Just a short train ride from Bolzano is this other famous town in the South Tyrol area. The market is nestled around the impressive cathedral of the town and is known for the colorful artisanal products and the holiday aromas that float through the air. Save time to walk through the other parts of this town. You’ll feel transported to the neighboring countries while still enjoying your winter Italian dream.
November 25th– January 6th
Primarily a student focused city, the Bologna Christmas market is far less crowded than the other, better-known festivals. Still impressive in size and offerings, this could be a good option to visit another important and striking city while conveniently avoiding the touristy crowds. There are two markets in Bologna- Fiera di Santa Lucia, located around the Chiesa dei Servi, and the Fiera di Natale, on Via Altabella.
Santa Lucia: November 20th– December 26th
Natale: November 20th– January 6th
Also in South Tyrol, Merano is a town known as a place for relaxation and well-being. They carry this way of life into the holiday season by hosting a market that captures the magic of Christmas- snow reaching the summit of the alpine peaks, community togetherness, and the smell of cinnamon and fresh pastries gliding through the air and finding your nose- and appetite. The sparkling Christmas lights at night are enough to bring visitors, but they also do us a huge favor in selling locally made woolen and wooden goods, in addition to other local crafts.
November 25th– January 6th
Although it used to be bigger in the past, the Christmas market in the famous Piazza Navona remains impressive. International goods, local delicacies, Christmas concerts put on by local schools, a live nativity scene, and even Santa himself can be found in this bustling square in the middle of Rome.
November 26th– January 6th
Want to migrate south for the winter? No problem! The capital city of the island Sardinia hosts a true Christmas expo, only offering and showcasing local products of the island. What better way to experience a different part of Italy? Taste the world-famous food, buy local products, and spend the colder months on an Italian island. Don’t have to ask me twice!
December10th- December 22nd
If you’re in the group of people who think Christmas is over too quickly, Naples is the city for you! Famous for their nativity scenes, or presepi, they have a year-round Christmas “market” with shops and entire streets offering the traditional figurines every month of the year. Starting around mid-November, though, the street Via San Gregorio enhances the holiday feels with market stands and more shops selling a variety of products and local treats. Stroll down the narrow alleyways and then check out the live nativity scene is Piazza S. Gaetano.
The famous Piazza Santa Croce hosts the German Christmas Market every year. From Heidelberg, Germany, you will see dozens of wooden huts complete with both local and German crafts, accessories, and indulgences for your taste buds – don’t miss the mulled wine, panforte (a dense, spiced fruitcake), and even bratwurst!
November 30th– December 18th
9. Sant’Agata Feltria
Known as the “Paese del Natale” or Christmas country/village, this town is in the Emilia- Romagna region of Italy. Wander through the medieval buildings and narrow alleys and discover local manufacturers and artisans. When hunger strikes, opt for some of the piatti dell’ avvento – particular advent meals. You’ll see dishes like roasted chestnuts mixed with beans and spaghetti with sugar and walnuts.
December 4th, 8th, 11th, 18th
This tiny yet notable town is in the central Le Marche region. Every holiday season, they celebrate the meaning of their town – candles! Electricity is switched off twice a day, generally around 5:30 pm and 6:30 pm, and the lights are replaced by lit candles throughout the streets. Partake in candle making labs and purchase one-of-a-kind candles at one of the many market stands offering locally handcrafted products. If that wasn’t enough, the big man, good ole Saint Nick, comes around on horseback.
Need some guidance on putting your plans into action? Our travel planning services are here to save the day!
Happy holidays, happy shopping, and happy exploring!