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Mercatino di Natale: Christmas Markets in Italy

christmas-market-italy-presents

Among the many things to look forward to this Christmas holiday season in Italy would be the Mercatino di Natale, or in English, the Christmas Markets! Besides being a great opportunity to shop for presents, souvenirs, and knick-knacks for loved ones and friends, the arrival christmas-market-italy-genovaof the Christmas markets in Italy also adds to the truly festive air, as the merchandise stalls are often accompanied by food stalls that sell traditional, seasonal treats like warm drinks and roasted chestnuts.

These seasonal markets normally start showing up by December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which is also the day that officially marks the beginning of the Christmas festivities in Italy. On this day, lights and decorations start coming up, the holiday shopping season begins, and along with it would be the Christmas markets. They then remain open sometimes up until as late as January 6. Almost every town and city in Italy has its own annual holiday market, though some are more popular than others because of the specialty goods they sell.

Here’s a short list of some of the most well-known Christmas markets in Italy you might want to visit!

Christmas Markets in Northern Italy

Trento in the Trentino-Alto Adige Region in the north is an area that is very close to Germany’s borders, and is hence mostly known not just for its beautiful snow setting, but also for many of the German handicrafts that are sold here. The Trento market normally includes about 60 traditional wooden huts from which various items and food are sold. At the market, you can also find local food specialties such as grilled polenta, dumplings, pastry cakes, and the delicious local mulled wine. The Trento Christmas market is usually found at Piazza Fiera.

christmas-market-italy-bolzano

Bolzano, which can also be found at Trentino-Alto Adige, has a market that begins around the end of November and ends at January 6. Because of its proximity to Austria and Switzerland, it is mostly known for its Christkindlmarkt that is held at Piazza Walter, where handcrafted items of wood, glass, and clay, can be found, along with seasonal sweetmeats.

Lagundo is about 30 minutes away from Bolzano, and though it is a bit off the beaten path, it is worth visiting for its lovely market, ice skating rinks, as well as its gorgeous winter gardens with the breathtaking Dolomites as its backdrop. Make sure to try the local peppered bread, too!

Venice’s Christmas village is of course a popular destination if you’re spending the holidays in Italy. It is normally held at Campo Santo Stefano where little wooden houses selling Venetian handicrafts are installed in the piazza. Other products include regional food and drink, christmas-market-italy-meranoaccompanied by musical performances during market days. Another Venetian Christmas market can be found at Campo San Polo, the city’s largest piazza which is where you can also find the picture-perfect skating rink. There are also stalls here that sell Carnevale masks, along with glass and lace goods from the Venetian islands of Murano and Burano.

Verona, in the meantime, has a large German-style Nuremberg Christmas Market at the Piazza dei Signori. Once again, there are traditional Christmas huts that sell decorations and handicrafts, as well as mulled wine, bratwurst, and the German equivalent to gingerbread, lebkuchen biscuits.

Cortina d’Ampezzo up in the Tofane mountains in the Veneto region is also another good spot to visit. The Christmas Market is held at the Corso Italia, and handicrafts and traditional sweets can be found here while performers serenade shoppers with traditional Christmas songs.

Trieste in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, has its own market, the Fiera di San Nicolo, usually on the first week of December, while the nearby town of Pordenone holds another market that features, shows, concerts, games, as well as a life-sized nativity scene.

Milan, the shopping center of Italy (and the country’s focal point in 2015, might we add) has the Villaggio delle Meraviglie (or “Wonderland Village”) Christmas market that is held at the Indro Montanelli Gardens in the city center. Along with the shops, there is also the picturesque skating rink, and there are usually musical and theatrical performances held here. For christmas-market-italy-genova-2the real shopaholic though, the event you’d want to go to would be the local Oh Bej, Oh Bej where hundreds of stalls pop up along Castello Sforzesco.

Bologna also holds its Christmas market in the historic center, and it usually opens from late November and closes in early January.

Turin, meanwhile, has its Mercatino di Natale in December at the Piazza Borgo Dora. Mostly known as the go-to place for chocolate and Christmas lights, the Torino Christmas market is the place to be if you’re looking specifically for those items. While you’re at it, make sure to also try local delicacies such as the local gianduja, or hazelnut chocolate, and bicerin which is a cup of espresso with chocolate and milk!

Aosta Valley has the Marché Vert Noël (Green Christmas Market) at the Piazza Caveri, and while the market is around, the area turns into a cozy alpine village where various handicrafts, antique furniture, and winter clothing can be purchased.

Christmas Markets in Central Italy

Rome’s Piazza Navona at the historic city center is transformed into a huge Christmas market every year. Here, Babbo Natale (or Father Christmas) makes his appearance, along with a life-sized nativity scene that is installed at the piazza. There are also many street performers and acrobats present to entertain the kids and the kids at heart!

christmas-market-italy-navona-rome

Florence holds its Mercato Tedesco di Natale (German Christmas Market), also known as the Weihnachtsmarkt, at the Piazza Santa Croce where Babbo Natale’s house can be visited by kids, and visitors can purchase various products from the German-style market and booths. There are usually about 55 huts and sellers (including a Monastery from Belarus!) who offer both Florentine and German decors and delicacies.

christmas-market-italy-piazza-navona-romeLucca, in Tuscany, holds its annual Christmas market at the Piazza San Michele. Siena, also in Tuscany, actually has SEVERAL markets during the holidays.

Other towns in the region that are worth checking out for their Christmas markets would be Montepulciano, Arezzo, and Pisa where the Fabbrica di Babbo Natale (“Father Christmas’ Factory”) is a big hit with children. At the Fabbrica, kids can create their own gifts, and write letters to be mailed to Babbo Natale at the North Pole.

Perugia in Umbria has its Christmas market at the Rocca Paolina for about three weeks in the month of December, and the nearby Spoleto also holds a big market for avid shoppers.

Candelara at Le Marche is a charming town that is famous for its candles which it takes its name from. Every year, the town lights up its markets and streets by putting out all electric lamps for a while, and instead using candles, an act which gives off a very dreamy effect. Meanwhile, visitors can also purchase handcrafted medieval-style candles at the stalls!

Christmas Markets in Southern Italy

Naples has its Christmas market in the area of Via San Gregorio Armeno, and is a popular destination for its many nativity (or “Presepi”) workshops, and carvings of bronze, clay, wood, cork, or clay, depicting the nativity that are for sale at the stalls. These items can range from the minimalistic to the ornate, and each one is handcrafted.

christmas-market-italy-presepe-nativity-scene-figures

Sorrento which can be found at the lovely Amalfi peninsula, holds its Christmas market until January 6 at the main square.

Other markets in the area can be found at Syracuse in Sicily, and Cagliari in Sardinia.

So from north to south, this Christmas season, wherever you may be in Italy, you’re never too far from a Christmas market. Give it a try and walk around, have a warm drink and a sweet treat, and enjoy the cheerful atmosphere all around you!

christmas-market-italy-south-tyrol

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By Priscila Siano (266 Posts)

Priscila Siano is the Marketing Director of Tour Italy Now, an online tour operator specializing in Italy travel. She's a respected expert on making dream Italy vacations a reality for clients.

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