Five Italian Cities to Visit During the Festive Season
Get in the holiday mood by spending some time in these sparkling gems
Sparkling lights, Christmas trees, artisanal markets and the occasional mulled wine: there’s something quite magical about the way cities transform ahead of the holiday season. Whether they’re big metropolises or smaller towns, many destinations across the Bel Paese turn into enchanting wonderlands once the winter chills descend upon us, beckoning residents and visitors alike to immerse themselves in the festive spirit.
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Its Christmas decorations. The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a breathtaking shopping arcade, becomes a canvas of sparkling lights, creating an atmosphere of opulence and sophistication that reaches its apex once its annual giant Christmas tree is unveiled at its centre. The majestic Duomo, the city’s iconic cathedral, also provides a stunning backdrop for the Christmas markets that line its surroundings, offering a festive blend of tradition and modernity that’ll make you want to write your wishlist letter to Santa pronto. But that’s not all. All around the city, there are ice skate rinks, more lights – don’t miss the beautiful window displays on Via Montenapoleone, in the fashionable Quadrilatero della Moda! – classical concerts and plenty of cafes serving moreish panettone by the slice – a Milanese staple.
In Valsugana, Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, Levico Terni strikes visitors for its still unchanged character as a nineteenth-century, belle epoque-style architecture. During the Christmas season, it holds a traditional Christmas Market that has the flavour of an ancient fairy tale, with charming stalls selling artful crafts and delicious gastronomy. But that’s just half the story. All around the city centre, Christmas decorations, a nativity in the main square and various events – Christmas carols, concerts, exhibitions – keep the charm going, while many initiatives for the little ones make it an excellent spot for families, too.
Ricetto di Candelo
Every year, the Piedmontese Ricetto di Candelo, one of the most beautiful mediaeval villages in Italy, hosts Santa’s Village, a not-to-be-missed Christmas event to experience some of the magic of this particular period. Visit now and you’ll be treated to exhibitions, carols and music performances inspired by the festivities, as well as stalls touting craft Christmas gifts from artisans from all over Piedmont. But there is also a lighted tree, decorations all around, and fun workshops for the kids, who have the chance to meet Santa Claus himself and give him their letters. For 2023, the event is scheduled for November 18, 19, 25, 26 and December 2, 3, 8, 9, 10.
Ricetto di Candelo
Naples’ vibrant streets transform into a breathtaking Christmas spectacle during the holidays, with the artistry of Neapolitan nativity scenes, or “presepi,” taking centre stage. San Gregorio Armeno, known as “Christmas Alley,” is a bustling hub where skilled artisans meticulously craft these scenes, each a masterpiece reflecting the centuries-old tradition. The presepi transcend conventional depictions, intricately weaving elements of daily Neapolitan life and folklore into the sacred narratives (think miniature pasta-makers and fishmongers portraying a vivid snapshot of the city’s unique identity). To that end, they’re more than festive adornments; they embody the city’s rich cultural heritage and its seamless integration of the sacred and the everyday.
The quaint town of Gubbio in Umbria is worth a visit at any time of year but go in December and you’ll be extra wowed. During the holiday season, this hilltop mediaeval borgo sets up the world’s largest Christmas tree on the slopes of Mount Ingino, the peak that dominates it. It is actually a huge light installation consisting of about 3,000 coloured lights and dozens of kilometres of electric cables 650 metres high and 350 metres wide up the hill, but the result is mighty impressive, and visible up to 50 kilometres away, making the atmosphere magical from the moment it is lit at the beginning of December. Throughout the holiday season, the Umbrian town is also decked out with illuminations and themed routes such as the Gubbio Express Christmas, a little train that goes all the way around the historic centre.