7 Reasons To Spend Christmas In Italy

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When you imagine your ideal Italian vacation you most likely envision a warm-weather combination of pasta eating, wine drinking, Vespa riding, gelato indulging, and Mediterranean sailing.   

But there’s a side to Italy that remains one of its best-kept secrets.  

During the month of December, through the first week of January, Italy transforms itself into a Christmas wonderland that might just be the happiest place on earth. 

Here are 7 reasons you should consider spending Christmas in Italy.

No Tourists

Because, like you, most people’s Italian dream vacation automatically includes warm weather, few people ever consider spending their Christmas holiday in the country that invented pizza, pasta, and Gucci.   

 

That’s why you won’t find yourself competing with other foreign visitors for seats on planes, rooms in hotels, or tables at restaurants.

 

No crowds and no lines are just the first of many reasons you should spend Christmas in Italy.  

 

Italy officially starts celebrating Christmas on December 8th and continues celebrating until January 6th.  That means you can still celebrate Christmas with your relatives and then fly to Italy to soak up another two weeks of Christmas merriment.  

Italy Invented Christmas

December 25th was originally a Roman festival to celebrate the birthday of “Mithras”- the god of light and sun.   But as the Catholic Church came into power in the 4th century, the festival of December 25th underwent a rebranding and became the day to celebrate the birth of Christ and the Nativity.   

 

To this day, the Catholic Church and all Italians celebrate this holiday or “holy day” better than anyone else on earth.   After all, they have been celebrating the holiday longer than anyone else.

Dolci Dolci

With more than 1,600 years of Christmas experience, Italy as had time to perfect some of the world’s most iconic Christmas sweets.   

 

One of the most popular are the famous “Panatone” cakes which originated near Milan in the 1400’s and are now made by the millions each year in Italy.   

 

Struffoli, Panforte and Baba are several other favorite Italian confections who’s shapes and flavors are as dynamic as their names.

Christmas Markets

Over the years, Europe has become known for its exceptional “Christmas Markets”.   Germany, France, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Portugal are all famous for their Christmas markets.   

 

But for some reason, Italy is often left off the list.  Maybe the listmakers feel that Italy already gets too much attention for so many other reasons that they choose to highlight countries with less to offer.   But whatever the reason, Italy has some of the best Christmas markets in the world.   

 

Naples has a very special year-round Christmas market on Via San Gregorio Armeno nicknamed “Christmas Alley” by travelers.   But at Christmas time “Christmas Alley” becomes its most fabulous and festive version of itself.   

 

Most villages and major cities have Christmas markets for their local inhabitants and they do not disappoint.   Unlike some of Europe’s more famous markets, Italy’s are mostly filled with local Italians rather than throngs of tourists.   This makes Italy’s markets cozier and more authentic in many ways.

 

Lights Lights Lights

In many countries of the world, to see Christmas lights displayed, in any significant concentration, one must find the local “Christmas Tree Lane” or “Candy Cane Lane” – where the homes on a single street, in a single neighborhood, are decked out in gaudy displays of lights and decorations.

 

In Italy, every city, town, and village is bedazzled with impressive displays of lights.   One Italian tradition is to suspend swags of lights with stars and other lighted Christmas shapes over the streets of downtown areas making any casual evening drive through a city something worth slowing down for and turning on the Christmas music.  

 

Facades of buildings, shop windows, private villas, and city centers are decorated so lavishly it would make the Whos of Whoville grinch-green with envy.

Christmas Concerts

The cathedrals of Italy are world renown for their impressive size and elaborate architectural details.   But you haven’t truly experienced an Italian church or cathedral until you’ve listened to a Christmas concert in one of them.

 

The words of the music may be in Italian, but the melodies of ‘Silent Night’, ‘Away in a Manger’ and ‘The Little Drummer Boy’ are the same that you remember from your childhood.   Performed under the acoustically friendly vaulted arches of the centuries-old churches, Christmas music sounds better than you could have ever imagined.   

 

Shopping

One of the best pieces of advice one can get for traveling to Italy, is to travel there with your luggage half empty.   There are few places on earth with better shopping opportunities and you’ll want to leave room in your suitcase to bring your purchases home with you.  During the Christmas holidays, the fabulous shopping gets even better.   

 

There are fantastic sales (“saldi” in Italian) before and after Christmas.   The reputation Italy has for impeccable fashion and the highest quality products is well-earned.   

 

What could be a better souvenier than a stylish new Italian wardrobe?

 

Besides all the wonderful new items you can treat yourself to while Christmas shopping in Italy, don’t discount the amazing vintage items and antiques that are also on another level in Italy.   You can easily find fabulous pieces that are centuries old at prices so low you will feel guilty bargaining for them.   

 

*A pro tip for antique shopping in Italy – avoid the sophisticated high-end shops in the heart of Rome, Milan or Florence and venture out to the surrounding villages where real Italians live and visit one of their vintage/second-hand/thrift shops where you are guaranteed to find treasures for pennies on the euro

Conclusion

Some of the most rewarding experiences in life come when we go against popular opinion.   Visiting Italy during the Christmas season is truly one of those rewarding experiences!   

 

Here’s a quick recap on the 7 reasons you should spend Christmas in Italy:

Tourist Free Travel 

Home of the First Christmas Celebration

The Best Christmas Sweets You’ve Never Tasted

Fabulous Christmas Markets

Lights Lights Lights

Christmas Concerts in Gorgeous Cathedrals

World’s Best Shopping 

You’re officially out of excuses – start planning your next Christmas in Italy!   And let’s face it, you need a break from your family during the holidays anyway.   Uncle Bruce and Cousin Karen can’t get on your nerves when you’re half a world away sipping cappuccinos and eating panettone cake.

“Buon Natale” – Merry Christmas 

 

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Author Info:

Nathan Heinrich

Nathan Heinrich

Nathan is a writer, designer & horticulturist. He is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of "All Roads Lead to Italy" Magazine & host of the Top-10 Travel Podcast, "I'm Moving To Italy!". Nathan was born and raised in a 6th generation farming family in Northern California, he is currently, a dual Italian citizen, living in the Prosecco Valley of Northern Italy, near Venice.

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