Christmas holidays in Italy? If you have never thought about that, you definitely should!
Italy is not a “traditional” Christmas destination, such as Germany, Austria or some other villages of Northern Europe. But we can assure you that the "Belpaese" has much to offer also for Christmas: the magic spirit of this feast makes even more special stunning cities like Rome, Florence, Milan and Naples.
But everybody knows that these destinations are worth visiting in every season. That is why we would like to suggest you a list of beautiful and unusual Christmas destinations in Italy! In each of them you will find something very peculiar to spend a great Christmas!
1. Christmas lightshow of Salerno
It seems unbelievable that a city by the sea can create a true Christmas atmosphere, but Salerno really does! This beautiful city, located around 60 kilometers from Naples has become a mandatory stop for Christmas lovers in Italy.
This is because the city hosts the most impressive exhibition of light artworks, the “Artists’ Lights”, all installed along the streets, alleys, squares and parks.
Starting with a walk from the main street, the so- called “Corso” you can stroll around elegant lights, arriving in the old town center to get astonished by real masterpieces of light and color! The lightsow of Salerno offers something for everybody: a big silver Christmas tree, enchanted gardens, fairy tales, planetary constellations, celestial phenomena.
The Garden is the most beloved by kids, because it feels like entering into a fairytale where there is even the Cinderella’s carriage and the magic pumpkins!
If you are also interested in visiting the city of Salerno, in addition to Artists Christmas lights, and admire its medieval beauties, we recommend this tour departing from Sorrento, which also includes a guided tour of the Greek times of Paestum, part of UNESCO world heritage, a short distance from Salerno.
2. Christmas markets in Bolzano and Merano
If you are a big fan of the traditional Christmas Markets, the South Tyrol is the place to be!
The finest Christmas markets are located indeed in this area, on the borders with Austria. Bolzano and Merano are the most popular ones, but the area is plenty of other villages like these, such as Bressanone, Vipiteno and Brunico.
Starting from the end of November until the 6th of January, Bolzano and Merano offer traditional Christmas markets with around one hundred of exhibitors. In the sequence of little wooden stands, you can find food, typical products, handmade Christmas tree decorations and a lot of magic of course!
As soon as you arrive in the nice historic centre of Bolzano, you will stroll around invited by the scent of freshly baked cookies and apple strudel. If you are lucky enough, you will find the snow that will contribute to convey the authentic Christmas atmosphere. But do not worry about feeling cold, you can warm up with a delicious mulled wine or fruity punch!
There are also special attractions for children, such as a little train going around the center or fun activities with entertainers in a little house located near the markets in Merano.
If you are on holiday in one of the suggestive locations on Lake Garda, you can reach Bolzano without stress, thanks to our day trip to Bolzano. Around Bolzano, there are many small villages that deserve to be visited for their historical and natural beauties: Canazei, Cortina D'Ampezzo, Lago di Braies and many others. These and many others can be reached with our 4-day Dolomiti tour departing from Milan and Lake Garda.
3. Presepe of Manarola - Cinque Terre
Everybody knows that presepe is the most important feature of Christmas celebrations in Italy: almost in every house of Italian families you will find these little statues that bring to life the history of Nativity, as well as in many Italian city centers.
Naples is universally known for the art of presepe, but you cannot expect that the world’s largest nativity scene is hosted by a little village in the North of Italy, by the sea!
In Manarola, one of the jems of the Cinque Terre region you can find an impressive representation of the Nativity scene built all across the village since 2007: it is composed by around 300 farmers and shepherds’ silhouettes, natural size, illuminated by more than 15,000 multicolored light bulbs.
On the top of the hill there is the profile of the Nativity shed with the figures of Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus: needless to say that the overall view on the hill is stunning!
The scene is not only one of the most peculiar you will find for Christmas in Italy, but it is also eco- friendly! In fact, it is built exclusively with recycled materials and powered by a photovoltaic system.
One reason more to enjoy Christmas spirit in this amazing background!
4. The Christmas tree of Gubbio, Umbria
After the biggest presepe in the world, you would not like to miss the biggest Christmas tree in the world! Most of the people would expect that it is in New York, Paris, London or Rome, but if you want to admire that, you should go in the heart of Italy, in Umbria region!
The small village of Gubbio is popular as a part of St. Francis’ way but even many Italians often do not know about this stunning tree taking place, since 1981, on the slopes of Mount Ingino overlooking the medieval town of Gubbio.
This is not an actual tree, of course, it is a light installation with a Christmas tree shape. The tree measures 650 meters high and 350 meters wide meters up the hill, made up of nearly a thousand multi-colored lights and 10 km of cabling.
You do not even need to go necessarily to Gubbio to admire it: the tree can be seen from up to 50 kilometers away!
Plus, there is a very nice initiative to support the project: everyone can adopt a light through their website and dedicate it to someone! An inspiring Christmas gift, isn’t it?
5. The Living Nativity scene of Matera
Matera for sure do not need any Christmas decoration to be more appreciated as it is one of the most peculiar city center in the world. At the same time, December is probably the better period to enjoy a walk through the “Sassi”.
We would say that Matera has a natural allure for Christmas: the houses built in the stones can easily been imagined like a Bethlehem of 2000 years ago.
That is why one of the most awaited events in Matera is the Living Nativity, a reproduction of the scene with actors in costumes that takes place usually 3 times in 3 weekends from December to the beginning of January.
The nativity procession walks among the houses and through the streets in the Sassi and visitors can join it right next to the participants or can choose to have an overall view from the many panoramic points located in the city center.
If you are on vacation in Apulia or in Naples during Christmas, we believe this is a unique chance to live a Christmas experience out of the ordinary!
5 +1 Verona
In Verona there is not a particular event ore scene set up for Christmas, like in the locations on this list, but we think that it is worth to list it among the places not to miss for Christmas in Italy, because of the wonderful atmosphere you can breathe in the city in December.
It is a special feeling to walk through the alleys of the city with delicate Christmas lights decorations, passing through the picturesque Piazza delle Erbe and its elegant Christmas tree, the little markets in Piazza dei Signori to the big comet star in front of the Arena.
Not to mention that Verona boasts the most ancient tradition of “Pandoro” making: it literally means “golden bread” and it is the most typical Italian dessert for Christmas. In any case, if you are in Italy for Christmas we suggest to not to miss any of the top 10 Christmas dishes!
As you can see, Italy has everything you need to spend here the “most wonderful time of the year”!