Magical Cities in Italy for a Holiday Getaway
by Darya Boronilo
Christmas is Italy’s most important and anticipated holiday, so preparations start in advance. In early December, locals decorate the streets and squares with colorful garlands, and traditional sweets such as panettone and pandoro go on sale. Each community prepares its own entertainment program for residents and, of course, for visitors. Italy leading up to Christmas resembles a fairy tale, with something magical for everyone. In our following top 5 – a list of destinations will help you decide where to spend your Christmas holidays this year.
See “the Living Crib” in Matera
Matera is a well-known city in southern Italy famous for its ancient cave dwellings. These “sassi” homes are built into the hillside and connected by a network of narrow streets and alleyways. You can explore the sassi on foot or take a mysterious tour of the city’s underground caves. In addition to its unique architecture, Matera is also home to several churches and other religious sites. Stop to marvel at the famous Duomo, a 13th-century cathedral with an elaborately carved facade. With its rich history and culture, Matera is a captivating city. It’s well worth a visit, especially when traveling with your family. Imagine visiting this magical place on Christmas, with its lights, scents, and brilliant performances.
The town, with its ancient houses, is a mesmerizing backdrop for the fantastic re-enactment that occurs here every year before Christmas. During this performance, professional actors in historical costumes recreate the day Jesus was born. Anyone can participate in the play – so contact your tour organizer to register ahead of time! And perhaps this Christmas in Italy will reveal your acting talents. In any case, visiting Matera during this period is a unique experience to try at least once in your lifetime.
Visit Naples and Its Christmas Markets
Naples is a very beautiful and slightly neglected city with stunning views of Mount Vesuvius and the island of Capri. Walk down the narrow, dark, painted graffiti alleys where the local women hang the linen between the houses. Enter the stunningly beautiful Baroque churches, pass through colorful markets filled with fresh fish, spices, and seasonal fruit, and listen to the street musicians while sipping your drink at one of the small local bars.
Foodies will be happy to find themselves in the birthplace of pizza. Its prototype, in the form of a flatbread with tomatoes, appeared here in the early 16th century. Interestingly, initially, pizza was food for the poor. But centuries later, Queen Margaret of Savoy fell in love with it. In her honor, as you can guess, pizza “Margherita” was named. So, try different pizza types to find your favorite. And a golden rule in Naples is – never divide your pizza. One pizza is for one person. No exceptions!
Experience Naples during Christmas, when the city streets that smell of coffee and Neapolitan sweets, attract visitors with discounts and shimmer with colorful garlands. Find yourself among the festive residents of Naples, who are preparing for the most important holiday of the year. And don’t miss the famous Christmas market on San Gregorio Armeno Street. It means kilometers of Christmas decorations, souvenirs, and stunning recipes, which travelers worldwide come to see.
Don’t Miss Christmas Sales in Milan
Christmas in Milan is a fabulous holiday that locals look forward to each year.
Enjoy strolls along the decorated streets and shop windows, marvel at New Year’s installations and decorations, and stop to listen to the street musicians and the joyful city noise. All this takes you to childhood memories and once again gives you a chance to make a wish and believe in a real winter fairy tale.
Head to Il Sogno del Natale (“Christmas Dream”), the largest Christmas residence in Italy at over 30,000 square meters! The territory of the “village” is divided into three zones. The first is a toy factory, elf houses, and the residence of Santa Claus. The second zone is the post office. It consists of the Letters Room, where you can write a letter to St. Claus under the guidance of elves. Next, the postmen stamp the letters and send them to the addressee. The third zone is an elf village and a Scandinavian-style Christmas market.
Besides being Italy’s most stylish city, Milan becomes one big Christmas market during the winter holidays. The atmosphere here is serene, relaxed, and very festive! These days on the shelves of stores, you can find all sorts of handicrafts, clothes, a huge number of pastries, sweets, local seasonal delicacies, and wines. Stroll among crowds seeking to please their loved ones with unique gifts. Search for your own Christmas treasures. It might be a wooden nutcracker, homemade panettone, or a stylish accessory from one of the Italian luxury brands. And if you get cold, warm up with a cup of mulled wine. A piece of advice: come to Milan for Christmas and stay there until 10 January. This way you can grab at least five days from the start of the post-New Year sales!
Attend the Christmas Mass at the Vatican
Did you know that during your Christmas trip in Italy, you can personally attend Christmas Mass at the Vatican? Although the task might look difficult task, it’s doable. You just need to get a free ticket invitation to this event. For this, around November, go to the official website of the Vatican and fill out an application form there, then send it by fax or mail by regular letter to Italy. When you receive a confirmation letter, it will mean that the Vatican is considering your application. But you will have to receive the ticket personally. Namely, in the Vatican Prefecture, five days before the event with your personal number indicated in the confirmation letter.
Although there are no guarantees that you’ll receive a ticket, it’s certainly worth a shot. Besides, you can join the locals and, on Christmas night, look at the Pope from afar when he delivers his speech from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica. The whole Mass is broadcasted on a massive screen in the square. And, standing in the middle of the festive international crowd, you will receive a lot of impressions, smiles, and congratulations in different languages!
Experience the Procession of the Magi in Florence
At the beginning of December, a Christmas tree is decorated in the main square of Florence. Attend the solemn ceremony of lighting the garlands in the presence of the city’s mayor. See a large Christmas nativity scene set just in front of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. Then attend the main Christmas Markets held in the Piazza del Duomo and Santa Croce’s square. There you can buy a lot of different handmade decorations, seasonal sweets, and local Tuscan wines.
But the holidays aren’t over until January 6, Epiphany Day. In Western Christianity, this feast commemorates the visit of the Magi to baby Jesus. On this day in Florence, a procession and re-enactment take place. Continuing the glorious ancient Florentine traditions of the 15th century, a majestic procession passes through the central streets. It showcases where the city’s rulers, the Medici, once participated.
About 700 people participate in the majestic procession led by the Magi riding on horseback in luxurious silk costumes. Follow the parade that begins in Pitti Square shortly after lunch. It passes the most ancient streets of the city: Via Guicciardini, the Ponte Vecchio, Por Santa Maria, Via Lambertesca, and finally goes under the porticos of the Uffizi until the Cathedral Square. At the same time, you can also hear the Choir of male sopranos from the Florentine Cathedral that entertains the audience with Christmas carols.
Don’t miss a cannon volley at the end of the ceremony when the Magi lay their gifts at the feet of the Infant Jesus from the Nativity scene played out. To complete your Christmas journey in Florence, you can visit the Magi Chapel in the Palazzo Medici Riccardi. Pause for a moment to admire the famous cycle of frescoes by Renaissance master Benozzo Gozzoli who was a painter for the Medici family. The 15th-century frescoes depict the journey of the Magi and several Medici figures.
A Unique Christmas Spirit in Each City
Although it might seem that Christmas is celebrated similarly throughout Europe, each country has its own traditions. And Italians celebrate the winter holidays with a bang: the streets are filled with cheerful people, Christmas markets get busy, and a series of street festivities and pre-Christmas events begin. Artists usually perform in the squares, children get balloons and sweets, and in the most prominent place of the town, a Christmas tree is lit with dazzling lights. And, of course, each Italian city has its own unique Christmas flavor and way of celebrating. So, choose where you’d like to experience Christmas this year in Italy, and contact us to make your dreams come true!
Buon Natale!Go back