Trento and the five stars route: Of art and tradition
It is called the five stars route: every year, from November 25th to January 6th, five charming towns in Trentino Alto Adige (Bressanone, Brunico, Merano, Vipiteno and Bolzano) welcome Christmastime, with Christmas markets that reproduce a Christmas fairytale atmosphere and that make the days of Advent unforgettable.
In addition to these markets, you cannot miss the wonderful Christmas market of Trento that attracts 500,000 visitors every year.
These markets are among the most popular in Italy, where you can purchase items for your festivities, as well as artisan products and local food and wines. The pines and firs trees, majestic symbols of Christmas, traditionally decorated with apples, nuts, gingerbread cookies and typical wooden decorations, are the leitmotif of these markets. All these markets feature their own unique characteristics that vary according to local tradition, which is why visitors would do well to see them all.
Start with beautiful, Medieval Bressanone, where, during Advent, Christmas lights decorate the Town Hall and Square, framed by the charming scenography of the Cathedral and the Church of San Michele.
The typical wooden houses, decorated and adorned, offer various local artisan crafts: from Christmas nativity items to sculptures, from handmade ceramics to candles, from the snow globes to glass angels and the whole range of Tyrolean Christmas items.Visitors can taste and buy many of the Val d'Isarco food and wine specialties. Performances by local choirs in the days leading up to Christmas, as well as the live demonstrations by artisans that show off their artistic abilities and products, make this market even more memorable.
The event is enhanced by the Christmas Nativity Museum inside the Palazzo Vescovile (Bishop's Palace), a tradition carried on for over 800 years.
The other star on this Christmas tour is the town of Brunico, this time of year enveloped in a charming atmosphere that satisfies all the senses: lovely lights, scent of pine trees, magical concerts, tastings of its delicacies - the list goes on. This "pearl" of Val Pusteria is ideal for wintertime fun, skiing the slopes of Plan de Corones and browsing the stands set up in the Medieval Via Bastioni and in the Tshurtschenthaler Park, where shoppers can admire wooden toys, Christmas decorations and leather, glass and ceramic products. These precious, local craftworks make perfect gifts and souvenirs. The streets of Brunico are also characterized by its typical smells and flavors: from the fragrant vin brulé to a range of local dishes.
The third stop on our Christmas markets itinerary is the town of Merano. This town was chosen by Princess Elizabeth of Habsburg, better known as Sissi, for its mild climate and healthy baths (thermal baths are wonderful here). This is the ideal place to combine leisure and relaxation: from thermal bath treatments and excursions into pristine nature, to walking among the splendid market stalls to view the rare artisan goods.
During this period, the historic center dresses up its streets and alleys with fantastic Christmas decorations.
The scent of hot drinks, of spices and christmas sweets blend in the air, merging with the music and traditions of the holiday season.These traditions live in various events, concerts and parades, such as that for San Nicolò, Patron Saint of the city of Merano, with his faithful servant Knecht Ruprecht. The actor who plays the role of the Saint distributes sweets while Knecht Ruprecht serves the most restless children with pieces of coal.
To experience to the fullest the joyful and merry Christmas atmosphere, you cannot go without visiting the outdoor skating rink in Piazza Terme, and the large market with 80 exhibitors offering a rich variety of ideas for Christmas gifts: decorations, glass and ceramics, traditional cloths, wooden statues and felt slippers, toys and typical pastries.
The fourth "star" is the delightful town of Vipiteno.
This town in the Dolomites is built up along the enchanted Via Città Nuova, a long and narrow pedestrian street characterized by lovely two-story wooden houses, with their typical colorful and crenellated bow windows that are decorated with hundreds of lights and decorations at Christmastime.The late-Medieval architecture of the historic center shows the influx of many mining entrepreneurs who, around 1300, with their financial resources and cosmopolitan vision, gave a special design to the town.
The glory of that period, combined with renovation and restoration works, made sure that Vipiteno was inserted into the catalogue of the "Most Beautiful Villages in Italy" in 2002.
In its small but charming Christmas market on the main piazza, and with the backdrop of the imposing Torre delle Dodici (Tower of the Twelve), boasts an array of local and handicraft products for sell: from candles and dried flowers to Christmas decorations in all shapes, colors and materials, and the furniture items, such as handwoven tablecloths and cushions.
Many culinary delicacies can be tasted: vin brulè, dried fruit, aromatic bread and all kinds of pralines, jams, and much more.
The last stop on this fascinating route is Bolzano.
The largest city in Trentino Alto Adige, a meeting point and cultural merging between the Mediterranean and Central Europe, the city center appears but a Medieval village.Thanks to the Austrian-style buildings, the ancient arcades and the charming atmosphere that reigns in the "Enchanted Forest" of Palais Campofranco, Bolzano takes you through the magical traditions of Advent in the Alpines. At Christmastime, Piazza Walther displays the typical wooden houses of the Christmas Market, and the city is dressed up with sounds and colors: hundreds of lights illuminate the streets of the historic center, while in the background we can hear the traditional melodies.
Eighty exhibitors in their booths offer typical decorations made of glass, wood and ceramic, many linked to the most authentic artisan traditions of Trentino Alto Adige, and moreover the cooking specialties and delicious Christmas desserts such as the famous "Zelten" of Bolzano. Furthermore, visitors can also admire the handicraft market in Piazza Municipio, the solidarity market, the handicraft show, the market of the enchanted forest, discovering everyday what is hidden behind the windows of the great Advent calendar of the building Max Valier, located in Via della Posta.
Lastly, another important market, not included in the five stars route but that is definitely worth a trip, is the market of Trento (November 19th to December 30th). In 18 years, this market has managed to make the city one of the main stops for tourists wanting to enjoy the Christmas spirit.A Medieval city (already known in Roman times) where the fusion of Italian and German traditions and culture can be felt and breathed, Trento boasts a fantastic Christmas market (sometimes organized in cooperation with the market in Innsbruck). It is an opportunity for adults and children alike to experience the lovely fairytale atmosphere, in addition to the scents and flavors of this land. A food and wine "island" represents, even from the physical point of view, the heart of the market; here, Christmas revelers will not be able to avoid the strudel, the Potatoes Tortel, and the Strauben Polenta, and all the typical Christmas sweets, accompanied by a glass of tea or spicy vin brulè.
Several stalls fill the main square, Piazza Fiera, and are bursting with many decorations that seem to introduce the visitors into a different world.
This is one more reason to visit this wonderful city that the Emperor Claudius called "splendidum municipium." Nothing remains but to wish you a pleasant journey to these enchanted markets and the charming towns where they are held.
To know more about Bolzano's Christmas Market, click here.
For more information about Christmas markets in Bressanone, Brunico, Vipiteno, Merano, Bolzano and Trento, visit www.christkindlmarkt.it and www.mercatinodinatale.tn.it