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Magazine

Cities of art: traditions and events in Italian cities

09 December 2022

5 minutes

Christmas markets, light shows and nativity scenes: ancient traditions still alive today, but also many new features, such as Christmas villages, which make the little ones so happy.

Spending the holiday season in Italy is a real dream. From north to south, whatever your destination, it will be the right one. In every city you will experience Italian Christmas magic, with events suitable for everyone and unsurpassed gastronomic specialities.

In Turin for the lights: Luci d'Artista

in torino for the luci d'artista

In Turin, the holidays means it's time for Luci d'Artista: discover the city as you've never seen it before with pure amazement, and appreciate it in a whole new light. In Palazzo Reale, the Sambuy Gardens, the Mole Antonelliana and the main streets you can experience a truly unique atmosphere.

This year the event celebrates its 25th year and is enriched by three new works created by Giorgio Griffa, Renato Leotta and Grazia Toderi. In order not to miss even one, choose the Luci d'Artista City Tour, which in one hour will allow you to discover them all from the City Sightseeing panoramic bus. The lights of Turin come on at 5pm and will be visible for all holidays, until January 8th 2023.

From Sant'Ambrogio to the Village of Wonders: Christmas in Milan is magical

sant ambrose village of wonders

In Milan, the celebration begins on the eve of Sant'Ambrogio, on December 7th, with the Oh Bej Oh Bej fair, which officially kicks off the festive season. In over 400 stalls around the Castello Sforzesco you can find everything; from second-hand, retro items, to food stands where you can’t leave without tasting frittelle (fried dough treats), roasted chestnuts or mulled wine.

If you have children, you can go to the Indro Montanelli Gardens which, until January 9th, hosts the Villaggio delle Meraviglie, a theme park entirely dedicated to Christmas. Here, you won't get bored with the skating rink, the little house where you can meet Santa Claus and also many shows: reservations and tickets are required.

Trento and Rovereto, the Christmas cities

trento and rovereto cities of christmas

Those who love the quintessential atmosphere of a snowy Christmas can find it in Trentino, where the holidays are pure magic. In Trento, for example, until January 8th you can visit the traditional Christmas markets in Piazza Fiera and Piazza Battisti. Among the wooden stalls of the exhibitors, you’ll find local crafts, tree and nativity scene decorations, and also gastronomic specialties. Look out for zelten, a Christmas cake made with nuts and raisins, the perfect edible souvenir.

To keep the little ones happy, don't miss Piazza Dante to see its Enchanted Village. Go up to the houses and peek through the windows to see what happens inside; during the weekends children can participate in Christmas-themed workshops - by reservation and for a fee.

The nearby town of Rovereto is just as special. Its traditional markets can be visited until January 6th, on Via Roma, the Cortile Urbano and Piazza Battisti. In addition to the wooden market stalls, there are displays of light, from light shows to video mapping, which light up the walls of houses and buildings, joyfully celebrating this much loved festive season.

Credits: Romano Magrone

Christmas in Florence, from the Ice Village to the ancient tradition of Ceppo

christmas in florence ice village

Whether for a day or a longer vacation, Florence hosts truly unmissable events. Starting from the Ice Village at the Fortezza da Basso, one of the most popular attractions, and the 55-meter high Ferris wheel, to look at the city from a privileged point of view.

In the gardens of the Fortress you will find an ice skating rink, open from morning to late evening: built around the fountain, it boasts a record of being the longest in Europe at 300 meters in length.

Also in this Tuscan capital, the Christmas markets are magical: you will find the most infamous in Piazza Santa Croce, until December 18th. You can also admire the many Christmas trees in the city until the end of the holidays: from Palazzo Vecchio to Piazza del Duomo, from Piazza della Repubblica to Piazzale Michelangelo, one is more sparkly than the last. Furthermore, in Piazza del Duomo, as per tradition, the life-size nativity scene is back for Christmas 2022; impossible to miss: it is positioned out front, with statues made of Impruneta terracotta by the craftsman Luigi Mariani.

In Florence, and throughout Tuscany, Christmas is also synonymous with Ceppo, an ancient tradition that few people practice today, but which still lives on in the memory of the elderly. It was in fact the Ceppo that once brought gifts to Tuscan children. On Christmas Eve a large log of wood was left burning to symbolize strength, family unity and the future, burning slowly until the 26th December, with the help of its branches.

For children, today, in addition to Santa Claus, gifts arrive on the day of the Epiphany. If you are in Florence for January 6th, don't miss the steam train that goes from Santa Maria Novella to San Pietro a Sieve, in Mugello. All children will receive a stocking full of sweets.

From Piazza Navona to the Botanical Garden, Christmas in Rome

from piazza navona to the botanical garden

In Rome, the Christmas market is in Piazza Navona, with stalls of sweets and toys, open on December 1st and close on January 6th: a real institution in the city, but certainly not the only one.

Piazza Venezia displays one of the most spectacular Christmas trees in the capital, while you can see the others in front of the Colosseum and in Piazza San Pietro. This year the traditional spruce tree chosen by the Vatican to adorn the square in front of the Basilica comes from Molise. The nativity scene from the Friuli village of Sutrio in Carnia has 18 statues illuminated by 50 light points and arranged over an area of ​​116 square meters.

If you love lights, don't miss a walk through the Botanical Garden, Lit up until January 8th with Incanto di Luci. Lit at the same time as other European cities it is a sensory exhibition created in the German Christmas Garden format: the basis being to ​​enhance the beauty of parks and gardens, to also enjoy them in the evening.

Christmas in Naples is all about the nativity scene

in naples nativity scene

It’s impossible to decide what to do at Christmas in Naples without including a walk down San Gregorio Armeno, the Via dei Presepi. You can visit it all year round because the craftsmen are always at work, but during the festive period the street takes on an extra charm.

Here, you can find everything to set up a nativity scene, from small 3-centimeter statuettes to larger ones, and there is also no shortage of characters related to current events and politics, a novelty no?

The classic Neapolitan crib portrays the characters in eighteenth-century clothes, because the tradition was born in the eighteenth century, which mixes sacred elements with popular life, with a good dose of theatrical irony.

At the Fiera d’Oltremare, on the other hand, until December 18th you can pop into the Christmas Village, ideal for spending a few hours with the family. There is an ice rink, play areas and many wooden market stalls in which to browse for a bit of shopping. From the sacred to the profane, in classic Neapolitan style.

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