The 7 Best Places to Go During Christmas in Italy

There are beautiful holiday decorations in Rome, but the city doesn’t quite have the same feel as other Italian towns that are known for their Christmas markets, over-the-top lights and December displays. (In fact, after struggling for years, the main Christmas market in Rome was suddenly closed by police in 2019 for not having fire safety permits and because stalls were selling toys that weren’t approved for the EU). If you really want to experience Christmas in Italy, then there are several small towns and cities that really get into the holiday spirit.

From the mountaintop markets covered in snow to the sparkling lights of Salerno near the Amalfi Coast, here are the best places to visit during Christmas in Italy.

Gubbio

The little town of Gubbio in Umbria is a gem. It is a lovely place to visit as a day trip from Rome at any time of year, but they really pull out the stops for Christmas. Gubbio claims to have the largest Christmas tree in the world (it was crowned by the Guinness Book of World Records in 1991). The festive tree design stretches up the slopes of Mount Ingino behind the town, 2,130 feet from top to bottom. It takes over 3,000 lights and 6 miles of electrical cables to create the tree and it can be seen up to 30 miles away. The tree is usually turned on the weekend before the 8th of December and stays illuminated through the Befana (6 January).

Salerno

The Luci d’Artista is one of the most anticipated events in the southern town of Salerno each year. Set between Naples and the Amalfi Coast, the city is normally the gateway to unspoiled beaches. However, when winter arrives, the lights are switched on. Each year from mid-November to early January, the historic center of Salerno is transformed by millions of Christmas lights in elaborate designs. The displays always follow a theme and it one of the most popular towns to visit before Christmas in Italy. Wander through the alleyways of the old town or take a family stroll along the Lungomare to soak in the atmosphere. As a part of the festivities, there is also a large public concert for New Year’s Eve.

Lake Como

Usually most famous for being the Italian getaway of choice for George Clooney, Como is also a great place to visit at Christmas. During December, Como hosts la Città dei Balocchi – a playful winter wonderland. Aimed at children, the event includes magical light displays and lots of rides, experience, and workshops for younger visitors. It runs from late November through 6 January. 

Bolzano

For an Alpine-style Christmas, head to one of Italy’s favorite winter destinations: Bolzano. The picturesque town has a large Christmas market, food stalls selling spiced holiday cakes and mulled wine, plus a rustic nativity scene. There is also a high likelihood of a white Christmas if you plan to spend the holiday among the Dolomiti.

Polignano al Mare

In 2018, Polignano al Mare announced plans to install turnstiles leading into the historic center of their pretty Puglian town. The goal was to charge admission to their Christmas display of luminarie (lights). The turnstiles thankfully never came to be so you can still admire the Luci d’Artista displays for free. Of course, in addition to gorgeous twinkling lights above stunning seaside cliffs, there is also a Christmas market selling gifts and food in the center of the city. 

christmas lights on Italian beach

Photo by Polignano al Mare

Locorotondo

While in Puglia, be sure to visit the town of Locorotondo in the Itria Valley. The white city is bedecked with Christmas decorations during December and the effect is magical. Expect garlands of greenery and sparkling holiday lights down every alleyway. Be sure to book a stay in a traditional trulli house for an unforgettable Christmas visit in the Itria Valley.

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Arezzo

The stunning Piazza Grande in Arezzo is one of the prettiest settings to experience during Christmas in Italy. The square is transformed by lights and music, while tiny Alpine Christmas stalls twinkle below the medieval towers. The light projections alone are worth the trip, but there is also lots of shopping and eating to be enjoyed. Arezzo always plans lots of events for children during the festival, as well. It runs from mid-November (weekends only) through 26 December. 

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@minga.mrc 📍#Arezzo ⠀ Arezzo, capoluogo toscano dalla millenaria storia risalente all'antica civiltà etrusca, in occasione della festa più attesa dell'anno si prepara ad accogliere turisti e visitatori offrendo mercatini di Natale davvero graziosi e imperdibili. Il Villaggio Tirolese avrà come splendida cornice la piazza più importante di Arezzo, il cuore pulsante e nevralgico della città, Piazza Grande, antica piazza che sembra sorga addiritttura sui resti di un foro romano. È festa dunque dal 16 novembre al 26 dicembre 2019 tra i coloratissimi stand aperti solitamente dal giovedì e domenica, più tutti i giorni dal 19 al 26 dicembre. Rimandiamo allo specchietto riepilogativo in fondo all'articolo per il calendario esatto delle aperture. Luci, suoni, profumi e sapori del Natale si concentrano a Piazza Grande con i numerosi espositori che offriranno per la vendita prodotti tipici, dolciumi, artigianato artistico, opere d'arte, souvenir. Non manca davvero nulla tra tessili per la casa, decorazioni natalizie, tazze, candele profumate, e poi ancora gastronomia tipica, spezie, infusi e tisane dai profumi natalizi. Non a caso, molti espositori provengono proprio dal distretto dei mercatini tirolesi (tra cui quelli di Salisburgo, Merano e Bolzano) e porteranno qui l'esperienza acquisita facendola conoscere a tutti i visitatori, che potranno farsi ispirare curiosando tra le tante casette di legno illuminate e addobbate a festa. Il Natale non è solo shopping. I bambini – e non solo, ne siamo certi – ameranno il nuovo grande Villaggio Lego di Natale. Arezzo Christmas Brick 2019 è il Lego Village che si estende nel parco Il Prato su oltre 600 m² di esposizioni, mostre e laboratori interamente incentrati sui mattoncini più amati del mondo. Ci saranno aree tematiche e tante iniziative speciali, con tutte le novità 2019 e la possibilità di costruire e acquistare la propria Lego sul posto. Il Christmas Brick Arezzo è aperto il 6-17-23-24-30 novembre e 1-7-8-14-15-21-22-23-24-25-26 dicembre 2019 (ore 10-13 e 14-18.30). ⠀ 👍 Segui tutte le storie nella nostra pagina Facebook 📝 #ig_italia #italia

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