John Bensalhia looks at a selection of some of the great Christmassy things to see and do in 2012...

Live the Nativity

If you happen to be in the region of Monteleone di Orvieto on 24th and 26th December 2012, plus 6th January 2013, you could be forgiven for thinking that you had somehow stepped back in time. The residents will turn the streets into a living nativity (Presepe vivente), a startling replica of Bethlehem.

It's not just the nativity scene, there will also be potters, craft makers, butchers, Roman soldiers, a synagogue and much more. Residents will be dressed in finely drawn, highly detailed costumes that recall the authenticity of the period. It's a unique experience that recreates a bit of history in a traditional fashion. Visitors can also sample local food and drink as they sample a breathtaking recreation of the nativity.

A Glass Act

The island of Murano is known as the global cornerstone of glass making. All over the globe, Murano is highly regarded for its glass making capabilities. With that in mind, Murano provides a unique and beautiful Christmas experience.

The centrepiece of the island's festive celebrations is that of the glass Christmas tree. It has been recognised as the tallest in the world, standing proud at 8m. Comprising 2000 metal rods and 1000 glass tubes, the tree makes for a highly memorable sight, lit up by 40 halogen lights.

Another notable attraction is a glass sculpture – Natale di luce in una comera di vetro (translated as Christmas of light in a glass comet). This sculpture was designed in 2008, and with its magical blue aura, can be seen at Campo Santo Stefano. In addition to these enchanting attractions, there are glass-blowing workshops, demonstrations, as well as a feast of food and music.

Gospel Roma

Happy Days

Italy likes its gospel music, and Christmas is one of the main seasons for it to be heard loud and clear.

There are two notable gospel festivals taking place over the festive period. The Umbria Gospel Festival plays host to a number of acts and events. The Soul Christmas Festival begins in Paciano with a gospel and spiritual concert. Various gospel choirs and singers will be performing at destinations including Passignani, Gubbio and Panicale. These include Mildred Daniels, the South Carolina Mass Choir, Monica Lisa Stevenson and the Spirit of New Orleans Gospel Choir.

The Rome Gospel Festival will take place from 20th to the 31st December 2012 at the Auditorium Parco della Musica. The line-up will include the Johnny Thompson Singers, Walt Whitman, Craig Adams, Dr Bobby Jones and there is also a gospel experience workshop.

How To Sweet the Sound

A traditional Christmas evening comes courtesy of youngsters in the Lazio region on 23rd December. The Little Shepherdess, as this entertainment tends to be known, sees children performing musical segments with instruments such as guitars, flutes and penny whistles – in addition to carol singing. A common carol is La Pastorella, which translates as The Little Shepherdess. In return, visitors are invited to donate money and sweets. It's a warm-hearted traditionally Christmas evening.

Fiaccole Natale

Would you believe it

One of the oldest traditions in the country takes place in Abbadia San Salvatore. Fiaccole di Natale expresses the joy of Christmas with the old tradition of torches. The event is said to date back to the construction of the monastery, which was built in 742 AD. It is said that on the night of 25th December, residents of the local villages came together to set fire to plies of wood. Since then, the tradition of Fiaccole di Natale has been kept going.

Today, large groups of people congregate around large piles of wood to sing carols and to celebrate Christmas. In addition to this main focus point, banquets are held, wine is poured and desserts are provided.

Run Santa Run

Santa Claus running. That's not something that you see every day. Although it would explain how he manages to maintain all that energy to source and deliver countless Christmas presents across the globe. However, if you are in Pisa in mid-December, you may see a whole group of Santas on the run. This event forms part of the annual Pisa Marathon, now in its 14th year. The family run takes place over a distance of either two, six or 14 kilometres, and is a fun experience while also keeping fit in a month that tends to offer copious amounts of food and drink.

Corsa Babbi

To add to the fun, a special prize is awarded to the most innovative and outstanding Santa Claus outfit.

Winter Wonderland

Fans of winter sports like skiing, snowboarding and skating will find much to enjoy at Florence's Winter Park, which is scheduled to be open between 7th December 2012 and 27th January 2013.

The park is located on the banks of the Arno and includes an 80m long slope made from genuine snow. People of all ages can enjoy the slopes and facilities to ski, snowboard and snow tube to their hearts' content. There is also a rink for people to go ice skating or indulge in a game of ice hockey.

Christmas will also distinctly come to the park between 20th and 23rd of December for the Great Feats Of Christmas. During this time, there will be a special village dedicated to all things Christmas – shopping opportunities, elves and even Santa Claus on skis! A lively, energetic place to go for a magical festive treat.

Firenze Winter Park

Traditional Christmas Concert

The Auditorium Conciliazione pays host to this year's traditional Christmas concert in Rome. Now in its 20th year, since 1992, the concert has been held in various Italian regions and has been broadcast on TV. One of the reasons for its constant appeal is its wide cross section of musical styles, flavours and origins. There is something here to suit all musical tastes, including rock, soul, folk, world and classical.

A diverse line-up has been put together for this year's concert. In addition to Italian music acts such as Annalisa, Chiara Civella and Felicia Bongiovanni, the concert will include sets from soul legend Al Jarreau from the US, Cranberries singer Dolores O'Riordan from Ireland, Skye from the United Kingdom and Yvonne Chaka Chaka from South Africa.