Ed.: This article was originally published in 2022 and has been updated to reflect 2023 celebrations.
It’s that merry time of year again. The customary “Christmas in Italy circuit,” which includes the charming wooden huts set up in Florence’s Piazza Santa Croce (running until December 17), the warming mulled wines of Bolzano’s blockbuster affair (running until January 6, 2024), and the over-the-top nativity scenes on Via San Gregorio Armeno in Naples (visible year-round, but more vibrant than ever during December) are back on, merry and bright as ever. But those who travel to Italy fairly frequently may find they’re in the mood for something a little different.
While there’s nothing wrong with these old favorites, the schedule of Christmas markets in Italy in 2023 offers much more variety for the seasoned visitor. Myriad Christmas markets and festive rituals beyond the “marquee headliners” offer something for the whole family — and plenty of seasonal spirit.
As always, be sure to check the provided websites for any last-minute changes to these events.
Habsburg Christmas Market
Levico Terme (Trentino-Alto Adige)
Now ongoing until January 6, 2024
Fit for royalty, Levico Terme’s Habsburg Christmas Market reaches its 22nd edition this year. Held in Habsburg Secular Park, the legendary festive market enjoys a bumper run through the weekends of early to mid-December, after which it opens on a daily basis — with the exception of Christmas Day, December 25 — until Twelfth Night 2024 (January 6, or Epiphany).
There’s a magic in the air as kids and big kids (parents) can make their requests to Santa in the elves’ village and enjoy the nativity scene exhibition.
Stalls overflow with great gift options, and there are also traditional Christmas foods to tuck into, washed down with a glug of mulled wine.
Kids can pay a visit to the elves’ village and hand-deliver their letters to Santa. Another standout in the Levico Terme lineup is the nativity scene exhibition, which features some first-class handiwork for families to enjoy together.
Dates are plentiful but rather erratic, so do check the official website to make sure you don’t show up to a quiet park.
Montepulciano Christmas Village
Now ongoing until January 7, 2024
One of the largest festive markets in the country, the Montepulciano Christmas Village is a merry showcase in the heart of Tuscan wine country, dominating Piazza Grande and Via San Donato and fanning out into their adjoining streets.
This market is a large-scale affair, featuring stalls, street food vendors, and entertainment guaranteed to provide fun for all the family. For those who want to get out and about on Christmas Day itself, the Montepulciano village is one of the rare markets that stays open (though only in the afternoon).
Everything that you could want for the season is here: unique gifts, handmade crafts, clothes, jewelry, sweets, food and drinks. Tip: Indulge in a glass of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano or other local ruby reds after a full day of browsing.
Christmas in Gubbio
Two main attractions mark out Gubbio during the holiday season. The first is the massive Christmas tree, set up on the Monte Ingino slopes and said to be the world’s largest; at a whopping 450 meters wide and 750 meters high, it's been noted in the Guinness Book of World Records.
The lighting of the tree on December 7 — the eve of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception — is an important part of local winter celebrations, and takes place in the presence of at least one buzz-worthy guest or organization. This year’s spotlighted group is Rondine Cittadella della Pace, an association working to reduce armed conflicts around the world.
Gubbio’s second trademark Christmas event takes place in the San Martino neighborhood, where a life-size nativity scene nearly overtakes the alleyways. Around 120 statues recreate the traditional story of the nativity with help from locals who pitch in to make the occasion memorable. These days, it’s all part of wider Gubbio ChristmasLand celebrations, held throughout town with the giant tree as a backdrop.
Green Christmas Market
Though green may call to mind the Grinch, this Milanese market offers a stark contrast to all that Scrooge-y energy — it’s a warm-hearted and fun event that wears its social conscience on its sleeve.
Italy’s busy capital of industry and fashion makes an uncharacteristically slow and sustainable pivot at the Green Christmas Market, which focuses on naturally made and naturally sourced clothes, cosmetics and children’s gifts, as well as household goods and holiday decorations that can be used for years to come. Everything on offer is crafted from natural sources and high-quality materials, all designed to meet exacting environmental standards.
Bonus: The venue is a historic foundry worth a visit in its own right.
La Faglia and Campobasso Christmas Market
Oratino and Campobasso (Molise)
December 24 (La Faglia ritual); weekends in December until Christmas Eve (market)
Campobasso hosts one of the more homey and down-to-earth options in this lineup, with a market stretching along the busy thoroughfare of Corso Vittorio Emanuele II. It’s held on weekends throughout December, leading up to Christmas Eve (December 8-10, 15-17 and 22-24).
But the Campobasso area is also known for a quirky Italian holiday tradition you’ve probably never seen the likes of elsewhere: In small Oratino (a town in the province) on Christmas Eve, locals ceremoniously light a 13-meter-high reed candle.
The build-up to the lighting is suitably lavish, with an afternoon procession, music, dancing and delicious local dishes, all organized by residents. The candle itself is constructed by local children, and then carried in procession through the town to reach the belltower of the local church.
Different sources are divided on the origins of the tradition, with some suggesting that it dates back to 1251. The ritual itself is said to signify regeneration.
A candle-centered ritual on Christmas Eve in small-town Molise may not end up on a first-timer’s seasonal agenda in Italy. But if you’re up for an adventure or have an appetite for hyper-local festivities, this one is just the ticket.
Verona Christmas Market
Ongoing (daily) until December 26; hours vary
The Verona Christmas Market caps off the year in style. Now in its 13th edition, there’s nothing unlucky to be found at this Christmas market.
If it’s German-esque market flair you’re after, Verona’s market takes many cues from its partner city of Nuremberg, serving up pretzels, bratwurst and other hearty, stomach-warming treats. You’ll find more than 100 miniature houses dotting Piazza dei Signori, the courtyard of the old market (Mercato Vecchio) and various streets around the city center.
Plus, beyond the usual seasonal food and drink and gift stalls, a local highlight in Verona comes on December 13, the Feast of Santa Lucia, when a special one-off market takes place in Piazza Bra, under a 100-meter-high Christmas Star of Bethlehem designed by Rinaldo Olivieri.
Christmas in Bologna
One of the highlights of the Bolognese Christmas season is the Santa Lucia Fair, located under the portico of the Santa Maria dei Servi church. Dating back to the 16th century, this market’s kickoff traditionally ushers in the holiday season in the area. It’s also your best bet in Bologna for picking up items for a nativity set.
If you’re instead after a bit of international inspiration, then why not try out the French-themed market in Piazza Minghetti? As well as sampling some of the best-known, freshly prepared food and drink specialities, visitors can also add a touch of French chic to their gifts for the luxury-oriented loved ones on their lists, with French origin perfumes, accessories and soaps.
Viterbo Christmas Village
Now ongoing until January 6, 2024
Any Christmas market worth its salt will show its roots.
Viterbo Christmas Village is no exception, drawing inspiration from medieval design and architecture in addition to Nordic flourishes.
The books and toys adorning the stalls make this the perfect place to shop for stocking stuffers; for those looking to escape the Christmas-season crowds in Rome, the Viterbo market also makes a fun and festive day trip. Expect a live nativity scene, an old-school carousel, an inside look at Santa’s digs, ice skating on Largo Benedetto Croce and dedicated spots for visiting Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer and even the Grinch.