As Christmas approaches, Carol King selects the top 10 Christmas markets in Italy which offer gift ideas, decorations, local handicrafts and – best of all – festive food and wine.
Aosta, Aosta Valley
The Marché Vert Noël (Green Christmas Market) turns a little piece of the town into an alpine village. Among the gifts to buy are candles, Christmas decorations, handmade soaps, ceramics, wooden handicrafts and antique furniture, as well as clothing and accessories made from wool, felt, hemp and lace.
Venue: Piazza Caveri
Trento, Trentino Alto Adige
The Trento Christmas market is one of the most famous in the region. You can buy traditional decorations and nativity scenes. A gourmet section is dedicated to local specialties such as treccia mochèna (plaited pastry cake), polenta brustolada (grilled polenta), and canederli (dumplings), as well as vin brulè (mulled wine) and parampampoli (hot toddies).
Venue: Piazza Fiera
Bolzano, Trentino Alto Adige
For an Alpine Christmas, head to the mercantile town of Bolzano in northern Italy. Set against the backdrop of the Rosengarten Dolomites, the romantic arcaded streets and picturesque squares in the medieval town centre are festooned with brightly-lit garlands and pervaded by the aroma of roast chestnuts. The Christmas market offers traditional handcrafted items made of wood, glass and clay, as well as Christmas decorations and seasonal sweetmeats.
Venue: Piazza Walther
Pordenone, Friuli-Venezia Giulia
The main square features a giant Christmas tree surrounded by traditional wooden huts. There are concerts, shows and games during the festivities. A nativity scene of life-size, hand-carved wooden statues will be on show in the loggia of the Palazzo Municipale.
Venue: Piazza XX Settembre
Each year Verona hosts the Nuremberg Christmas market in the central square. The German-style market has elegantly illuminated and decorated traditional wooden huts, selling regional foods, handicrafts and Christmas tree decorations. There you can taste specialties such as mulled wine, bratwurst, stollen fruit cake and lebkuchen biscuits that are similar to gingerbread.
Venue: Piazza dei Signori
Cortina d’Ampezzo, Veneto
Lying in the shadow of the Tofane mountains, Cortina d’Ampezzo’s Christmas market brings lights, colour and a festive atmosphere to the main street. Artisans and local producers sell products including, candles, toys and handicrafts from small, wooden huts. To complete the atmosphere, you can taste mulled wine, roasted chestnuts and traditional sweets, and listen to performances of traditional Christmas songs.
Venue: Corso Italia
The Villaggio delle Meraviglie (Wonderland Village) Christmas market and other seasonal activities for adults and children take place in the Indro Montanelli Gardens in the city centre. There is a skating rink and performance artists put on shows throughout the festive season.
Venue: Giardini Indro Montanelli, entrance via Corso Venezia
The Mercato Tedesco di Natale (German Christmas Market) is inspired by the traditional market held in Heidelberg, Germany. It consists of approximately 55 wooden huts, where European operators sell delicacies, decorations, handicrafts and typical Christmas items from their home countries. For the first time, a monastery from Belarus will attend the event to sell its Christmas handicrafts.
Venue: Piazza Santa Croce
Of the many Christmas markets in the Eternal City, the one at the Piazza Navona in the historic centre is the most famous. During the Christmas period, the square transforms into a bustling multi-coloured Christmas market, selling nativity scenes, decorations and sweets. A treat for young children, there are streets artists and acrobats.
Venue: Piazza Navona
The narrow street of Via San Gregorio Armeno is famous all over the world for its handcrafted nativity figurines. Its shops and stalls are a must-see at Christmas time when it is buzzing with Neapolitans and tourists alike, all out to purchase figures made from wax, bronze, cork and clay. Figurines on sale encompass the traditional and the contemporary, and in recent years have included those of famous people such as Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Diana, Princess of Wales, and even the fashion designer Gianni Versace.
Venue: Via San Gregorio Armeno