Here's a round-up of festive Christmas markets and events around Italy.
FLORENCE NOEL – Florence, December - 6 January
Knock on the door at Casa di Babbo Natale and you'll receive a warm welcome! Father Christmas has taken up residence at a number of Italian locations including Florence!
Florence Noel gets both Santa Claus and visitors in the festive spirit with a Winter Wonderland. Advent Village is full of snow. The rink is full of skaters. And of course, bellies are full thanks to the sweets and candies on offer, washed down with coffee, hot chocolate and, for the grown-ups, mulled wine!
In addition, there are exhibitors, stalls and demonstrations and workshops for budding cooks and food buffs.
CHRISTMAS MARKET – Piazza Navona, Rome, Throughout December
Like a carousel, the seasons go round and round and before you know it, it's Christmas time again!
Appropriately, Rome's Christmas festivities include what's said to be one of the oldest surviving carousels in the world. This merry-go-round dates back to 1896 and can be enjoyed by a new generation of youngsters.
There's a great sense of pleasing tradition throughout Rome's Christmas celebrations including exhibitions dedicated to the Nativity and also to rare and ancient toys. A Nativity scene also dominates the square, while open air concerts get visitors in the mood with Christmassy musical performances. There are coloured lights and decorations as far as the eye can see with sweets, toys and figurines galore to keep the kids satisfied!
PRESEPI D'ITALIA – Massa Martana (Umbria), 24 December - 6 January
It may be ice cold in December but fortunately ice has its far more productive uses. Take Umbria's festive offerings which include a special nativity scene which is ingeniously made from blocks of ice. This year sees the addition of two life-size statues of St. John Paul II and St. John XXIII.
Presepi D'Italia offers a unique and artistic look at the Nativity with additional exhibitions dedicated to works of art on the subject. Pictures, sculptures and ceramics abound at this beautifully assembled array that will intrigue and delight all visitors.
TRENTO CHRISTMAS MARKET – Trentino, Throughout December
Comprising 70 wooden huts chock full of decorations, crafts, cakes and much more, Trento Christmas Market welcomes its visitors with a distinctive and enjoyable ambience.
Part of the enjoyment comes in sampling some of the food on offer. It's a tasty and diverse mix of soups (such as goulash zuppe), grilled polenta, smoked hams, filled pastas, cheeses and sweeter treats such as pastries, apple strudel and treccia mochena, which is a plaited pastry cake. There are also drinks to accompany the foods including the obligatory mulled wine and also the hot toddy, parampampoli, which is a perfect winter warmer.
CHRISTMAS MARKET – Verona, Throughout December
Verona's Christmas market takes a more Germanic approach with traditional, German-style market stalls and goodies on offer including tree decorations and handicrafts made from materials including glass and wood.
Of course, no German-style Christmas market would be complete without a showcase of its native food. Among the treats on offer are German Bratwurst sausages, Stollen fruit cake and Lebkuchen biscuits which leave a gingerbread taste in the mouth. It's a unique and special take on the festive season, and is sure to attract visitors in droves again this year.
CHRISTMAS ALLEY – Naples, All year round with Christmas festivities taking place throughout December
Although what's known as Christmas Alley is open all year round, it takes on a Christmas wonder all of its own this month.
It's a magical step into a world of traditional Christmas. As you make your way down the alley, there are many merchants and artisans offering a whole host of specially made creations. Take your pick from special cribs, sets and figurines. The figurines are particularly noteworthy offering a mix of traditional and modern miniatures to place in any Nativity model. In addition to Mary, Joseph and Jesus, the stalls contain figurines of oxen, donkeys, and even bakers, butchers and fishmongers. You can see these creative talents hard at work, assembling the collectable items before your eyes. It's a hotbed of imagination, good humour and raw artistic talent, and is a must visit not only for fans of Christmas, but for those who are looking for a massively enjoyable step back in time.
VILLAGGIO DELLE MERAVIGLIE – Milan, December 6 - January 11, 2015
Step into Milan's Wonderland Village which promises to be a spectacular Christmas experience for all.
It's a journey that will take all ages into a festive universe of Santas, reindeer and magic. Santa Claus has also set up camp in Milan, as youngsters can pay him a visit, and furthermore, have the opportunity to take a ride aboard the Santa sleigh. There are plenty of gifts and rides to keep the little 'uns happy, and for the slightly older youngsters, there is a double deck ice rink for a spot of skating.
Meanwhile, the parents and older visitors can enjoy a wealth of attractions including food stalls proffering the likes of cakes, pancakes and mushrooms. There is also the chance to learn how to 'Save The Planet' through a specially prepared educational workshop. All in all, this is a Christmas destination that entertains and educates at the same time, and contains something for everyone.
TORINO MERCATINO NATALE, 4 - 23 December
It's the 13th edition of this sumptuous Christmas Market which offers interactive experiences for visitors. For example, there is a list of workshops in which visitors can try their hand at crib making, glass blowing and making sweets and chocolate. Meanwhile, the visiting children can be enchanted by a delightful magic show.
This market boasts some eye-catching displays of nativity scenes and to cap it all off, there is an electro-mechanical crib. Exhibitions, stalls and lights come together to form a festive fiesta for all ages, and for the adults, there's the chance to sample regional specialties from 20 wine producers.
For more "mercatini di Natale", check our Top Ten Christmas Markets in Italy.