Catch the Christmas Spirit in Puglia, Campania, Umbria, Tuscany and More (Free Italy Travel Advice)

|image2|Although Italy is a land of tradition
and religious devotion
throughout the year, it
becomes even more so at Christmas
(Il Natale).
The season begins with the
Festività della
Concezione Immaculate

(Feast of the Immaculate Conception)
on December 8th. From then on, each
region unveils its unique homage to
the holiday season. From the German-influenced
markets in Trentino-Alto
Adige
in the north to the
arrival of
mountain shepherds playing their
zampogne
in southern Puglia,
Christmas
celebrations offer a chance to experience
the variety of cultures that
flourish within Italy’s borders. With
our guide to Christmas celebrations,
we give you some insight into the best
ways to spend your Italian Christmas
vacation:

(For
even more holiday events in Italy, see our <a
href=”http://www.dreamofitaly.com/public/398.cfm”>Italy
events calendar
.)

Amalfi (<a
href=”http://www.dreamofitaly.com/public/department60.cfm”>Amalfi
Coast)

In this gorgeous coastal town, the
locals have their own way of showing
homage to the birth of the Baby Jesus.
In the Grotta dello Smeraldo
(Emerald
Cave), with its stalagtites and collosal
10-meter stalagmites protruding up
from the sea, every year on Christmas,
scuba divers deliver the Holy Child to
a ceramic presepe
(crib) inside the cave.
What a way to spend a birthday!

 

Bolzano (Trentino-Alto Adige)

From November 29 to December
23, this Sudtirol town hosts a charming
Christmas market combining both
German and Mediterranean traditions.
The Mercatino di Natale
(Christkindlmarkt in German) takes over the town
squares with twinkling lights and the
enticing aroma of vin
brûlé

(mulled
wine). On the weekends, traditional
storytellers, trumpeters and musicians
gather in the Piazza Walther
and in local
churches. Area restaurants offer a typical
Sudtirolean menu, which mixes
German culinary traditions with Italian
delights. The artists’ market in Piazza
Municipio
offers unique yuletide
ornaments,
terracotta and ceramics.

Bressanone (Trentino-Alto Adige)

The lovely little ski town of
Bressanone,
hidden in <a
href=”http://www.dreamofitaly.com/public/department89.cfm”>the
Dolomites
and dating all the way back to 901 A.D,,
puts on the Weihnachtsmarkt
(literally,
votive night market, another common
Christmas market found throughout
Germany) from November 29 to
January 6, offering equally alluring
gifts and delicacies. After the market,
visit the Museo di Presepi
(Crèche
Museum) in the Palazzo
Vescovile
.

Gargano (<a
href=”http://www.dreamofitaly.com/public/department64.cfm”>Puglia)

Christmas in this Pugliese town is truly
a magical, musical celebration. The
first few days of December host the
arrival of the zampognari
(men who play the zampogne,
an instrument similar
to the bagpipes) who
travel to Gargano from
Abruzzo
or Basilicata.
They arrive in groups of
two or three, clad in their
typical capes and regional costumes.
The two “mystic” shepherds, one old
and one young, surround a group of
celebrating children, playing their allegre
novene
(joyful songs), and at
night
they gather in the Grotta
dell’Arcangelo

(Cave of the Archangel) to play traditional
shepherd melodies.

Gubbio (<a
href=”http://www.dreamofitaly.com/public/department63.cfm”>Umbria)

Named by the
Guinness Book of
World Records
as the
“world’s largest
Christmas tree” this
albero di Natale,
constructed
of four thousand meters of
lights upon Monte Ingino,
can be seen
all the way from Perugia,
18 miles
away. It is first lit on the Feast
of the
Immaculate Conception
and stays
lit
throughout the night from Christmas
through New Year’s.

<a
href=”http://www.dreamofitaly.com/public/department59.cfm”>Milan

In addition to the fabulous shopping in
the rest of the city, from December 5 through 8, look for the heralded
and anxiously awaited Fiera di
Sant’Ambrogio
, a market named
after
Milan’s patron saint. Here you can buy
unique second-hand crafts and hardto-
find antiques, as well as other local
goods.

<a
href=”http://www.dreamofitaly.com/public/department60.cfm”>Naples

This southern Italian city might seem
like crèche-central during the
Christmas season, with churches displaying
incredible life-like versions of
the nativity scene and markets selling
figurines for home crèches. Check out
the presepi napoletani
at San Gregorio
Armeno
and don’t miss Ferrigno,
a shop
that has been making presepi
and terracotta
statuettes since 1836. (Via San
Gregorio Armeno, 8; 39-08-15523148)
Churches such as Santa Chiara,
Certosa
di San Martino
and the Chiesa
del Gesù
Nuovo
also have some of the
city’s best
crèches.

Prato (<a
href=”http://www.dreamofitaly.com/public/department55.cfm”>Tuscany)

This charming town’s Christmas market
starts on December 14th and is perfect
for finding old books and delicate
linens. Just a 10-minute train ride from
Florence, a visit to <span
style=”font-style: italic;”>Prato
offers the perfect
chance to get out of the hustle and
bustle of la città
d’arte
during the holidays.
Here you can snatch up some
interesting (and likely less expensive)
gifts to bring back to loved ones at
home.

<a
href=”http://www.dreamofitaly.com/public/department56.cfm”>Rome

As the head and heart of the Roman
Catholic Church, Rome comes alive at
Christmas. Thousands of the faithful
have traveled from all over the world
to see the Pope conduct midnight mass
and give his Christmas Day blessing
from his balcony overlooking St.
Peter’s Square. At the Vatican and all
over the city, Rome does not lack in its
displays of presepi.
Visit just about any
church and you are sure to see a beautiful
Nativity scene. In the Basilica
of
Santa Maria Maggiore
, strips of
wood,
allegedly from the first manger, were
used to build this church’s version.
Fifty crèches are on display in <span
style=”font-style: italic;”>Villa
Giulia. The official presepio
of Rome is
set up in the Piazza di Spagna.
You
might even see something out of the
ordinary for Romans during the holidays
— a Christmas tree!

–Marielena
Martone

Photo by Darvina06, flickr.com

 

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