Highlights: Visiting Italy for the Holidays

Our new, free 35-page, downloadable guide Christmas in Italy (filled with great photos too!) is a the perfect resource, whether you’re traveling to Italy for the holidays or want to bring some Italian influences to your celebrations at home. Here are some highlights from the guide:

The Holidays in Rome

  • Rome is home to the largest continuous Jewish population in Western Europe. The community celebrates the beginning of Hannukah on December 11 with the lighting of the Menorah in Piazza Barberini.
  • Italians are crazy about their creches (presepi) and you can see 100 of them at the Sale del Bramante in Piazza del Popolo between November 26 and January 6.
  • An alternative to midnight mass at St. Peter’s – how about a magical service inside the Pantheon? Get there early. We’ve also got a full list of English-language Christmas masses.

Italian Holiday Traditions

  • Traditionally Italians eat seven fish courses for La Vigilia di Natale (Christmas Eve). The origin of the “seven” is a mystery. Many believe it is based on the number of sacraments, others say it relates to the phases of the moon. Some Italians even serve 13 fish dishes, 12 for the apostles and one for Jesus.
  • While Babbo Natale (Santa Claus, Father Christmas) is growing in popularity, Italian children can’t wait for the Epiphany (January 6) when La Befana brings gifts.
  • Quick Italian lesson – I piu cari auguri per un sereno Natale e per un anno nuovo ricco di soddisfazioni – Dearest wishes for a peaceful Christmas and a satisfying new year
    Italian tradition says that if one eats lentils on the first day of the year, the year ahead will be rich and rewarding. (Great lentils recipe in the guide.)

Get more on celebrating Christmas and New Year’s, Italian style, in our free guide Christmas in Italy