Updated 2018. This is a guest article from our friends at Walks of Italy:
We love Christmas markets in Italy. These markets, which usually feature stalls selling not only holiday decorations and gifts, but also food, aren’t just a great place to take care of holiday shopping. With their stalls lit up at night, the scent of mulled wine and pastries floating through the air, and lots of Italian families strolling about, their atmosphere alone makes them worth visiting!
While Christmas markets tend to be more of a northern European tradition, towns and cities across Italy — and especially in Italy’s north — will host these open-air markets come December. Here are some of our favorites!
Some of the best Christmas markets in Italy have to be in Trentino-Alto Adige, the region in Italy’s north that borders Austria and Switzerland. The Christmas market in Trento, open at Piazza Fiera until December 30, features more than 60 wooden huts selling handcrafts, nativity scenes, and local foods, including apple strudel, grilled polenta, and tortel di patate (potato cake) — not to mention vin brulee and hot toddies!
In Bolzano, the Christmas market runs until January 6; along with about 80 different stalls, it has a nativity and a big indoor area where you can actually watch local craftsmen at their work, from woodcarving to hatmaking. The market in Vipiteno is also a favorite, with local craftsmen creating Christmas cribs and other items right on the street.
Italy’s cities also host major Christmas markets come December. In Milan, the Oh Bej, Oh Bej market, a tradition since 1510, is a must-see. This year, it’s from December 7 to 10; it has more than 400 stalls selling gifts, toys, clothes, food, and drinks. Expect live music and bands, too!
In Florence, the best market is the “Weihnachtsmarkt,” or German Christmas market. The market sells Christmas decorations and gifts, plus food and drink from both Italian and German traditions — think wurst, sauerkraut, Stollen, and mulled wine. The market runs until December 17 at the piazza of Santa Croce.
One strange thing you’ll notice at the Rome Christmas markets is lots of stalls selling the figurine of a witch on a broomstick. This actually isn’t a witch, but La Befana, a major Christmas tradition in Rome. Don’t miss our fun video exploring La Befana through the eyes of a 6-year-old Roman!