Christmas celebrations in Italy are as different and varied as the rich foods and unique dialects of the nation. Each of the 20 regions claims its own traditions and customs in observance of the holiest time of year.
In Part II of our “Christmas in Italy” series, we are featuring the northern regions of Italy: Friuli–Venezia Giulia, Lombardia, Piemonte, Trentino-Alto Adige, Valle d’Aosta and Veneto.
The Veneto region of Italy, best known as the home of Venice, is located in northeast Italy. Although the region’s easternmost border offers miles of coastline, much of the Veneto landscape includes mountains.
For centuries, Venetians have marked the start of the holy Christmas season with Fiaccolate degli Sciatori – Skiers Torchlight Parades. At the famous Cortina d’Ampezzo, hundreds of skiers bearing colored torches in hues of green, white and red, join together in a procession down the slopes that creates an impressive holiday blaze that lights up the midnight sky. The beauty of the Fiaccolate has inspired many others who now host their own torchlight parades at some of the most famous ski resorts around the world…but it all started in the Veneto.
In Venice, the city’s famous bridges are decorated with glittering Christmas lights. Venice at Christmas time transforms itself into a city for the locals – serene and beautiful. Canals twinkle with holiday sparkle and many of the most popular locations are less crowded, replaced by a remarkably cheery disposition of the locals. The enchanting and exalted Venetian light, immortalized by the paintings of Canaletto and Francesco Guardi, become even more hypnotic in winter, when moisture from the sea hits the chilled air, creating a haze off the lagoon that filters the sun into pink and gold. This is Venezia per i veneziani – Venice for the Venetians.
During the period before Christmas, the Veneto region comes alive with events, shows and markets of every kind. Venice is a wonderful city for Christmas shopping, thanks to its unique handmade gifts such as glass ornaments and lace decorations, especially in Campo San Polo’s Christmas market. For a truly unforgettable shopping experience, take a trip to the nearby island of Murano for the Natale di Vetro (Christmas of Glass) celebration, with literally thousands of outstanding gift options handmade from glass.
In the romantic city of Verona, visitors can delight at the traditional markets, while further afield, the town of Bussolengo hosts an amazing Christmas village. In the towns surrounding Lago Garda, such as Lazise, Malcesine and Bardolino, they exude a festive atmosphere that could melt the heart of even the Grinch (who, is obviously not Italian).
In Verona, events such as the Running of the Santas annually attract thousands of people. The city of Romeo and Juliet becomes even more magical and festive during the holiday season. The entire city center is a sight not to be missed, with a succession of lights and decorations until reaching Piazza Bra, where you will find a majestic Christmas star, located right next to the ancient structure of the Arena. Piazza dei Signori, The Old Market Courtyard and the Tribunal Courtyard host Christmas markets that are awaited by residents all year long. And the fascinating street markets in Verona will host dozens of exhibitors providing gift ideas, decorations, traditional culinary specialties and local products such as mulled wine and spicy treats, to try on the spot or take home.
Bussolengo offers one of the largest indoor Christmas markets in Italy, where+ young and old browse among presepe, decorations of all kinds, entertainment and delicious desserts. The village also has costumed characters engaged in the work of the past – farriers, potters, blacksmiths, sculptors and many more will make you relive the Christmas spirit of the past in a setting of outstanding beauty.
In Padua, the Christmas atmosphere is lit up with a new and rich program of events, markets, decorations and lights that adorn the city. The traditional “Christmas in Padua – A city of Stars!” will take place with the Artistic Crafts Market in Capitaniato Square and the charming Lappone Village in Eremitani Square.
The wonderful city of Treviso is ready to welcome Christmas with Treviso Cuor di Natale and its rich calendar of events. You will find traditional markets of handicrafts and antiques Cose d’altri tempi at Borgo Cavour and via Canova.
Every year, Belluno welcomes the Christmas holidays in Piazza Martiri, with a traditional market in the charming location of the historic gardens. You will find a unique Christmas atmosphere in Castelfranco Veneto, where the mighty city walls embrace the traditional wooden houses of the market. Christmas also comes to the most beautiful hamlets in Italy in Cison di Valmarino with a special market at the Case Mariane, Ex Cantine Brandolini, Piazza Roma and Villa Marcello Marinelli.