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Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia

Best Christmas Markets in Italy

Italy is famed for beautiful Christmas markets that bring magic to the festive holiday season. 

The tradition of Christmas markets is centuries-old, dating back to the Middle Ages. A document written in Dresden in 1434 speaks of the first winter fairs for small artisans. Since then the markets have spread throughout northern Europe and can be found in every corner of the world, including Italy.

For those considering a festive holiday in Italy this year, Italian Christmas markets are worth the trip. The 'Mercatini di Natale' in bigger cities are particularly famous but there are equally spectacular ones in small villages around the country.

Here is a quick guide to some of the most beautiful Christmas markets in Italy.

Candelara (Pesaro)

Candelara is a quaint village in the province of Pesaro and Urbino, with a characteristic historic centre surrounded by 15th-century walls.

For Christmas it hosts one of the most nostalgic markets: the festival is called "Candles to Candelara" because candles are the main attraction here. Their light will illuminate the entire village decorated with Christmas cribs and iron sculptures, as well as the elves’ workshop. In the evenings the electric lights are switched off and replaced with the warm glow provided by thousands of lit candles. Novelties this year include the mechanised Nativity scene in the Church of Santa Lucia and an eco-friendly pedal carousel for kids.

Candelara is an excellent starting point for a nice Christmas journey in the Marche: the market takes place from 25 November to 17 December, with plenty of events for adults and children. For details see Candelara website.

Santa Maria Maggiore (Piemonte)

One of the most beautiful villages in the northern Piemonte region, Santa Maria Maggiore, in the heart of the Ossola Valley, is also home to one of the most authentic Christmas markets. The excellent craftsmanship of the village is on full display this year from 7 to 10 December.

Throughout the village there are warm fires, refreshment stands for sipping mulled wine, stinchéet (similar to piadine, eaten hot with butter and salt) and roasted chestnuts, with festive music playing in the backround.

Don't miss the extra market, the Chimney Sweep Museum (the only one in Italy), and the Feminis-Farina Perfume House, which tells the story of Eau de Cologne, which has origins in Santa Maria Maggiore. For details see website.

Castle of Limatola (Campania)

Half an hour from the Royal Palace of Caserta, Limatola offers one of the most beautiful surprises of Christmas in the Campania region: the “Cadeaux al Castello” from 10 November to 10 December. 

Wander around the markets of handmade products, have fun with elves among the music boxes, swings, giant Advent calendars and talking trees, and visit Santa Claus as he prepares for his Christmas rounds.

Amid this spectacular setting are shows with magicians, jesters and fantastical characters, as well as an exhibition of Christmas cribs. You can also sleep in the castle: there are magnificent historical rooms, and a restaurant. For full details see website.

South Tyrol's Original Christmas Markets

Christmas Market BolzanoBolzano, Merano, Bressanone, Vipiteno and Brunico: the five original South Tyrolean markets are not-to-be-missed events that make Christmas in the region one of the most romantic. The markets, which all share an authentic festive atmosphere, are open from 24 November until 6 January 2024.

A new surprise awaits you each time. In Bressanone, the handcrafted cribs are a must, starting with those kept in the Hofburg, Palazzo Vescovile, which also hosts a musical of lights titled COLORS. A Homage to Peace.

In Merano, the main attractions are the small wooden houses along the Passirio river full of South Tyrolean products, an ice rink, a live nativity scene and a children's carousel. For details see website.

Aosta (Val d’Aosta)

Christmas Market AostaFrom 25 November until 7 January the Marché Vert Noël of Aosta offers a spectacular display of lights against the backdrop of an ancient Roman theatre.

The wooden chalets of the town create a setting for holiday magic where you can browse traditional products, such as cheeses such as Fontina, cold cuts and wine but also magnificent wooden creations by local artisans. Ph: MikeDotta / Shutterstock.com

Aprica (Lombardia)

Aprica, the beautiful mountain a stone’s throw from Milan, celebrates Christmas by hosting a winter market. It starts from 7-10 December and continues on 16-17 December and from 23 December to 7 January.

Shopping, music, and fun for children, this market is a perfect après ski opportunity, considering the 50 km of trails in Aprica, plus another seven for cross country skiing, and many other activities made for enjoying snow and nature. 

Trento and surrounding areas (Trentino-Alto Adige)

Christmas Market TrentoTrentino is an unmissable destination for those who love Christmas markets. The largest is in Trento, with nearly 100 wooden Christmas cribs, animates the heart of the city from 18 November to 7 January.

The Trento market is also an excellent starting point to visit many others that light up one of the most beautiful alpine regions of Italy at Christmas time: there are 17 markets in as many small wonderful towns and villages of Trentino, from Rovereto where the festivities are dedicated to the theme of light, to Ala that decorates the halls of the Baroque palaces in its historic centre, up to Avio that welcomes visitors in a castle decorated for holiday festivities.

Cison di Valmarino (Veneto)

If you have a passion for small towns in Italy, Cison di Valmarino is not to be missed at Christmas. Having earned the Touring Club's Orange Flag for its beauty, Cison is known as one of the best starting points for excursions in nature.

The hamlet of Rolle is surrounded by the vineyards of Valdobbiadene and was the first to be protected by the Italian Environmental Fund, but it also has one of the most characteristic Christmas markets.

Called Stelle a Natale, this year it is held on the weekends of 2-3 December and 8-10 December. Along the streets chalets display local handicrafts, which are real works of art. In addition, artistans set up original representations of the Nativity scene in their stores, and the piazza is decorated with spectacular ornaments from the surrounding forest.

Arezzo (Tuscany)

Arezzo is one of the most beautiful cities to visit at Christmas: from 18 November to 1 January, Arezzo dresses up for the holidays with light installations, Christmas cribs (such as the moving mechanical one in the church in Piazza della Badia), shows and special events dedicated to the theme of wonder. 

There are a variety of markets on offer: the "Prato", the large green area that dominates the city has the "Market of Wonders" with edible delicacies, the Piazza Grande has  "the Tyrolean Village", while Piazza San Jacopo and Risorgimento have a traditional market. There will be a Lego House for kids, and Santa Claus will also make an appearance, welcoming children to La Casa di Babbo Natale. For more details see website.

Cover image: Arezzo Christmas market. Photo credit: Claudiovidri / Shutterstock.com.

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