When most of us think about the Christmas markets, we tend to conjure images of the German influenced Christkindlmarkets. You can find one of these during the holiday season in most major U.S. cities as well as across Europe. However, Italy also has it’s own magical markets known as Mercatino di Natale.
The markets of Italy are also grounded in German and Austrian roots, but Italians have adopted this tradition and made it their own.
Typically much smaller, and by default, more intimate than their German counterparts, Italian Christmas markets are quintessentially community events. These street markets are commonly open for business as the Advent is ushered in, and close out in line with the Epiphany in early January. They are a festive and fun way to introduce yourself to an area, while sampling the local delicacies, and supporting resident artists and artisans.
Christmas markets are structured much the same, but creative twists on decoration, lighting, themes, foods, and even activities can make certain markets more popular. Generally you’ll find the holiday market in a central location within a town or city. Officials will reserve locations such as large piazzas where locals and tourists alike come to socialize and open space is at a plenty. Streets are lined with small wooden huts or tents where various merchants bring their best representation of local goods and fare.
Market organizers will play to the senses with spectacular light shows, festive Christmas music, and the aroma of food and drink wafting through the air. If you’re lucky, there’s a merchant with a full cart of freshly roasted chestnuts and another with a hot cup of vin brulé, or mulled wine. Incorporating grand carousels and towering Christmas trees in the center of it all, organizing workshops and family games, all aimed at enhancing the social experience for every visitor.
Whether you’re looking for the best in shopping, or a food lovers paradise, or simply a fantastic evening for the entire family to enjoy, one of the many Christmas markets of Italy has what you need.
If it’s the food that’s driving your interest, the Bolzano market in South Tyrol is a good start. It’s one of the largest markets in Italy and mirrors the German markets with foods like apple strudel and hot biscuits. The medieval setting makes it truly a unique experience. In Florence, they too host a German influenced market filled with bratwurst and more, but also incorporate the Italian market for a cultural balance.
When you need to get the Christmas shopping done and are looking for something unique, markets like the Marché Vert Noël in Aosta fit the bill. One of the most popular markets in Northern Italy, this small town converts into an Alpine village and hosts more than 40 chalets filled with handmade gifts, food, wine, and more.
Venice also has a quaint market with the perfect opportunity to purchase hand-blown glass and lace from the nearby Murano and Burano Islands. Or you can score a few of the beautiful carnival masks for a truly unique gift.
Other popular markets are in Trento with more than 70 traditional huts selling merchandise, and in Turin where crafts and gourmet products are presented from 14 Italian regions and 8 foreign countries. Genoa hosts more than 100 artisans from all over Italy, and Naples is famous for their handcrafted precepi, or nativity scenes.
If you’re looking for a memorable family experience, numerous Christmas markets attract visitors far and wide because of their unique decorations and family activities.
In Le Marché, they are known as the medieval candle market. They periodically shut off all of their lamps all over town and then ignite only candles instead, a bewitching and captivating sight.
The Mountain Christmas in idyllic Selva in Val Gardena installs an old fashioned cable car of miniature wooden cabins that can be found hanging high above their magical Christmas village each year. Grab a cup of mulled wine and enjoy the direct connection to the legendary ski tour Sellaronda, with its 500 kilometers of perfectly prepared slopes.
Places like Rome host several markets, but the most famous in the Piazza Navona takes on a different theme for their market each year. You’ll see spectacular lights, enjoy live music, and marvel at the street performers and acrobats. The entire market bustles with tourists, vendor stalls, a carousel, and festive balloons.
Merano’s market goes all out. The kids will never get bored with activities like pony rides, parades, ice skating, and carriage rides. And in Pisa, their market is solely designed for the kids in mind with the Father Christmas Factory, or Fabbrica di Babbo Natale.
Across Italy, the Christmas markets host thousands and present a truly magical experience like no other. Enchanting small towns and bustling big cities alike, these special markets are an enriching way to experience the greatest Italy has to offer.
While we hope all of our followers will some day be able to experience a Christmas market in Italy for themselves, we also hope each of you will take advantage of the markets in your own local communities by attending one today. The fairytale settings will captivate and delight, awakening the Christmas spirit in us all – young and old.