It’s the holiday season and that means its time for the Mercatini di Natale or Christmas markets! This tradition, hailing from Germany where they are called Christkindlmarkt has over the years made its way to town centers all over Europe spreading the joy of the season with ornaments, toys and food specialties. Here are our picks for the best Mercatini di Natale in Italy this holiday season:
Bolzano has perhaps the most famous Mercatino di Natale in all of Italy. Beginning on November 24 until January 6 from 10am to 7pm with extended hours on weekends. Piazza Walther in the city center becomes a Christmas wonderland with over 150 stands filled with joy, gifts, crafts, food items (closely associated to neighboring Germany and Austria). Nearby you’ll also find a huge advent calendar on the windows of the birth home of Bolzano’s famed astronomer Max Valier. Other seasonal displays include the Bosco Incantato and Kinderland preferred by younger visitors.
Known for its spas, Merano also boasts an enchanting Mercatino di Natale with holiday lights, unique products including textiles, wood crafts, organic produce, skating rink and much more, you’ll find them at Piazza Terma in the historic center starting November 25 until January 6 from 10am to 7:30pm with extended hours on the weekends. During your visit to Merano, be on the look out for the Alberi di Natale Merano (Designer Christmas trees) scattered about the city. If you’re traveling with kids, we recommend a detour to Piazza della Rena for a visit to Goldy’s house or a visit to the Luckis Kinderland playground.
Next on our list is Trento also in Italy’s Trentino Alto Adige region. In Trento make your way to Piazza Fiera and Piazza Cesare Battisti from November 19 to January 6 for a smell, feel and taste of Trento’s Mercatini di Natale with their unique Christmas spirit. Pay particular attention to the gastronomic stands which offer local specialties.
Moving along we head to Turin, the Piedmont capital, where the classic Mercatino di Natale takes place in the Borgo Dora district from December 2-23 where stalls and mini ‘chalets’ propose Christmas ornaments, lights and trinkets along with crafts and gastronomic products from Italy and abroad. There is also a special children’s area featuring entertainers, storytelling, artistic workshops and games.
Some 50 kilometers southeast of Turin you’ll find the little town of Govone with its castle. Here the Mercatino di Natale is much more than just a market its Il Magico Paese di Natale (the Magical Town of Christmas) where characteristic wooden stalls offer artisanal and gastronomic specialties in a very picturesque setting weekends from November 28 until January 6 from 10am to 7pm. Children will very much enjoy a visit to Santa Claus’ home, the carousel and one of the many musical shows.
The city of Milan has a ‘double event’, with the famous “Oh bej! Oh bej!” markets on December 7 to 10 from 8am to 8pm along Castello Sforzesco in honor of the city’s patron saint, Sant’Ambrogio. Other smaller markets come to life throughout the city offering roasted chestnuts, nativity sets and Christmas trees, decorations, ice skating rinks, Santa Claus sightings and seasonal food items, however the main Mercatino di Natale is of course at Piazza Duomo from December 11 to January 8. If your visit permits, take a detour to Fonderia Napoleonica on December 17 and 18 for small market with eco-friendly alternatives.
Bassano del Grappa in Veneto is especially lovely during Christmas time. From November 19 to January 6 from 10am to 8pm, Piazza Garibaldi and Piazza Libertà become lined with stands proposing crafts, toys and gastronomic specialties including hot chocolate, vin brulè and more. During the weekends visitors can also enjoy concerts, parades, exhibitions and more.
In Abruzzo, Avezzano’s Piazza Risorgimento turns into a Christmas village from December 5-27. Visitors can browse the many stands offering crafts and gifts, opt for one of the many eateries and enjoy music. Children can also have fund in the 300 square meter ice rink, in Santa Claus’ cottage where they can bring letters and take pictures or with the many holiday entertainers.
Bologna also has two important mentions under this category where Christmas Markets are an old tradition. Firstly, with the Fiera di Santa Lucia, one of the oldest fairs in Europe, takes place from November 17 to December 26, 9am to 8.30pm, along Strada Maggiore and offers gift items, sweets and nativity sets with unique statues of characters such as the Meravigliaand Dormiglione native to Bologna.
This next suggestion is an un-official addition to our list as it is technically not a market, but nonetheless it is a worthy entry especially in the holiday season: Naples. The city of Naples is synonymous with presepi, Nativity and this is especially true at Christmas time. Here you’ll find extraordinary Nativity sets and creations that will simply amaze you. Take a stroll along Via San Gregorio Armeno and Via del Presepe Napoletano for a closer look at the art of nativity sets with specialized shops and workshops.
written by Vanessa Viara