Italy in December is the time for kids, Christmas Markets, opera and motor shows. It is also a time when the whole of the country transforms its streets and shops with its wonderful Christmas decorations. Despite the cold weather people are out and about enjoying the festivities and celebrations, roasted chestnuts being offered as street food, or hunkering down in the far north with a glass of gluwein.
There are 3 public holidays in Italy during December. The dates for them this year are as follows:
Immaculate Conception - Saturday 8th December, 2012
Christmas Day - Tuesday 25th December, 2012
St. Stephen's Day - Wednesday 26th December 2012
On these 3 days shops will be shut, and you will find that most museums will be closed too.
Weather in Italy in December
The weather in Italy in December is cold, no matter wether you are in the north or the south of the country. However, the further south you go the weather is definitely milder. December is also the time when the rain and snow falls. We were in Venice in December one year when it snowed, so snow can fall in the strangest of places.
If you are in the north and you are there for a skiing trip, then you won't mind the snow, however, it is the rain that can get you down and it certainly spoils sightseeing and photgraphic opportunities.
The other down side to visiting Italy in December is that older hotels don't always have such a great heating system and you might spend more time in your room trying to thaw out and keep warm than enjoying your surroundings. Heating in older hotels can be a bit of a hit and miss affair, so check on this before booking anywhere.
However, because this is an out of season travel period in Venice, beach resort areas and everywhere except at the ski resorts, you can expect to find some good hotel deals at this time. However, nothing comes cheap without a reason, and it is out of season because the weather is not the best.
Italy in December Events
Italy in December: Turin for Kids - Skating, Nativity Displays, Ice Maze;- Turin Piedmont (from December - 15th January 2013)
Turin is one of the best places to be in December for if you are traveling with kids as there is so much for them to do and see.
Turin really is a magical place to take the kids as in the Piazza Carlo Alberto they can go skating from the 2nd December. In the Piazzale Valdo Fusi from 8 December - 8 January this square has been set aside just for children aged 3-11 to enjoy and workshops for kids making Christmas decorations are held.
From 8 December - 8 January 2013
in Piazza Vittorio
there will be a large ice display. The Magical Maze Cube
(Cubo Labirinto Magico) will be set up and from the 20th December ice sculptors will chip away at the ice to create a magical playground for children.
There is also a lovely nativity scene that will be set up in the Piazza Castello
from 27th November - 15th January 2013
. There are 90 painted figures on wood as well as fairytale figures that are part of an Advent calendar. Every evening, at 6:00 p.m. from 1 - 24th December
children will see a new window being opened up for the countdown to Christmas.
From 8 December to 29 January
in the Borgo Medievale a reconstruction of Federico Bregolato's Presepe al Borgo
- a Village Nativity Scene - can be seen. This used to be an Italian tradition in the past that has now been brought back. The Medieval Village will be open Monday to Sunday from 10:00 a.m - 6:00 p.m.
In the Casa di Bussoleno
, a nativity scene has been built where the scale reproductions of the houses with the shops and its castle provide a backdrop to the nativity scene and to the traditional crafts of the region.
Finally, jump on the historic number 7 tramline
which will be decked out in Christmas decorations and will do a circular 7 km trip around the old town as well as going passed the Christmas markets.
Italy in December: La Scale Opera Season, Milan (7 December, 2012)
At the Scala Theater
the long-awaited annual opera season
opens on 7th December
, Saint Ambrose's Feast Day, the patron saint of Milan, and continues into July, and then again from September to Mid-November.
Opening night tickets are like hens' teeth, but after the frenzy has settled one can buy tickets for the various shows.
See www.teatroallascala.org for information and reservations
Italy in December: World's Largest Electronic Christmas Tree, Gubbio Umbria (7 December 2012 - 6 January 2013)
The world's largest electronic Christmas tree, known locally as the Gubbio Christmas Tree is lit up by the Pope on the 7th December, on the eve of the Immaculate Conception, via his iPad at the Vatican after a short message to the Italian people.
The tree is made of 3000 colored light bulbs, just over 5 miles of electrical cables and covers one side of Mount Ingino, near the town of Gubbio, Umbria. The tree is 2,100 feet high, 1 148 feet wide at its widest point and is topped with a shooting star that can be seen 80 miles away.
Italy in December: Pope's Midnight Mass and Blessing, Rome Lazio (24 and 25 December, 2012)
If you are visiting Rome at Christmas, on Christmas Eve, in St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican the Pope delivers Midnight Mass to thousands who gather in St. Peter's Square to watch the service on big screens for those who were not able to get inside the church.
Adding to the Christmas feel and festivities, a large Christmas tree stands in the square along with a nativity scene.
The Christmas Blessing of the Pope known locally as the "Urbi et Orbi" takes places in the Piazza di San Pietro, Rome at Midday on Christmas Day. People gather to listen to the blessing that is delivered from the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica.
Festivals in Italy in December
Italy in December: Live Nativity Procession, Barga Lucca, Tuscany (23 December 2012)
A live nativity procession Presepe Vivente
takes place in Barga Lucca where a few of the locals dress up as Jesus and Mary, and proceed through the town heralded with music and followed up with the donkey in tow, while the rest of the villagers follow, dressed up as traditional tradesmen and women.
Although there are several live nativity processions throughout Lucca this is the oldest.
The procession starts at 8:00 p.m. and winds itself around the streets until finally ending at the Duomo at 11:00 p.m.
Italy in December: The Virgin Mary's Belt, Prato, Tuscany (25 December 2012)
The Presentation of the Virgin Mary's Belt or girdle is the final and most lavish of the five occasions throughtout the year when the bishop brings out Mary's sacred girdle from its jewel-encrusted treasure chest and after mass and incense, presents it 3 times to the people gathered either inside the Duomo or to those standing in the piazza outside.
The belt was part of a dowry of a marriage between a Prato merchant and his bride from the Holy Land during the first crusade of 1096. Made from goat hair dyed green and embroidered with gold thread the relic is locked up using 3 different keys. The bishop of Prato keeps one and the other 2 are kept in the Mayor's office. The belt is said to be the one Mary handed to Thomas upon her Assumption.
There is a lot of pomp and ceremony attached to this religious festival with the mass, incense, drummers and musicians all helping to create the atmosphere. The other dates for when the girldle is brought out during the year are at Easter, May 1, August 15, and September 8.
Christmas Markets in Italy in December
Italy in December: Trento Christmas Market, Trento-Alto Adige - (20 November - 23 December 2012)
The Trento Christmas Market
is one of the largest in Italy, and frequented by many who come in their droves to pick up a bargain. They literally come by the bus load as over 100 buses come into the town each weekend bringing the bargain hunters.
Head for the Piazza Fiera
where is all happens at the 68 wooden huts, including 16 of them offering typical food of the area . Have a mulled wine or a hot toddy to warm you up. Also, while you are there, pop into Piazza del Duomo
where you will find a large nativity scene on display.
The market is open daily from 10:00 - 19:30 and on Friday and Saturday nights the opening times are extended to 20:30.
During the same time there are other towns in Trentino-Alto Adige that hold their Christmas Markets; Bressanone, Brunico, Merano, Vitipeno and Bolzana
Italy in December: Rome Christmas Market, Rome Lazio (26 November 2012 - 6 January 2013)
The Rome Christmas Market takes place in the Piazza Navona and considered to be the biggest and most beautiful Christmas market in the whole of Italy. Stalls buzz with people buying Christmas gifts, decorations and food.
Father Christmas is there, well, the Italian version in Babbo Natale, and even more special for the children is at the end of the fair on Epiphany Day when Befana the witch hands out candy to good children.
Throughout the city you will be able to enjoy a number of nativity scenes. One of the oldest is at the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. There are other nativity scenes around Rome, including one in St Peter's Square and the other in the Piazza Navona.
Italy in December: Torino Christmas Market, Turin Piedmont (3-24 December 2012)
Torino Christmas Market - Europe's largest open maket, is where you can head to pick up those last minute Christmas gifts and stocking fillers and enjoy the ambience and excitement of the anticipated celebration. The markets take place in the Cortile del Maglio, and the Borgo Dora piazzas and gardens, and includes Sundays.
With nearly 150 stalls of exhibitors from all over Italy, there is plenty to see and buy from local handicrafts such as candles, ceramics, embroidery, jewelry, stained glass and wooden objects to Christmas decorations and traditional foods and wine from the Piedmont region.
Opening Times: Mon-Fri 3:00 p.m. - 8:00p.m.; Sat & Sun 10:00 a.m.- 9:00 p.m.
Italy in December: Oh Bej! Oh Bej! Milan, Lombardy (6-10 December 2012)
This ancient Christmas market of about 350 stalls takes place in Milan in celebration of the city's patron saint. Streets are crammed with stalls and crowds to drink mulled wine as the temperatures drop and to sample the local foods on offer; pancakes, roasted chestnuts and cooked meats to name just a few items to whet your appetite. However, the main focus is on sweets and delights for the children, who will be entranced with this very pretty annual fair.
You can also buy books, handicrafts, food products, prints, plants and toys.
The fair takes place in the areas around the Sforza Castle and the Piazza Castello and is open from early morning to early evening.
Italy in December: Syracuse Christmas Market, Syracuse Sicily (8-21 December 2012) The Christmas Market at Syracuse, Sicily is considered one of the biggest events in the South of Italy and offers quite a lot and is very popular with the locals and even Sicilians further afield.
Christmas ornaments, embroidery and local handicrafts, clothing and even sweets can be bought at these busy markets that take place in the Epipoli section of Syracuse.
New Years Eve in Italy
There are plenty of New Years Eve celebrations throughout Italy, but more so in the cities, especially Rome.
Italy in December: New Years Eve in Rome Italy Rome is one of the places to be on New Years Eve with lots of crowds, event and spectacular firework displays especially in the Piazza del Popolo where there is lots of entertainement including a live concert which starts early and continues well into the small hours of the morning, stopping just to allow the crowds to enjoy the fireworks and to wish each other Happy New Year.
Another popular venue on New Years Eve in Rome Italy is the Colosseum. Here too you can enjoy some spectacular firework displays and this location is popular with locals and tourists alike. Transportation is good for the evening and there are plenty of taxis at hand. If you want to catch public transport:
Piazza del Popolo
Piazza del Popolo is on the western edge of the Borghese Gardens and can be reached by Subway A to Flamino Piazza del Popolo which is about 200 meters away.
The Colosseum can be reached by the Blue subway line to Colosseo.
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