Ten of the most magical Christmas markets in Italy

Ten of the most magical Christmas markets in Italy
Christmas decorations at the market in Merano, South Tyrol. Photo: DepositPhotos
The Christmas season has officially begun in Italy, with festive markets springing up all over the country.

While it might not be the first country you'd associate with winter cosiness, Italian towns and cities tend to go all out during the holidays and, as part of the festivities, many put on large Christmas markets.

READ ALSO: How to celebrate Christmas like the Italians

There are large, central European-style markets in the South Tyrol region, bordering Austria, but festive delights can be found across the entire country, each offering a unique twist alongside the staples of mulled wine and handmade Christmas gifts.

Here's our guide to the best Italian Christmas markets across Italy.

Bressanone, South Tyrol

When? November 25th – January 6th

This beautiful market in South Tyrol is the perfect way to start the Christmas season. With opportunities for carriage rides through the city and a multimedia music and light show, the Christmas market in Bressanone offers a festive atmosphere as well as the usual handicrafts and tasty treats.

Merano, South Tyrol

When? November 25th – January 6th

The Christmas market in Merano has a wide range of activities to thrill and delight, falling under this year's theme of 'Enjoyment and Recreation'. In the central square, you can watch figure skating shows and try out ice-skating yourself, before warming up with a cup of tea or mulled wine in the heated stalls. The patron saint of Merano, Saint Nicholas, will also parade through the streets, handing out gifts to all children – but watch out for the Krampus, the demons who punish those who have been naughty!

Santa Maria Maggiore, Piedmont

When? December 9th-11th 

Mark this weekend in your calendar to ensure you don't miss out on Piedmont’s biggest Christmas market, with 200 stalls offering a variety of crafts and homemade specialities. Here you have the opportunity to try the famous “stincheèt”, a thin sheet of flour cooked on a stove topped with butter and a pinch of salt. Craftsmen open the doors to their workshops allowing you a behind-the-scenes experience of local crafts, there will be carolling and of course magnificent decorations. 

Verona. Photo: Depositphotos

Verona, Veneto

When? November 18th – December 26th

Verona has a tradition of romance and you're sure to fall in love with this market, which takes its influence from Germany. You'll find German foods, from bratwurst sausage to stollen (a Christmassy fruit bread) and Lebkuchen (German gingerbread) in the 60 stalls lining the city's streets. The entrance to the city is illuminated with thousands of Christmas lights, setting the scene for a fairy-tale experience.


Photo: Jessica Phelan/The Local

Naples, Campania

For Christmas magic at any time of the year, visit Naples where the art of building presepi (nativity scenes) is so important that, in one part of town, it's always Christmas.

The narrow street of Via San Gregorio Armeno is home to the city's renowned nativity craftspeople, who make and sell figurines for the elaborate displays found in Italian homes and squares over the festive season – from the traditional bible figures to those of celebrities and politicians.

Napoli has quite a few more unusual Christmas traditions too, making it one place you really must visit in December.

Pordenone, Friuli-Venezia Giulia

When? November 25th – January 8th

Pordenone's Christmassy extravaganza offers something for everyone. Activities include a carousel, ice rink and live music ranging from DJ sets to jazz to Christmas carols (naturally). There are also story-telling sessions for children and magic shows, alongside stalls with crafts and tasty delights. 

Photo: Depositphotos

Vipiteno, South Tyrol

When?  November 25th – January 6th

During the Advent period, this medieval town in South Tyrol becomes rich with the smell of freshly baked Christmas pastries as the traditional wooden stalls line the streets. From musical performances to decoration-making workshops to the traditional Saint Nicholas parade, there's plenty to do, and a local chocolatier will offer delicious demonstrations of chocolate sculpture-making.

Rovereto, Trentino

When? November 25th – January 6th

In this north-eastern town you can expect a beautiful light display, a Christmas train, a street dedicated to nativity scenes, and a magical Santa's Grotto. There's also a 'Market of Solidarity', where you can buy crafts which will support local charity organizations, spreading the Christmas cheer even further.

Florence, Tuscany 

Photo: Depositphotos

When? November 30th – December 18th

Although there are a variety of Christmas markets in Florence, the biggest and most famous is in the beautiful Santa Croce square. Drawing on German traditions, the wooden huts house a mixture of foreign and Italian exhibitors so you're sure to find some unique gifts as well as delicious food. Children will love the carousel in the square, and music concerts will be taking place too. 

Bolzano, South Tyrol

Photo: Depositphotos

When? November 24th – January 6th

Located in Italy’s South Tyrol, this is Italy's largest Christmas market and it's been going for nearly 20 years, attracting thousands of tourists every time. Should you choose to join them, you'll be rewarded with beautiful decorations, traditional Christmas tunes and festive themes with a German flavour from cookies to apple strudel. 

Cagliari, Sardinia

When? December 5th-28th

Sardinia may be better known as a summer beach destination, but there's no reason you can't get into the Christmas spirit there as well. At the Cagliari markets you'll find local food, toys, and crafts, and if they prove popular they may stay open until January 6th.

READ ALSO: The food and drink you need for an Italian Christmas feast


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