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CHRISTMAS

Seven of Italy’s most enchanting Christmas markets in 2022

Here are some of the most magical Christmas markets taking place in Italy this year.

Here are some of the best Christmas markets in Italy in 2022.
Here are some of the best Christmas markets in Italy in 2022. Photo by kelvin balingit on Unsplash

After two years of pandemic cancellations and restrictions, Italy’s Christmas markets will be back in full swing this festive season.

While the energy crisis means some towns are cutting back on lighting and limiting the hours of operation, there’s still plenty of magic to be found.

Whether your focus is on sipping mulled wine surrounded by snow-topped mountains, riding a ferris wheel, sampling German sausages or marvelling at light displays, Italy has something for everyone.

Without further ado, here are some of the country’s best Christmas markets in 2022.

Bolzano

One of Italy’s longest-running Christmas markets, the festive extravaganza in Bolzano’s Piazza Walther is also said to be the country’s largest, with around 80 stalls selling a variety of traditional handicrafts and local treats.

Resting at the foot of the snow-capped Dolomites, Bolzano’s pre-WWI history and proximity to the Austrian border means the city is steeped in Germanic influences, with a number of citizens speaking German as their first language.

This gives Bolzano’s Christmas market a German twist; expect to be offered candied fruit, apple strudel, cinnamon-spiced mulled wine and other alpine delights as you browse its chalet huts.

When? Until January 6th

Christmas balls on display in Bolzano's Christmas market.

Christmas balls on display in Bolzano’s Christmas market. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP.

Trento

While it hasn’t been running for quite as long as neighbouring Bolzano’s, Trento’s Christmas market has become almost as popular, with new stalls added every year.

Just like Bolzano, Trento is surrounded by maintains, which means you can take in views of stunning white peaks as you wander the old town’s cobbled streets warming your hands on a cup of vin brulè.

As usual, the market will be spread across Piazza Battisti and Piazza Fiera; the Trento city council has also published a calendar of key events happening every day as part of the city’s festive offering.

This year Trento’s Christmas market will have a ‘green’ focus – the use of clean energy, edible bread plates and recycled paper are all part of the concerted effort to limit the event’s environmental impact.

When? Until January 8th

Trento's Christmas market has grown rapidly in recent years.

Trento’s Christmas market has grown rapidly in recent years. Photo by ALBERTO PIZZOLI / AFP.

Milan

Throughout the month of December and into January, Milan’s Piazza del Duomo plays host to the city’s Christmas market, with almost 80 wooden huts popping up all over the main square.

Those who want to see Milan at its most Christmassy, however, will want to wait for the “Oh Bej! Oh Bej!” (“How beautiful! How beautiful!” in local dialect) festive fair held in the area surrounding the city’s castle, Castello Sforzesco.

This sprawling, centuries-old market is held to coincide with the Feast of Sant’Ambrogio, Milan’s patron saint, and is expected to take place as usual from December 7th-10th.

As a result of the energy crisis, Milan will turn on its Christmas lights two weeks later than usual this year, on December 7th – so you might want to time your visit accordingly if you want to witness the city’s illumination.

When? December 1st until January 6th (Piazza del Duomo market)

People walk across a Christmas market in downtown Milan as snow falls on December 8, 2021.

People walk across a Christmas market in downtown Milan as snow falls on December 8, 2021. Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP.

Cernobbio, Como

Lake Como’s roving ‘Città dei balocchi‘ or ‘Toytown’ Christmas fair this year moves to Cernobbio, where visitors can expect to find the town’s Villa Erba park transformed into a winter wonderland.

Fairytale characters, singing trees and a talking tower will greet adults and children who enter the park, with admission free to all.

Festivities are due to kick off at 5pm on December 7th with the opening of Magic Light festival, a mesmerising light display with projections of moving images.

On December 8th – Italy’s Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which for many in Italy signals the start of the festive period – light displays on Cernobbio’s tree and in the old town will be switched on, heralding the arrival of Christmas.

When? December 7th until January 8th

Florence

Florence has a range of Christmas markets, but the largest and best-known is the one on Piazza Santa Croce in front of the beautiful Santa Croce Basilica.

It’s run by the organisers of the Heidelberger Weihnachtsmarkt in Germany, which means you can expect authentic bratwurst, stollen, Glühwein, lebkuchen biscuits and German beer, as well as Austrian, Dutch, Hungarian, Polish, French and Italian treats.

This one closes a full week before Christmas, so if you’re planning an Italy Christmas markets tour you might want to make Florence your first stop.

When? Until December 18th

Florence's Christmas market is German-themed.

Florence’s Christmas market is German-themed. Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP.

Verona

Like Florence, Verona’s Christmas market is a collaboration with that of a German city; in this case, Nuremberg’s Christkindlmarkt.

At the main market on Piazza dei Signori you can expect to find sauerkraut, potatoes and German sausage, as well as fried donuts made with ricotta and coated in chocolate.

In addition to those on main square, the market stalls – which this year number some 100 huts – will fill Cortile del Mercato Vecchio and stretch intro surrounding squares and streets.

This year’s festive offering includes a Santa Claus house, a children’s train, two skating rinks, and a range of musical events.

Be sure to look out for the city’s famous 70m-high, 82m-long illuminated shooting star sculpture in Piazza Bra – installed in November and dismantled in January every year since 1984, the sight has become central to the Veronese Christmas experience.

When? Until December 26th

Salerno

Ensuring that Italy’s northern and central regions don’t get all of the glory, the Luci d’artista (Artist’s Lights) display in Salerno draws visitors from all over the world to this small city just east of the Amalfi coast.

This illuminated open-air exhibition runs the length of the main shopping street, up to the Christmas tree on Piazza Portanova, through the medieval city centre and up to the Villa Comunale public gardens.

Salerno’s Christmas market stalls occupy a stretch of the seafront, and this year will run from December 3rd-25th.

Accompanying the event will be a 55m-high ferris wheel, two jazz concerts, and a Santa Claus house (from December 10th to January 7th).

When? December 2nd until January 31st; Christmas market stalls December 3rd-25th.

The Luci d’artista lights display in Salerno attracts visitors from all over the world.

The Luci d’artista lights display in Salerno attracts visitors from all over the world. Photo by MARIO LAPORTA / AFP.

Member comments

  1. Bolzano certainly doesn’t have 80 stall this year. Far fewer.
    There’s also a mercatino artigianale close to the station.

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CHRISTMAS

Is Italy’s public transport running over Christmas and New Year?

If you're spending key dates over Christmas and New Year in Italy, can you expect to find trains and other transport services operating? Here's what you need to know.

Is Italy's public transport running over Christmas and New Year?

Question: My family are spending the holidays in Italy, and we’re wondering what sort of public transport services will be in place. I know we should expect a reduced timetable, but will some services still be up and running?

At any time of year, the quality and frequency of public transport services in Italy varies significantly between rural and urban areas, as well as between cities.

Areas that are usually poorly served by just the occasional bus could have an even more reduced service over the holidays – and you may well not be able to find out the revised schedule in advance.

That said, parts of the country that already have relatively robust public transport networks tend to keep them fairly active over the Christmas period.

Even on Christmas day itself, you’ll find the tens of high speed and regional trains that provide daily connections between major Italian cities and small towns running pretty much on a standard timetable.

Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP

Local public transport services are somewhat reduced, but don’t shut down entirely, as they do in some parts of the world.

In Rome, all bus, tram and metro services should run as normal on Christmas Eve until 9pm, with night buses kicking in from 11pm; as well as from 8:30am-1pm and 4.30pm-9pm on Christmas day.

On New Year’s Eve, buses and trams are scheduled to run until 9pm and the metro until 2.30am, with a few dedicated bus lines in place to take people to and from metro stops.

READ ALSO: How to make the most of a Christmas break in Rome

In Naples, it’s currently hoped that bus, metro and funicular services will run throughout the day on December 25th and January 1st, with the metro and funicular staying open until 2am on both dates – subject to operator Anm reaching an agreement with workers.

While Italy has been hit with a series of transport strikes over the past few months, there’s not much chance of major strike action being announced over Christmas.

That’s because Italian law bans unions from organising strikes which could impact the air travel sector – so general strikes and transport sector strikes are out – on certain busy travel dates (known as periodi di franchigia, or ‘exemption periods’). These include December 18th to January 7th, as well as much of August.

Some cities haven’t yet released their holiday timetables, but previous years give an indication of what you can expect.

In Milan last year, buses were operational from 7am-7.30pm on Christmas day, with night buses cancelled on the nights of 24th-25th and 25th-26th. New Year’s Eve operated on a Saturday timetable, with night buses running as normal.

Tram in Milan's city centre.

Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Bus services in Florence last year ran on a reduced holiday schedule until 1pm on Christmas day, on a normal timetable until 9pm on New Year’s Eve, and operated on a holiday timetable on December 26th and January 1st, 2nd and 6th.

The city’s trams ran on a slightly reduced schedule (every 10 minutes instead of every 5-6 at peak times) on Christmas Eve, Christmas day and New Year’s Eve, but ran until 2am on the three days.

If you’re in Rome over the Christmas period this year, you’re in luck: the city council are expanding the public transport services and have offered several free transport days for the month of December. 

On December 24th, all public transport around the city will be free.

And until January 8th, three new bus lines providing shuttle services from city car parks to the centre – ‘Free 1’, ‘Free 2’ and the 100 service – will also be free.

The move is part of an initiative by mayor Roberto Gualtieri to reduce traffic in the city centre over the busiest parts of the season.

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