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Italy's Christmas markets: Where and when to visit in 2023

The Local Italy
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Italy's Christmas markets: Where and when to visit in 2023
It's worth seeking out Italy's best Christmas markets. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP.

With Italy's Christmas season running until Epiphany on January 6th, you still have a chance to catch some of the country's best Christmas markets.

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While it may not be the first country that comes to mind when you think of winter cosiness, there's no denying that Italy goes all out for Christmas, from giant nativity sets to dazzling light shows.

And in towns and cities in the centre-north of the country in particular, that commitment to the holiday produces some pretty impressive Christmas markets.

Whether you prefer sipping mulled wine surrounded by snow-covered mountains, chatting with friends around a fire pit, nibbling on pretzels or marvelling at light displays, Italy has something for everyone. Below we've listed eight of the most magical Christmas markets around the country.

Santa Maria Maggiore, Piedmont

The Christmas fair in Piedmont's Santa Maria Maggiore may last just three days, but it packs plenty of punch (not to mention mulled wine) into one long weekend.

More than 200 exhibitors are due to attend this year's market, selling crafts and homemade delicacies that include roasted chestnuts and local Vigezzo coffee.

READ ALSO: Ten Christmas nativity scenes you'll only see in Italy

While the stalls themselves won't open until the Friday morning, festivities are due to kick off for the first time this year on the Thursday evening before, with music, juggling, light and fire displays, aerial performances and a flash mob.

Visitors should make sure to sample stincheèt, a thin sheet of flour cooked on a stove topped with butter and a pinch of salt. 

When? December 8th-10th

Bolzano/Bozen

The Christmas markets in mountainous Alto Adige/Südtirol, at the foot of the snow-capped Dolomites, are some of Italy's oldest and best.

The area formerly belonged to Austria, and as an autonomous province it retains its own distinct identity and culture; you're as likely to hear German spoken here as Italian.

READ ALSO: Six quirky Italian Christmas traditions you should know about

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The festive extravaganza in the capital of Bolzano, or Bozen, is said to be one of Italy's longest-running, with tens of stalls selling a variety of traditional handicrafts and local treats.

As you'd expect, Bolzano's Christmas market has an Austrian feel; expect to be offered candied fruit, apple strudel, cinnamon-spiced mulled wine and other alpine delights as you browse its chalet huts.

When? November 24th-January 6th

Merano/Meran

Just a half hour drive (or if you're feeling energetic, two-hour bike ride) from Bolzano is the town of Merano, which hosts another of Alto Adige's famous Christmas markets (the ones in Vipiteno/Sterzing, Bressanone/Brixen, and Brunico/Bruneck are also celebrated).

Its stands run along the promenade of the Passirio river and surrounding piazzas, with fires to warm your hands, vendors selling local delicacies and artisanal products, and a children's skating rink, all under a backdrop of snowy peaks.

On December 6th, Merano's patron Saint Nicholas will parade through the market, distributing gifts to children who've been good but watch out for the Krampus, masked demons who run after him punishing those who've been naughty. The Krampus are also scheduled to make an appearance this year on December 5th.

When? November 24th-January 6th

Arezzo, Tuscany

Though it sits squarely in the central region of Tuscany, Arezzo's 'Tyrolese' Christmas fair pays tribute to the Alpine markets of Alto Adige.

Local artisans from Austria and Germany, as well as Südtirol, will be in attendance selling traditional crafts and foods, including filled pretzels, spatzle, polenta, dumplings, raclette and ham hock, as well as Tyrolean beers.

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

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Arezzo's fair also features a lights show, with animated Christmassy images projected onto the walls of the historic buildings surrounding the market squares.

A Santa Claus house, optional guided tours, and an illuminated balloons display on November 26th are some of the other attractions on offer at this year's market.

When? November 18th-January 1st

Milan

Milan's famous Christmas market Oh Bej! Oh Bej! (meaning "How Beautiful!" in local dialect) falls on December 7th-10th, timed to coincide with the feast day of city's patron saint, Sant'Ambrogio. 

The fair is held in front of Castello Sforzesco in the historic Brera district, with antiques, toys and bric-a-brac sold along with traditional Christmas treats such as panettone and torrone (nougat).

If you can't make those dates, Milan hosts another Christmas market outside the Piazza del Duomo throughout the month of December and into early January, with over 60 stalls and a Santa's grotto.

When? December 1st-January 6th; December 7th-10th

Florence

Florence's Christmas Weihnachtsmarkt's pedigree is - as you might guess from its name - German; it's run by the organisers of the Heidelberger Weihnachtsmarkt in Germany.

That means you can expect to find authentic  stollen, bratwurst, Glühwein, lebkuchen biscuits and German beer, as well as Austrian, Hungarian, Polish, Dutch, French and Italian treats.

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The market is held on on Piazza Santa Croce in front of the historic Santa Croce Basilica, and carol singing and flag-waving processions will form part of the festivities.

As usual, 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? November 18th-December 17th

Verona 

Verona's Christmas market is twinned with Nuremberg's Christkindlmarkt - making it, like Florence's Weihnachtsmarkt, a German-Italian fusion affair.

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

Some 100 stands will fill this central square as well as the Cortile Mercato Vecchio, Cortile del Tribunal, Loggia del Consiglio and surrounding streets, with an ice rink on the Arsenale that will remain open until January 8th.

Look out for a giant illuminated shooting star sculpture, which has been installed in the city's Piazza Bra every winter since 1984 and has become central to the Veronese Christmas experience.

When? November 17th-December 26th

Montepulciano, Tuscany

Advertising itself as the largest in central Italy, Montepulciano's Christmas market features over 65 wooden stalls in and around the main Piazza Grande.

This medieval Tuscan hill town is most famous for its locally produced red wine, which visitors will have the opportunity to sample on the 'Christmas terrace' overlooking the Val d'Orcia.

Clothing, leather goods and local crafts will be on offer along with hot drinks and snacks, and the medieval fortress will become 'Santa Claus's Castle', with a magic kitchen, elves' bedrooms, and a sleigh in the garden.

When? Weekends from November 18th-December 17th; December 22nd-January 7th

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