The festive season in Italy is made even more special with charming Christmas markets which pop up for around a month in villages and major cities across the nation.
Not only do Italy’s Mercatini di Natale capture the magical Christmas atmosphere, but they also make for a fun and unique way to discover local traditions, specialties and artisan products.
Italians also pride themselves on the elaborate crib displays and nativity scenes - many of them living - which feature at Christmas markets.
While the biggest markets are found in the South Tyrol region bordering Austria and Switzerland, piazze all the way down to the south come alive with markets during the holiday period, each reflecting the culture of the area.
Italy’s biggest and most famous Christmas market is the Christkindlmarkt in Bolzano’s Piazza Walther.
Set to unfold from November 23 to January 1, the market has been attracting thousands of visitors for nearly two decades.
Meandering through the market, you’ll come across stalls with traditional gifts, dazzling decorations and regional specialties like vin brulé (hot mulled wine) and strudel.
All of this, set against an enchanting winter backdrop and festive tunes makes for a wonderful day - or night - out.
Still in the north, the Trento Christmas market is another must-see.
Running from December 18 to January 6, markets in Piazza Fiera and Piazza Cesare Battisti will ooze festive spirit, and tourists and locals alike can admire traditional decorations and nativity scenes, and indulge in local specialties such as treccia mochèna (plaited pastry cake), polenta brustolada (grilled polenta) and canederli (dumplings).
Meanwhile in the region of Veneto, the striking city of Verona hosts the Nuremberg Christmas market in its main piazza.
Now in its tenth year, the market will take place from November 17 to December 26.
Inspired by the famous German Christmas markets, the event features more than 80 traditional wooden huts, selling regional foods, handicrafts and Christmas tree decorations.
Visitors will have the opportunity to taste German specialties such as bratwurst sausage and stollen (a Christmas fruit cake), all washed down with a cup of steaming mulled wine.
The entrance to the city of romance is illuminated with thousands of Christmas lights, making for a fairy-tale moment.
Moving further south to Tuscany, there are a variety of Christmas markets across the region’s capital of Florence.
However, the city’s biggest and most renowned market is set in the beautiful Piazza Santa Croce.
Running from November 28 to December 17, the festivities are also influenced by German culture and include a mixture of foreign and Italian exhibitors, local culinary specialties and live music and entertainment.
And finally, all roads lead to Rome.
At Christmas time, the Eternal City is adorned with lights, cribs and trees that create the most magical Christmas glow.
Several Christmas markets pop up around Italy’s capital during this period, the most popular being held at the iconic Piazza Navona.
Open from December 2 to January 6, the market showcases decorations, toys, local bites and sweets.
While it’s important to remember that most of these markets are closed on Christmas Day, that’s not to say you won’t have weeks to enjoy their indescribable beauty!