Best destinations to spend Christmas in Italy according to Locals
Updated: Nov 21
When it comes to Christmas, Italy is no exception as Christmas is celebrated with an Immense rhythm in all over the country. Italy has so many magical places that you could visit to spend your Christmas vacations. Locals always knows the best in the country, therefore, this article is all about the best celebrations of Christmas in Italy according to locals.
In addition to the traditional big cities of Italy, locals prefer to spend their Christmas in the smaller yet more magical places in Italy. Usually, Italians prefer to spend their Christmas holidays in the places where there is also a possibility for Skiing (typically in the northern Italy). Also, there are many Italians who prefer to explore the cities to enjoy the unique festive vibes.
In this article, we will take you through the best destinations to spend your Christmas in Italy according to locals.
Let’s get started!
1. Bolzano and villages of South Tyrol or Alto Adige (Best place to spend Christmas in Italy)
Christmas In Italy is best celebrated in the south Tyrol region of Italy (also called as Alto Adige in Italian). The south Tyrol region is surrounded by the Dolomites Mountain range and spending Christmas vacations amid the beautiful Dolomites mountains is the magical experience where the little quaint villages come to life with the wonderful decorations of festive lights. The Christmas period is very special in South Tyrol, especially the period of pre-Christmas when the numerous wooden Christmas markets decorate the mountain villages with a variety of shops like handicrafts, Christmas decorations, hot wine, Gastronomy and many more. The Scent of local food like traditional fruitcake, Zelten and apple strudel will surely make you feel hungry while exploring the Christmas markets. The best traditional Christmas markets in Italy are found in the South Tyrol region of Italy, mainly Bolzano or Bolzen which is the capital city of the south Tyrol region, Merano or Meran, Brixen or Bressanone, Sterzing or Vipiteno and Bruneck or Brunico. The Christmas markets in South Tyrol usually start on the 24th of November and end on the 6th of January every year.
The languages spoken in the south Tyrol region are German and Italian and both are their official languages. Therefore, all the cities, towns and villages in south Tyrol are named in German as well as Italian languages. Although, the German is spoken majorly in the region.
If you are planning to spend your Christmas vacation in South Tyrol, then the Bolzano is a great place as a base to stay. All other villages in the region can be easily explored by trains, buses and cars from Bolzano.
Bolzano is the capital city of the South Tyrol region and home to the largest Christmas markets in the South Tyrol region of Italy. During the period of Christmas, the Bolzano transforms into a magical place as the whole city is decorated with glittering Christmas lights.
The piazza Walther in the city centre of Bolzano hosts the Christmas markets of the city with over 80 colourful shops with a variety of local foods, hot wines, handicrafts, and many more add real charm to the Christmassy atmosphere of the city. The Piazza Walther also hosts the largest Christmas tree in the city. The scent of delicious local food and the festive music played by the band contribute to the festive vibe in the city.
There are also different events organised for children during Christmas which makes it one of the best places to spend your Christmas in Italy.
There is also a lot to explore in and around Bolzano During the Christmas vacations. The most popular site of Bolzano is South Tyrol Archaeological Museum where the preserved mummy of Otzi the Iceman is displayed. You can also try some adventurous outdoor experiences such as winter hikes and sledge experiences. There are also some private tours you can join for outdoor winter activities.
If you are staying in Bolzano, then you can also try private tours of Christmas markets to Merano, Bressanone and Vipteno.
Where to stay in Bolzano?
For your winter vacations, we have shortlisted some great picks for your stay in Bolzano.
Parkhotel Laurin: The best luxurious pick to stay in Bolzano which is located in the heart of Bolzano.
Hotel Stiegl Scala: A Hotel with excellent location, wonderful service and great food. One of the most recommended hotels in the Bolzano.
Palais Hörtenberg: Lovely, clean and bright apartments with comfy beds, super clean bathrooms and lovely staff. Best pick at an affordable price if you prefer the Apartments for your stay.
Parkhotel Mondschein: Top hotel with modern styling, old architecture superb facilities and super clean rooms. It is located in the centre of the old town of Bolzano.
Brixen or Bressanone
Trip to spend Christmas in Italy is incomplete without experiencing the festive vibes of a countryside. The Brixen or Bressanone is the oldest town in the south Tyrol region and the most popular ski resort in the Dolomites. It also hosts beautiful and vibrant Christmas markets during the festive season which makes it an ideal place to spend your Christmas in Italy.
During Christmas, the Brixen or Bressanone transforms into a magical place with the decorations of Glittering Christmas lights, Christmas trees and their huge Christmas markets in the centre of the town. The Christmas markets in Brixen are the most vibrant ones including more than 3o wooden Christmas stores for Local Bakery products, hot wines, handicrafts, winter clothing and many more. In the year 2023, you can also visit the Hofburg Palace of Brixen to witness the magical light show called Colors-A Homage to Piece. It's a 20-minute show of lights and music based on the theme of Peace. You will need to pay an entry fee to witness the show, for adults, it is 13 Euro and for kids, it is 3 to 3.5 Euro.
Being located on the foot of the Dolomites mountains mainly Mt. Plose, it welcomes guests from all over Italy and beyond. Also being a ski resort, it is usually preferred by Italians to spend their Christmas vacations.
The Brixen has around 43 km of stunning ski slopes suitable for both children and adults. Therefore, it is an ideal location to spend your Christmas holidays. Find more information on Skiing in Brixen below:
Brixen is located around 40 KM north of Bolzano and can be easily reached by Trains or buses.
Where to stay in Brixen?
Here are our top picks to stay in Brixen:-
Hotel Clara: The modern hotel, with spacious rooms and fantastic views of the mountains, is one of the top picks to stay in Brixen.
Gerharts Premium City Living: The best apartments in the town and great value for your Money. Equipped with all premium amenities, this is a top pick if you prefer apartments to stay in Brixen.
Garden Apartment Untermühle: The specious apartments with river views, free WiFi and free private parking are one of the best picks for your stay in Brixen.
Merano or Meran
Merano is another gem of South Tyrol which is an ideal destination for spending your Christmas in Italy. Merano is mainly popular for its unique festive atmosphere contributed by the streets decorated with glittering Christmas lights, the Christmas markets with booths for Gastronomy, Spices, Christmas decorations, traditional objects like nutcrackers, handmade artefacts, mulled wines and many more. Strolling through its old town centre during Christmas is a great experience as the streets and shops at the centre are uniquely decorated for Christmas. Merano Christmas market is the second largest Christmas market in South Tyrol region after Bolzano with around 80 traditional wooden booths.
Christmas markets of Merano start from 24th November to 6th January typically every year. During the peak winter, Merano is always covered with snow which makes it an ideal destination to spend the snowy Christmas in Italy.
Merano is located about 30 KM to the north of Bolzano and can be easily reached by Car, bus or train.
Merano is also popular for relaxing thermal pools and saunas. During the wintertime, it’s great to experience a thermal bath with spectacular views of the mountains.
Where to stay in Merano?
Here are our top picks for your stay in Merano:
Kuntino Suites: These are apartments located in the heart of Merano and equipped with a kitchen and all necessary amenities.
City Hotel Merano: If you prefer luxurious Hotel accommodation instead of apartments then the City Hotel Merano is the best choice for you since it’s one of the top-rated Hotels in Merano and equipped with all 4-star amenities.
Sterzing or Vipiteno
Nestled in between the mountains, the quaint and picturesque town of Sterzing or Vipiteno is another great destination to spend your Christmas in Italy.
During the festive seasons, Sterzing or Vipiteno gets jewelled up with glittering Christmas decorations and one of the best Christmas markets in the region. Not to forget that Sterzing has its own sunny terrace called Mount Cavallo which is home to a beautiful ski area that is suitable for Kids as well as expert skiers. The historic town centre of Sterzing is a blend of beautiful buildings and medieval square and a Gothic church in the centre with views of mountains in the background.
The Christmas markets of Sterzing are no exception as they are full of booths for Gastronomy, Christmas decorations, traditional local handicrafts and many more.
Get more information on skiing in Sterzing or Vipiteno here:-
Sterzing or Vipiteno is located around 68 KM to the north of Bolzano and can be easily reached by car and train.
Bruneck or Brunico
Bruneck or Brunico is another top destination to spend your Christmas holidays amid the heart of the Dolomites and is preferred by the locals. The little old town of Bruneck is home to the picturesque castle called the Bruneck Castle which lies on the hill beneath the Bruneck town. The town has all the characteristics of typical South Tyrol in terms of the building style and traditions.
During Christmas, Bruneck town welcomes tourists from around Italy and beyond as the atmosphere of the town turns into the Christmas town we see in the movies. During the winter the town is usually covered with snow and during Christmas time, it gets its spectacular decorations with Christmas lights, Christmas trees and wonderful Christmas markets.
The Bruneck town is located in the footsteps of popular ski resorts called Kronplatz, Speikboden and Klausberg which are suitable for expert skiers as well as bigginers. If you are a fan of cross-country skiing then Bruneck will be a great place for you as it has Europe’s biggest cross-country skiing network.
During winter Bruneck town offers an attractive and cost-saving package inclusive of a stay and ski pass for 4 and 8 days.
Get more information on Skiing in Bruneck here:-
Bruneck is located around 78 KM to the north of Bolzano and can be easily reached by Car, train or bus.
2. Aosta Valley (Valle d’Aosta):
Aosta Valley is another popular destination to spend vacations of Christmas in Italy among Locals since it has a magical festive atmosphere, it is covered in a white blanket of snow during Christmas, it has a wonderful Christmas market and, most importantly, is also a popular ski resort in Italy for winter sports.
If you are a skier, then spending Christmas in the Aosta Valley is always a good idea. Aosta Valley is an Italian region and a picturesque valley between the Alps bordering France and Switzerland. The valley is centred in the town of Aosta which is around 190 kilometres north of Milan.
The main towns to be visited in Aosta Valley are Aosta, Courmayeur and Cervinia.
Aosta is the capital of the region of Aosta Valley. Surrounded by the majestic alpine mountain range, Aosta has a beautiful atmosphere during Christmas as it is covered in snow most of the time during the winter. The town hosts amazing Christmas markets in its centre with cute Christmas shops for Christmas decor, handicrafts, pastries, antiques, chocolates, bakeries, winter clothing, hot wine, woodcrafts etc. The town is also nicely decorated in every corner by Christmas lights. The Christmas markets usually start in Aosta from 25th November till 7th January every year.
Aosta is also called a little Rome of the Alps as it still has well-preserved ruins of Roman architecture built around the year 25 B.C. It is home to Roman ruins like the Arch of Augustus, the Roman Amphitheatre, and the Roman Bridge.
Most importantly, in addition to the festive vibes around the town, it is also home to one of the finest ski areas in Italy called the Pila Snowland which is the main reason of Popularity among the Locals to spend their Christmas vacations. It has a wide range of ski Pistes suitable for both experts and beginners.
Get more information on skiing in Pila Aosta here:-
Courmayeur is an Italian counterpart of the wonderful French hamlet called Chamonix. In fact, it is connected with Chamonix with a series of mountain railways. Located on the foot of majestic Mont Blanc, the Courmayeur is one of the most wonderful places to spend your Christmas in Italy. It also offers a breathtaking view from every corner of the town.
Courmayeur has a beautiful festive atmosphere during the Christmas month. During winter, the town is mostly covered under snow and has a unique festive vibe during the Christmas period as it is wonderfully decorated with Christmas lights. It hosts its Christmas markets in the centre of the town with a wide range of shops from delicious traditional sweets to winter clothing, from art pieces of home decor to the delicious varieties of cheese. The Christmas markets in Courmayeur usually start on November 25th and end on the 7th of January every year. Courmayeur is around 40 kilometres from Aosta and can be easily reached by Car.
The main reason why Courmayeur is a popular destination for Christmas among locals is because of its huge ski area that is connected with the Pistes of French hamlet Chamonix. The ski pistes in Courmayeur are also suitable for beginners as well as expert skiers. Get more information on Skiing in Courmayeur here:-
Cervinia is another wonderful winter destination in the Aosta Valley which must be on your list if you are spending your Christmas in Italy and especially in Aosta Valley.
Cervinia is surrounded by majestic mountains including one of the most famous mountains in the world called the Matterhorn of Zermatt. During Christmas, the town transforms into a magical place as the whole town is decorated with Christmas lights and Christmas markets in the town centre add up the festive vibes to the town. It is a good destination for winter holidays, especially with family and kids.
Cernivia is more popular for its large ski slopes suitable for Kids and expert Skiers. The most unique thing about the Cervenia is its unique ski slope that is interconnected with the Zermatt ski slope which makes it one of very few cross-country ski slopes in the world. This means you can start skiing in Switzerland towards the downhills all the way to Cervinia in Italy. Get more information on Skiing in Cervinia here:-
Cervinia is located around 45 km from Aosta and can be easily reached by Car.
When it comes to Christmas, the city of fashion is no exception and should be in your list if you are spending your Christmas in Italy. The Duomo di Milano in the city centre is where the greatest Christmas vibes can be found as it hosts the main Christmas markets of the city. The Piazza Vittoria Emanuele II where the best lighting decorations can be found every year.
The Christmas Markets in Milan usually has more than 50 booths including traditional pastries, Christmas decorations, cheese shops, winter clothing, home interiors, Artifacts, handicrafts, perfumes and many more.
Once you had enough of the city centre, then you should visit the little Venice of Milan called Naviglio where the unique lighting decoration over the canals is the main attraction during Christmas. Naviglio is also a great place to hang out in the evening and enjoy your dinner along the canal.
The most important tradition of Milan during festive period is its main event cum Christmas markets called oh Bej! Oh, Bej! Which is organised in honour of Sant Ambrogio who was a Patron of the city. It is usually celebrated during the period of 7th to 10th December every year and typically lasts for only 4 days. It is nothing but the Christmas markets with a wide variety of stores like handcrafted toys, Honey, dried meat, sausages, roasted chestnuts, cheese, metal arts, sweet shops, and many more.
The Main Christmas markets in the city centre typically start on 1st December and last till 6th January every year.
In addition to the main Christmas markets at the city centre and oh Bej! Oh, Bej, there are also smaller Christmas markets in other areas of the city like Mercatino degli Elfi (Which means the Market of Elves) which is more popular for children due to different fun activities for kids including the ice skates, Santa house, etc. Also, the Christmas markets at the Banco di Garambombo are the most unique Christmas market in Italy as it sells products which are environmentally sustainable which promotes the lifestyle of Zero waste.
If you are in MIlan, then there are nemoerous opportunities for a day trips to the neighnoring towns. Find more details of Best day trips from Milan in following artical:-
Most importantly, if you are fond of shopping, Christmas is the best period for shopping in Milan as the different outlets run attractive Christmas discounts.
Milan is also a home to a Architectural marvals like Duomo di Milano, Piazza Vittoria Emanuele II, Sforzesco Castle and one of the most popular painting in the world by Leonardo Da vinci "The Last Supper". Always remember to book your entrance tickets in advance since usually you will have to stand in a Long queue if you decide to book in a last minute. You can book your entrance tickets below :-
Venice is one of the best places to visit in the world and visiting Venice during the Christmas period is the most unique experience as the canals of the city are decorated with the wonderful glittering Christmas lights. Taking a Gondola ride through the Canals beneath the decorated bridges is truly a magical experience. Venice is the dream destination for many reasons and if you are planning to spend your Christmas in Italy then Venice must deserve a visit.
If you want to visit Venice then the Christmas holidays will be the right time since the city is less crowded than in summer and also it has a lot to offer during Christmas, mainly its diverse Christmas markets where you will find the local traditional as well as the international products. The main and largest Christmas markets in the city can be found in the main square called Campo Santo Stefano. The Christmas markets of Venice have a wide range of products including the popular Venetian Masks, homemade Murano glass products, ceramic products, delicious traditional food items, a variety of cheese and many more.
In addition to the main Christmas markets, the city also hosts Christmas markets at Campo San Bortolo and Campo dei Santi Apostoli which are equally beautiful and worth a visit. There are also indoor Christmas markets in Venice hosted inside the Ca’ Zenobio palace which are mainly popular for fine handicrafts. In addition to the Christmas markets, the city also hosts different events during the Christmas time which makes it one of the best places to visit during Christmas in Italy. If you are with the kids, the Compo San Polo would be a place for you as it hosts a huge skating area where the kids and adults can enjoy skating.
In addition to the mainland, the islands of Murano and Burano are also decorated with festive lights and these islands deserve a visit during the Christmas period.
Venice became more picturesque during the Christmas time due to the decoration and colours of the festival. If you are spending Christmas in Venice, you will also get a chance to see a Santa riding Gondola in the canals.
Venice is also a home to some of the best medieval Architectures like Basilica di San Marco, Doge's Palace, Ponte di Rialto and San Marco square. Visit to venice is incompleted without exploring these masterpieces. Book your extrance tickets below:-
The Eternal City of Rome is one of the best cities to spend a Christmas in Italy. In fact, the city of Rome can be best explored in winter when it is less crowded than other seasons of the year. Also, it gets transformed into a wonderful place during Christmas as it gets adorned by beautiful Christmas lights, Christmas trees and huge Christmas markets. Being an important city of the Christian faith, Christmas is celebrated with immense rhythm in every corner of the city. Also, many people gather in St. Peter’s Basilica to worship during the Christmas Eve Mass where the Pope himself joins the mass with the People.
There are many Christmas markets in Rome, the main Christmas markets of the city are found in the Piazza Navona, which is usually full of traditional shops for Sweets, traditional food, winter clothing, Handicrafts, Christmas decorations, cheese etc. The Christmas Markets at Piazza Novana usually start from the beginning of December and end on the 6th of January every year.
There are other Christmas markets to visit in Rome that are found in the Campo dei Fiori, Borghese Garden, Monti, etc.
During Christmas time, the streets of the city are wonderfully decorated with Christmas lights. When you are in Rome during Christmas, don’t miss to explore the historic centre after sunset around the popular destinations like the Spanish steps, Trevi fountain, pantheon, etc. since these areas are wonderfully decorated with Christmas lights.
The Eternal City has much to explore irrespective of any season of the year. The most popular sites like the Colosseum, St. Peters Basilica, Roman Forum, Travi Fountain, Piazza Venezia, Pantheon, Spanish steps and most importantly the Vatican Museum tells a story of a mighty Roam Realm. Make sure to book your entrance tickets to the Colosseum and Vatican Museum in advance since they are difficult to get at the last minute. You can book them in advance from Viator from following buttons:-
Another popular gem of Italy, the City of Florence is also a great place to explore during the Christmas in Italy. Its majestic cathedral Santa Maria also called Duomo di Firenze is always the must-visit destination in Italy.
During the festive season of Christmas, the city of Florence also gets adorned by glittering Christmas lights, the Christmas decorations of the shops, the Christmas trees in the piazza and most importantly the traditional Christmas markets. In fact, like any other city in Italy, winter is a great time to visit as you get you see the magical Christmas atmosphere and the fewer tourists.
Usually, the Christmas season starts in Florence in the middle of November when the Christmas markets open in squares. Also, on 8th December every year, the largest Christmas tree of the city in Piazza del Duomo is turned on with a little ceremony to begin the festive season. The Christmas markets of Florence typically start on the 18th or 19th of November and end on the week before Christmas. The main Christmas markets in the city are open at Piazza Santa Croce where the different shops for traditional Tuscan food, sweets, cheese, wine, home décor, Christmas decorations and many more can be found. Other areas of the city host the Christmas markets like Piazza del Duomo, Giardino della Fortezza and Palazzo Corsini which are equally beautiful and worth a visit. On Christmas Eve, you will also be able to attend the midnight mass at the Piazza duomo di Firenze.
Florence is a very important city in Italy as it is home to some of the most popular arts in the world like Michelangelo’s David and Uffizi Gallery. Also, it is home to the 2nd largest basilica in the world which is Duomo di Firenze. Undoubtedly, the most famous and most beautiful pedestrian bridge in the world and the most popular site in Florence Ponte Vecchio is the main attraction of the city.
While in Florence, don’t miss a visit to Piazza Michael Angelo for a most beautiful panoramic view of the city.
Also, remember to book your entrance tickets in advance when you are in Florence since at the last moment, you will have to stand in a long queue for the entrance tickets. You can book your entrance in advance from following buttons:-
Siena, the medieval walled city, and the gem of Tuscany is another top destination in visit during Christmas in Italy. Sienna is an old city surrounded by wonderful Tuscan landscapes and not on the list of many people visiting Italy. However, it is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Italy.
During Christmas, the centre of the medieval city brightens up with beautiful lights and Christmas markets. The shops and restaurants on the pebbled alleyways are also decorated with wonderful colours and lights. Siena’s old city centre Piazza del Campo hosts one of the oldest Christmas markets in Italy where the large square gets cramped by beautiful Christmas markets with verify of shops for traditional gastronomy, a variety of best Tuscan cheese, wines, Christmas decorations, home decors and many more. The Christmas markets in Siena Typically start from the middle of November and end by the end of December or sometimes, it is extended till 6th January.
The city of Siena is best known for its Palio Fest which takes place in August every year, therefore, the majority of people visit Siena during August to attend the Palio. Therefore, during the Christmas period, the city does not get many visitors which certainly makes it the best time to explore the city.
If you are in Siena during Christmas, then it is worth also to visit the surrounding small villages where Christmas is celebrated in a more traditional way and different special events for Christmas are organised. The best Tuscan villages you can visit around Siena during Christmas are Montepulciano, Chianciano Terme, Abbadia San Salvatore, Pienza, etc.
Siena is also home to some of the unique medieval Architectures such as Piazza del Campo, Torre del Mangia, Duomo di Siena, Santa Maria della Scala, etc.
Things to know before Visiting Italy during Christmas
If you are planning a visit for Christmas in Italy, you would need to plan your Itinerary and accordingly make all your bookings in advance. We have listed some of the important things you should consider for celebrating your Christmas in Italy.
1. Book your hotel and Activities in advance
The Christmas period is usually less crowded than in Italy as compared to the summer period, although, still considerable number of people visit Italy during Christmas vacation, and the number of visitors is increasing every year since the Pandemic. Therefore, consider booking your hotels and entrance slots to museums and monuments much in advance to avoid last-minute rush and high prices.
2. Christmas Day (25th December) is mostly Closed
Mostly, locals spend their Christmas day with their families, therefore, the majority of shops and restaurants are either closed on Christmas Day or are open only for a limited period. Therefore, plan your activities accordingly on the Christmas day.
3. Less Daylight
In December, the sun usually sets at around 4 to 4.30 PM which gives you less daylight for the day. Anyways, the Christmas vibes in Italy usually start after the sunset.
4. Winter clothing
Remember to pack your bags properly considering the temperature of the region in Italy you are visiting. The northern regions like Aosta and Dolomites are colder where temperature usually goes below 0 degrees during the winter.
5. Remember to carry a lot of cash
If you are planning to go shopping in traditional Christmas markets, then carry a lot of cash with you since most of the shop owners don’t accept card payments, especially if you are visiting Christmas markets in smaller towns or villages.
We hope that you liked this Article. Let us know your thoughts in the comment section. Also, If you have any questions about destinations to visit in Italy in Any season of the year then do contact us. We will be happy to help you!
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