Smaller and more intimate than the famous German markets, Italy’s ‘Mercatino di Natale’ offer a more intimate and traditional Christmas experience. Here are five of the best
Italy’s Mercatino di Natale run during the advent period and some remain open right through to Epiphany. Christmas in Italy is traditionally celebrated from Christmas Eve until January 6th – the day set aside in folklore to give presents to children in celebration of the good witch, La Befana.
Many feature elaborate nativity scenes made by local craftsmen at their heart, while hosting stalls offering regional seasonal food and drink, as well as locally made products and gift items.
Christmas market, Milan (Shutterstock.com)
Milan is home to several Christmas Markets through the festive season, but Oh Bej! Oh Bej! (How Beautiful! How Beautiful!) is one of the longest running dating back to at least 1510.
Originally a time when the locals paid homage to the city’s patron saint, nowadays the beautiful market bustles with activity, as locals and tourists meander around the 350+ stalls selling handicrafts, antiques, clothing, toys, Christmas gifts and plenty of sweet treats and festive foods.
The market is short-lived and runs for just one weekend at the beginning of December, from 4th-7th December in 2015.
Christmas market, Merano (Shutterstock.com)
Set on the banks of the River Passirio, the Christmas market in Merano in South Tyrol is one of the most atmospheric in Italy. Wooden advent cottages, decorated Christmas trees and nativity scenes with life-size figures all add to the charm. Wrap up and enjoy a horse-drawn carriage and a visit from Father Christmas.
Christmas market, Rome (Shutterstock.com)
Situated among the stunning fountains in the Piazza Navona, the famous square turns into a beautiful multi-coloured Christmas Market, with stalls and booths filled with sweets, chocolates and traditional Christmas gifts. Between the 26th November and 6th January, street artists and acrobats play throughout the market to the soundtrack of Christmas songs, adding to the festive atmosphere.
Christmas market, Bolzano (Shutterstock.com)
Set against the backdrop of the Rosengarten Dolomites, Bolzano hosts Italy’s biggest Christmas Market. Little wooden huts filled with traditional gifts are beautifully decorated with brightly lit garlands, lamps and candles that line the streets in the medieval town.
As well as perusing the gifts, travellers can try some of the regional culinary specialties like vin brule (hot mulled wine). The market is o[pen from the end of November to the beginning of January.
Christmas market, Florence (Shutterstock.com)
From the 2nd-20th December, Florence flourishes with Christmas cheer and a huge market inspired by the tradition of the German city of Heidelberg. Over 50 wooden huts and stalls selling Italian and German delicacies, decorations and handicrafts fill one of the most beautiful squares of the city, Santa Croce. Children can also enjoy a ride on a traditional carousel.
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For more information about visiting Italy's fabulous Christmas markets, visit the Citalia website.
Main image: Christmas Market, Bolzano (Shutterstock.com)