When visiting Italy over the holidays, it is critical that you not only visit the magical sites of antiquity, but also the kinds of events you just can’t find anywhere else in the world. Where else can you get authentic, handmade Christmas gifts from genuine Italian craftsman other than the special Christmas markets spread throughout Italy.
Epiphany Fair in Piazza Navona
In the heart of Rome, the Piazza Navona is transformed during the holiday season. Booths offer handmade lace and handkerchiefs, delicate carvings and wooden creations, and homemade cakes and biscotti. Most especially, you can find beautiful presepio, or carved Nativity scenes. Artisans from the areas surrounding Rome have been bringing their wares to this fair for generations. Father Christmas is present to take pictures and fresh candy and treats are prepared on the spot filling the air with the smell of toffee and roasting chestnuts.
Prato in Tuscany
In Prato, the area surrounding the Town Hall building is transformed on the Saturday before Christmas. Fifty booths are erected or under porticos and beautiful linens and antique books are brought forth among other items to be sold. This is a wonderful market for gifts as many can fit neatly into your suitcase.
Bastia Umbra in Umbria
The 13th-century church of Santa Croce near Assisi is the backdrop for this holiday fair. On the Sunday before December 21, a bric-a-brac fair is held with a certain emphasis on prints, stamps and, of course, local handicrafts.
Campo San Maurizio in Venice
Near St. Marks in Venice, the Campo San Maurizio hosts a gathering of collectors from the entire northeastern corner of Italy on December 16-18. The collectors gather to display and sell small objects and painting both new and antique. Prices can be high, but so is the awe of seeing hand crafted ornaments over 400 years old.
Trentino in Alto Adige
The mountain communities have always had outdoor markets around the holiday season, and even with the addition of cheap toys and obscure video games, the market in Trentino is still wonderful. A wide range of items are sold in the market, but the majority of items include breath-taking artifacts to be used as gifts or decorations. The best time to visit the market is after dark as hundreds of lights illuminate the area and rich smells of cider and chocolate fill the air.