The holidays are special everywhere, but if you plan on spending even part of the holiday season in Italy, you can do no better for fun, festivity and interesting customs you certainly won’t see anywhere else. When in Italy, celebrate as the Italians do!
Sir Francis of Assisi was the first to create a full manger scene including animals and such as we know the nativity scene today. Since that time, the presepio has become legendary among the Italian people. Every town, city and church will be displaying their presepio throughout the holiday season, which in Italy lasts through Epiphany. Many of the oldest, wealthiest families in Italy have rooms devoted to their elaborate and priceless nativity scenes. The rooms are opened for only two months and closely guarded the rest of the year.
You can see hundreds of the world’s finest nativity scenes in Verona. Verona’s ancient arena hosts 200 presepi from early December through January. If you’d prefer a live nativity scene, you won’t be disappointed either. You can find live nativity scenes almost everywhere on December 23 and 24, but the 200 plus participants in the nativity scene in Barga, a small town in Tuscany, are truly astounding.
“Throwing Out the Old Year”
If you plan on celebrating New Year’s Eve and the ringing in of the New Year in Italy, by no means celebrate on the street. The custom in Italy is to throw out the old year, and the Italians take this quite seriously. As one Italian explained, “No person in his right mind would be on the streets at midnight on New Year’s Eve!”
Why? Because that foolish person stands a very real likelihood of being pelted with furniture, old appliances and the accumulated junk of last year. In Italy, you literally throw out old items through the window (regardless of the floor you’re on) so that you have good luck in the coming year. It’s customary, but just a bit dangerous if you’re trying to walk home.
While Italy is nowhere near as commercially driven as the United States, there are special sales and reduced prices following the holiday season. The lowest prices of the year on any number of Italian goods can be found following Epiphany in January, although some merchants begin offering lower prices as early as December 26.