Top five places to visit in Italy during Christmas

Adam Jones | 20/12/2019
Christmas market in Bolzano, Italy. European Christmas Markets.
Enjoy the Christmas market in Bolzano.

Considering spicing things up for your Christmas holidays? Whether enjoying the snow of the Alps or getting a break from the cold by hitting a warmer destination like Sicily down South, Christmas in Italy can be magnificent. We’ll take you through a few select Italy winter destinations for an unforgettable winter holiday.

Christmas in Bolzano

Bolzano is the capital city of the province of South Tyrol in Northern Italy. Formerly part of Austria, France, and the Kingdom of Italy, this modern-day Italian city has an exciting history that mixes a variety of roots. As a smaller city, Bolzano also has the advantage of being more affordable and yet still chock full of Christmas cheer. For instance, it is home to the biggest Christmas market in Italy, held from November 23rd to January 6th. Enjoy checking out the crafts, artisans, music, and lights that have the entire city feeling festive. Winter temperatures are relatively mild for Europe, hovering slightly above and below zero for the month of December. A smaller city means you’ll truly be able to kick back, relax, and enjoy the time spent with family.

Christmas in Naples

Ever heard of the Italian holiday tradition, the “feast of the seven fishes”? It hails directly from Naples. This feast is a multi-course Christmas Eve dinner that revolves around all kinds of seafood, a staple of Neapolitan cuisine. Every year on December 24th in Naples the locals host a vigil. The Roman Catholic tradition abstains from eating meat on this day, instead of focusing on seafood like shrimp and salt cod. If you aren’t able to attend dinner with any locals, you have options. Many restaurants in the city will offer a seafood dinner on Christmas Eve. There you can do your best to complete your own “feast of the seven fishes” in the local style. Naples will be a bit chilly, but generally well above freezing for all of December.

Christmas in Cortina D’Ampezzo

Searching for a winter wonderland? Look no further than Cortina d’Ampezzo, or ‘the Queen of the Dolomites.’ Cortina d’Ampezzo is a popular ski town nestled in amongst the mountains. Finish a day of skiing or winter exploration by watching the sunset along the mountain; you’ll find the whole mountainside lit up in glorious pink. Active travelers can hit up hiking, skiing, and skating opportunities. If you want to relax for the holidays, there are plenty of spas where you can soak in warm tubs, or cuddle up in cozy rooms to sip chocolate and enjoy the view. This is a snowy winter destination, so be sure to pack accordingly with warm clothes.

Christmas in Venice

Christmas in Venice, Italy.

While not necessarily on the top of most people’s radar for a Christmas holiday, it can be an excellent time to see Venice. You’re visiting in the off-season, so you’ll be able to avoid some of the city’s infamous crowds. Venice gets decked out with a tremendous amount of lights for the holidays. Walk through the winding streets and gaze at the lights reflected off the water of the canals, or visit one of the local Christmas markets (mercatini di Natale) that pop up all over the city. 

Saint Mark’s Basilica puts on a very festive Christmas Eve mass that opens up into the square. Soak in Christmas hymns while the huge crowd stands to hold festive candles. If you’re planning on celebrating Hanukkah rather than Christmas, Venice is also an excellent choice. The Cannaregio district used to be the Jewish quarter and is lit up for the occasion, with a giant menorah in the square. You’ll also be able to snack on pumpkin fritters, an Italian Hanukkah staple.

Christmas in Sicily

Southern Italy for Christmas won’t be too cold; temperatures should hover around 10-13 degrees celsius. If you wanted to explore Sicily, but the summer heat is too intense, December can be a great time. Sicily is famous for nativity scenes in most main squares and churches during the holiday season. You’d likely want to stay in Palermo, where you can enjoy the wonderful nightlife, food, and Christmas markets. It also provides easy access to Mount Etna for a bit of skiing!

Whether you decide to go for snow or sun, we hope you have a wonderful holiday season in Italy.