Christmas 2018 is fast approaching. If you are planning to spend the festive season in Northern Italy, here is a handy Christmas guide to all of the most important markets, events and happenings taking place here.
To make your Christmas in Northern Italy as festive and wonderful as possible, I have provided dozens of festive suggestions and links covering the following eight Northern Italian regions: Aosta Valley, Piedmont, Liguria, Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna, Veneto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, and Trentino-Alto Adige (South Tyrol).
It doesn’t matter if you will be staying in one of the large cities like Turin, Milan and Venice or venture to one of the Northern Italian lakes or historical towns and villages. Scroll through the Christmas guide below to find plenty of ideas what to do and see in this part of Italy from the end of October 2018 to the middle of January 2019.
Christmas markets, Nativity scenes, food fairs, historical events, Santa runs, Christmas lights switch-on events, Befana meet-ups, ice rinks… Everything is covered! For opening times and to double-check dates, please, always refer to the official website or Facebook page of the events’ organisers. I have provided links for most of the events.
If I have skipped your event, please, send me details (or invite me to attend as a blogger), so that I can include it in my Christmas guide below.
My Christmas guide is detailed, but not exhaustive, as there are hundreds of events taking place at this time of the year in Northern Italy. Still, I have tried to include the biggest, brightest and most exciting ones. Keep checking this page, as I will be updating it from now until Christmas Eve 2018 with new events as dates and times are being confirmed by the organisers.
All events in my Christmas guide are organised by category in alphabetical order. Thus the Epiphany/La Befana category is further up in the list than the Santa Runs category. For a full idea of the breadth of events included in the Christmas guide, please, scroll to the end of the page.
It is important for me to tell you that none of the links given here are affiliate links and I don’t charge organisers to include their event in my Christmas guide. It was simply compiled as a helpful reference in order to make your festive stay in Northern Italy as memorable as possible.
So, without further ado, get comfortable and start pencilling Christmas days out in your festive Northern Italian diary.
P.S. Please, share this Christmas guide with all the people you know who are looking for information about Christmassy things to do in Northern Italy. Thank you! I really appreciate it!
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Christmas Guide 2018 for Northern Italy
The Complete List of Christmas Markets, Events and Happenings
Theme parks and amusement parks in Northern Italy organise lavish Christmas celebrations from the end of November onwards. Kids and grown-ups can spend hours having fun on rides and meeting their favourite characters in a magical winter wonderland setting.
Santa Claus takes residence in Northern Italy, too. Kids can visit him at his house and his grotto and enjoy a myriad of festive happenings.
Gardaland Magic Winter – Castelnuovo del Garda, Veneto – 8th December 2018 to 6th January 2019 (open on selected dates). Italy’s Number One amusement park becomes a veritable winter wonderland for the holidays.
Italia in miniatura – Viserba di Rimini, Emilia-Romagna – open on 8th December 2018 and every Sunday in December 2018. Open every day from 26th December 2018 to 6th January 2019 (check the online calendar for further details). – Hundreds of miniatures of famous Italian and European buildings. Special entertainment and events during the holiday season.
Leolandia – Capriate di San Gervasio, Lombardy – 24th November 2018 to 6th January 2019 (open on selected dates, check the online calendar for further details). Leolandia is one of Italy’s best theme parks for children and families. As part of the park’s Christmas celebrations expect a special Christmas Jumper Day!
Macugnaga Mount Rosa: The Ice Queen – Macugnaga, Piedmont – 18th and 25th November 2018; 2nd, 7th, 9th and 16th December 2018. Go on a cable ride journey to meet the Ice Queen, visit Italy’s first gold mine in the Alps open to tourists and the first Italian mine museum. Can be combined with a visit to Santa Claus’ Grotto and Park (see below).
Santa Claus’ Grotto and Park (Vera Grotta e Parco di Babbo Natale) – Ornavasso, Lake Maggiore, Piedmont – 17th November to 28th December 2018 (open on selected dates). Real reindeer, an underground cave with a train ride, magic mirror, life-size Nativity scene, and Christmas theatre are just some of the many attractions and surprises in this festive wonderland. Can be combined with a visit to Macugnaga Mount Rosa: The Ice Queen (see above).
The Santa Claus House – Riva del Garda, Trentino – 1st – 31st December 2018. Visit Santa and Mrs Santa, play and work on your own creation in the Christmas workshop, explore the North Pole and the Elves’ Cave. Click here for the official website (in Italian).
Hundreds of concerts take place all over Northern Italy in the run-up to Christmas. Held both in centuries-old churches and lavish opera houses, they fill the soul with festive cheer.
This category is constantly updated as dates for Christmas concerts are confirmed. Preference is given to free performances.
- Christmas Concert with the Sanremo Symphony Orchestra – 9.15 pm, 11th December 2018 – Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie. Click here for more information. Paid event.
- Christmas Concert – 7.30 pm, 20th December 2018 – Duomo di Milano. Click here for more information. Free event.
- Gran Gala di Natale (Great Christmas Gala) – 22nd December 2018 – Reggia di Venaria (former Royal Residence and a UNESCO World Heritage Site).
- Arsenale di Venezia, Sala Squadratori – Vivaldi con brio – 6 pm, 8th November 2018. Free admission, but you need to request an invitation in advance.
- Avvento in Musica 2018 at the San Trovaso Church – TBC.
- Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute – TBC.
- Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, San Polo – Christmas concert at 4:00 pm on 26th December 2018 and a New Year’s Concert at 4:00 pm on 6th January 2019.
- Church of Santa Sofia, Cannaregio – Music by Vivaldi, 1st part – 5.00 pm, 21st December 2018. Free event. It’s advised to book in advance.
- Church of San Felice, Cannaregio – Music by Vivaldi, 2nd part – 5.00 pm, 22nd December 2018. Free event. It’s advised to book in advance.
- The Glass Cathedral – Santa Chiara, Murano – Incantami, Music by Puccini, Tosti and Verdi – 5.30 pm, 10th November 2018. Free event. It’s advised to book in advance.
From one-off events to multi-day extravaganzas, the Christmas season is a great time to be in Northern Italy if you are looking for exciting things to do with kids, with your significant other or just by yourself.
Here is a selection of Christmas events to put in your diary now.
Medieval Parade – Chiusa (Klausen), Alto Adige – 4.30 pm, 1st December 2018. The parade is the highlight of the Medieval Christmas Market taking place in Chiusa from 30th November to 23rd December 2018 (see the Christmas Markets category below for further details).
Christmas of Memories – El Nos Nadal – Castellano, Trentino – 8th and 9th December 2018 and 15th and 16th December 2018. The people of Castellano – a small village of 700 people – open their homes this Christmas to show you how the festive season is traditionally celebrated in this part of the Northern Italian province of Trentino. Expect an artisan market, local dishes and wines, live music, carolling choirs, exhibitions, installations, theatrical performances and entertainment. Special events for kids and a chance to meet farm animals.
Citta’ dei Balocchi – Como, Lake Como, Lombardy – end of November 2018 to the beginning of January 2019. Citta dei Balocchi (City of Toys) is an annual event in the city of Como on the shores of Lake Como. The facades of the main buildings in town are illuminated with stunningly beautiful light displays, there is a magic castle where kids can watch theatrical performances and take part in workshops, there are also Christmas concerts, exhibitions of Nativity scenes and an ice rink.
Il Magico Paese di Natale (The Magical Land of Christmas) – Govone, Piedmont – 17th November – 23rd December 2018 (open on weekends only). A magical mix of artisan Christmas markets, theatrical performances for children and families, Santa’s House, an exhibition of Nativity scenes and guided visits to the Castle of Govone.
Nadal ‘n tra i porteghi (Christmas at the Old Porticoes) – Segonzano, Trentino – 15th and 16th December 2018. Come to the small villages of Stedro and Sabion in Segonzano for two days of Christmas cheer and a night hike to the famous earth pyramids.
Natale di Fiaba (Fairytale Christmas) – Thiene, Veneto – TBC (usually held over the first two weekends of December) – Over 300 fairytale characters take over the historical centre of Thiene. Click here to read about the magical creatures of Veneto whom I met at the event a couple of years ago. Click here to read about the tasty arrosticini thienesi which are one of the culinary stars of the event.
Natale e’ Reale – Stupinigi Hunting Hall (Palazzina di Caccia di Stupinigi), Turin, Piedmont – 6th to 23rd December 2018. A magical Christmas event where you can visit Santa’s House, admire a large mechanical Nativity Scene, watch theatrical performances, take part in creative workshops, and shop at the Christmas market.
Natale in Montagna al Lago di Braies (Christmas in the Mountain at Lake Braies) – 10.00 am to 5.30 pm, 1st and 2nd, 6th through the 9th, 15th and 16th December 2018. Expect a charming Christmas market, live music and singers, small petting farm with goats, donkeys and sheep, horse-drawn sleighs, as well as visits from St. Nicholas who will give sweets and treats to the kids.
Stelle A Natale – Cison di Valmarino, Veneto – 10.00 am to 7.00 pm, 8th/9th and 15th/16th December 2018. A large Christmas arts and crafts market and an accompanying programme of events to enjoy in what it’s officially recognised as one of Italy’s most beautiful villages.
Christmas Lights Switch-On Events
Lavish festive lights illuminating historical squares and large shopping streets are one of the best things about Christmas in Northern Italy. The imaginative displays are a joy to behold.
If you can, don’t miss the following switch-on events (the list will be updated as more dates are confirmed):
Hotel Terme Preistoriche – Montegrotto Terme, Veneto – 9:00 pm on 17th November 2018. Thousands of lights and countless Christmas displays and figures. Plus roasted chestnuts and mulled wine for everyone.
- Luci d’Artista – 31st October 2018 to 13th January 2019. Huge installations made of hundreds of lights by eminent Italian and foreign contemporary artists decorate the streets and squares of Turin every Christmas. Don’t miss this veritable open-air art exhibition. Click here for more information.
- Christmas Tree – 6.00 pm, 1st December 2018 – A huge Christmas tree made entirely of lights is switched on at Piazza Castello. The tree is one of Turin’s main Christmas traditions. Right next to it you will also find a big Advent Calendar (see the Other category below) the first box of which is opened during the tree switch-on ceremony. The Christmas tree will remain on Piazza Castello until 6th January 2019. Click here for more information.
Festive markets are at the heart of Christmas. If you love them then you will be delighted by the number of traditional Christmas markets held in Northern Italy each holiday season.
The most beautiful and popular ones are in the region of Trentino-Alto Adige, yet don’t miss your chance to see one or more of the Christmas markets dotted all over the eight regions that make up Northern Italy. Here are some of the very best ones:
Ala, Trentino – 24th November to 23 December 2018 (open on weekends only). The Christmas stalls are spread around the Baroque palaces of this little town which was a European centre of silk velvet production in the 18th century. Click here for more information. Check number 1 in this list to learn more about the beautiful town of Ala.
Arco, Trentino – 16th November 2018 – 6th January 2019 (open on weekends and selected weekdays only). An exciting Christmas market coupled with a variety of events for kids and grown-ups. From craft workshops to lavish Christmas illuminations, Christmas train and even a small animal farm in the centre of town. Fireworks display on 8th December 2018. Click here for more information. Check the entry for Day 1 in this blog post for more information about the elegant town of Arco.
Arona, Lake Maggiore, Piedmont – 9th December 2018 – A charming Christmas market along the lakefront. Expect over 100 Christmas stalls.
Asiago, Veneto – I Giardini di Natale (Christmas Gardens) – 10th November 2018 to 6th January 2019 (open on weekends only during November and the first three weeks of December. Open every day from 21st December 2018 to 6th January 2019). A small Christmas market in the centre of Asiago. Combine a quick visit to it with different activities in the area or a visit to the Christmas market in nearby Gallio (see below). Click here to check the opening days and hours as these vary according to the month and the day.
Barbarano Vicentino, Veneto – I Sapori di Santa Caterina with Christmas Market – 9.30 am to 7.00 pm on 24th and 25th November 2018. This will be the 695th edition of this historical local celebration
Bassano del Grappa, Veneto – 17th November to 26th December 2018. A variety of Christmas events and a lovely Christmas market take over the pretty town of Bassano del Grappa from the second half of November onwards. Click here for more information.
Bolzano, Alto Adige – 23rd November 2018 to 6th January 2019. The opening ceremony will be held from 5.00 pm to 7.00 pm on 22nd November 2018. This is Italy’s biggest Christmas Market and Bolzano is one of the most popular destinations in Italy and Europe during the festive season. Expect a rich programme of events. Click here for more information.
Bressanone, Alto Adige – 23rd November 2018 to 6th January 2019. One of the most beautiful Christmas markets in South Tyrol. It has a rich supporting programme of events. Click here for more information.
Canale’ di Tenno, Trentino – 24th November to 16th December 208 (Open on weekends only). Canale’ di Tenno is one of Italy’s most beautiful villages. The stone houses and cobbled streets of this medieval village will make you believe that you have been miraculously transported many centuries back in time. Don’t miss the Christmas market here, if you are in the area. You would be able to shop from skilled local artisans and taste traditional food like salted meat and beans – a dish that is 500 years old. Click here for more information.
Castello di Avio, Trentino – 10.00 am to 5.00 pm, 8th and 9th December 2018 and 15th and 16th December 2016. A traditional Christmas market in this beautiful medieval castle. In addition, expect bagpipers, storytelling, Christmas carols and concerts. Plus, entrance to the castle will be free during the two Christmas weekends. Click here for more information.
Castello di Codego, Treviso, Veneto – 9.00 am to 8.00 pm, 9th December 2018. Click here for more information.
Castello di Thiene, Thiene, Veneto – 10th (10.00 am to 8.00 pm) and 11th November (10.00 am to 7.00 pm) 2018 – Christmas market dedicated to the excellence of Italian craftsmen. Click here for more information.
Chiusa (Klausen), Alto Adige – 30th November to 23rd December 2018, every Friday through Sunday from 10.00 am to 7.00 pm. This is a Medieval Christmas Market lit by candles and torches. The market sellers are dressed in historically accurate clothes made of wool and velvet. Click here for more information. Don’t miss the Medieval Parade on 1st December (see the Christmas Events category above for more details)
Gallio, Veneto – TBC. This is the Asiago Plateau’s Oldest Christmas Market. You can combine it with the Christmas Market in Asiago and see them both in one day.
Jesolo – 1st December 2018 – 13th January 2019. Expect a Christmas village with 70 white wooden chalets, Christmas lights, a huge Christmas tree and Santa’s House. Click here for more information.
Lago di Viverone, Piedmont – 24th November to 23rd December 2018 (open on weekends and selected Fridays only). One of the most beautiful Christmas markets in Piedmont, located on the shores of Piedmont’s third largest lake. Click here for more information.
Lake Garda, Veneto, Trentino, Lombardy – Christmas Markets are aplenty in the towns on the shores of Italy’s largest lake. Have a look at this blog post here for details about visiting the Christmas Markets in the towns of Garda, Bardolino and Lazise.
Levico Terme, Trentino – 24th November 2018 to 6th January 2019 (open on selected dates only). Click here for more information. Don’t miss the local drink parampampoli – a concoction of coffee, schnapps, wine, sugar and honey served flambe.
Mantua, Lombardy – 1st to 26th December 2018 (open on weekends and selected weekdays only). Head straight to the Thun Winter Village on Piazza Virgiliana in town for some Christmas shopping, carol singing, Santa sightings and Christmas train rides. Click here for more information.
Marostica, Veneto – TBC. A Christmas market and a handful of festive events in the town of the human chess game.
Merano, Alto Adige – 23rd November 2018 to 6th January 2019. The opening ceremony will be held on 22nd November 2018. A beautiful Christmas market in one of the prettiest South-Tyrolean towns. As part of the event, expect a Historical Christmas market and lots of kid-friendly workshops and activities. Click here for more information.
Rango, Trentino – 9.30 am to 6.30 pm. 18th, 24th and 25th November 2018, 1st, 2nd, 7th, 8th, 9th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 22nd, 23rd, 26th, 29th, and 30th December 2018. The medieval village of Rango is famous as the setting of one of the most beautiful and authentic Christmas markets in the province of Trentino, Northern Italy. Expect over 90 exhibitors with local products and handmade items, as well as many festive events. Click here for more information.
Ricetto di Candelo, Province of Turin, Piedmont – 17th, 18th, 24th and 25th November 2018 and 1st, 2nd, 8th and 9th December 2018. Ricetto di Candelo is one of Italy’s most beautiful medieval villages. Experience the magic of Christmas with a traditional market and several festive events along the cobbled streets. Click here for more information.
Rovereto, Trentino – 23rd November 2018 to 6th January 2019. Enjoy the magical atmosphere of a traditional Christmas market set up along the streets of the city’s historical centre. Especially for the kids, there will be a Christmas House where they can draw, paint, listen to stories and take part in creative workshops. Walk over to Piazza Rosmini to admire the 18-meter tall Christmas tree. Click here for more information. Click here and here to find out why you need to visit Rovereto any time of the year, really.
San Cipriano di Roncade, Treviso, Veneto – 8th and 9th December 2018.
Santa Maria Maggiore, Valle Vigezzo, Piedmont – 7th, 8th and 9th December 2018. This is the biggest Christmas market in Piedmont attracting over 100 000 visitors each year. Click here for more information.
Sordevolo, Province of Biella, Piedmont – 10.00 am to 6.00 pm; 11th, 18th and 25th November 2018 and 2nd, 8th and 9th December 2018. The Angels’ Market in this charming corner of the Northern Italian region of Piedmont is famous for its local food products and crafts. Click here for more information.
Turin, Piedmont – Christmas markets in Italy’s first ever capital are lavish affairs. Traditionally, they are set up at four iconic places around the city (Piazza Castello, Borgo Dora, Piazza Solferino, Piazza Santa Rita) and are open for business from the beginning of December until the middle of January. Click here for more information.
Verona, Veneto – 16th November to 26th December 2018. This will be the 11th edition of the Nuremberg Christmas market in Verona which attracts over 80 exhibitors and thousands of shoppers. Click here for more information.
Vipiteno, Trentino – 24th November 2018 to 6th January 2019. You can expect a traditional Christmas market and a rich programme of events among which a parade of St. Nicholas and the devils, advent calendar, and visits to the tallest tower in the town. Click here for more information.
Wondering how they celebrate Christmas in Italy?
Christmas Villages in Garden Centres
Garden centres in Italy set up large display areas dedicated to all things Christmas in the months leading to the festive season. In fact, as early as October, you can take a drive to the nearest garden centre and immerse yourself in the most wonderful Christmas atmosphere. From the North Pole’s icy landscape to perfect Victorian scenes, you will walk from room to room feeling like you are about to burst with Christmas joy.
Bear in mind that some of the largest garden centres with the most elaborate Christmas areas may, actually, charge visitors a small fee to gain entrance to their festive displays. Yet, this is will be a small price to pay for the Christmas wonders you will be about to behold. A purchase is not obligatory but you will be sorely tempted to grab armfuls of tinsel and piles of baubles. Plus, there may be workshops and other events for kids – a great way to spend an afternoon when it’s grey and rainy outside.
Here is a selection of garden centres with wonderful Christmas areas in Northern Italy:
Flover – Bussolengo, Veneto – 3rd November 2018 – 6th January 2019. A huge Christmas area with daily festive events, a gaggle of house gnomes and even visiting artisans.
Green Village – Cittadella, Veneto – A very nice Christmas area with different thematic zones.
Mondo Verde Garden Centre – Taneto di Gattatico, Emilia-Romagna – 26th October 2018 – 6th January 2019. The largest covered Christmas market in Italy, in 2014 it was also named The Best Christmas Market in the country. A sprawling Christmas area to kickstart your Christmas mood. Bear in mind that the shop closes for riposo on weekdays.
Viridea – Shops in Milan, Pavia, Turin and Vicenza (Lombardy, Piedmont and Veneto) – With fairytale Christmas areas traditionally open from the end of October onwards.
Epiphany/ La Befana Events
Befana is the warm-hearted old lady who brings sweets and treats to the good children of Italy on Epiphany Eve. The bad ones get a piece of coal which nowadays is made of sugar, so it is not all bad. Befana has a long nose and looks a bit scary but she is lovely otherwise.
There are lots of events dedicated to Befana on the 6th January every year in Northern Italy. Traditionally, Befana comes flying down on her broom from a tower or other such high spot in town. Some of the events end with a big bonfire on which a huge effigy of Befana is burnt in a direct reference to old pagan beliefs.
Riva del Garda, Trentino – on 6th January 2019 Befana will surface from the waters of Italy’s largest lake – Lago di Garda – to bring sweets to the children. Expect a special day full of fun, music and food.
- Regata delle Befane – 11:00 am, 6th January 2019. A fun rowing race from San Toma to Rialto Bridge on the Grand Canal between five strong Venetian men dressed as Befana. Click here for a blog post about the event.
- Clock Tower at St. Mark’s Square – take a spot with a good view of the clock as at midday on the 6th January 2019, you will see a once-a-year event – the Nativity procession of the figurines of the Three Wise Men and the Virgin Mary, driven by a mechanical device. The figurines were made in the 18th century replicating the originals which had been built in 1499.
Verona – Brusar La Vecia – 6.00 pm, 6th January 2019, Piazza Bra. Music and fun will precede the burning of a large effigy of Befana. Click here for more information.
It won’t be Christmas without food. So, check these fab food fairs in the run-up to Christmas in Northern Italy for some great new tastes and festive moments.
Di Gusto in Gusto – Riva del Garda, Trentino – 17th November 2018 to 5th January 2019. A food trail giving you the chance to sample, enjoy and purchase delicacies typical for the Northern Italian province of Trentino. Click here for more information.
Festa del Mandorlato – Cologna Veneta, Veneto – 8th and 9th December 2018. Mandorlato is a traditional Christmas delicacy in Northern Italy and the one produced in the small walled town of Cologna Veneta is especially prized. Read more about it here.
Festa del Torrone – Cremona, Lombardy – 17th to 25th November 2018. Cremona in Lombardy is famous not just for its violins. Torrone is a traditional nougat produced in the city. It is usually eaten around Christmas and can be either very hard or soft and chewy in texture.
Temporary ice rinks are set up all over Northern Italy in the month before Christmas. Most of them stay open until the end of January.
Children and adults flock to them during the festive season to work out the copious amounts of panettone and hot chocolate that had been consumed at Christmas.
You will easily find an ice rink or several in all Northern Italian towns and cities like Milan, Bardolino, Lazise, Cittadella, Turin and even Venice.
You can hire skates and then pay by the hour for some excellent winter fun and exercise in the middle of a historical square surrounded by beautiful Italian architecture.
Seeing a Living Nativity (Presepe Vivente) is one of the most authentic Christmas experiences you can have in Northern Italy. The Biblical story of the birth of Christ is performed by real people in the company of real stable animals. The setting could be a historical square, a cave in the mountains or a church.
If you want to live the atmosphere of an Italian Living Nativity, click here for a blog post describing my best Christmas experience after moving to live in Vicenza four years ago. Otherwise, make sure that you come to Northern Italy this Christmas and don’t miss one of the following:
Canale’ di Tenno, Trentino – 2.00 pm – 6.00 pm, 26th December 2018. Enjoy a traditional Living Nativity in the medieval Canale’ di Tenno which is recognised as one of Italy’s most beautiful villages. Follow the procession along the cobbled streets and listen to traditional bagpipes and sweet Christmas carols. Click here for more information. You can combine it with the Procession of Shepherds to be held in Canale’ di Tenno on Christmas Eve (see the Other category below).
Cittadella, Veneto – TBC (usually held on the second weekend of December). The Living Nativity is staged on the huge defensive wall surrounding the medieval town of Cittadella. Read more about the wall and how you can walk it in point 10 here.
Creazzo, Veneto – TBC (usually held on the second Sunday of December).
Ronzo Chienis, Trentino – 26th December 2016. An uplifting Living Nativity with over 100 participants. From craftsmen, shepherds and musicians to King Herod and Roman soldiers, join the procession on the way to meet Mary, Joseph and the Infant Jesus. Click here for more information.
Valmorbia, Vallarsa, Trentino – 26th December 2016. Follow the Living Nativity through the narrow cobbled streets of Valmorbia. Meet the three Magi, Roman soldiers, artisans and angels. Click here for more information.
Vicenza, Veneto – TBC (usually held in the third week of December) – Vicenza’s Living Nativity takes to the streets of this Venetian city with a large number of performers (including a pregnant Mary on a donkey) walking through the city’s historic centre.
Nativity Scene Displays and Exhibitions
Setting up richly decorated and extremely detailed Nativity scenes is an essential part of Christmas in Italy. Here are some suggestions on how to see the best of them in and around the northern part of the country.
35th International Exhibition of Nativity Scenes – Verona, Veneto – 25th November 2018 – 20th January 2019, Arena di Verona. More than 400 Nativity Scenes from all over the world. It is a beautiful exhibition with some truly spectacular Nativity Scenes. Based on my experience from previous years, some of the displays can be a bit high for small children to see well, so prepare to have to lift them and hold them in your hands to give them a good view.
Chiesa dei Carmini, Vicenza, Veneto – this is my personal favourite Nativity Scene in Vicenza. It is set up in a small room inside the church. It is extremely detailed showing the whole city of Bethlehem. Beautiful! Read more about the Carmini Church in Vicenza here.
El Paés dei Presepi, Miola di Pine’, Trentino – 8th and 9th, 15th and 16th, 22nd and 23rd December and then every day from 26th December 2018 to 6th January 2019. For close to twenty years the town of Miola has been transformed at Christmas into a great Nativity scene. Countless handmade cribs – veritable works of art – are placed on porches, windowsills and even historic fountains. Try to see them all! Plus, on the listed dates, there will be alpine choirs, travelling bands, games for children, shows for adults and a small Christmas market selling handmade local crafts. Click here for more information.
Emanuele Luzzati’s Nativity Scene in Turin: The Magic of Christmas and the Fairytales, Piedmont – 8th December 2018 to 7th January 2019. Emanuele Luzzati was a celebrated Italian painter, illustrator and animator among many other creative things. His large Nativity scene mixing Biblical and fairytale characters is iconic for Turin. Made up of 90 painted wooden figures, it was commissioned by the city back in 1997. This year, you can admire it in the Medieval Village in the Parco del Valentino in Turin. Click here for more information.
Jesolo Sand Nativity, Veneto – 2nd December 2018 to 10th February 2019. An enormous Nativity Scene made entirely of sand. You will find it on Piazza Marconi in Jesolo. Click here for more details.
Nativity Scenes, Vicenza, Veneto – Keep an eye on this website for information about the Nativity Scenes which will be set up in Vicenza for Christmas 208. Or, simply walk in as many churches in town as you can to admire their Nativity Scene come Christmas this year.
Nativity Scene from the World – Sacra di San Michele, St. Michael Abbey, Susa Valley (near Turin), Piedmont – 8th December 2018 to 3rd February 2019 (open on weekends only), however from 23rd December 2018 to 6th January 2019 it will be open every day. The Sacra is the symbol of the region of Piedmont. Click here for more information.
Presepe Gigante di Marchetto – Marchetto di Mosso, Province of Biella, Piedmont – 1st December 2018 to 13th January 2019. The whole town becomes one giant Nativity scene. This will be the 31st edition of this unique event.
Presepi sull’Acqua (Nativity Scenes on Water) – Crodo, Piedmont – 7th December 2018 to 6th January 2019. The perfect mix of an alpine hike and 50 quirky handmade Nativity scenes cleverly positioned on water.
The Villages of Cribs – Nomi, Pomarolo, Villa Lagarina, Trentino – 25th November 2018 to 6th January 2019. Discover three small villages in the Northern Italian region of Trentino and their cribs. Porches, windowsills and even stone fountains become the setting in which handmade Nativity scenes are placed waiting for you to discover them one by one.
New Year’s Eve / New Year’s Day
Capodanno (New Year’s Eve in Italian) is an occasion to get together with friends and family and celebrate into the small hours of the night. Cities set up large open-air celebrations in the centre of town. Restaurants get booked up well in advance.
Here are some ideas as to what you can get up to on New Year’s in Northern Italy:
Ferrara, Emilia-Romagna – One of the most memorable celebrations of New Year’s Eve in Europe. Expect a big open-air party in the historical centre of Ferrara with live music and DJ sets followed by a huge fireworks display at midnight. With countless fire cascades and glowing fire fountains, the Estense Castle seems to be on fire. Click here for more information.
Lido di Venezia, Veneto – New Year’s Day Swim-Off. A traditional swim in the icy waters of the Venetian Lagoon. Organised by the Ibernisti di Venezia club, this will be the 41st edition of the swim. Ibernista can be translated in English as an ‘ice swimmer’.
- Piazza Castello – 31st December 2018. A great New Year’s Eve concert.
- Reggia di Venaria – 31st December 2018. New Year’s Eve party.
Verona, Veneto – 9:00 pm on 31st December 2018 to 1:00 am on 1st January 2019. Expect a large party with live concerts and fireworks on one of Italy’s biggest squares – Piazza Bra in Fair Verona. Last year the event attracted over 50 000 people. Click here for more details.
Vicenza, Veneto – Capodanno (New Year’s Eve) in Piazza dei Signori. Expect music, dancing and fireworks.
Advent Calendar – Piazza Castello, Turin, Piedmont – 1st to 25th December 2018. Every year a large advent calendar is unveiled on 1st December on one of the most beautiful squares in Turin. It is based on sketches by the celebrated Italian illustrator Emanuele Luzzati (see also his Nativity Scene in Turin – more details in the Nativity Scenes Displays and Exhibitions category above). At 6.00 pm every day until 25th December one box of the advent calendar gets opened.
Garda Trentino Xmas Trail – 9.00 am to 6.00 pm, 15th December 2018 – A running competition along the Garda Trek route. The race starts from the beach of Torbole (Circolo Surf Torbole) and winds along the panoramic itinerary of Garda Trek – Corona Bassa. The distance is 30 km with two refreshment points at the 10th and the 21st km. Click here for more information.
Feast of Santo Stefano – 26th December 2018 – A national public holiday in Italy celebrating St. Stephen who is believed to be the first Christian martyr.
Natale in Giostra – Turin, Piedmont – 9th November 2018 to 8th January 2019. A large winter fairground which has been a Christmas staple in Turin for over 40 years. Click here for more information.
Procession of the Shepherds – Canale’ di Tenno, Trentino – 10.00 pm, 24th December 2018. See a traditional procession of the shepherds in the medieval Canale’ di Tenno – officially recognised as one of Italy’s most beautiful villages. You can combine it with the Living Nantivity to be held in Canale’ di Tenno in the afternoon of Boxing Day (see the Living Nativities category above).
I Bancheti di Santa Lussia – Verona, Veneto – (TBC, traditionally held from the 10th to the 13th December). A market with over 300 stalls at Piazza Bra on the occasion of the Feast of St. Lucia. The Sicilian saint is venerated in Verona. On the night of the 12th December, St. Lucia arrives on her donkey to bring sweets and treats to good children and to leave a small piece of coal to the ones who didn’t behave well during the year.
Fun Santa runs are organised all over Northern Italy in the weeks preceding Christmas. For a participation fee of, on average, ten euros, people get a Santa Claus costume to run in and a piece of panettone with a cup of hot chocolate to enjoy at the finish line.
It is a lot of fun watching the large crowds of Santas running up and down historical streets. Make sure that you take part or, at least, watch, rejoice and take as many photos as you can.
By the way, Santa Claus’ name in Italian is Babbo Natale.
Asiago, Veneto – La Corsa dei Babbi Natale (5km or 10 km Santa Claus Run/Walk) – TBC (usually held on the third Sunday of December).
Bergamo, Lombardy – Christmas Run – 23rd December 2018. A 5 km run/walk. Check the organisers’ website and/or Facebook page for further information while details for this year’s event are being finalised.
Como, Lombardy – Christmas Run – 22nd December 2018. A 5 km run/walk. Check the organisers’ website and/or Facebook page for further information while details for this year’s event are being finalised.
Milan, Lombardy – Christmas Run – 15th December 2018. A 5 km run/walk. Check the organisers’ website and/or Facebook page for further information while details for this year’s event are being finalised.
Mira, Veneto – Corri con Babbo Natale a Mira (Run with Father Christmas in Mira) – TBC (usually held on the first Sunday of December). This will be the eighth edition of this fun event.
- The Christmas Ride – TBC. The fourth edition of the ride where all the bikers are dressed as Santa Claus.
- Regatta dei Babbi Natale (Santa Regatta) – TBC. Ninth edition. Scores of people dressed as Santa will compete in small traditional Venetian boats along the Grand Canal from San Marco (Pieta) to Ca Foscari. There will be an accompanying water parade and children will be able to meet Santa and his elves on Santa’s own boat.
- Corsa dei Babbi Natale (Santa Run) – TBC.
Verona, Veneto – Christmas Run – TBC. There are two options – a 5 km and a 10 km run. Check the organisers’ website for further information or look at last year’s trails while details for this year’s event are being finalised.
Vicenza – Corri Babbo Natale Corri (Santa Claus Run) – 10.00 am, 23rd December 2017, Campo Marzo – Piazza Castello – Corso Palladio – Contra Santa Corona – Duomo – Campo Marzo. Open to all ages. 8 euros to take part (3 euros if you already have a Santa Claus outfit) which includes a Santa Claus outfit, hot chocolate and a slice of panettone. 2.50 euros if you don’t want to run but would like a cup of hot chocolate and some panettone.
Northern Italy is dotted with fabulous shopping centres stocking all the major high fashion and high street multinational brands. At Christmas, they pull out all the stops in order to make you feel like you are choosing presents straight from Santa’s Grotto.
Piramidi -Vicenza, Veneto – Beautifully decorated every Christmas season, with a small ice rink and a Christmas train, this shopping centre just outside of Vicenza is a great place to go to with the kids for a quick dose of Christmas cheer. Dates and events for 2018 are to be confirmed.
The holiday season is a great time to be in Northern Italy.
As early as October 2018 and as late as the middle of January 2019 you can choose from a myriad of Christmas events to put some festive cheer in your soul.
Use the above Christmas Guide 2018 for Northern Italy to pick from a long list of the best Christmas markets, events and happenings. More listings will be added from now until Christmas Eve, so bookmark this blog post and return to it often. Or, you can insert your name and email address in the boxes below and get by email a link to the most up-to-date version in a handy pdf document (Going forward, you will also receive a weekly message with a link to Rossi Writes’ new blog posts sharing tips and stories about living in Italy and travelling in Europe. You can unsubscribe at any time.):
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
For More Information on Christmas in Italy, Please, Read and See:
- Christmas in Italy – 50 Fun Facts About the Italian Holiday Season
- Christmas Guide 2017 – Markets, Events, and Happenings In and Around the Veneto, Northern Italy
- Mandorlato Veneto – The Taste of Italian Christmas
- Christmas at Lake Garda – A Great Italian Day Trip
- Our Second Christmas in Italy
- My Best Italian Christmas Experience: The Living Nativity Scene in Vicenza
- Setting Up for a Magical Christmas
- Video of the underwater Nativity scene in Garda Town on Lake Garda
- Video of the Christmas lights in Vicenza, Northern Italy
- Video of the Nativity scene in the Convent on Mount Berico in Vicenza, Northern Italy
- Video of putting up the Christmas lights in Vicenza, Northern Italy
- Video of the ice rink in Cittadella,Veneto, Northern Italy
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