Christmas in Northern Italy has all the ingredients for an experience of a lifetime.
Cheerful Christmas markets, authentic folk events, uplifting concerts, living Nativity scenes, fun Santa Runs, lights switch-on ceremonies, food festivals… The list of Christmas happenings in Northern Italy really seems to have no end.
So, if you are planning to spend this Christmas in Northern Italy, here is a helpful guide to point you towards all the cool events that take place here at this most wonderful time of the year.
Scroll down for 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 Northern Italian cities like Turin, Milan, and Venice or venture to one of the Northern Italian lakes or historical towns and villages. Have a look at the Christmas Guide for Northern Italy below to find plenty of festive ideas what to do and see in this part of Italy from the end of October this year to the middle of January in the new year.
From Christmas attractions to New Year’s celebrations, everything is covered!
For specific opening times and to double-check dates, please, always refer to the official website or Facebook page of the events’ organisers. I have provided direct links for almost all 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 for Northern Italy below.
My Christmas Guide for Northern Italy is detailed, but not exhaustive, as there are hundreds of events taking place at this time of the year here. 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 with new events as dates and times are being confirmed by the organisers.
All events in my Christmas Guide for Northern Italy are organised by category in alphabetical order. Thus the Epiphany/La Befana category is further up in the list than the Santa Runs category. So, for a full idea of the breadth of events included in this Christmas Guide for Northern Italy, please, read through the whole page.
It is important for me to tell you that the links given here are not affiliate links. They lead straight to the official websites or Facebook pages of the different events.
Also, I don’t charge organisers to include their event in my Christmas Guide for Northern Italy. The guide was simply compiled as a helpful resource. Use it to make your Christmas stay in Northern Italy as festive and memorable as possible.
So, without further ado, get comfortable and start penciling Christmas days out in your Northern Italian diary.
P.S. Please, share this Christmas Guide for Northern Italy with all the people you know who are looking for information about fun and festive things to do here. Thank you! I really appreciate it!
Christmas Guide for Northern Italy
The Ultimate 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 or his grotto (and there are many of them here!) and enjoy a myriad of festive happenings.
Darsena Christmas Village – Milan, Lombardy – Give a twirl on the ice rink, pay a visit to Father Christmas at his house, and spend a happy Christmas-tinged day at this cute Christmas village in Milan. Special events are traditionally planned for the days of Santa Lucia (13th December) and Befana (6th January).
Gardaland Magic Winter – Castelnuovo del Garda, Veneto – Italy’s Number One amusement park becomes a veritable winter wonderland for the holidays. Lavish festive productions, fun rides, and a chance to meet Father Christmas in his magical house while busy elves treat each child to a freshly baked cookie.
Italia in miniatura – Viserba di Rimini, Emilia-Romagna – Hundreds of miniatures of famous Italian and European landmarks. Special entertainment and events during the holiday season.
Leolandia – Capriate di San Gervasio, Lombardy – One of Italy’s best theme parks, Leolandia makes Christmas magical for kids and grown-ups.
Macugnaga Mount Rosa: The Ice Queen – Macugnaga, Piedmont – 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 – Real reindeer, an underground cave with a train ride, sand Nativity scene, falcon shows, and Christmas carols 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 – Pay a visit Santa and Mrs Santa, play and work on your own creation in the Christmas workshop, explore the North Pole and the Elves’ Cave.
Villaggio delle Meraviglie (Village of Wonders)- Milan, Lombardy – Expect lots of Christmas entertainment and fun at Giardini Indro Montanelli, Porta Venezia in Milan. Two ice rinks, Father Christmas House, Befana House, Christmas make-up sessions for the little ones, creative workshops, dancing with the elves, a crystal palace housing a large play area.
Winter Wonderland – Ferrara, Emilia-Romagna – The largest covered amusement park in Italy with lots of Christmas and winter attractions.
Many Northern Italian cities and towns organise a citywide programme of Christmas events and happenings. They start as early as the end of October and go on until Epiphany or even later in January.
Apart from the usual Christmas markets and ice rinks, the festive programme may also include special museum openings, Christmas workshops for kids, creative performances and other exciting events.
Have a look at the Christmas websites for the following cities and towns in Northern Italy for information about local Christmas events you simply cannot miss. Where available, I have provided a link to the English-language version of the respective websites. Otherwise, you can use Google Translate to help you get the gist of the information provided on them.
Bear in mind that more often than not these citywide Christmas websites get updated around November. So, please, keep checking if they don’t as of yet have the details that you are interested in.
Hundreds of concerts take place all over Northern Italy in the run-up to Christmas and then during the festive season. Held both in centuries-old churches and lavish opera houses, they fill the soul with cheer.
Check at local churches or ask at the local tourist information office for the most up to date information about Christmas concerts this year. Some will be free to attend (a donation may be appreciated), whereas others will be paid for.
Otherwise, see below some suggestions for the best places to enjoy a Christmas or a New Year’s concert in Northern Italy this year.
- Venues: Teatro Grande
- Churches: Duomo di Milano, Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie, Santa Maria della Consolazione al Castello
- Venues: Teatro Alla Scala
- Churches: Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute
- Venues: Teatro la Fenice
- San Martino a Natale – International music festival taking place in various venues around Venice.
- Churches: Church of San Gaetano, Temple of San Lorenzo.
- Venues: Teatro Comunale di Vicenza
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.
Boschi a Natale (Forests at Christmas) – Different places in the Veneto – A Christmas initiative aiming to promote the natural heritage of the Northern Italian region of the Veneto. The aim of the initiative is to help you discover the natural reserves and the natural parks of the Veneto during the low season. Expect guided excursions through beautiful wintery nature. Each excursion will be rounded up with a tasting of local products and dishes.
Christmas of Memories – El Nos Nadal – Castellano, Trentino – 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 – 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 – 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.
Medieval Christmas – Chiusa (Klausen), Alto Adige – A medieval Christmas market where the vendors are dressed in historical clothes and jugglers and troubadours entertain kids and adults.
Nadal ‘n tra i porteghi (Christmas at the Old Porticoes) – Segonzano, Trentino -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 e’ Reale (Christmas is Royal) – Stupinigi Hunting Hall (Palazzina di Caccia di Stupinigi), Turin, Piedmont – 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.
Stelle A Natale (Stars at Christmas) – Cison di Valmarino, Veneto – 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.
Did you know that there are five Christmas gift bearers in Italy?
Click here to find out who they are!
Christmas Lights and Christmas Trees
Lavish festive lights and extravagant Christmas trees adorn Northern Italy’s historic squares and main streets all through the festive season. They can be very imaginative and are a joy to behold.
Make sure that you go for a nice evening walk across the Northern Italian city or town you are staying in this Christmas. This way you will be able to enjoy the light displays and see the Christmas trees at their best in the quickly falling darkness.
Here are some suggestions for your list:
Hotel Terme Preistoriche – Montegrotto Terme, Veneto – Every year, this hotel puts up thousands of Christmas lights and countless festive displays and figures. Pop in to have a look.
- Christmas Tree in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
- Christmas Tree at Piazza Duomo – Milan’s most important Christmas tree is 25 m high and comes from the Italian province of Trentino. It is decorated with about 35 thousand LED lights.
- Luci d’Artista – 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.
- Christmas Tree at Piazza Castello – A huge Christmas tree made entirely of lights. This 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.
Venice, Veneto – Christmas lights and Christmas Tree at St. Mark’s Square. Click here to see a short video of the Christmas tree in Venice in 2018.
Festive markets are at the heart of Christmas celebrations in Northern Italy. If you love them then you will be delighted by the number of traditional Christmas markets held here each holiday season.
The most beautiful and popular ones are in the autonomous Northern Italian region of Trentino-Alto Adige. Still, 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. Below you will find some of the very best ones.
Please, click on the provided links to check opening times and days. Not all Christmas markets are open every day. Most of them operate on weekends only from the end of November until Christmas Eve and then stay open all day from Boxing Day to Epiphany.
Ala, Trentino – The Christmas stalls are spread in and around the Baroque palaces of this charming little town. Click here for more information. Check number 1 in this list to learn more about the beautiful town of Ala.
Arco, Trentino – 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.
Asiago, Veneto – I Giardini di Natale (Christmas Gardens) – 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.
Bassano del Grappa, Veneto – 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.
Bologna, Emilia-Romagna – A Christmas market called I Portici di Natale (The Christmas Arcades) is traditionally held along Via Sardegna and Via Lombardia in town.
Bolzano, Alto Adige – 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 – One of the most beautiful Christmas markets in Alto Adige (South Tyrol). It has a rich supporting programme of events. Click here for more information.
Canale’ di Tenno, Trentino – 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 – 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 Thiene, Thiene, Veneto – Christmas market dedicated to the excellence of Italian craftsmen. Click here for more information.
Chiusa (Klausen), Alto Adige – 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.
Fondo, Trentino – A Christmas market under the slogan of ‘Natale in Tutti i Sensi…’ (Christmas in every sense). Expect typical products from Val di Non, wine and artisanal beer tastings, cooking demonstrations, creative workshops for kids, pony rides. Click here for more information.
Gallio, Veneto – This is the Asiago Plateau’s Oldest Christmas Market. You can combine it with the Christmas Market in Asiago (see above) and see them both in one day.
Jesolo – 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 – 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 – Click here for exact openings times/dates and more information. The market is set up in Levico Terme’s beautiful Hapsburg Park. Traditionally, it has more than 60 chalets selling local artisanal products and mountain specialties. Don’t miss the local drink parampampoli – a concoction of coffee, schnapps, wine, sugar, and honey served flambe.
Mantua, Lombardy – Head straight to the Thun Winter Village on Piazza Virgiliana for some Christmas shopping, carol singing, Santa sightings and Christmas train rides. Click here for more information.
Merano, Alto Adige – A beautiful Christmas market in one of the prettiest South-Tyrolean towns. Click here for more information.
Milan, Lombardy – There are many Christmas markets taking place in Milan during the festive season. To give you an idea of their scope and locations, please click here.
Rango, Trentino – 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 – 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 – Enjoy the magical atmosphere of a traditional Christmas market set up along the streets of the city’s historic centre. Click here for more information. Click here and here to find out why you need to visit Rovereto any time of the year, really.
Santa Maria Maggiore, Valle Vigezzo, Piedmont – 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 – 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 – The Nuremberg Christmas market in Verona attracts over 80 exhibitors and thousands of shoppers. Click here for more information.
Vipiteno, Trentino – 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.
Do you want to find out how they celebrate Christmas in Italy?
Click to read 50 Fun Facts About the Italian Holiday Season
Christmas Villages in Garden Centres
In the months leading to the festive season, garden centres in Italy set up large display areas dedicated to all things Christmas. Come 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 landscapes 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 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 display areas in Northern Italy:
Flover – Bussolengo, Veneto – A huge Christmas area with daily festive events, workshops, and theatrical performances. You can easily spend the whole day here.
Green Village – Cittadella, Veneto – A very nice Christmas area with different thematic zones.
Mondo Verde Garden Centre – Taneto di Gattatico, Emilia-Romagna – 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. Sometimes though she emerges from the waters of a lake or rows a boat. 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 Befana surfaces 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. Click here for more information.
- Regata delle Befane – 11:00 am, 6th January. 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, 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, Veneto – Brusar La Vecia – 6.00 pm, 6th January, Piazza Bra. Music and fun will precede the burning of a large effigy of Befana. Click here for more information.
Food Fairs and Events
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 – A food trail giving you the chance to sample, enjoy and purchase delicacies typical for the Northern Italian province of Trentino.
Festa del Mandorlato – Cologna Veneta, Veneto – 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 – The city of Cremona 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 many 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 immerse yourself in the atmosphere of an Italian Living Nativity, click here for a blog post describing the one organised every Christmas in Vicenza. Otherwise, make sure that you come to Northern Italy this Christmas and don’t miss one or more of the following suggestions:
Canale’ di Tenno, Trentino – 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 – The Living Nativity is staged on the walkways of the defensive wall surrounding the medieval town of Cittadella. Read more about the wall and how you can walk it in point 10 here.
Ronzo Chienis, Trentino – 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.
Valmorbia, Vallarsa, Trentino – Follow the Living Nativity through the narrow cobbled streets of Valmorbia. Meet the three Magi, Roman soldiers, artisans and angels.
Vicenza, Veneto – Vicenza’s Living Nativity includes a large number of performers as well as sheep and donkeys.
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.
International Exhibition of Nativity Scenes – Arena di Verona, Verona, Veneto – 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. Click here for more information.
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 – At Christmas, the town of Miola gets transformed into one big Nativity scene. Countless handmade cribs – veritable works of art – are placed on porches, windowsills and even historic fountains. Try to see them all! In addition, expect 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 – 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. Click here for more information.
Jesolo Sand Nativity, Veneto – An enormous Nativity Scene made entirely of sand. You will find it on Piazza Marconi in Jesolo. Click here for more information.
Nativity Scenes, Vicenza, Veneto – Keep an eye on this website for information about Nativity Scenes in Vicenza’s churches. Or, simply walk in as many churches in town as you can to admire their Nativity Scene come Christmas this year.
Presepe Gigante di Marchetto – Marchetto di Mosso, Province of Biella, Piedmont – The whole town becomes one giant Nativity scene. Click here for more information.
Presepi a Campo – Lake Garda, Veneto – The medieval village of Campo di Brenzone gets adorned with hundreds of Nativity scenes of any size and any material. Click here for more information.
Presepi sull’Acqua (Nativity Scenes on Water) – Crodo, Piedmont – The perfect mix of an alpine hike and 50 quirky handmade Nativity scenes cleverly positioned on water. Click here for more information.
The Villages of Cribs – Nomi, Pomarolo, Villa Lagarina, Trentino – 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. Click here for more information.
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 at their central squares. Restaurants get booked up well in advance.
Here are some ideas as to what you can get up to on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day 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. It’s organised by the Ibernisti di Venezia club. Ibernista can be translated in English as an ‘ice swimmer’.
Verona, Veneto – Expect a large New Year’s Eve party with live concerts and fireworks on one of Italy’s biggest squares – Piazza Bra in Fair Verona. In previous years, the event attracted over 50 000 people.
Vicenza, Veneto – Capodanno (New Year’s Eve) in Piazza dei Signori. Expect music, dancing, and fireworks.
Other Events & Happenings
Advent Calendar – Piazza Castello, Turin, Piedmont – On 1st December every year a large advent calendar is unveiled on Piazza Castello – 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 – 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 20th 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 – 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 – 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 Nativity to be held in Canale’ di Tenno on Boxing Day (see the Living Nativities category above). Click here for more information.
I Bancheti di Santa Lussia – Verona, Veneto – A market with over 250 stalls at Piazza Bra on the occasion of the Feast of St. Lucia. The Sicilian saint is venerated in Verona. The locals believe that 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. Click here for more information.
Santa Runs & Santa Biking Events
Fun Santa Runs are organised all over Northern Italy in the weeks preceding Christmas. For a participation fee of, on average, ten euros, runners get:
- a Santa Claus costume to run in. The distance is, usually, 5 km or 10 km.
- a cup of hot chocolate and a slice of panettone once they reach 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.
A special mention here deserve the special Santa biking events that some Northern Italian towns organise. All participants ride on motorcycles of every possible brand and model. Obviously, all bikers are dressed as Santa. Plus, many of them adorn their bikes with Christmas trees, tinsel and all sorts of festive baubles. It’s a real treat to see.
Below you will find links to the organisers of the many different Santa Runs all over Northern Italy. Click on them to find out specific dates and times for this year’s Santa Runs in several Northern Italian cities and towns.
By the way, Santa’s Italian name is Babbo Natale!
Babbo Running – Organises Santa Runs events in Milan, Brescia, and Bergamo.
Christmas Run – Organises a Santa Run in Verona.
Venezia Unica – Organises a Santa Run in Venice.
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.
Some set up inside ice rinks, others have a Christmas train running through them. The Christmas trees are in their dozens and the Christmas decorations are in their thousands. Add to it the endless Christmas tunes and you are in a veritable winter retail wonderland.
As such, this Christmas tick a visit to a shopping centre or two in Northern Italy. Some of the biggest and most well-known ones are:
Adigeo – Verona, Veneto
Blue Garden – Riva del Garda, Trentino-Alto Adige
Elnos Shopping – Brescia, Lombardy
Fiumara – Genova, Liguria
Fondaco dei Tedeschi – Venezia, Veneto
Il Centro – Arese (near Milan), Lombardy
Parco Commerciale Dora – Turin, Piedmont
Piramidi – Vicenza, Veneto
The holiday season is a great time to be in Northern Italy.
As early as October and as late as the middle of January you can choose from a myriad of Christmas events to put some festive cheer in your soul.
Use my ultimate Christmas Guide for Northern Italy to pick from a long list of the best Christmas markets, events, and happenings. I will regularly add more listings from now until Christmas Eve, so bookmark this blog post and return to it often.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Which Christmas market, event or happening in Northern Italy are you looking forward to the most? Are you excited about spending Christmas in Northern Italy? Which fabulous Christmas event in Northern Italy you think I should add to my extensive list above?
Let me know in the Comments section below!
More Helpful Links:
- Christmas in Italy – 50 Fun Facts About the Italian Holiday Season
- Italy’s Five Christmas Gift Bearers
- Christmas Markets – Best 5 Things to Buy This Festive Season
- La Corsa dei Babbi Natale – The Funtastic Santa Runs Taking Over Italy Every Christmas
- 18 of the Best Cities to Visit in Northern Italy (With Travel Tips and Nearest Airports)
- Top 15 Places to Visit in the Veneto, Italy – The Ultimate Guide
- 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
- Photos from the Christmas market in the town of Garda on Lake Garda
- Video of MotoBabbo – a Santa motorbiking event in Mirano, the Veneto
- Video of the underwater Nativity scene in Garda Town on Lake Garda
- Video of the switching of the Christmas lights in Vicenza, Northern Italy
- 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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