Spend Christmas in Italy: Christmas traditions in Italy

When it concerns Christmas, the Italians definitely understand how to celebrate, formally kicking off the celebrations on December 8– the Banquet Day of the Spotless Conception– and continuing best the way through to January 6– the Surprise. Here’s a photo of what to expect if you are spending Christmas in Italy.

The Nativity

Firstly, the nativity plays a crucial part in an Italian Christmas. The custom of creating a public nativity scene– presepio– dates all the way to Francis of Assisi when he built a manger scene at his hermitage in Greccio in 1223. These days, all churches in Italy will have one however you’ll also find them in individuals’s homes as well as in public piazzas and stores. Conventional steady scenes include a baby crib with the Holy Household and child Jesus (who is only included on Christmas Eve) however you’ll come across lots of far more intricate designs these days, a few of which even include caricatures of modern stars and politicians.

If you want to visit a few of the best examples, then head to Naples where you will find actually numerous nativity scenes throughout the city from 8 December onwards. Additionally, in Rome, an incredibly large presepe is exposed to the general public on Christmas Eve in St Peter’s Square, whilst other examples of presepi can be found in a lot of the primary squares consisting of the Piazza del Popolo, Piazza Navona, Piazza Euclide and Santa Maria in Trastevere.

Other nativity scene settings in Italy are a lot more picturesque. In the lovely Grotte di Stiffe caves in Abruzzo, for example, is ‘Bethlehem in the Grotto’– a fancy, illuminated nativity scene open up to visitors each December.

There are likewise presepi viventi— living nativity scenes– with people dressed up to act out nativity scenes. Numerous happen over numerous days. One of the most popular is that in Le Marche. Here, at the end of December in Genga, more than 300 actors continue up the hill to act out scenes from daily life at the time of Jesus’ birth from the heart of the Frasassi Caves, with proceeds being donated to charity. In Sicily, a cave once again offers the background for another live nativity at Custonaci, near Trapani, but here, the whole town is likewise decorated to resemble an ancient village. And not remarkably, Greccio, the website of the very first live nativity, likewise still holds a sophisticated presepe vivente each year with numerous stars taking part.

There are lots and dozens more including Barga and Equi Terme in Tuscany, Vetralla and Chia in Lazio, Calizzano and Diano Arentino in Liguria not to mention L’Aquila, Scanno and Rivisondoli in Abruzzo. Rivisondoli likewise has a remarkable reenactment of the arrival of the three kings to mark the epiphany in January. At the same time, also well worth seeing is the yearly 6 January Epiphany Parade of the Three Kings from the Duomo in Milan to the church of Sant’ Eustorgio. In short, any place you pick to stay in Italy at Christmas, there are lots of nativity events to be a part of and to enjoy.

Carol Singing

The eight days preceding Christmas in Italy are called the Novena. It’s throughout this period where you’ll stumble upon the sound of bagpipes, especially in the areas of Abruzzo, Basilicata, Campania, Calabria, Molise, Puglia and Lazio. Bagpipe gamers– zampognari– travel from the mountains to the towns and cities to play their instruments, a custom that dates as far back as Roman times but which, more recently, used to be carried out by shepherds who travelled down from the mountains to make an additional earnings across the severe Winter duration. Playing standard music such as Tu scendi dalle stelle (You come down from the stars), they are usually dressed in conventional clothes consisting of criss-crossed leather leggings, sheepskin vests, woollen capes and peaked caps.

Christmas trees

Italians will celebrate by setting up Christmas trees, both in their houses and in public places. However, considering that 1991, Italy has in fact likewise been house to the world’s biggest Christmas tree. Positioned on the slopes of Monte Ingino in Gubbio, this huge illuminated Christmas tree controls the Umbrian landscape and extends 650 metres high and 350 metres broad and consists of over 3000 coloured lights.

Christmas markets

Italy plays host to several Christmas markets. Perhaps some of the very best can be discovered in the really North of Italy. Here, in the heart of the Italian Alps in the towns of the Trentino and South Tyrol regions, visitors will discover traditional wooden huts offering a variety of Christmas goodies. Some of the most popular markets consist of those in Bolzano, Arco, Canale di Tenno, Merano and Trento. The marketplaces generally run from the 3rd week of November through to the end of the first week of January. Other preferred Christmas markets in Italy consist of those in some of Italy’s primary cities consisting of the marketplace in the Piazza Navona in Rome, the splendidly joyful market in Verona and the Christmas market near Via San Gregorio Armeno in Naples. If you want to buy your own nativity scene, then this is definitely the marketplace to go to. This street offers countless nativity scene figurines. And lastly, we couldn’t miss out the annual event held in Candelara, Le Marche. The town hosts ‘Candles in Candelara‘ each December, an unique occasion with rows and rows of stalls lit purely by candlelight producing an unique and charming environment.

Christmas foods

As you would expect, food is a big part of the Italian Christmas celebrations and it’s certainly a time to enjoy some of Italy’s finest sweet treats. The most well-known of Italy’s Christmas cakes is definitely the panettone. Originating in Milan in the 9th century, this sweet treat is made with flour, eggs, butter, raisins and candied fruit. Almost too known is Tuscany’s panforte. Once again, this dessert goes back hundreds of years however this time has its origins in Siena. Or coming from Verona is pandoro, a sweet bread frequently dusted with icing sugar to look like the snowy peaks of the Italian Alps. You’ll find that wherever you spend Christmas in Italy, each region will have its own special speciality. In Campania you’ll find struffoli (small balls of baked or fried dough served with candied fruit, sugar and honey) whilst in Sicily you’ll find buccellati, nepitelle in Calabria, cartellate in Puglia and pangiallo in Lazio. But the list goes on …

Christmas Eve

December 24 in Italy is typically a night for families to invest together. This is a time when Italians may take pleasure in the Festa dei Sette Pesci (Feast of the Seven Fishes), known as La Cena della vigilia, Il Cenone or La vigilia di Natale in Italy. It is a feast that comes from the South of Italy which is typically poorer however where, thanks to its long coastline, seafood abounds and inexpensive. 24 December– The Vigil of the Nativity of the Lord in the Roman Catholic calendar– has actually traditionally been a day for Roman Catholics to quick and avoid indulging, nevertheless worshippers have actually always been allowed to break this fast in the evening hence the possibility to delight in a big supper with household in the evening. Certainly, Italians tend not to consume meat on the 24th December preferring to eat fish instead and in some cases they will also avoid dairy. Events will last well into the evening till families make their way to midnight mass.

Christmas Day

As in so many other nations, families in Italy will take pleasure in a celebratory supper together on Christmas Day. It’s typically a meat dish– often chicken, turkey or beef. After the lighter fish dish on Christmas Eve, this is normally a much heavier meal, lasting a number of hours. It’s likewise a day when some households will exchange gifts.

Boxing Day

Saint Stephen’s Day– Festa di Santo Stefano– on 26 December is a public vacation in Italy and it’s a chance for Italians to continue the festive celebrations. Friends and families will normally get together to use up the scrumptious leftovers from the previous day.


Whilst Father Christmas– Babbo Natale– is becoming significantly typical in Italy, a crucial figure in the Christmas events is the witch Befana. On the night of 5 January to mark Epiphany, she visits kids in their houses filling their stockings with sweets and presents. Those kids that had actually been good throughout the year would get sweet treats whilst those who have actually misbehaved would receive coal (usually now replaced with black coloured sugary foods). It’s a custom that takes place all over Italy, although in some parts of northern Italy, the three kings may bring presents rather than Befana.

I believe that covers the majority of the Christmas customs in Italy. So, all that leaves me to state is Buon Natale! Wanting you all an extremely merry Christmas. And if you ever wish to invest Christmas in Italy, then take a look at some of our preferred rental properties to invest Christmas in, or contact us and we’ll find the perfect Italian vacation home for your Winter season stay in Italy.

Christmas Stockings

Christmas Pullovers

Christmas Pullovers

Christmas Dresses

Christmas Dresses

Christmas Jewelry