Key Takeaways

  • Italy in Christmas, and especially from December 8th to January 6th, is rich in traditions and flavors.
  • Each region showcases unique culinary and cultural treasures, offering diverse experiences nationwide.
  • Celebrations include vibrant decorations, bustling markets, and various regional events and festivities.
Piazza Navona, Rome, in Christmas – credits: Beppe Castro/

It’s the most wonderful time of the year to experience Italy! The beauty of Christmas transcends every corner of the country!

From the vibrant streets of Rome to the snow-capped peaks of the Alps, Italy is a magical destination. Plus, its holiday celebrations are steeped in rich traditions and flavors. This makes a couple’s holiday in Italy during Christmas a true blessing.

The essence of an Italian Christmas lies in the close-knit gatherings of family and friends. The focus is on the festive ambiance, religion, and, of course, the incredible array of traditional culinary delights. Of course, these delights are unique to each region.

The Christmas season in Italy officially begins with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th. It lasts until January 6th, when it ends with the celebration of Epiphany.

Throughout this period, the cities and towns of Italy come to life. They are filled with vibrant street and home decorations, bustling markets, and joyous music and performances.

The Essence of an Italian Christmas

Saint Peter Basilica, Rome, in Christmas – credits: essevu/

The essence of an Italian Christmas, or Natale, revolves around three main ingredients: la famiglia (family), l’amore (love), and il cibo (food).

During this period, Italian Christmas markets, such as those in Bolzano, become popular attractions. This is understandable since they offer an authentic taste of Italy’s holiday spirit.

The rich culture and warm-hearted people add a unique touch to the Christmas season in Italy.

Food in Italy plays a significant role in Christmas celebrations. A traditional Christmas Eve dinner, or La Vigilia, consists of fish and vegetables. This represents a way of purifying the body in preparation for the religious festival that follows.

Each region boasts its festive delicacies, with people coming together to relish in the flavors of the season.

Italy’s celebration of Natale would be incomplete without its iconic decorations and Christmas lights. Piazza San Marco in Venice showcases a huge Christmas tree while gondolas meander through the canals, reflecting the twinkling lights.

In various cities, ice skating rinks and nativity scenes add to the enchanting ambiance of the Christmas season.

Experiencing an Italian Christmas allows you to immerse yourself in the warmth of Italy’s family-centric traditions. After all, these traditions are some of the top reasons to visit Greece and Italy.

The allure of culinary masterpieces and the magic of festive adornments that rekindle the holiday spirit will sweep you off your feet.

Christmas Celebration Timeline in Italy

Colosseum in Christmas – credits: Bucchi Francesco/

December 8th

On December 8th, the aforementioned celebration of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is a public holiday.

It is the day when many Italians traditionally put up their Christmas tree and decorations. Families gather together, and the holiday season officially commences.

During this month-long Christmas season, nativity scenes, locally known as presepe, are commonly displayed in homes, churches, and public spaces.

These nativity scenes depict the birth of Jesus and are an essential part of Italian Christmas traditions. Some towns and cities hold competitions and exhibitions for the most creative and elaborate presepe.

December 13th

On December 13th, Italians celebrate Santa Lucia, the patron saint of the blind. It is believed that Santa Lucia leaves gifts for well-behaved children.

This celebration is particularly popular in the northern regions of Italy. There, festive ceremonies and processions take place in honor of the saint.

December 24th & 25th

As the country approaches December 24th, the Vigilia di Natale, or Christmas Eve celebrations commence.

Italian families observe this day in various ways, often featuring an elaborate multi-course dinner that typically includes fish and other seafood.

After having dinner, many attend La Messa di Mezzanotte or Midnight Mass, signifying the end of the Christmas Eve festivities.

Christmas Day itself is a time for gift-giving and family gatherings. Children eagerly await the visit of Babbo Natale, or Father Christmas, who brings presents and spreads joy across the country.

Delicious festive meals are shared among family members, with traditional dishes such as panettone and pandoro adorning the tables.

December 26th

Following the excitement of Christmas Day, Italians continue to celebrate with Santo Stefano on December 26th. This is a public holiday and an opportunity to relax and enjoy time with their families.

January 6th

The Christmas season concludes on January 6th, the Day of the Epiphany. It is also known as the Feast of the Three Kings.

In Italy, the character of La Befana takes center stage during this celebration. La Befana is a kind-hearted witch who is said to visit homes during the night, filling stockings with gifts for good children and lumps of coal for those who have misbehaved.

With its rich history and traditions, Christmas in Italy is a truly magical time of year. Visitors and locals can immerse themselves in the festive celebrations, uniting families and creating cherished memories.

Italian Christmas Traditions

Chestnuts – credits: Artyart/

Italy is known for its rich culture and vibrant celebrations, and Christmas time is no exception.

The festive season in Italy is filled with several unique customs and traditions that elevate everyone’s holiday spirit.


As you read above, one of the most cherished Italian Christmas traditions is the display of Presepe, beautiful nativity scenes that depict the birth of Christ. These elaborate displays can be found in homes, churches, and public squares throughout the country.

Italians take great pride in their presepe. They add personal touches and innovative designs to make their nativity scenes stand out.

The Immaculate Conception

The Christmas season commences with the celebration of Immaculate Conception or La Concezione Immacolata, which marks the day God freed Mary of all sins to become the Mother of Christ.

The day falls on December 8th and involves lighting up streets and setting up Christmas trees and lights. It signals the beginning of the holiday festivities.

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve or La Vigilia di Natale is another significant day for Italians. Families gather for dinner with traditional dishes and attend midnight Mass together.

The Mass is followed by celebrations that often continue well into the night, with laughter, singing, and dancing.

Christmas Day

On Christmas Day or Natale, Italians indulge in a delicious feast. The Christmas menu varies by region. However, some popular dishes include panettone, a traditional Italian Christmas cake, and tortellini en brodo, a scrumptious pasta soup.

St. Stephen’s Day

After the festivities of Christmas Day, Italians observe St. Stephen’s Day or Il Giorno di Santo Stefano on December 26th.

This day, also known as Boxing Day, is usually spent relaxing with family, watching theater performances, or attending sporting events.

La Befana

Finally, the Christmas season concludes with the arrival of La Befana or Befana. She is an old witch who brings gifts to children on the night of January 5th, the eve of the Epiphany.

This figure is a significant part of Italian folklore, symbolizing the end of the holiday season and the beginning of a new year.

Exploring these Italian Christmas traditions allows one to embrace the warmth, joy, and captivating charm of Italy during the most magical time of the year.

Italy’s Christmas Culinary Treasures

Panettone – credits: Fabio Balbi/

Italy is renowned for its culinary delights, and the festive season is no exception.

Featuring an abundance of traditional Italian Christmas foods, the Italian cuisine offers a range of delicious treats for visitors to indulge in during the holidays.

One of the key staples of an Italian Christmas feast is panettone.

This sweet bread, originating from Milan, is particularly popular during the festive season. It is typically filled with dried fruits, nuts, and candied citrus peels. Many Italian families enjoy savoring panettone as part of their Christmas spread.

Another popular Italian Christmas dessert is pandoro. Hailing from Verona, this star-shaped cake is a softer, golden alternative to the heavier panettone.

It is often served dusted with powdered sugar, creating a snowy effect reminiscent of the Christmas season.

In Italy, a traditional Christmas Eve dinner is focused around fish, in adherence to the custom of abstaining from meat consumption on the night before Christmas.

A variety of seafood dishes are prepared, including fried fish, salted cod, and various types of fish soup.

A favorite among adults and children alike, torrone is a classic Italian Christmas treat. This nougat, typically made from egg whites, honey, and sugar, is studded with almonds or hazelnuts for a delectable crunch.

Torrone comes in various forms, from soft and chewy to hard and crunchy, catering to a range of personal preferences.

Speaking of sweets, struffoli make a delightful addition to the dessert table. These small deep-fried dough balls, originating from Naples, are coated in honey and often adorned with colorful sprinkles or candied fruits before being arranged into festive shapes.

Struffoli is both visually appealing and utterly delicious.

Experience Christmas in Southern Italy

Christmas in Assisi, Umbria – credits: essevu/

Southern Italy radiates a unique charm during the festive season.


From the bustling streets of Naples to quaint towns and villages, Christmas traditions abound. This makes southern Italy an ideal destination for luxury travelers seeking an authentic holiday experience.

In Naples, the heart of Southern Italy, Christmas celebrations are rich in history and customs. Amid the vibrant cityscape, you’ll encounter the famous Christmas cribs.

These intricate Nativity scenes can be found throughout Naples, with some dating back centuries.

As you explore the city, don’t miss the famous market of Via San Gregorio Armeno, where artisans showcase their carefully crafted presepi, making it the perfect place to pick up a souvenir or start a family tradition.

Another delightful Naples custom during the holiday season is the Feast of Santa Lucia. Held on December 13th, the festival commemorates the patron saint of the eyesight with traditional processions, music, and sumptuous food.

The latter doesn’t come as a surprise, especially if you think that, for many, Naples is the best city in Italy for food!

Be sure to savor a plate of “cuoppo,” a crispy, deep-fried seafood dish that’s a local favorite.

The Zampognari tradition

In other parts of Southern Italy, you’ll encounter the fascinating sound of the Zampognari, traditional bagpipers dressed in colorful outfits.

Their music fills the air, bringing the spirit of Christmas to the streets and homes of Southern Italians.

Originating from rural communities, the Zampognari embody the region’s pastoral heritage, playing melodies that echo the ancient carols of shepherds.

Outdoor enthusiasts can take advantage of the relatively mild weather during December in Southern Italy, with temperatures hovering slightly above and below zero.

Many visitors opt to explore the stunning landscapes around the region while enjoying alfresco dining and seasonal delicacies.

In conclusion, a visit to Southern Italy during Christmas promises a memorable blend of festive traditions, gastronomic delights, and picturesque scenery.

Immerse yourself in the region’s captivating charm and experience a luxurious holiday like no other.

Christmas in Northern Italy

Christmas in Positano, Amalfi Coast – credits: Christopher Moswitzer/

During the festive season, Northern Italy becomes a winter wonderland, boasting a plethora of Christmas events, markets, and attractions that enchant both locals and tourists alike.

Some of the must-visit cities in this region include Milan, Verona, Bolzano, and Florence, one of Italy’s most romantic honeymoon destinations.


Milan, Italy’s fashion capital, transforms into a vibrant hub of festive cheer during December. The city’s streets are adorned with twinkling lights and stunning decorations, creating a magical atmosphere.

You can explore the various Christmas markets in Milan, discovering unique gifts, traditional crafts, and delicious Italian treats like panettone, a traditional Milanese Christmas cake.


In Verona, the romantic backdrop of Juliet’s balcony becomes even more charming during the Christmas season.

The city center is enveloped in a warm glow as sparkling lights illuminate the ancient streets.

Verona’s Christmas market showcases handmade crafts, delectable food, and festive souvenirs that make for perfect presents.


Bolzano, situated in the heart of the Dolomites, is home to one of Italy’s largest Christmas markets.

Held from late November to early January, the market is a German tradition that has been embraced by the Italian region of Trentino Alto Adige.

The market offers an extensive range of festive products, from artisanal crafts to mouthwatering food specialties, all set against the stunning Alpine backdrop.


Further south, Florence radiates Christmas spirit during December, with its historical center decorated in twinkling lights and festive adornments.

The city’s main square, Piazza della Signoria, hosts a beautiful Christmas market where visitors can explore wooden stalls filled with everything from artisanal crafts to scrumptious seasonal treats.

Traveling through Northern Italy during the festive season allows visitors to experience a captivating blend of tradition, culture, and stunning landscapes.

So, whether you choose to visit bustling Milan or the enchanting city of Verona, your romantic trip to Italy will be filled with memorable Christmas moments.

The Big Christmas Events in Italy

Christmas in Venice – credits: Sean Pavone/

Italy is undoubtedly a magical place to celebrate Christmas. As a country, it boasts a vibrant mix of traditional Christmas markets, mesmerizing nativity scenes, and stunning light displays.

Each region offers its own unique charm, but here are some of the most notable events that you wouldn’t want to miss.

First and foremost, the Christmas markets in South Tyrol are among the best in Italy.

The quaint towns of Bolzano, Merano, and Trento come alive during this time of year, with twinkling lights, wooden huts filled with unique crafts, and irresistible aromas of traditional treats like mulled wine and roasted chestnuts.

Visiting them is one of the top tips for traveling to Italy during Christmas we can give you.

These markets provide the perfect opportunity to shop for one-of-a-kind gifts while soaking in the festive atmosphere.

Naples is known for its vibrant Christmas spirit, especially on its famous street, Via San Gregorio Armeno.

A visit to this bustling street is a must for anyone experiencing Christmas in Naples and offers an authentic glimpse into local traditions.

The Vatican is undoubtedly a central attraction during Christmas in Italy. Thousands of visitors flock to St. Peter’s Square to admire the magnificent nativity scene and the awe-inspiring Christmas tree.

Moreover, attending Midnight Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica, presided over by the Pope, is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Be sure to arrive early, as the Basilica fills up quickly on this special night.

Italian Christmas Decorations and Symbols

Christmas in Piedmont, Italy – credits: Rostislav Glinsky/

When it comes to festive holidays, Italy stands out with its unique mixture of traditional and contemporary Christmas decorations and symbols.

The entire country becomes a winter wonderland with beautifully adorned streets, homes, and picturesque landscapes during the Christmas season.

The Christmas Tree

One of the most recognized symbols of an Italian Christmas is the Christmas tree. Just like in many other parts of the world, Italians decorate their trees with ornaments, twinkling lights, and tinsel.

Families typically put up their Christmas trees (Albero di Natale) on December 8, which is a national holiday known as the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

In this season, the main squares of various Italian cities are adorned with spectacular Christmas trees.

Another prominent symbol in Italy is the Nativity scene or presepe, which depicts the birth of baby Jesus in a stable setting.

Several regions in Italy have their unique interpretations and displays of the Nativity scene. They can range from life-size figures in public squares to miniature scenes in homes and churches.

The craftsmanship and attention to detail in these scenes are truly remarkable.

The Stockings

Stockings are also an important part of the Italian Christmas tradition. Italian children eagerly await January 6th, the feast of the Epiphany (also known as La Befana), when an old woman visits their homes, filling their stockings with presents and sweet treats.

If they were good, they receive gifts and candy. If they have been naughty, they may find coal or a stick in their stockings.

In addition to the iconic symbols mentioned above, Italy enjoys a unique tradition of decorating their homes with lights and ornaments.

The streets curl up in a sparkly embrace with Christmas decorations, beautifully illuminating the festive atmosphere. Some of these decorations even have specific shapes reflecting aspects of Christmas.

Many Italian cities take great pride in creating elaborate, detailed, and enchanting displays that attract visitors from all over.

Overall, Italian Christmas celebrations are defined by the beautiful blend of ancient traditions and modern customs.

From Christmas trees and Nativity scenes to stockings and ornate decorations, Italy’s festive season is a delightful experience that fills the hearts of locals and tourists alike.

Discovering the various Italian Christmas decorations and symbols in each region is a memorable way to immerse yourself in Italy’s rich cultural heritage during this magical time of the year.

Celebrating the End of the Christmas Season

Christmas Market in Vipiteno, Italy – credits: nblx/

In Italy, the Christmas season is a time filled with joy, family gatherings, and unique traditions. One such tradition is the celebration of Santo Stefano on December 26th.

This day, also known as Boxing Day, is a public holiday in Italy to honor Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Families usually spend this day together, attending church services and enjoying festive meals.

The end of the Christmas season in Italy is marked by Capodanno, or New Year’s Day, on January 1st.

Italians welcome the new year with grand celebrations that often include fireworks, live music, and delicious feasts.

Christmas in Piazza Duomo – credits: VILTVART/

Streets are filled with joyful crowds, while families and friends gather to share traditional foods such as lentils, which symbolize wealth and good luck for the upcoming year.

Amidst all the customs and celebrations, a jolly figure known as Babbo Natale spreads cheer throughout Italy during the festive season.

This Italian version of Santa Claus delivers gifts to children and is a beloved figure during Christmas time.

Though Babbo Natale is known to be influenced by American and Anglo-Saxon customs, Italians have embraced him as part of their own traditions.

In conclusion, the end of the Christmas season in Italy is a time rich with traditions and joyous celebrations.

From honoring Saint Stephen on Santo Stefano to welcoming the new year with Capodanno festivities, Italians come together to cherish one another and embrace the spirit of the season.

With figures like Babbo Natale adding to the wonder of this time, it is no surprise that experiencing an Italian Christmas is truly a bucket list item for the luxury traveler.

Christmas for Kids in Italy

Christmas Market in Bolzano – credits: Antonio Gravante/

In Italy, the Christmas season is a magical time, especially for children. The holiday traditions and celebrations are incredibly special, with a focus on family, food, and festive cheer.

During this time, every city in Italy comes alive with stunning Christmas decorations, and beautifully adorned Christmas trees become a focal point in the main squares.

One of the unique traditions in Italy for kids is the arrival of Babbo Natale, the Italian Santa Claus. On Christmas Eve, Italian children eagerly anticipate the arrival of Babbo Natale, who brings them gifts and presents.

An important aspect of the holiday period in Italy is the feast of La Vigilia di Natale, also known as Christmas Eve.

It is common for Italian families to gather and enjoy a traditional seven-course fish dinner, known as the Feast of the Seven Fishes (Festa dei Sette Pesci).

This delicious meal is a significant part of the holiday celebrations and adds to the festive atmosphere for children as well as adults.

In Northern Italy, St. Nicholas Day on December 6th is also celebrated by children, as it marks the beginning of the Christmas season.

Excited young ones hang up their stockings and socks, waiting for Santa Claus (St. Nicholas) to fill them with small treats and surprises.

The gift-giving traditions in Italy cater to the interests and desires of children, ensuring that they thoroughly enjoy the holiday festivities.

From the arrival of Babbo Natale to the delicious meals shared with loved ones, Christmas in Italy for kids is a magical experience filled with joy and wonder.

Final Thoughts on Italy in Christmas

Italian wine and food with friends – credits: fornStudio/

From the lavish celebrations in the north to the warm and festive atmosphere of the south, each region offers its own unique take on the Italian Christmas experience, ensuring that no two celebrations are alike.

If you want to spend Christmas in an amazing setting and make the most of the Christmas holidays, visiting Italy is the best for you! Alternatively, you can look into a romantic Christmas in Greece and browse the Mediterranean in the winter months!

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What’s the weather like in Italy during Christmas?

    During Christmas, the weather in Italy varies depending on the region. In the north, you can expect colder temperatures and possibly snow, making it perfect for winter sports enthusiasts.

    The south experiences milder weather, with temperatures ranging between 10°C to 14°C (50°F to 57°F). It is essential to pack appropriate clothing for the region and expected weather.

  • What are the best Italian regions to visit for Christmas?

    Italy is full of incredible regions to visit during the Christmas season. Some popular choices include Rome, Naples, and Milan, which are known for their festive decorations and seasonal events.

    For a more traditional experience, consider visiting smaller towns and cities like Assisi, Tuscany, or Umbria, where you can find picturesque Christmas markets and authentic Italian traditions.

  • Does Rome have special events for Christmas?

    Yes, Rome hosts numerous special events during the Christmas season.

    From the beautiful nativity displays, known as “presepe,” to the stunning Christmas market at Piazza Navona, the city is bustling with holiday spirit.

    Don’t miss the chance to attend the Midnight Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica or the Urbi et Orbi Papal Blessing on Christmas Day.

  • How do Italians usually celebrate Christmas?

    Christmas celebrations in Italy typically begin on December 8, with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

    Italians often spend time with family, enjoying festive meals that vary regionally but can include dishes like ‘tortellini in brodo,’ ‘panettone,’ and ‘panforte.’

    On January 6, the Epiphany, the Italian Christmas Witch, La Befana, brings sweets and coal to well-behaved children, leaving them in stockings.

  • Are the Italian Alps a popular Christmas destination?

    Yes, the Italian Alps are a popular destination during Christmas, especially for those interested in skiing, snowboarding, and other winter sports.

    Resorts like Courmayeur, Cortina d’Ampezzo, and Madonna di Campiglio offer stunning alpine scenery, cozy accommodations, and festive events, making it an ideal destination for a snowy Christmas getaway.

  • Do businesses in Italy stay open during the Christmas season?

    While many businesses and attractions in Italy remain open during the Christmas season, there are some closures to be aware of.

    Christmas Day and January 6, the Epiphany, are both national holidays, which means many shops, restaurants, and museums may be closed or have limited hours.

    In general, it is best to research specific locations and plan accordingly to ensure a seamless holiday experience.


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Melina Thalassinou