The best places & traditions to visit
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The tradition of Christmas nativity scene displays
The word refers specifically to the crib, first created by Saint Francis of Assisi in 1223 AD.
In Rome, the annual 100 Presepi exhibition displays about 200 nativity scenes from artists across Italy and other countries. Rome also houses the Museo del Presepio “Angelo Stefanucci”, which displays over 3000 presepi.
The presepe at Santa Maria Maggiore is said to be the oldest permanent nativity scene, carved in marble by Arnolfo di Cambio in the late 13th century.
Traditionally a time to both literally and figuratively dispose of the past.
New Year’s Eve coincides with the “Festa di San Silvestro” in Italy, and is traditionally a time to both literally and figuratively dispose of the past.
At midnight, people throw kitchenware, appliances, clothes, and furniture out of their windows onto the street, a tradition most common in the southern part of the country.
A slightly less expected tradition in Italy is the wearing of red underwear, representing the medieval belief that red wards off sickness and bad luck.
Children are then visited by La Befana, a woman with a crooked nose and broomstick.
Despite her appearance, La Befana is not a witch; she visits at night, bringing along stockings filled with sweets.
Originally, she would bring oranges and nuts to good children, and coal to children that behaved badly
Traditionally, to prepare and purify their bodies, Italian Catholics forgo meat on “La Vigilia”
Many Italian cities celebrate the holidays with various initiatives: thanks to illuminations and Christmas trees full of coloured lights, the streets are filled with the typical festive atmosphere.
On Christmas Day, families host a large lunch, which typically lasts all day, featuring traditional dishes like pasta in brodo (pasta in broth) and panettone.
The largest Christmas tree in the world
In Umbria, the town of Gubbio lights up with magic with the largest Christmas tree in the world.
This special Christmas tree is made up of over 800 luminous bodies scattered along the slopes of Mount Ingino, powered by renewable sources.
The largest Christmas tree in the world, more than 650 meters high, is illuminated as usual on the eve of the Immaculate Conception.
There’s a huge Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Square...
Heading to Rome over Christmas is probably the best choice: in addition to the festivities in Rome itself, you also have Vatican City‘s celebrations.
It’s like getting two cities’ worth of holiday in one spot.
At the Vatican, the Pope delivers a Christmas Eve midnight mass. There’s a huge Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Square and a life-sized Nativity scene in front of the basilica.
Venetians know how to ward off the chill with hot spiced wine and other holiday treats
No matter how old you are, you’re bound to be charmed by the figure of Santa Claus arriving by gondola to distribute goodies, and Christmas Eve mass held in St. Mark’s Basilica is enough to make any trip to Venice worthwhile.
Home to a street that can rightfully be called “Christmas Alley” year-round.
This city is the epicentre of Italy’s Nativity scene tradition, the artisan shops along Via San Gregorio Armeno that craft the myriad figurines that inhabit them are open all year long.
The figurines range from the expected (holy family and shepherds) to the regional (pizza makers) to the topical (current political or sports personalities).
A location with loads of Italian Christmas traditions and much milder weather
Second only to the Neapolitans in terms of their affection for the Nativity scene, Sicilians erect elaborate Nativities everywhere, including a living Nativity in a cave near Trapani.
In other words, locals dress up and re-enact the Nativity daily from Christmas Eve through the whole festive season.
You’ll have snowy winter scenery straight out of a postcard
Spend Christmas in the Trentino-Alto Adige and you’ll have snowy winter scenery straight out of a postcard while you sip mulled wine in the market squares.
This area is also a good base if you want to take day trips into Venice or Verona.
Author: Daniela De Luca, CEO of Home in Italy
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