Villages of Italy to visit at Christmas

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Lluis Enric Mayans

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Christmas is that time to accomplish all the things we patiently list throughout the year. Of course, this also applies to travel. But which is a destination that is truly within everyone's reach and with a limited budget? Simple! Visit one or more of our villages scattered throughout Italy: places to savor the slowness of the Italian dolce vita, made even sweeter by Christmas.

So let's find out together which are the most beautiful Villages of Italy to visit at Christmas!

1 - San Candido, Bolzano (Trentino Alto-Adige)

In the Alta Val Pusteria, within the Tre Cime Natural Park, UNESCO World Heritage Site, San Candido is a wonderful village where Christmas enhances every corner of this mountain jewel, as well as throughout Trentino.

Handicrafts, colorful Christmas markets, typical food and drinks of the area and a visit to the most important Romanesque monument in South Tyrol, the Collegiate Church of San Candido, are some of the reasons why you should go up there, especially at Christmas. Moreover, the Christmas markets invade the whole historic center, in the context of Christmas in the Dolomites in S. Candido. Here you can taste different typical sweets, such as Lebkuchen, or gingerbread cookies, and Zelten, the traditional sweet fruit bread), all accompanied by mulled wine.

But not only markets and events: San Candido is the ideal base even if you want to discover the surroundings, in fact, the famous Lake Braies is very close (20 km, 27 min), which freezes completely in winter and can be skated on. You will come across several people who also play Hockey.

  • once you reach Bolzano, proceed along the E66 and A22 / E45 to reach San Candido (2 h). By plane to Verona, then via A22 / E45 by car (3 h 40 min). By public transport, the times are doubled - Get directions
  • What to do / see: famous Christmas Market, where you can taste typical specialties and sweets. The Tre Cime Natural Park and the Collegiate Church of San Candido. In the surroundings the Braies Lake and Sesto
  • Hotel and b & b starting from € 150,00 per room -

2 - Asiago, Vicenza (Veneto)

The Asiago plateau is among the most beautiful in Italy: it develops along 500 km in which to practice Nordic skiing, snowshoeing and excursions, surrounded by breathtaking views and absolute silence, broken only by handfuls of snow falling from the trees and small movements of circumspect animals.

The Christmas markets here too are a real institution. They are called Christmas Gardens and begin as early as mid-November, so that the holiday climate invades the area for as long as possible. Here you will find typical products, handmade home decorations and lots of original gifts. Many events accompanying these months, also designed for the little ones who can in fact meet Santa Claus!

But you can also take advantage of your stay to explore the city and its surroundings! The Laiten Shrine is the most important site of the First World War, and it is fascinating to visit it in winter, in a rarefied atmosphere. Honorable mention to the only and very good Asiago cheese, perhaps accompanied by the delicious polenta of the area: if I tasted it directly from small local producers, its genuine and savory taste will seem totally different from that bought in any supermarket in the city, and you will know that it is not an impression but the truth.

  • from Verona, with its airport, via A4 / E70 for 95 km (1 h 20 min). From Venice Marco Polo always via A4 / E70 for 107 km (1 h 25 min) - Get directions
  • What to do / see: definitely the Christmas gardens. Do not miss the opportunity to try your hand at the ski slopes and visit the Laiten Memorial
  • Hotel and b & b starting from € 80,00 per room -

3 - Greccio, Rieti (Lazio)

If there is a perfect time to get to the village of Greccio, this is Christmas, since in 1233 St. Francis of Assisi created the first living nativity scene in history in this area, today twinned with Bethlehem: the magnificent sanctuary that stands out on the ground testifies it proudly. Inside the sanctuary there is the Chapel of the Nativity.

The atmosphere in Greccio is intimate and the Christmas holidays are particularly felt. Between early December and early January, the village turns into a real Christmas village, with wonderful markets in the classic wooden houses and numerous events! Inside the Borgo di Natale, at 700 m high, there is also the International Exhibition of Crafts and Objects of the Nativity. Many events also designed for the little ones, who can meet Santa Claus and the befana!

If you visit the village, we recommend that you also explore its surroundings! In fact, about 30 minutes from Greccio, is the Marmore Falls, one of the highest in Europe, with a height difference of 165 meters and 3 jumps, open at set times all year round. In winter the spectacle is even more beautiful: if it is very cold in the waterfall, several ice stalactites will form!

  • once arrived in Rieti, continue along Via Spinacceto and Via Chiesa Nuova for 15 km to the village of Greccio (22 min). Recommended to move by car, there is no public transport - Get directions
  • What to do / see: markets and nativity scene, Santa Claus Village, Sanctuary with the Nativity Scene Chapel, International Nativity Museum, International Exhibition of Crafts and Nativity Objects, Marmore Falls
  • Hotel and b & b starting from € 45,00 per room -

4 - Amalfi, Salerno (Campania)

Why not attend the winter spectacle of the Christmas holidays in a unique context like the Amalfi Coast? The cribs follow each other, in symbolic places such as the Emerald Grotto and the Conca dei Marini.

In Amalfi, the setting of the most spectacular comet, which from Mount Tabor reaches the Cathedral of Amalfi, confirms Christmas as the most scenic and heartfelt feast in the area, with strong contrasts between the sacred and the profane, between prayer and dinners. And this is it one of the best times to discover the excellent culinary tradition of the area! So if you decide to visit Amalfi at Christmas, forget about the diet: desserts are the main characters, such as mustacciuoli, struffoli, donuts and nougats!

Here too you will find the traditional Christmas markets, which are mainly held on the Lungomare dei Cavalieri, and various workshops and workshops for young and old, to involve!

  • starting from Naples, take the A3 for 60 km (1 h 20 min). Alternatively, join an all-inclusive tour from Naples. From Salerno, by car via SS163 for 25 km (1 h) or bus 5120 Salerno-Maiori-Amalfi to Amalfi (1 h 15 min, from € 2,40) - Get directions
  • What to do / see: Emerald Grotto, Conca dei Marini, Amalfi Cathedral
  • Hotel and b & b starting from € 61,00 per room -

5 - Pietracupa, Campobasso (Molise)

Among all the beautiful villages that at Christmas seem to have an extra charm, Pietracupa is at the top of the list: dominated by a huge rocky spur, this tiny cluster of houses all built perched on the rock, it is called the Bethlehem of Molise.

Pietracupa has a mysterious cave, called the Rock Crypt, which over the centuries has been used as a place of prayer, as a prison and court during the years of the Inquisition, as a refuge during the air raids of the World Wars and as a place of capital executions. but yet during Christmas the crypt shines with its own light, attracting crowds of people who in the intimacy of the cave find that ancient original message of the deepest meaning of the holidays. You sit on spartan wooden benches and listen to the silence of the place in front of an ancient millstone used as an altar.

One of the most beautiful and profound experiences is precisely the Christmas midnight mass held inside the crypt. You will feel like you have been taken back in time!

  • land in Naples, then by car via A1 / E45 for 168 km (2 h 15 min), alternatively direct bus line 107 (Naples Garibaldi-Pietracupa, 3 h 25 min). From Rome, by car via A1 / E45 for 241 km (3 h) - Get directions
  • What to do / see: the whole perched village, the Rock Crypt, the Vigil Mass
  • Hotel and b & b starting from € 43,00 per room -

6 - Villalago, L'Aquila (Abruzzo)

Another magnificent village perched on the rock, inserted by right in the circuit of The Most Beautiful Villages of Italy. Villalago is a perfect destination for the Christmas holidays: on December 26 the underwater nativity scene is set up at Lake San Domenico! The local group of divers, in a sui generis procession, prepares the whole scenography with the various ceramic statues transported with special rafts and placed on the bottom of the water and, all around the surface, dozens of torches and candles that make this one shine. truly original custom. The fireworks will conclude the magical evening.

Nearby is the magnificent Lake Scanno: really a pity not to jump there taking advantage of the short distance. Even here in Scanno the holidays are very heartfelt! The whole area is also surrounded by ski resorts, ideal for those who love winter sports!

  • from Pescara, on the Adriatic coast, for 91 km via the A25 / E80 (1 h 10 min). From Rome via A25 / E80 and A24 for 148 km (1 h 50 min). Car recommended, the village is not well connected by public transport - Get directions
  • What to do / see: underwater nativity scene, Lake Scanno, Scanno
  • Hotel and b & b starting from € 65,00 per room -

7 - Longiano, Forlì-Cesena (Emilia-Romagna)

You perceive it at the distance that Longiano is a pearl of a medieval village, in the heart of the Romagna area, with its orderly and scenographic structure, called to be part of one of the balconies of Romagna. Developed around the original Maletestiano Castle of 1200, the village has been restored with all the trimmings, managing to offer the feeling of medieval atmosphere with the Carthusian care. The Petrella Theater from the end of the 800th century is another jewel of the town, still used today by Italian and international artists for their tours.

At Christmas the unmissable event that has now become a classic is Longiano dei Presepi: every street, alley, square hosts various nativity scenes, traditional or revisited in a contemporary artistic key, at the head of which we can admire the Great Mechanical Nativity Scene of the Sanctuary of Ss. Croficisso. The festivities begin in the first days of December, generally on the 8th, with the inauguration in the presence of the Bishop of the city, and last until about mid-January.

It is also worth doing a handful of kilometers for reach Cesenatico and its Floating Crib of the Marineria, organized by the Maritime Museum of the city: from December to January, in the port of the city, the boats of the museum host the nativity scene, with life-size statues!

  • a few steps from the Riviera Romagnola, reachable from Rimini via the SS9 for 22 km (35 min). From Cesena via SS726 for 13 km (20 min) or by direct bus 140 (30 min) - Get directions
  • What to do / see: Malatesta Castle, Petrella Theater, Langiano dei Presepi, Mechanical Nativity Scene, Cesenatico with the Marine Floating Nativity Scene
  • Hotel and b & b starting from € 65,00 per room -

8 - Loreto, Ancona (Marche)

Loreto does not have the tiny dimensions of a typical village, but it enters by right into the list of the most beautiful villages to visit at Christmas due to most important relic that has the honor of keeping within the walls of the town: the Holy House of Nazareth where, according to the belief, the Virgin Mary received the Annunciation. Next to it stands the basilica, and everything overlooks the most beautiful square in the town, Piazza della Madonna, real landmark of city life, in the center of which we see the magnificent Fontana Maggiore.

The celebrations begin with the lighting of the large tree at the beginning of December and end with the Befana concert at the beginning of January. Throughout the period, the traditional Christmas fair is held in the streets of Loreto, with stalls and markets, music, festive occasions but also moments of meditation, such as the traditional Christmas masses.

  • it is 30 km from the capital Ancona, from here it can be reached by car via the A14 Adriatic motorway (28 min). Alternatively, direct regional train Ancona-Loreto (26 min, 4 stops) - Get directions
  • What to do / see: the Holy House of Nazareth, Piazza della Madonna, the Polish Military Cemetery
  • Hotel and b & b starting from € 55,00 per room -

9 - Poffabro, Pordenone (Friuli-Venezia Giulia)

Poffabro, in the list of The Most Beautiful Villages of Italy, has nothing rushed and "built" to make it even more attractive to the many visitors who appreciate it: the whole village is made up of stone houses with large wooden terraces, from which you can admire a wonderful panorama over the whole of Friuli !. Wandering through the streets there are various churches, votive capitals, but no stately palace or imposing cathedrals.

At Christmas all the inhabitants of Poffabro create their nativity scenes and display them in the streets, so as to create a large house illuminated by lights and colors. In addition, throughout the country, there are wooden silhouettes of life-size farmers, who will "accompany" you as you explore the village. Poffabro's Christmas certainly is a simple, intimate, participatory and joyful Christmas.

  • from Udine by car via SR464 for 50 km (1 h). From Pordenone via SR251 and SP19 for 35 km (40 min) - Get directions
  • What to do / see: the village with its simple houses and cribs scattered around the streets
  • Hotel and b & b starting from € 60,00 per room -

10 - Manarola, La Spezia (Liguria)

The magnificent village overlooking the sea of ​​Manarola is located in an equally beautiful territory which is that of the Cinque Terre National Park: so let's imagine the beauty that accompanies every single step, moreover in a special period like that of Christmas.

Manarola is even the place where the largest nativity scene in the world, entered for years in the Guinness Book of World Records: the whole hill lights up in a unique and exciting game of large and small lights that follow the shapes of the various characters of the religious representation. The inauguration of the crib falls on the day of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, then continuing for all the Christmas holidays. Year after year, the nativity scene designed by Mario Andreoli has come to count as many as 300 characters, which are scattered all over the hill of the Three Crosses. The show that can be admired in the evening is truly wonderful, an incredible sight!

  • from La Spezia via SP370 for 16 km (20 min). Alternatively, direct regional train La Spezia-Manarola (11 min, 2 stops). Nearby Rio Maggiore (6 km) and Vernazza (10 km) - Get directions
  • What to do / see: the largest nativity scene in the world, the Cinque Terre National Park, the rocky port, the Castle of 1200, the Oratory of 1400
  • Hotel and b & b starting from € 72,00 per room -

11 - Merano, Bolzano (South Tyrol)

In South Tyrol, Christmas is always magical! Merano is not really a village, but it is an alpine city that really deserves to be visited during the Christmas holidays! Furthermore, its strategic position makes it a very famous ski resort, thanks to the many facilities in the surrounding area! But that's not all: it is also known for its marvelous spas, ideal for relaxing after spending the day outdoors!

But returning to Christmas, a period in which the streets of the city are replaced by the traditional Christmas markets, represented by the characteristic wooden houses, about sixty, which sell handicrafts and excellent local products! But not only: the whole month of December is characterized by numerous events! Starting with the Krampus parade and the arrival of San Niccolò at the beginning of the month, the events continue with workshops for children, shows and concerts.

  • in the northern part of South Tyrol, near the border with Austria. The best solution is to arrive by car, from Bolzano about 34 km (30 min) via SS38 - Get directions
  • What to do / see: Christmas Village, Merano 2000 ski resort, Trauttmansdorff Castle, Princely Castle and Schenna Castle. Nearby Tyrol
  • Hotel and b & b starting from € 80,00 per room -

12 - Erice, Trapani (Sicily)

Let's move now to the opposite side of Italy, to Sicily! Here, in fact, from December (generally from the 8th) until the beginning of January, the Erice Christmas-Il Borgo dei Presepi is held, a month full of events to celebrate Christmas! Starting from the inevitable markets, where you can buy local handicraft products and taste the excellent Christmas specialties of the village and Sicily!

Ma the real notoriety revolves around the great organized events! First of all, the Zampogne dal Mondo Review is held here, a review with bagpipers from Italy and Europe. It is one of the pivotal events of the holidays, born in the 60s and which has gained more and more popularity every year, thus saving even a tradition that was fading! Also, we talk about "Borgo dei Presepi" as they come set up nativity scenes on display in churches, courtyards and shops throughout the historic center. historical. The most famous is the Monumental Nativity by master Callari, with over 300 characters built entirely by hand, a spectacle.

  • you must first arrive in Trapani, conveniently served by the airport. From there, you can take the Erice-Trapani cable car (€ 5,50, round trip € 9,00) - Get directions
  • What to do / see: EricèChristmas, Bagpipes Review from the World, Monumental Nativity, Cathedral of the Assumption, Castle of Venus
  • Hotel and b & b starting from € 50,00 per room -

13 - Custonaci, Trapani (Sicily)

We always stay in Sicily, in the province of Trapani. Here is a unique village of its kind: we are talking about Custonaci. Mainly a seaside resort and summer destination, being not far from natural wonders such as the Natural Reserve of Monte Cofano and the Natural Reserve of the Zingaro, there is an event that also makes it the perfect Christmas destination: the Living Nativity in the Mangiapane Cave.

The Mangiapane Cave is a cave of prehistoric origin, with important evidence of the past inside, such as many rock paintings. IS right inside there is the famous Living Nativity, on the days of 25, 26, 27, 28 and 29 December and 4, 5 and 6 January. The representation features about 160 characters and attracts people from all over Italy! To access it you need to buy a ticket, to book as soon as possible to secure a seat, consult the official website.

  • from Trapani continue for about 20 km towards Custonaci via the SP20 and SP18 (25 min). Better to be equipped with a car for travel - Get directions
  • What to do / see: Living Nativity Scene in the Mangiapane Cave, Monte Cofano Nature Reserve
  • Hotel and b & b starting from € 45,00 per room -

14 - Genga, Ancona (Marche)

Continuing to discover the most particular nativity scenes, you absolutely cannot miss the one in Genga, in Ancona. But this is not just any nativity scene, we are talking about the largest living nativity scene in the world! It covers about 3.000 square meters inside the famous Frasassi Caves (65 km from Ancona). In the event about 300 people are engaged, giving life to different characters, reviving even the most ancient traditions of the area. The crib takes place only for two days and admission is subject to a fee, consult the official website.

In addition to the crib, numerous other events are also organized in the historic center of Genga: the Christmas markets with handicrafts and typical local products are not to be missed, but also workshops and workshops for the little ones, who can visit the wonderful Castle of Santa Claus.

  • reachable from Ancona, by car via SS 76 (about 70 km, 1 h 10 min). It is recommended to have a car, with public transport it takes at least 2 h 30 min - Get directions
  • What to do / see: Living Nativity of Genga, Frasassi Caves, Castle of Santa Claus, historic center of Genga
  • Hotel and b & b starting from € 75,00 per room -

15 - Gubbio, Perugia (Umbria)

Gubbio is a wonderful medieval village in Umbria, not too far from Perugia. It is located in a wonderful location, surrounded by nature. One of the best times to visit it, besides the summer, is definitely the Christmas period, place houses the largest Christmas tree in the world, which stands out over the entire medieval city. And the celebrations begin with its lighting, at the beginning of December!

The whole city is decorated throughout the month of December and the Christmas Land is set up: it is a journey to discover the city, immersed in a wonderful Christmas atmosphere! There are attractions for both adults and children, such as the Reign of Santa Claus and the International Crib Art Exhibition (new proposals every year, times varying according to the day, consult the official website). Moreover, buying Santa's Passport, you will be entitled to discounts and benefits on entrances and services!

In addition to the Christmas Land, you can discover the city through some attractions designed especially for Christmas, like the Gubbio Express Christmas, a little train that goes around the historic center.

  • from Perugia by car via SR 298 (40 km, 50 min). It is recommended to have your own vehicle, alternatively direct bus E001 between the two central city squares (1 h 15 min) - Get directions
  • What to do / see: historic center of Gubbio, largest tree in the world, Christmas Land, ride on the Gubbio Express Christmas
  • Hotel and b & b starting from € 55,00 per room -

16 - Bressanone, Bolzano (South Tyrol)

Let's go back to South Tyrol again, this time to Bressanone. Also in this case it is not really a village, but more an ancient archiepiscopal city, but the beauty it releases at Christmas makes it rightfully enter this ranking! In the square in front of the famous Bressanone Cathedral in fact, the wonderful Christmas markets are held, famous throughout Italy!

In the center of the square there is a large Christmas tree, surrounded by the classic wooden houses selling handicrafts and tasty local specialties. The markets enjoy the Green Event recognition, that is attentive to the environment and with a food and wine offer that offers only local and seasonal foods, and dishes prepared with organic ingredients!

In addition to the markets, there are many activities around: from workshops for young and old to the skating rink in the central square, up to concerts and shows. In this regard, the Liora Light Musical Show is not to be missed the multimedia show made of lights and music which takes place every year in the courtyard of the Bishop's Palace of the city.

  • easily reachable from Bolzano by car via the A22 / E45 and Via Statale 12 (41 km, 45 min). Alternatively, there is also the direct regional train between the two cities' stations (40 min) - Get directions
  • What to do / see: Christmas market, Liora Light Musical Show, Bressanone Cathedral, Witches' Slide, Colle Pinaz panoramic terrace
  • Hotel and b & b starting from € 100,00 per room -

17 - Matera (Basilicata)

We conclude with Matera, in Basilicata. Known as the City of Stones, even in this case it is not really a village, but if you want an Italian destination for Christmas it is absolutely worth considering! Because it's right in the Sassi area that the wonderful living nativity scene is held, in addition to numerous other events.

The Living Nativity of the Sassi of Matera will allow you to learn about ancient traditions, thanks to numerous actors who will personify different characters. The event takes place on the weekends of December and around the day of Natal. But not only that, visiting the Sassi during the Christmas period also means discovering the Sacred events of Advent, as well as performances of bagpipes and traditional songs. The little ones can have fun in the Santa Claus Village!

  • if you arrive by plane the best solution is to land at Bari airport, and from there drive to Matera (65 km, 55 min). The best solution is to have a means to move freely - Get directions
  • What to do / see: Living Nativity Scene of the Sassi of Matera, Santa Claus Village, historic center, Tramontano Castle, Matera Basilica
  • Hotel and b & b starting from € 50,00 per room -

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