Fancy swapping the UK for some alternative Xmas traditions over the festive period? Head to Italy for glittering gondolas, magical markets and enchanting processions. Here are our top picks for places to spend Christmas in Italy…
Pick the gorgeous coastal town of Sorrento in the Neapolitan Riviera for your Christmas break and explore the twisted lanes of the old town covered in pretty decorations. The churches create elaborate nativity displays, and there’s street entertainment in the town square every weekend from the end of November to the first week of January. Pose by the giant Christmas tree in Piazza Tasso, which plays a timed light and music show every so often, and pay a visit to the pretty Piazza Lauro which is decorated like a snow village. If you’re travelling with little ones in tow, take them to Santa’s Village in Villa Fiorentino where they can meet the big man in red.
Christmas in Sicily is a traditional, rather than commercial, affair. Decorations go up on the 8th of December, after the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and you’ll find plenty of festive markets and nativity scenes, and see processions through the towns. If you head to the Madonie Mountains on Christmas Eve, commonly known as the the night of the Luminari, you’ll see bonfires lit up in all the small towns, signifying the tradition of ‘keeping Baby Jesus warm’. Pick the hillside town of Taormina, on Sicily’s east coast, as your base for a vibrant festive atmosphere and stunning views of the snow-capped Mount Etna.
Venice is magical at the best of times, but during Christmas, the city is decorated with thousands of lights, giving it a truly enchanting look. Even the gondolas are given a festive fairy light makeover for the holiday season. The main piazzas are full of Christmas markets where you can pick up handmade crafts and murano glass gifts, while listening to the concerts going on in the local churches. In the nearby murano suburb of Venice – famous for making the finest glass in the world – you’ll also find the largest glass-blown Christmas tree, which is 3 metres wide and 8.5 metres high.
Get your sightseeing fix in Florence over Christmas, as the famous galleries and acclaimed museums are much quieter. The Uffizi and Accademia are even open on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day so you can check out Michelangelo’s David and The Birth of Venus. For a special Christmas Eve experience, head to the Duomo for midnight mass. You’ll also be able to see a giant Christmas tree in the Piazza del Duomo and a life-size nativity scene made with local terracota.