Best Places to visit in December in Italy

December rhymes with Christmas, celebrations, family time and home decorations and it’s the most beloved period of the year for many Italians. From the biggest city to the tiniest village, you’ll find many fairs and special occasions for all tastes and there will be something interesting to do and to see everywhere.

In each house, you’ll find a Christmas tree and a nativity scene and the main tradition consists of the Midnight Mass, often preceded by a family dinner. As an alternative, many families prefer to gather on Christmas day for lunch, but every festive meal will surely end with a slice of panettone or pandoro! December is beloved by food lovers too, because of the so-called “cenone” (literally “big dinner”) taking place to celebrate the New Year!

In December, you’ll find cold-weather everywhere and frequent snowfalls in the mountains, but you’ll enjoy several sunny days too, especially in the Northern Regions where it rarely rains in winter.

December is the perfect month for experiencing a truly Italian-style Christmas

You can also see the map here

Best things to do in Italy in December

1. Enjoy some Christmas cheer in Merano (Trentino Alto Adige)

What: Merano is one of the most popular winter destinations of Northern Italy and its lively and colorful Christmas market attracts many tourists. Merano is also a very nice town full of art, entertainment and wellness facilities that make it an excellent location for people who don’t particularly like winter sports.

What to see: the Christmas market takes place along the Passirio River with its scenic walk offering a beautiful view of the mountains. Have also a walk under the arcades of the Old Town to do some shopping and admire the many Liberty-style buildings like the Kurhaus or the Puccini Theater.

How long: 1 weekend

Why December: to do your Christmas shopping in a beautiful alpine surrounding

Weather: the average temperature is 8°C with an alternation of sun and clouds

Practical tips: visit here to plan your visit to Merano’s Christmas market

2. Buy your Christmas presents in Bolzano (Trentino Alto Adige)

What: just like Merano, Bolzano is famous for its Christmas market attracting many visitors from all around Italy. Bolzano is also a city of art offering some examples of architectural and cultural heritage and combining an alpine setting with many sightseeing opportunities.

What to see: the Christmas market takes place in Walther Square, which is the heart of the city. You should also visit the gothic Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and its rich Museum of the Treasure and have a walk in Piazza delle Erbe to see its picturesque arcades. If you still have some time, reach Firmiano Castle and visit its interesting Mountain Museum.

How long: 1 weekend

Why December: to combine sightseeing and shopping

Weather: the average temperature is 3°C with sunny days

Practical tips: visit here to plan your visit to Bolzano’s Christmas market

3. Make a gift to a food lover in Montepulciano (Tuscany)

What: Montepulciano’s Christmas market is mainly about Tuscan typical products and food. This nice medieval town is located among local vineyards and it is famous for its Nobile wine, which is one of the most prized Italian wines.

What to see: the Christmas market takes place in Piazza Maggiore, in the heart of the medieval Old Town. The best attraction is the ancient fortress offering a great view of the Orcia Valley. Don’t forget to visit some of the local cellars and wineries to taste some Nobile wine!

How long: 1day trip from Florence or Siena

Why December: to buy some local specialties as a gift or for your Christmas meal!

Weather: the average temperature is 7°C with an alternation of sun and rain

Practical tips: visit here to plan your visit to Montepulciano’s Christmas market

4. Admire the biggest lightened nativity scene in the world in Manarola (Liguria)

What: Liguria’s best winter attraction is this huge art installation in the Cinque Terre area. The nativity scene is entirely made with recycled materials and it is lightened with thousands of light bulbs recreating 300 characters scattered throughout a 4000 square meters’ area.

What to see: Manarola is a tiny village that can be fully visited in about 1 hour, so you’ll have plenty of time to also visit Riomaggiore, Corniglia, Monterosso, and Vernazza to admire all the different landscapes of the Cinque Terre area.  

How long: 1 weekend

Why December: to see the lightened nativity scene (it is turned on every day at 5 p.m.)

Weather: the average temperature is 7°C with an alternation of sun and clouds

Practical tips: to fully enjoy it, go there on December 8th, that is the inauguration day including a special ceremony and some fireworks too!

5. Enjoy the art installations called “Luci D’Artista” in Turin (Piemonte)

What: “Luci d’Artista” is the name of a special event taking place every year in Turin from the beginning of November to mid-January. During this period, the city streets and the main monuments are decorated with some artistic lights creating a sort of open-air art gallery.

What to see: the best thing to do is simply walking in the city center and have fun finding all the different light installations at every corner of the streets. If you don’t have much time, head to the Mole Antonelliana first and visit also the Cinema Museum inside.  After that, head to Piazza San Carlo to see the huge Christmas tree entirely made of colorful led lights.

How long: 1 weekend

Why December: it’s the best period to visit Turin for all the art lovers!

Weather: the average temperature is 6°C with sunny days

Practical tips: don’t miss the local Christmas markets taking place both in Piazza Castello and Piazza Solferino!

6. Enjoy a skiing holiday in Sestriere (Piemonte)

What: it’s one of the most popular ski resorts in Piemonte and the stage of some international competitions too. It’s one of the favorite spots of Italian mountain lovers and a crowded and popular winter destination.

What to see: the ski slopes of course! Sestriere is included in the international ski area called “Via Lattea” and including several French and Italian slopes. If you prefer to relax and enjoy some good food, visit one of the many mountain lodges nearby, like Alpette lodge or Black Eagle Lodge. To have some fun in the open air, don’t miss a visit to the Sestriere Sleddog Center!

How long: 1 week

Why December: to spend your Christmas holidays in the snow

Weather: the average temperature is -3°C with abundant snow

Practical tips: Sestriere is a really tiny village, so you can choose to stay in the so-called Olympic Village. This resort was built on the occasion of the Winter Olympic Games in 2006 and it was then turned into a modern and fully equipped accommodation for skiers!

7. Immerse yourself in the folk atmosphere of the Obey Obey Fair in Milan (Lombardia)

What: This tradition stems from an event occurred in 1510. Giannetto Castiglione was sent to Milan by the Pope and he decided to bring some gifts to be accepted by the inhabitants of the city. All the children were so happy to see those gifts that screamed “Oh bei, Oh bei!”, which literally means “it’s wonderful!” in the local dialect. Nowadays, a traditional fair takes place every year to celebrate the patronal fest (S. Ambrogio’s Day) on December 7th. 

What to see: the fair takes place around the Sforza Castle and it’s a good occasion to visit its many internal exhibitions too. When in Milan, you cannot miss a visit to the Cathedral and its terrace and to the Cenacolo to see the “Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci.

How long: 1 weekend

Why December: to attend this iconic fair that officially kicks off the Christmas period in Milan

Weather: the average temperature is 6°C with sunny days

Practical tips: don’t miss the Village of Wonders inside Indro Montanelli Park! Here you can visit Santa’s House and have fun skating on ice!

8. Admire Rome all dressed up for Christmas (Lazio)

What: there are many different Christmas markets scattered throughout the city and going from the most famous one located in Piazza Navona to the smaller ones in the suburbs. With its lights, decorations and Christmas trees, Rome is really beautiful in December and many visitors choose this period for their sightseeing. Around Christmas, Rome gets crowded by pilgrims going there to celebrate, attend the special masses or see the Pope.  

What to see: you’ll find the best Roman Christmas market in the beautiful Piazza Navona, where you can also admire the famous Four Rivers’ Fountain by Bernini. From there, you can easily walk your way through the city center and reach many other attractions like the Pantheon, the church of S. Luigi dei Francesi with its paintings by Caravaggio, the Torre Argentina Square with its ruins and its cats or the Quirinale hill with the Italian government buildings.  

How long: 4-5 days

Why December: because Rome it’s even more beautiful than usual, thanks to the Christmas lights and decorations

Weather: the average temperature is 9°C with an alternation of sun and rain

Practical tips: if you are in Rome for Christmas, don’t miss the “100 Nativity Scenes Exhibition” in Vatican City. It takes place in Room Pio X in via dell’ Ospedale 1. For more information check here

9. Step back in time in Aosta (Valle d’Aosta)

What: the capital of Valle d’Aosta Region is a historic city dating back to the Roman period and many tourists choose to spend a weekend there in winter to visit its ruins and to go skiing nearby. The town may get very crowded in December, because of the many visitors attracted by its Marché Vert, which is the local Christmas market.

What to see: the Christmas market takes place inside the Roman amphitheater, which is a huge theater (mostly in ruins) dating back to the 25 B.C. and creating an evocative atmosphere. The other two important Roman remains are the Pretoria Gate and the Arch of Augustus, still enclosing the picturesque Old Town with its narrow streets and the beautiful Emile Chanoux Square. Don’t miss a tour of the Forensis Cryptoporticus, that is an underground structure once connecting the ancient temple dedicated to Augustus to a temple dedicated to Juno, Jupiter, and Minerva.

How long: 1 weekend

Why December: to combine sightseeing, Christmas shopping, and skiing opportunities

Weather: the average temperature is -1°C with frequent snowfalls

Practical tips: if you stay in Aosta for a couple of days, save some time to visit the medieval Fénis Castle too!

10. Attend the Fair of St Lucia in Bologna (Emilia Romagna)

What: this is the local version of the traditional Christmas market and it takes place every year from the end of November to St Stephen’s Day (Dec 26th) under the arcades of the Church of the Servants in Strada Maggiore. It is especially famous for its Christmas decorations and nativity scenes.

What to see: the gothic Church of the Servants is definitely worth a visit thanks to the masterpiece by Cimabue named “Virgin Mary on the Throne”. Nearby, you can also see the Major Gate and the S. Vitale Gate, which are two of the ancient entrance gates to the Old Town. If you prefer to stay indoors, visit the National Music Museum and Library, which will teach you the history of Italian classical music in an engaging way offering multimedia facilities and practical workshops too. As an alternative, you can explore the science collections housed inside Poggi Palace and belonging to the local university. – You might also like things to do in Bologna. 

How long: 1 weekend

Why December: to choose the best decorations for your home at the Fair of St Lucia

Weather: the average temperature is 6°C with sunny days

Practical tips: don’t miss the beautiful Christmas tree in Piazza Maggiore and the many lights decorating the streets of the Old Town.





Sharing is caring!

Leave a Comment