The world is bigger than we could ever possibly imagine, and it’s scary to think we will never even scratch the surface in this lifetime. Even if we do travel to the same places, we see the world through different eyes, creating a unique experience. As I dive head first into travel, I am inspired by each of your adventures and am starting Sonderlust Secrets as a series showcasing this. Interested in being featured?A few years ago, I got the amazing opportunity to go to Italy with my best friend. We spent the better part of two weeks exploring various parts of Italy, including the Italian Alps, Venice, Verona, and, of course, Rome. The best part was that we went during Christmastime, and I learned just how magical Italy is during Natale! So today, I’m sharing with you 5 reasons to visit Italy at Christmastime.
1. Off Season
And by “off season,” I mean fewer crowds, lower prices (generally speaking), and less sweating in the summer heat. That last one might not entice some of you, but those of us who hate being stuck in long lines while getting sticky from the heat will gladly brave cooler temps. Italy tends to experience its hoards of tourists and increase in prices during the summer months. This means that during December, you’ll be free to explore with fewer crowds at prices that are wallet-friendly. And, if you’re still not convinced, I can tell you first hand just how mesmerizing snowfall in a charming, centuries-old city can be.And how refreshing it is to visit and enjoy historical sights without a mass of people around you.We even got to tour the Colosseum while it was practically vacant by taking an early morning tour. The weather was a bit brisk, but it was nothing that a hot cup of coffee couldn’t handle!
As you can see, the crowds appeared just as we were leaving.The same goes for crowds in the Vatican and Saint Peter’s Basilica. Though Vatican City, for obvious reasons, is a popular destination during Christmastime, we were able to enjoy our tour without feeling rushed or herded through with a line of people. The year we went, Saint Peter’s Basilica housed an almost life-sized nativity scene, complete with motion props, which was awesome to see. There was also a large Christmas tree set up in the square. Closer to Christmas Day, a huge Nativity scene is constructed in the square, and on December 25, the Pope gives his blessings from the balcony. However, unless well-planned, space in the square during the actual blessing is hard to come by.Surprisingly, the only place we actually had to wait in line for photos was the Trevi Fountain. I guess all of us tourists just wanted a chance to ensure our return trip to Rome!
2. Sledding in the Italian Alps
Okay, so no exclusive to Christmastime, per say, but this was honestly one of the highlights of the trip. From the drive up to the Alps, to actually renting sleds and racing down in the snow, the day was packed with fun. And, I mean, how often do you get to be carefree and go sledding…in the Alps?? We even sweetened the deal by getting hot chocolate afterwards. Bliss.
3. Murano Glass Christmas Trees
Murano glass, made on the Venetian island of Murano, is coveted for it’s history of expert craftsmanship, especially of the Murrino (mosaic) type. A few shops in Venice carry Christmas trees made purely out of Murano glass. Though not the most affordable Christmas decoration I’ve ever purchased, its one that I cherish and am proud to display each year.
4. Christmas Markets
Almost every town or city you visit during this time will be bustling with Christmas markets. The most memorable ones to me were in Venice and Verona; the latter being where I found a hand painted sign of a Siberian Husky, that happened to look almost exactly like my pup back home! Fun fact: in some areas of Italy, it is required to have an “Attention: Dog,” or “Attenti al Cane,” sign on the entrance of your house, to give fair warning to visitors. Christmas markets offer everything from ornaments and décor, to scarves, shawls, and even full outfits- most of which are handmade. The largest Christmas market in Verona is held near the Roman arena, where you will find a huge shooting star landing in the Piazza.These are a few of my favorite items purchased at the various markets we encountered on our trip.
5. Christmas Decorations & Nativity Scenes
Though some Christmas decorations will be universal no matter what country you’re in, you will notice a decreased presence of Santa Clause, or “Babbo Natale” as he is called, in Italy. However, you will see and hear of La Befana, a good witch (broomstick and all) who is believed to give gifts to the good children of Italy, and coal to the bad ones, on January 5th, the night of the Epiphany.You will see plenty of lights and decor hung throughout the cities.This was the view from the steps of the Vatican into Saint Peter’s Square.The most decorations you will see, however, will be of Nativity scenes, as Italian tradition is more focused on the celebration of Christ than of La Befana or Babbo Natale. Nativity scenes are especially popular in Verona, where they hose a Nativity exhibition.And in Saint Peter’s Basilica.One more awesome reason to visit Italy in December?
The awesome crepes! So. Good.Casey dishes on weddings and all things New Orleans. But just because she lives and loves in NOLA, doesn’t mean she doesn’t like to travel! Join her in her adventures on twitter, Instagram and blog.