When it comes to Christmas markets in Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige is the place to go. Here, the festive atmosphere blends in perfectly with the region’s ski resorts, historic towns, mountain villages and local traditions.
Originally an aspect of German cultural heritage, Christmas markets have long been a tradition in Italy’s northern region of Trentino-Alto Adige. Villages and town centres are dressed in festive decorations, nativity scenes and advent calendars. Rich displays of traditional arts and crafts are featured in the stalls, while the gastronomic offerings blend the tastes of Central Europe with the Mediterranean.
Here are some of the best Christmas markets scattered across the two sub-regions that form this part of Italy – Trentino and South Tyrol – and their programmes run from November or December until the first week of January.
Cut through by the Passirio creek, Merano is a spa town known for its mild climate. Its Christmas outfit is made of decorated trees and wooden stalls, lined up beside the river, each featuring local cuisine and artisanal crafts. The facade of the Palais Mamming Museum serves as a huge advent calendar, while entertainment events include concerts, street art shows and creative workshops. Aside from the Christmas market and the wellness attractions, Merano is known for its Art Nouveau buildings.
With a backdrop of the Plan de Corones ski area’s lofty peaks, the medieval town of Brunico makes for a charming setting to enjoy the Christmas season. More than 30 stalls make up the market, promoting local products such as loden fabrics, wood-carved decorations and artisanal toys. To fuel up after a day spent on the slopes, the gastronomic scene features mountain classics ranging from canederli (boiled dumplings) and spätzle (egg noodles) to apple fritters. Historical nativity scenes are also on display, with the intention to help visitors forget, for a while, the more commercial side of Christmas.
In Bolzano, the parade of regional products takes place in Piazza Walther at 80+ stalls that crowd the square. Local arts and crafts are sold by the artisans themselves, with live performances held daily. The weekends see a profusion of music events, with the programme of concerts exploring themes like local folklore, performed by bands dressed in traditional costumes. Additionally, visitors can choose from a range of guided tours to experience the Christmas atmosphere while discovering the city’s landmarks, museums, churches and other attractions.
The stalls in Bressanone display an array of Tyrolese gift ideas including wood carvings, handmade pottery and painted glass baubles. Also widely featured is the local cuisine, with a particular focus on delicacies typical of the Isarco Valley. The supporting events and attractions include the light musical show ‘Natalie’, as well as traditional Christmas features such as a steam carousel and horse-drawn carriage rides. The Diocesan Museum hosts a particularly rich display of historic nativity scenes, accounting for a tradition which in Bressanone goes back centuries.
One thousand meters above the sea level, Vipiteno is a late medieval town known for its history as a mining hub. Decorated by Christmas lights, the famous Torre delle Dodici presides over the market stalls gathered in Piazza Città, while a window of the advent calendar is opened every day across the town centre. Among the many food specialties to be discovered, the bergwerksgröstl is a dish of potato, meat and onion, made according to an old miners’ recipe. Further culinary insight is provided by cooking classes focused on the making of mulled wine, canederli dumplings and Christmas sweets.
Trento’s Christmas market has grown considerably since it launched in 1993. Two of the city’s central squares host over 90 exhibitors, some of which have been invited every year since the first edition. But artisanal and gastronomic stalls are not the only attractions during this time of the year, as a rich programme of events starts in late November adding to the Christmas atmosphere. These include the “Nights of the alembics”, an itinerant show exploring historic distilleries in the Valley Of The Lakes.
Every day at sunset, the tolls of the ‘Maria Dolens’ bell are heard across Rovereto a hundred times, remembering the dead of all wars. This reverent streak is also reflected in the city’s Christmas celebrations, symbolised by the 18-meter tree standing in Rosmini Square. Up until Christmas Eve, over 50 market stalls dot the town centre showcasing artisanal crafts and food specialties (such as baccalà alla roveretana, a cod-based stew), while the supporting events and initiatives continue until early January. While in town, the local attractions to look out for include the Mart museum and Rovereto Castle.
A half-an-hour drive east of Trento, Levico is a spa town overlooking the region’s second largest lake, Lago di Levico. A park dating back to the Hapsburg era provides a pleasant setting for the Christmas Market, where around 60 exhibitors showcase local handicrafts and food among decorated trees. The traditionally-made polenta is one of the specialties to try, as well as the malga cheese worked on the spot. Over a hundred nativity scenes are scattered across town, including a life-size presepe (nativity) of wooden sculptures carved during one of the market’s events.