I always look forward to Christmas markets in Italy and whenever the chance arrives I try to get out of the Puglia region and do my Christmas shopping elsewhere just for a change of scenery. Don’t get me wrong, the Puglia region has some great Christmas markets but Italy as a whole offers some stellar Christmas markets that deserve your attention if you have the time.
All Roads Lead to Rome…
At least that’s how the saying goes. And I tend to believe it especially during the month of December! Sure the Papal Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, and the Pope’s Christmas message in front of St. Peter’s on Christmas Day are must-see items for any visitor’s itinerary, but it’s the Christmas Market in Piazza Navona that I enjoy the most. You’ll find a lot of stuff you’ll want to purchase (nativity scenes and accompanying figurines) and a lot of stuff you can do without (wooden toys and knick-knacks imported from China) but the whole Christmas market ambiance found in Piazza Navona is not to be missed.
Piazza Navona was ancient Rome’s main market for centuries and still thrives as a market place today. It serves as gathering place for thousands of tourists attracted to the lively atmosphere, stylish cafes, local art market and the three fountains: Fontana del Moro, Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, and the ever popular Fontana del Nettuno.
But you won’t be going to the Piazza for culture – not during the month of December. All the action kicks off on December 8th and anyone interested in looking for unique and not-so-unique stocking stuffers can easily be overwhelmed. And it’s not just the Piazza but the general area in particular that is outfitted for the Christmas holidays: fake Santa’s chumming for change, sidewalk musicians playing a happy tune. Colored lights abound. The only thing missing is snow and I’d bet even money that some of the white stuff will fall as you count down the 12 days of Christmas.
As Christmas markets go, the market at Piazza Navona is one of my favorites. The eternal city really embraces the commercial aspects of the Christmas spirit which is understandable I guess. And outside of the Piazza, the city of Rome has some great locations to purchase gifts: hundreds of little shops and stalls packed with everything from food to sweets.
Come to think of it, it you look past the Christmas items so prevalent at Piazza Navonna, this Christmas market isn’t too much different from the typical markets that crop up every week all across the country. Shirts, sweaters, shoes in addition to dresses and anything else that constitutes the latest fashions can all be found. And often for a fraction of what you’d pay for in a store.
The Christmas shopping season in Rome begins on the 8th December with the festival of the Immaculate Conception and pretty much lasts until January 6th, the Epiphany. In Italy this is not only a religious day but also another gift-swapping occasion for the Befana – Italy’s good witch – who brings gifts to children..
The Piazza Navona is situated on the historic center of Rome, west of the Pantheon. bus n. 87 (Colosseo Metro Line B), n. 492 (from Piazza Barberini), n. 70 (from Termini Station). You can get a good walking-map at www. maps.google.com/maps/ms . I highly recommend you leave your rental car behind, use the metro and go on foot.