Traditional Christmas panettone
Christmas is just around the corner. There is not much time left to prepare for the annual Christmas shopping – thankfully Black Friday and Cyber Monday can help you to sort out most presents without breaking the bank. Getting in the mood for Christmas, though, is an entirely different kettle of fish. The political situation at the moment – you can call yourself lucky if you haven’t been accidentally involved in debates about the US midterm elections yet –, and the looming world financial recession – forecast for 2020 – can affect your festive spirit. Even though now is the best time to celebrate and create happy memories, feeling happy might be the last thing on your list right now. However, nobody wants to be the long-faced guest or host of the Christmas party. But it’s fair to say that getting in the mood might prove difficult this year.
However, you can trick yourself into rediscovering the magic of the festive season. Why not book a last minute holiday ahead of Christmas in one of the most festive places in the world, Italy? Fancy celebrating Christmas like a Roman? Here’s how to rediscover the magic of Natale – that’s Christmas in Italian.
What’s so special about Italy?
The first thing you might be wondering is what’s so special about Christmas in Italy that you can’t find in the US. First of all, Natale is a huge deal in the Italian calendar. You are most likely to come across popular street decorations with lights hanging on buildings and trees in most towns. But as Italy is a deeply Catholic country – with the Vatican in its heart –, you will be surprised by how much the nativity scene dominates the Italian landscape. Of course, you might come across a handful of Santas, but ultimately, you’ll find plenty of presepe – nativity scenes – in churches but also in public places such as popular squares in town centers, by large fountains, in shop windows, etc. It’s impossible not be charmed by the attention to details of some of these presepe; many of them being homemade or hung over from parents to children over generations. In the Italian culture, presents are brought by a good witch – La Befana – on the night of the Epiphany, so you’re likely to see her in the nativity scenes and the shop windows too.
Pack smartly: There’s a lot to bring with you
Going to Italy in winter requires a lot of planning, especially if you want to visit. The Northern regions of Italy are likely to be snowed in – as they share an Alpine border with France and Austria. On the contrary, the south of Italy is likely to exhibit a milder climate, meaning that you have to pack smartly if you intend to cross the country. If you’re wondering how to make it work, you might want to invest in a case with at least 3 compartments – alternatively, you can buy travel cubes to compartmentalize your case. Your front compartment is for storing makeup, and other items that might ruin your clothes if they were to leak. Keep your travel essentials in the back compartment as well as a small fleece jumper too. You can dedicate the rest of your bag to your fashion outfits, focusing on layers so that you can add more for northern regions and wear less when you get to the south.
Which tours to try? Let experts guide you
When you book your holiday to Italy, it’s fair to say that you might have already a list of things you want to see and do. Places such as Sorrento in the Neapolitan Riviera combines the perfect mixture of old town and Christmas fun. For something more authentic, you might want to head to Sicily where Christmas is a traditional affair with procession throughout the festive season. And of course, you don’t want to miss the magical sight of Venice at Christmas! Can anything replace the glamor of the Christmas light reflecting in the canals? With a list packed with exciting views and activities, you might struggle to stay on top of your schedule. Experienced travelers recommend professional tailored organizers such as Finelli & Shaw to make each day extraordinary. As a rule of the thumb, avoid bus tours as they are likely to take you away from the local Christmas spirit.
You don’t need to get there exactly on Christmas day and other fun facts
As you know, Christmas falls everywhere on the 25th of December, although some cultures exchange presents during the nights of the 24th. However, Christmas in Italy is a month-long adventure. Most lights and decorations get on at the beginning of December and stay until the Epiphany when La Befana brings presents to the children. The traditional Christmas tree is quite new to the Italian traditions and was only brought by Pope John Paul II in the 1980s. Consequently, you might be surrounded by nativity scenes, vibrant decorations and Christmas carols everywhere you go, but you may not see many trees!
Want to celebrate with the locals? Get it right
Last, but not least, you can resort to social media and community platforms to get in touch with friendly locals. You might even get invited to celebrate Christmas with your Italian friends! If this is the case, you’ll need to make a positive impression on your guests. The first rule of all is to ban your ugly Christmas jumper. Italian families encourage an all-black and elegant outfit for celebrations. Your little black dress might just be the perfect look for the evening! Your Italian hosts take great pride in their cooking – you could use the opportunity to ask for their recipes! –, so it’s rude to turn down any food that is offered to you. Last, but not least, bring some sweet treats with you – your guests would appreciate a panettone.
The simplicity and grace of an Italian Christmas have something of a contagious sense of joy and excitement. If you’re feeling a little down or unfazed by the festive season, a trip to the country of Natale is guaranteed to put a smile on your lips.