Italians take their holidays very seriously. Nothing gets between them and a long week (or three) away from work at the end of the year, relaxing with la famiglia in front of a gargantuan meal that can last anywhere between three and six hours.
As a result of this, travelers visiting the famous boot-shaped nation during the festive season might run into some disappointments when their favorite museum, or that trattoria with the city’s best spaghetti, is closed.
Even Rome is no exception to this rule. With Christmas right around the corner, what are the options for weary travelers looking for something to do?
Enjoy the city’s many Christmas markets
There are plenty, with lots of options for everybody. And they’re free to browse, which means you’ll have more money left for presents! The most notable ones are:
After years of political debates and legal struggles, the Piazza Navona Christmas market is back. While you walk by, glancing at the famous Fountain of the Four Rivers by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, you can hunt for that special present you’ve been looking for. And yes, you can also grab a bite to eat, while keeping an eye on your little (and big) ones riding the carousel.
Piazza di Spagna
Considered one of the most glamorous places in Rome, this market is a Christmas event that pleases everybody – adults and children alike. Santa has been spotted multiple times at this location, so if you’ve been good, there’s high potential to score some delicious Italian candy.
Running from December 8 to January 6, this Natale Fatto a Mano (handmade Christmas) market offers the best works from local craft artisans and artists. You can listen to music as you sip vin brulè every night and taste delicious fresh products.
And now, for something completely different:
Check out a unique sand nativity scene
Nothing will put you in the Christmas mood more than this astounding, albeit ephemeral, work of art in St. Peter’s Square. If your only measure of comparison is a little castle in the sand from that summer vacation back in 1997, you better brace yourself.
Sand sculptor Rich Varano, with the help of an international team from the Netherlands, Russia, and the Czech Republic, has built a 16-meter long, 5-meter high nativity scene, using 720 tons of sand coming from the famous beach city of Jesolo by the Adriatic sea.
It took 14 days to build, and it’s truly breathtaking in its details and heartbreaking fragility. You have until January 13 to admire it – after that, the sand will be returned to Jesolo and recycled for other stunning art projects. Make sure you take a peek inside of the beautiful St. Peter’s Basilica while you’re there – it’s an absolutely unmissable part of any trip to Rome.
Do as the locals do (and watch the Concerto di Natale)
The 26th edition of the Concerto di Natale was recorded earlier this month in the Paolo VI Audience Hall in the Vatican. The annual show will be broadcast in prime time on December 24, and can be viewed on the Italian TV channel Canale 5. We won’t spoil the details for you, but the orchestra will be conducted by Maestro Renato Serio, while the talent on stage will include renowned Italian musicians and singers as well as international guests like Anastacia, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and Josè Feliciano.
Find out what’s open
Not all venues in Rome are closed over the holiday period, meaning even last-minute visitors still have a chance of getting into the city’s best historic attractions.
If you’re planning to travel to Rome and haven’t bought tickets to your favorite venues yet, remember to check the calendars shown on our pages.
Some attractions will be closed on and around Christmas due to the festive season, but many others will be waiting for you – like the family-friendly Leonardo da Vinci Experience, which is even open on Christmas Day itself.
Enjoy your trip, and buona fortuna!
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