As the capital of Christianity, Rome always goes big with Christmas. There are many ways to experience and enjoy the winter holidays, and, along with the mandatory religious celebrations, colorful and cheerful markets are just as important as the Christmas trees and presepi (Nativity scenes) that cover the city.
In the shade of immortal artwork and beneath a starlit sky, you can find the most unusual Christmas gifts, let your children play with toys, revel in the street entertainment and savor some of Italy’s best delicacies at these top holiday markets:
One of the oldest markets couldn’t be in a better location than Piazza Navona, the famous square dominated by Bernini’s imposing Fountains of the Four Rivers. This century-old fair is the capital’s quintessential Christmas market, where a jolly mood (and great toys) makes it the perfect place for the little ones. Laid out around an antique carousel, the stands sell all you need for your winter celebrations. But it’s not just a market; it’s a place where families can easily spend hours engaging in activities meant for youngsters, enjoying street artist performances, warming up with some artisan hot chocolate and, obviously, shopping. If you are looking for some original gifts, pick up handmade toys or some festive decorations, from glittery angels to wooden statues for your own Nativity scene. 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. through January 6
In line with the elegance of Prati neighborhood, the Christmas market held every year around the fountain of Piazza Mazzini never fails to deliver. Along with the usual Oriental items, such as Nepalese scarves and Indian incense holders, on sale is a wide range of Italian handmade goods, such as wool coats, hats and jumpers. Make your way through the round-shaped fair and pick up authentic Italian gifts, from fine jewelry made with Murano glass, to regional delicacies — Sicilian treats like pistachio-based products from Bronte and Modica chocolate, or Sardinian delights such as the delicious honey-based torrone (nougat) of Tonara, thin and crispy carasau bread as part of the Arab legacy and a great choice of its famed cheeses, especially Pecorino sardo. 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. through December 29
Held just outside the Vatican walls, the market in Piazza Risorgimento is at the crossroads of shopping streets Via Ottaviano, Via Cola di Rienzo and Via di Porta Angelica. In this piazza, you can find the inevitable holiday decorations along with unique gifts fitting all seasons and occasions. Themed tablecloths, fine bath linens, luxe sofa cushions and handmade olive wood kitchen tools are among the most popular items, but if you want to bring home original presents, head to the end of the market if you are coming from Via Cola di Rienzo or stop right at the beginning if you have just finished your tour of the Vatican Museums and peruse the beautiful amber jewelry from the Baltic Sea at the stall specializing in Polish crafts. Along with stylish earrings, necklaces and bracelets starting from as little as €10 ($13.75), you will also see beautiful handmade blown glass balls and eco-friendly acrylic paintings on wooden boards. 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. through January 6
Photos Courtesy of Angela Corrias