Christmas in Northern Italy

Christmas in Northern Italy

Christmas in Northern Italy really is a magical time. In a country famed for its food and festivals there isn’t anywhere in the world where I would rather be during the festive season. Christmas in Northern Italy can offer you everything from the famous Mercatini di Natale (Christmas markets) of Milan, Verona and Como to a trip into the snow capped mountains above Lake Maggiorre, where you will be met with the most magnificent scenery. Wherever you are in Italy at Christmas, there’s one thing we can be certain of – you will eat like a king! Let’s be honest, this is true to Italy at any time of the year, however at Christmas you are in for some extra-special culinary treats. These are some of our highlights of a Christmas in Northern Italy – Buon Natale!

Christmas in Italy advice


Making Milan the starting point of your trip to Northern Italy at Christmas has many practical advantages. With two international airports, flights to Milan are abundantly available and can often be found at very reasonable prices during the winter months. Enjoying a couple of days in this often unsung city, even as a stand alone city break, can make a fantastic start to your festive season in Italy. In Milan at Christmas, you can find several Christmas markets but the main event is at the iconic Piazza Duomo, right in the heart of the city. With exquisite handcrafted gifts available alongside Milan’s much famed designer stores, Christmas shopping in Milan has something for everyone. But more than anything else, Milan’s  Mercatini di Natale really is a treat for the taste buds! With everything on offer from casual dining served from Milan’s famous hole-in-the-wall pizzeria’s to some of the world’s finest foodie experiences – you will certainly not be disappointed.

As always, we recommend enjoying Italy’s cities ‘hands-free’, by taking advantage of the luggage storage solutions found all over the city. These can be particularly useful on your days of arrival and departure so your holiday in Italy at Christmas can start straight away. While you can of course opt to travel into Milan from a villa or apartment in the Italian lakes, there is also a very good selection of hotels in Milan to consider, especially if you are making this a multi-stop holiday to Italy at Christmas. 

Christmas in Northern Italy


Venice is magical at any time of the year. At Christmas, sprinkled with festive sparkle, this gem of a city really outdoes itself. Christmas in Venice offers all the usual tours and experiences but with the added joy of seeing its world famous bridges and landmarks light up and fill us to the brim with Italian Christmas spirit. Hotels and apartments in Venice can fill-up quickly at this time of year so it’s always worth remembering that staying outside the city in a villa or apartment can often be more practical. And once again, with two airports to choose from, booking flights to Venice couldn’t be easier.

The main Mercatini di Natale in Venice can be found at Campo Santo Stefano where you can choose from some beautifully crafted gifts and souvenirs along with plenty of Christmas treats for the palate too. If you’re traveling with children, it’s not unusual to find activities on offer to keep your littlest travellers busy while you enjoy some time to browse the stalls.

Gondola ride in Venice at Christmas

Christmas in Venice would not be complete without a ride on a gondola. In Campo San Vio, you will find the gondoliers have decorated their boats with all things Christmas – an age-old tradition to help welcome St Nicholas to the city. If you’re very lucky, you may even spot the main man himself enjoying a ride between deliveries!

Visit Verona at Christmas


A stroll through the fair city of Verona at Christmas will leave you in awe as the world famous architecture lights up the crisp Italian sky. There is so much to see and do in Verona. As an all year-round destination, you could fill your time here with tours and activities but we would recommend reserving some of your holiday in Italy at Christmas to simply soak up the atmosphere. This city transforms itself into a grotto of lights with Mercatini di Natale to enjoy around every corner. A highlight in Verona at Christmas is the Exhibition of Nativity Scenes. Tucked into the arches of the Arena, this display attracts nearly a million visitors over the month of December and is a must-see when in Northern Italy at Christmas.

Visit Verona at Christmas

The festive season in Verona is punctuated by the Feast of St Lucy. Celebrated on the 13th December, this annual feast day is considered by many as an even greater event than Christmas itself. The Piazza Bra is filled with stalls, under the watchful gaze of the famous guiding star sculpture, which has illuminated this square since 1984. Here you can fill your shopping bags with traditional Italian toys and gifts and once again fill your tummies with yet more festive Italian fayre. While we love the atmosphere in Verona at Christmas, our choice would be to stay outside the city. Just a stone’s throw from the stunning shores of Lake Garda, choosing a villa or apartment here can add some luxury to your holiday in Italy at Christmas. With excellent public transport in to the city, this really can give you the best of both worlds. 

Christmas festival of lights in Como Italy


Christmas in Como is all about the lights. By day, the low December sun provides a natural glow to the dramatic mountain backdrop, whilst by night the city’s Como la Città dei Balocchi light festival (translating literally to the City of Toys) transforms this exclusive lakeside town into a winter wonderland for all the family. The festival has a new program of events each year but always includes an ice skating rink on the shores of the lake, the Mercatini di Natale held in the main square and the Piazza del Duomo’s light show – illuminating the town’s famous facades with the most magical Christmas scenes. Staying in a villa or apartment in the Italian lakes at Christmas allows you the freedom to visit all of this magic of Christmas in Northern Italy, along with the option of using the excellent public transport links for a day trip to Milan or even Verona – if you don’t mind getting up early!

Christmas lake Maggiore

Lake Maggiore

Lake Maggiore offers something a little bit different from a holiday in Northern Italy at Christmas. Yes it has some fantastic Mercatini di Natale and even more of that delectable Italian food but Lake Maggiore offers some quite unique sights and experiences to enjoy as you breathe in the alpine air and enjoy the feel of the winter sun on your skin.

Nativity scenes feature in every Christmas in Italy, but in Laveno you will find an underwater nativity scene – that’s right, underwater! This age old Italian Christmas tradition has been taken to the next level by submerging it! As the sun goes down, this incredible festive centrepiece is illuminated to create the most unique festive sight we have ever seen. On Christmas Eve, the baby Jesus is carried as part of a procession through the beautifully decorated streets and then added to the scene by divers – we did say it was unique! 

Christmas in Northern Italy

If you’re traveling with children, why not make their Christmas by meeting Santa somewhere they will definitely remember. In La Grotta di Babbo Natale (Santa’s Cave) you will enjoy an immersive experience taking you 200 metres underground to the quarry where the stone to build the Duomo in Milan was sourced. Trust us, your little ones will never forget the day they met Santa in his secret cave.

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Christmas in Northern Italy

From your villa or apartment in Maggiore you are perfectly placed to enjoy a day trip to Milan but you can also use it as a base to head into the Alps to enjoy some of the winter sports on offer in this alpine playground. Our favourite is Mottarone, which can be easily reached from the shores of Stresa – seriously convenient skiing! Non-skiers will be able to enjoy themselves too at Mottarone, where the breathtaking view of seven of Italy’s finest lakes can make the perfect backdrop for your family Christmas photo.