My first Christmas in Lazio

This is going to be my first Christmas in Lazio, my first Christmas in Italy. I'm not quite sure what to expect. Christmas in Italy, as in most Western countries is traditionally celebrated December 24th to January 6th, or from Christmas Eve to Epiphany (when La Befana, the kind witch, brings presents to good children).

Being English, I'm used to Christmas being all about eating as much roast turkey and trimmings as possible, whilst falling into a semi-prostrate pose in front of re-runs of 70s episodes of Morecambe and Wise. Rather than Morecambe and Wise, I'll probably end up watching some cine panettone such as 'Natale in Sud'Africa' with Belen Rodriguez, who seems to be everywhere (but doesn't seem to actually do anything). Another difference is that presepe, or nativity scenes are quite big in Lazio. These are fantastic, and seem to be on every corner in every village you come across. Here's a picture from Santuario di Castel Sant'Elia.

Nativity scenes are not the only thing that will be different. My adopted family celebrate on Christmas eve more than Christmas day itself. The whole family are going to head over to Nonna’s and have a big feast on Christmas eve evening. I'm told this will consist of a simple pasta dish, and some kind of combination of mare e monti, such as mushroom and shrimps, before we eat fried fish (probably cod) and fried vegetables (such as cauliflower or artichokes). Then, after heading to Church for midnight mass, we'll open our presents (when it's just Christmas).

We'll stay at Nonna’s for Christmas day as well. We’ll finish leftovers from the night before, as a prelude to a marathon eating session. We’ll have three different homemade pasta dishes, most likely tagliolini in brodo, spinach and ricotta ravioli and pappadelle with a rabbit or hare sauce. At this point in proceedings I usually start to get worried about the amount of food. After the THREE pasta courses, we struggle on to the secondi, the meat courses. I’m not sure what we’re having yet, but usually there is chicken, sheep and pork somewhere in the mix. This will be followed by a sweet pasta such as maccheroni dolci (pasta with sugar, nuts and pepper), with the coup de grace provided by a slice of panettone or Torrone.

Hopefully I’ll be able to walk some of the food off while screams of ‘Tombola!’ ring out over the deserted streets. Tombola is essentially like bingo, with each player having a scorecard with rows of numbers. However, unlike the American version, where you can shout ‘house!’ whenever you get a row horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, in Tombola, only horizontally counts. In our particular case, game-playing is sexually dimorphic; the women and children play Tombola while the men play an Italian card game called Tresette.

So that’s how I plan to spend my first Italian Christmas. Not much difference to Christmas elsewhere really, but with an Italian twist (and definitely more food!)

Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, Buon Natale!


  1. It is our first Christmas in Lazio too! I love the details you've added as I didn't know about the Tombola custom. I just started my blog over and look forward to reading your posts to see what I've missed so far in my adventures. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Buone Feste!

  2. Wishing you a merry Christmas!

  3. Thanks for your comments guys! Merry Christmas to you both!