It's that special time of year. Snow is falling, the kids are getting excited... and you've got a lot of presents to buy. But there's always time for a little sight-seeing, right?
Lazio is positively bursting with Christmas markets and fairs at this time of year. Stalls are full of locally-produced artisanal gifts, one-off pieces that can't be found in any shopping mall. So it's an ideal time to combine a little sight-seeing with that gift getting.
As long-time readers will know, one of the things I love about Italy at this time of year are the nativity scenes (presepi) that pop up in practically every town and village (see my post of the presepi I saw last year, for a taster). These can range from small, humble pieces to live presepe, where half the village gets in on the act.
So, here are our picks of the markets and presepi in Lazio this month:
Christmas market, Anguillara, Prov. di Viterbo 8th Dec - 6th Jan.
Anguillara sabazia, perched on the edge of lago di Bracciano, is hosting a Christmas fair, from December 8 to January 6th, with crafts, an antique fair, flea market, gifts, ethnic and speciality stands and even an ice skating rink! More information can be found here.
Natale nei Vicoli, Sant'Oreste, Prov. di Roma 8th Dec - 6th Jan.
Sant'Oreste, perched on the shoulder of Monte Soratte, about 40km north of Rome (on via Flaminia) is hosting 'Christmas in the streets', in the medieval old town. There are events on every weekend, including a visit to the wartime bunker under Monte Soratte, ordered by Mussolini himself. Click on the poster image below for more information.
Christmas market, Sacrofano, Prov. di Roma, 15th - 16th Dec.
Sacrofano, about 25km north of Rome, and easily accessible on the Roma-Civita Castellana-Viterbo trainline, is a charming medieval town. On the weekend of the market, there will be Christmas trees, chocolate tasting, candied sweets, arts and crafts, along with other food stalls, throughout the streets of the old town. More information can be found on their facebook event page.
Christmas market, Nazzano, Prov. di Roma, 15th - 16th Dec.
From 3-8pm on Saturday, and 10am-7pm on Sunday, Nazzano, situated about 40km north of Rome, will host its Christmas Arts and Crafts fair, with only handmade objects on sale. The fair will be in the Museo del Fiume.
Presepe vivente, Corchiano and Sutri, Prov. di Viterbo, 25th Dec - 6th Jan.
Presepi viventi, or 'living nativities' are a pretty big thing in Lazio. We went to the one in Sutri last year, where the presepe was set in the ancient etruscan caves just outside the town. We had a great time, there were lots of people dressed up, re-creating a whole town scene, cooking bread, making pottery, tending animals (and letting you stroke them) - it was a lot of fun, and all for about €5.
Presepe vivente, Greccio, Prov. di Rieti, 24th Dec - 8th Jan.
Greccio, twinned with Bethlehem (bizarrely), is a sleepy hilltop town nestled in the Monti Sabini hills. Every Christmas, the town comes alive with over 100 people involved in the living nativity. The nativity is split into six scenes, and has its origins in a cold Christmas Eve of 1223 when St. Francis of Assisi, on his return from Palestine, wanted to rebuild with the people and animals of the time the Nativity in Bethlehem. More information, in Italian, can be found on the Greccio ProLoco site.
These are just a selection. There are many more fairs, presepi and markets happening in and around Lazio over the coming month, such as those in the towns around Viterbo, as covered by Mary Jane Cryan. If you spot any other good markets, fairs or presepi in Lazio this year, feel free to add more in the comments section (or tweet/email me) and I'll add them to this post.
But what can you do if want to feel all Christmassy, but you don't have the time to leave Rome? A good place to start would be a recent post by Buzz in Rome, which covers the best decorations in Rome. If you need to do a little gift shopping in the eternal city, you should head over to Revealed Rome, where, among many other useful articles, Amanda's got gift-getting in Rome covered. With shopping sorted, you'll no doubt be thinking about food. Thankfully, Tavole Romane have thoughtfully provided an annotated list of all the best restaurants in Rome, that are open over the Christmas and new year period. Finally, don't leave Rome without taking part in some Roman Christmas traditions, such as the Piazza Navona Christmas market, or indulging in a slice of fluffy Pandoro. There. That's Christmas sorted.
This will most likely be my last post before Christmas (I've got to get gift shopping myself!), so all that remains is for me to thank-you for all your comments, tweets and friendship over the last year and to wish you a very, Merry Christmas!
Pete (aka LazioExplorer)