For a festive Italian holiday treat flavored with a taste of true European culture, there’s no place quite like Northern Italy to spend the Christmas season. If you’re looking for a breathtaking, snow-covered tour of the alpine regions, begin your journey in South Tyrol, home to the Bolzano Christmas Market. You’ll find traditional Christmas decorations, wood, glass, and clay hand-made creations, and a cornucopia of fresh baked pastries amid the rich aroma of roasted chestnuts.
South Tyrol, also known as Alto Adige, is a picturesque European retreat with a medieval atmosphere. Be sure to take lots of pictures of the arcaded streets, quaint town square, and the breathtaking Rosengarten Dolomites, the legendary Rose Garden mountain range that glows pink during the sunset. Bolzano, which is situated 265 meters above sea level, is the gateway to the Dolomites and the ideal place to view the fantasy realm of Laurin, the Dwarf King. Be sure to brush up on this local tale before visiting. You’ll most certainly hear it referenced during your stay in Bolzano.
Plan on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in Milan
Since you’ll be in Northern Italy for the holidays and transportation is inexpensive, fast, and safe throughout the country, plan on visiting Milan for December 24th and 25th. The spectacular Christmas tree in Piazza Duomo is only one of many breathtaking light displays in the city that houses the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Castello Sforzesco, and Palazzo Reale. For a bird’s eye view of Milan lit up during the Christmas season, we recommend a trip to Torre Branca in Parco Sempione, the 108 meter Iron Tower in Milan’s main city park.
Your trip to Milan should definitely include a stop at the Duomo do Milano, the magnificent cathedral that took nearly five centuries to build, site of a Christmas Eve Mass performed by Cardinal Archbishop Angelo Scola. The service for midnight mass starts at 11:30 PM, and the cathedral fills up quickly, so you’ll want to get there at least two hours early to secure a good spot. The Duomo is closed on Christmas day, but masses are held at Sant’Ambrogio and Santa Maria delle Grazie.
New Year’s Eve in Turin
Just an hour west of Milan you’ll find Turin, a picturesque alpine metropolis with the best New Year’s Eve celebration this side of Times Square. If you’re looking to add some excitement to your Northern Italian odyssey, make Turin your last stop before going home. Arriving right after Christmas will give you a little down time to enjoy the numerous art galleries, opera houses, museums, and of course a tour of the fabulous Castello del Valentino.
New Year’s Eve itself is a fun filled night of fireworks and live musical festivities. The hotspot is Piazza San Carlo, which offers an all night party complete with dancing, fine Italian food, and adult beverages of your choice. Most of the restaurants remain open for the celebration, including Caffe San Carlo, which is in the square, and Lindt, which is located just a few meters away. What better way to end your trip than with music, dancing, coffee and chocolate?