Christmas markets the world over help create that special seasonal cheer, and those in Rome are no different.
However, checking off your Naughty and Nice list achieves a sense of import when in one of the most visited cities in the world. The cultural and architectural brilliance established by Romans Past meet the creativity of vendors today.
Whether shopping, perusing, or just looking, we can all appreciate the authentic wares of Roman Christmas markets; they continue a tradition of characteristic ingenuity that makes the city and its culture so special.
Whether you believe in Santa Claus or not, these colder months provide a seasonal celebration of good vibes between our fellow human. Alleviate the winter darkness with the skillful and tasty products found in the Eternal City’s markets below.
1. Piazza Navona Christmas Market
Piazza Navona is one of the most iconic squares in the city. Its shape is still reminiscent of the ancient Stadium of Domitian, and the Baroque masterpieces of the Four Rivers Fountain and the church of Sant’Agense in Agone still stand sentinel. Of course, the Palazzo Pamphili, once the papal residence of Pope Innocent the X, is as impressive as ever, housing the Brazilian embassy today.
With such an impressive backdrop, Navona’s Christmas market thrives in an atmosphere of history, and bustling human activity. Usually held every year (except for 2015, which experienced an aching void without it), it features gift ideas in the form of crafts, toys, seasonal roasted chestnuts, and nativity figures such as La Befana.
November 25 – January 6 Weekdays from 10 A.M to 1 A.M. Weekends and holidays from 10 A.M to 2 A.M.
Who’s La Befana, you may ask? In an Italian tradition that stretches as far back as the 13th century, she’s a witch who doles out sweets or black coal to good or bad children on the night of January 5th (the 12th day of Christmas). Legend has it that the Three Wise Men asked her to join their journey to the baby Jesus. As she was busy at that time, she declined. However, in a moment of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), she sped after the Three Wise men, but they and the Baby Jesus were already long gone. Year after year she flies on her broom in search of them, leaving tasty or disappointing stockings in her wake.
2. Mercatino di Natale a Piazza di Spagna
Another landmark location in Rome is the Piazza di Spagna, commonly referred to as the Spanish Steps. It’s a hub of high fashion with stores boasting names such as Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Armani, Prada, and Versace, to name some window-shopping favorites. Opulent hotels are also snuggled down the picturesque side streets that weave around it, highlighting the Steps a destination for those seeking the luxury lifestyle.
Popular since the 18th century, the Scalina Spagna also connect the Trinita dei Monti church at the top with the square below, which in the 17th century was owned by the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See; it was even considered to be Spanish terrain. Through time it drew artists, poets, and painters to its imposing presence, a calling which is answered by all those who climb and gather around it today.
Its popularity will experience even loftier heights this year, as the Spanish Steps will host its very first Christmas market. Created to support victims of the recent earthquakes that have swept throughout Italy, it will be housed in the Institute of San Giuseppe De Merode on Via Albert 5. The entrance fee of E2 will go towards this initiative, and visitors will enjoy stalls of handmade crafts, along with the rock and swing musical vibes of Sole & Giallo Blues Band that will play in the afternoon.
3. Arti & Mestieri Expo (Arts & Crafts)
This sprawling arts and crafts exposition is organised by Fiera Roma, an internationally known host and provider of global events. This year’s Christmas will follow the traditions of previous ones, and will boast up to 400 local and regional creative individuals whose stalls and trade shows will make your head spin.
With craft work as a central theme, guests will be able to survey and buy handmade works of art, artisanal food and drink, seasonal gifts, and even clothing. The name of the game is celebrating the skills and talents of artisans in their various forms, so get excited for hundreds of stalls stacked with authentic goods to stow under your Christmas tree.
To get there hop on a regional train for 20 minutes heading to Fiumicino airport, and exit once you get to the Fiera Roma stop.
4. Villaggio di Natale al Parco Egeria
While some travelling is in order to reach this Christmas village, the journey will surely be worth it. With a location that changes per year, the Villagio di Natale is heralded as one of the largest in Rome. And no village is ever complete without its chieftain. The man in charge at this one is Santa Claus himself, whom guests and their children can consult with as to their behaviour in 2016. A special word can also be put in with his elves, and a few frolicking fairies. Once assured that no coal will be dirtying their stockings, kids can enjoy games and performances to keep them on the Good List.
Everyone can indulge in the sage (a type of food festival), of the season, which will feature chickpea soup, porcini mushrooms, and chestnuts. Other delicious displays will include artisanal wines, Christmas cakes (panettoni), traditional nougat candy (torroni), chocolates, and many other typical regional treats. The natural food company, Natura in Campo will also provide a rich assortment of sustainable and environmentally responsible goods.
Parco Egeria, Via dell’Almone 10.
5. Natale all’Auditorium Parco della Musica
Christmas at the Parco della Musica Auditorium presents an additional landscape populated by favorite seasonal activities. Another great setting for families, this village-like setting contains games, shows, live orchestra, food, and guided tours for anyone able to keep up. A main aspect of Parco della Musica’s Christmas initiative is to create a sense of community for all who visit, and that sentiment is surely accomplished on its ice skating rink, one of the few in Rome. However, if your twirl game is perfect, there are other cultural activities and projects to enjoy, along with the very first stage adaptation in Italy of Frozen.
Let your other plans go and explore the auditorium’s Winter Wonder Land magic.
Dec.8.-Jan.8, Auditorium Parco della Musica
Chocolate lovers, hold on to your hats.
Your Christmas dreams have come early this year in the form of Rome’s original and unique chocolate festival, aptly named RomaChocolate. Held through displays all based on chocolate, this event has the scrumptious reputation for crafting cibo degli dei, or food of the gods.
And no one in their right mind would argue that (unless they’re allergic to chocolate, in which tragic case they’re allowed). Artisinal chocolatiers from all over Italy will travel to Rome to educate and demonstrate their blessed skills in crafting tree decorations, nativity scenes and characters, and other Christmas-related items. The fun doesn’t stop there. Tutorials and interactive exercises will also be held by these mouth-watering masters.
Boasting chocolatey products for all types of palates, RomaChocolate is gearing up to be a perfect option for gift ideas.
Website Spazio Eventi Tirso (SET), Via Tirso 14.
7. Santa Claus, Castello di Lunghezza
If you weren’t aware beforehand, Santa has property around the world.
And from what most of us have gathered through his use of the Naughty and Nice list, he doesn’t mess around. This means that Santa will also be kicking back and relaxing in an actual castle while he recovers from traveling through space and time to deliver our presents.
Bring the kids to visit Babbo Natale in order to confirm gift requests, resolve any hints at naughtiness, or simply say auguri while you continue your Christmas shopping.
From 10 A.M to 7 P.M, Castello di Lunghezza.
8. Mercato Monti
Throughout the year, the Mercato Monti supports and celebrates emerging Italian fashion designers, artists, and vintage collectors. For edgy and original gifts, or temptations to ‘treat yo’self’, visit its Christmas edition, which grows to encompass two floors. From clothing, artwork, accessories, and other handmade goods from up to 50 creatives, visitors will either be spoiled for choice, or leave embodying the cutting-edge style that’s reminiscent of Monti.
Various Days (check their website) From 10 A.M to 8 P.M, Via Leonina 46
9. Piazza Mazzini Christmas Edition
Piazza Mazzini is well-known for its antiques market that takes place on every other Sunday of the month. To appease its Christmas demographic, it also offers accessories in the form of decorations and nativity scenes. For anyone whose tree is already incandescent with seasonal splendour, gift ideas are also available. Peruse handmade gems from local vendors such as scarves, regional foods, jewelry, and even herbal cosmetics.
Generally running until December 27, from 9 AM to 9 P.M.
10. Roma Markets
A new addition to the Christmas Scene, these markets will pull you down the rabbit hole and land you in a strange, yet familiar world.
Follow a Joy of Rome Food Tour to get your palate pumped for all of the artisanal eating that revolves around these special markets. Think your taste buds are already in shape for festive feasting? Then pass through this post’s previously mentioned landmarks, and soak in the Christmas lights with the Sense of the City walking tour.
Visit the Joy of Rome’s dedicated site to see more tours that suit your specific need.
Don’t forget to do your laundry while in the Christmas cheer! Joy of Rome’s laundry webinar is ready for you to be prepared to Rome’s habits!