There are some lovely decorations, lights and Christmas trees to check out as you stroll through Rome during the holiday season.
Christmas in Italy is also characterised by its lovely and elaborate nativity scenes (presepi) which you’ll find in just about every church in the city, and by the gorgeous panettone packages in the window of every alimentare and pasticceria. They’re different every year, and vary from shop to shop, each one more beautiful than the next!
Piazza Venezia always has a Christmas tree (pictured above), some years nicer than others, and this year’s is the latter unfortunately. Italians voted it the ugliest tree in Italy this year! Fortunately following negative publicity the municipality touched up the decorations. The improved tree, along with the gorgeous backdrop of Piazza Venezia, make it worth a night-time visit.
Last year there was a fabulous Christmas tree outside of the colosseum, but this year nothing at all. The mayor decided that to cut costs there’d be no tree. (Bah humbug to the mayor!).
Romans don’t despair, however, and get into the holiday spirit in their own way. Hundreds of all ages joined in for a Sunday morning bike and motorbike ride around the colosseum, all dressed as Santa Claus!
Saint Peter’s square always has a large outdoor presepe and a Christmas tree.
This presepe, like most, features elaborate scenes of daily life.
Italy is a great place to purchase figurines and everything else you’d need for nativity scenes. A lovely year-round Christmas and presepe shop can be found on Via dei Coronari, right off Piazza Navona. If you have time for a day trip then a visit to Naples is the best place to buy everything you could ever want for a presepe!
For many years Piazza Navona was filled with Christmas vendors, but for the past several years the city has banned almost all commercial activity in the piazza during the holiday season.
What does remain is a lovely hand-painted antique carousel, built in Germany in 1896 by the Horst Und Webber company.
It’s worth noting some of the beautiful details on this carousel, so emblematic of the holiday season in Piazza Navona:
A few of the larger hotels always adorn their establishments with beautiful Christmas lights and decorations. My favorites are the Hotel Hassler at the top of the Spanish Steps…
and the Grand Hotel near Piazza della Repubblica:
Some of the nicer shopping areas in Rome line their streets with Christmas lights. The prettiest this year is Via del Babuino, right near the Spanish Steps.
From the top of the Spanish Steps you can look right down the length of the gorgeous Via Condotti, filled with Christmas lights and some of Rome’s most beautiful shops. In the foreground you can just barely see the outline of an unlit Christmas tree, placed there by designer Bulgari, a patron of Rome who funded the recently completed restoration of the Spanish steps. For a certain number of hours every evening this artificial tree is ablaze with white lights.
Designer Fendi, another patron of Rome who funded the Trevi fountain restoration, always dazzles with unique Christmas decorations outside of its flagship shop on Largo Goldoni (Via del Corso):
Il Cigno, on Viale Parioli 16, is one of my favorite pastry shops in Rome. When Christmas comes along Il Cigno goes all out creating fabulous panettone and other amazing, delectable Christmas treats. And by the way, Il Cigno also rates among Rome’s top ten for both cappuccini and cornetti.
A few of Il Cigno’s panettone packages…
This one, priced at €300, weighs 10 kilograms A fabulous gift for a big holiday crowd!
Wondering what to do with your leftover panettone post-holidays? Try this great recipe!
Il Cigno also prepares gorgeous cakes, cookies and chocolates…
And finally, this Christmas tree, prepared with solid chocolate disks and nuts, is my favorite by far! Happy holidays!