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Merry Christmas or Buon Natale as it is in Italian! The Christmas season is a wonderful time to visit Rome and Italy. Being a Catholic country and the seat of the church in Rome, it’s an important time of year in the Eternal City and across the country and there are many delights and experiences that will make any trip worthwhile.
In this episode, we talk to Maria Pasquale about Christmas in Italy, particularly in Rome where she has lived for the last 9 years. What to do, see and, of course, eat, if you chose to visit at this magical time of year. We hear about the main fiesta days, what people do to prepare and celebrate and where in Rome to find the best Christmas decorations, markets and experiences.
Christmas is going to be a little different in 2020 but that doesn’t mean we can’t reminisce on Christmasses past and dream of those in the future. We wish you a Buon Natale and hope you find a little piece of Italian Christmas magic wherever you are in the world.click here to subscribe to podcast updates
Italian Christmas Experiences
- The Christmas Trees & Nativity at Piazza San Pietro – each year the tree and the nativity scene out front of the Vatican is donated by a parish from another region.
- Wander around Travestere – Maria’s own neighborhood is a great place to feel the Christmas spirit in Rome. Go to our Best Trastevere Hotels & Accommodation for recommendations of where to stay.
- The decorations at the Fendi store on Largo Carlo Goldoni – their decorations are always impressive and then see the whole of Via del Corso lit up before you.
- Buy beautiful decorations in Naples – every year, even outside of Christmas, people from all over Italy head there to pick up their artisan decorations.
- The Christmas Markets of Northern Italy – it’s not just Germany and Switzerland that has magical Christmas markets – there are many towns in Northern Italy/in the Dolomite mountains which have enchanting Christmas markets (and why not stay in a charming nearby, snow-covered chalet).
- Head up to Janiculum hill – for an awe-inspiring view of the city.
- Meet the friendly Italian witch Befana – the holiday period culminates on the 6th of January. The witch brings gifts to all the children who’ve been good and coal to those that haven’t!
Italian Christmas Food
- Panetonne – the most famous Italian Christmas treat – it never tastes as good as fresh from the local Forno or Pasticceria.
- Panpepato – literally translating to pepper bread, this is a sweet cake with nuts and fruit, but also lots of spice.
- Pangiallo – this yellow bread is another fruity cake with citrus peel, honey and dark chocolate, formed into a dome-shaped and brushed with a saffron glaze.
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Rome Christmas Planning Resources
- Romewise – Elyssa Bernard doing a great job of keeping everyone updated on what’s going on on the ground
- Gillian’s List – Rome blog by Gillian McGuire
- An American In Rome – An American in Rome blog by Natalie Kennedy
About our guest – Maria Pasquale
Maria Pasquale was born in Melbourne to Italian parents and has been based in Rome since 2011. With formal qualifications in political science and history, she is an award-winning food and travel journalist and writes regularly for USA Today, CNN, Condé Nast, The Telegraph and Fortune. She is founder of the popular blog HeartRome which has readers in 100 countries and a social media following that exceeds 40,000 (@heartrome). The author of I Heart Rome (Smith Street Books), her second book How to Be Italian will be released internationally in 2021.
You can find Maria on these channels:
To buy I Heart Rome in Australia click here.
Places mentioned in the show
- Pasticceria Valzain – has been around since the 1920s and famous for the chocolate they hand-make on site
- Biscottificio Innocenti – Stefania makes a wondeful Panetonne at Christmas time
- Pasticceria Trastevere – Maria’s local Pasticceria on Via Natale del Grande 49
- Flavio al Velavevodetto – restaurant in Testaccio open 365 days a year
- Roscioli Caffè – on Via dei Giubbonari near Campo de’ Fiori for maritozzo and coffee (if you’re a coffee lover unlike Maria!)
- Da Enzo – Travestere restaurant for Roman cuisine
- Glass Hosteria – fine-dining restaurant
- Retrobottega – a restaurant with new and unique flavors for Rome
Resources from Untold Italy
- Listen: Episode #003: Rome Highlights
- How to plan a trip to Italy – our article that takes you step-by-step through trip planning so you can avoid our mistakes
- Italy Travel Planning – our FREE online community where you can ask questions and get inspiration for planning your trip
- Travel shop where you’ll find items mentioned in the show
Prefer to read along as you listen? You can download a PDF version of the full transcript of this episode.