This is not going to be the usual Christmas in Rome. Covid-19 suspended pretty much every activity. The latest news though can let us start to be optimistic about an imminent return to normality. So, let’s get to know what to expect for the next one: ultimately, it is only a matter of time! Let’s take a look at what is typical for Christmas in Rome!
Christmas in Rome: Religious Celebrations
As you can imagine, religious celebrations in Rome—the seat of the Roman Catholic Church—are a big deal. Christmas in Rome is no different. It’s a great city to visit during the Christmas holiday season—after all, it’s the place where the celebration of Christmas began with the first Christmas mass ever said at the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore. It is maintained that the nativity scene (presepe)in Santa Maria Maggiore is the oldest in Italy. Carved in marble by Arnolfo di Cambio in the late 13th century it is currently on display in the museum of Santa Maria Maggiore. It was here that the first Christmas mass was ever said and the bells ring at midnight to signify the beginning of Christmas.
Christmas in Rome: Traditional Christmas sweets
If you like sweets and you’re spending Christmas in Rome you are LUCKY. There are so many traditional sweets to choose from. You just have to know what to look for! Pandoro is star-shaped sweet bread dusted with sugar, great with your cappuccino in the morning. Panettone (which originated in Milan but is eaten all over Italy) is a sweet bread usually laden with dried fruit, raisins, and topped with almonds. Panforte is a dense fruit cake flavored with cloves and spices that originated in Siena. Panpepato also Tuscan, is very similar to Panforte but a little more like a dense gingerbread cake.
Christmas in Rome: Piazza Navona Christmas Market
Christmas in Rome means Piazza Navona Market. Usually, it kicks off in late November and runs until early January. Here you’ll find many stands selling all kinds of Christmas goods. Sweets, including big donuts that can be filled with Nutella. Ornaments and decorations. La Befana (doll figures of this Italian Christmas witch), nativity scenes, and gifts. There is also a big-merry-go-around and Santa Claus (Babbo Natale) sometimes makes an appearance at night. Then, in late December a large nativity scene is on display.
Saint Peter’s Square
The Christmas tree in St Peter’s Square is famous the world over. The largest nativity scene in Rome is erected here but unveiled to the world on Christmas Eve. Thousands of tourists, locals, and pilgrims flock to the Square to hear the Pope deliver midnight mass on this day and there are screens all around if you can’t get up close. The Pope also delivers his Christmas message to the world at midday on Christmas day from his apartment window in the Vatican City.
Christmas in Rome: Trees
Not really an Italian Christmas tradition, with the global commercialization of this holiday, Christmas trees have become more and more popular. While the most famous tree in the city is in St Peter’s Square, two of the largest are in Piazza Venezia and near the Colosseum. And of course shops, hotels, and restaurants display small trees as part of their holiday theming. Lights are the most common thing to adorn the trees as opposed to ornaments.
Christmas in Rome: lights
Most of the lights across the city turn on after 8 December (the feast of the Immaculate conception) but be sure to check out some of the other Christmas traditions in Italy. You can find a pretty light display in Piazza Venezia with a big Christmas tree and nativity scene lit up and standing proud in the centre. Lights generally turn on from 8 December with Via del Corso lit all the way from Piazza Venezia to Piazza del Popolo. Many of the streets near the Spanish Steps like Via dei Condotti and Via Borgognona put up pretty light displays. You will find that the big designer fashion houses in this area like Fendi and Louis Vuitton light up and adorn their windows. You will also find roving musicians and roasted chestnut stands – oh and if you’re lucky some vin brulee (hot wine).
Christmas in Rome: Ice Skating
Due to the pretty mild temperatures, ice skating is not a big deal during Christmas in Rome. But, you will normally find one near Castel Sant’Angelo. Here you can enjoy a pretty Christmas market as well as an ice skating rink. It’s open from 10 am to midnight daily and attracts locals and tourists alike.
Dreaming doesn’t cost a penny and starting to plan is definitely a good call. If you’ll find yourself in Rome during the next Christmas holidays, remember that we offer the (no doubt) best food tours of the city. As we change the tastings according to the season and festivity, you will try a lot of Christmas food as well. Merry Christmas!