By CHLOE COLBERT
It’s Christmas time in Italy and nowhere does that hold more of a special meaning than here in Bologna. Bologna is noted for its Christmas markets during the season; in fact, the city offers some of the oldest Christmas markets in Europe. Below, please find my top four choices for markets to visit this holiday season in Bologna.
Fiera di Natale: You can’t go walk on Via dell’Indipendenza without passing by the flock of people who are going into this Christmas Market. Fiera di Natale not only boasts a great location by one of the Archdioceses of Bologna, but it also offers a maze of craftsmanship within its tent. There are boundless vendors of Italian soaps, jewelry, handbags, mugs and more. Of course, there are classic treats and edible goodies to munch on while watching Christmas classic films. This market lasts from now until January 8th and is right by San Pietro Cathedral on Via dell’Indipendenza.
Villagio di Natale Francese: Need a reason to practice your French and pick up delicious Christmas tortes? Then look no further than the French Christmas market. At the boulangerie shop, you’ll find classic French cookies and baguettes for a good price. At another shop, soap from Marseille lines the shelves, while couples stroll past you with their mulled wine. Just the ambience of this market feels that you have been whisked away to the streets of France. This market runs from now until Dec. 21 and is in Piazza Minghetti across from the Poste Italiane building.
Antica Fiera di Santa Lucia: Known as “The Ancient Fair of Saint Lucia” in English, you will find this market extremely charming with its Nativity-like wooden shops. The lights along the pathway illuminate your path towards soaps in the shapes of flowers, any type of traditional Bologna nut treat or your own personal Nativity figurine with that sparse grass added as well. You will have just a good time walking the avenue in front of Santa Maria dei Servi church, which boasts excellent Christmas concerts like Handel’s Messiah and other traditional songs. In fact, SAIS student Will Yeldham sang in one of these concerts just a couple of weeks ago! This market runs from now until Dec 26 and is in Strada Maggiore in the Portico Chiesa di Santi Maria dei Servi.
Natale a Porta Galleria: Our last Christmas market is toward the north of the city, near Bologna Centrale. Natale a Porta Galleria is a particularly good option if you want a cup of hot cocoa at night with some pretty Christmas lights and a good bargain on non-Christmas related items.This is a local Christmas market with vendors selling everything from scarves to jams to bomboni and crepes filled with Nutella. Go with the eyes of a child and a few euros to venture upon the miniature carousel in the middle of the market for a wintery ride. You may not find the most unique Christmas gifts here, but this market makes for a good study break and a breath of fresh air tinted with chocolate. This market runs from now until Jan. 1 and is in Piazza Settembre across the street from the entrance of Parco della Montagnola at the end of Via dell’ Indipendenza.
Feeling extra ambitious?
While Florence hosts some of the country’s greatest art artifacts, there is also a multicultural Christmas market in Piazza Santa Croce to the Southeast of the city center. Among classic Italian meat stands and leather shops, you will find French, British and Greek shopkeepers selling food, linens, tea sets and other products from their home countries. It’s easy to become enraptured in Christmas among these crowds.
And once you tire yourself of walking, grab a horse-drawn carriage in Piazza della Signoria outside the Palazzo Vecchio, and tour the city in style. You can fall in love with Florence – and with Italy – even in the rain, but Christmastime makes visiting the city even more special with its festivities, unique markets and holiday warmth.
Chloe is a staff writer for the SAIS Observer. She is a second-year conflict management concentrator at SAIS Europe.
All photos by Chloe Colbert.