The Italian capital is an unlikely winner when it comes to festive getaways…
Rome might not seem like the obvious place to head for Christmas, but for a sumptuous display of Christmas tradition within a unique religious setting, and a glass of mulled wine never far, it is an unlikely winner when it comes to festive escapes.
An obvious and deserved target for any visitor at this time is St Peter’s Square, in The Vatican. With its giant, extravagantly adorned Christmas tree and life-size nativity scene (or presepe) in front of the Basilica, it is for many a true embodiment of Christmas. This culminates with the Papal Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and the Pope’s annual Christmas message on the day itself: to join the reunion of so many people, from Rome and beyond, is an occasion in itself.
Christmas in Rome is not just concentrated around these few days. In truth it really starts on 8th December, the festival of the Immaculate Conception, an important event in the Roman Catholic calendar. On this day, the Pope visits the Spanish Steps and pays homage to the statue of Mary, crowning her with a garland of flowers. He then goes on to give mass at the church of Santa Maria Maggiore.
From this day in early December the Eternal City begins to twinkle in festive spirit. Christmas markets open up – don’t miss Piazza Navona to scout creative additions to a nativity scene, as well as wooden toys and other Christmas goodies – and smaller nativity scenes than the one at St Peter’s are re-created in churches across Rome. Christmas shopping is less of a chore than a delight as shopping streets sparkle under fairy lights, buskers dressed as Santa play festive songs and some shops even adorn their pavements with red carpet. If nothing else, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing presents and wow your friends back home with some original gifts – fine Italian leather, stylish stationery, traditional local souvenirs and quality food items.
And the big plus? Rome’s relatively mild winter climate means less room needed to pack ear muffs and scarfs and more to fill with all your purchases. Perfetto!
Cactus offers Italian courses in Rome and other locations across Italy. Evening and part-time courses in Italian are also available in the UK and the US for those wishing to brush up on the language before visiting.