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Christmas lights always signify to me the beginning of the holiday season. They are beautifully strung around trees and even up the trunk of palm trees back in the States. But there is something special about lights in Italy. Each town has its own special way of displaying different kinds of lights through the streets.
In 2019, we were fortunate to be in Rome to witness the lighting of the Vatican Christmas tree. From Rome, we went to Florence for a few days and it was even more spectacular with the Ponte Vecchio lit up with its dedication to Leonardo Da Vinci that year. It’s different in Italy than in the United States. Perhaps right off the bat, I can tell you that fewer people decorate the outside of their homes and apartments here. That is easy to spot right away. But it’s in the streets – especially in the historic center, that comes to life with lights in Italy.
Christmas Markets in Italy
This is the time of year you can find outdoor markets throughout Italy – from the north to the south. Some of the most famous, although we have yet to experience for ourselves, are the markets in the northern towns of Bolzano and Trento. If you have been to a market you thought was outstanding, please let us know. Perhaps we will start a listing for those visiting this time of year!
For Me – It’s About the Lights
Arezzo in Tuscany
A group of us decided to hire a small van to take us to the town of Arezzo to see the lights and Christmas market that fill the main square, Piazza Grande. We lived in Arezzo for the month of August in 2019 and it was a contender for our “perfect town.” Arezzo is charming – even without the lights. But the lights made the evening magical. As the sun went down they began to sparkle and the darker the sky got – the more dramatic they became. It was a wonderland like nothing I had ever seen before. Perhaps it was the vibrant colors and the patterns projected on the medieval buildings that gave this piazza that over-the-top touch.
The lights outlined the vendor wooden houses filled with a variety of items to purchase. Warm and lovely knitted hats, scarves, mittens, and wool sweaters were displayed for sale. Christmas decorations for the tree and home were prevalent, along with candles, and gifts for children. Numerous different chocolates were offered in a selection that was difficult to choose from. It was almost like shopping in the pasta aisle in the grocery store! We nibbled on some warm pretzels while we shopped and enjoyed a hot chocolate with rum – warming us right up from the chilly evening.
It was an amazing experience and one we won’t soon forget. We were also able to see some friends we made while living here. Valerio from our favorite fruit and verdura store, as well as, one of our favorite family-owned restaurants which happen to be located in Piazza Grande (you can find more information on our Main Menu>Food>Restaurant Recommendations>Arezzo). Reconnecting with them was the highlight of our brief trip back to Arezzo. If you are ever in Arezzo stop by and tell them Our Italian Journey sent you! Our continued friendship with these wonderful people warms our hearts.
The City of Gubbio
The city of Gubbio is located on the slopes of Monte Ingino in the province of Perugia – Umbria. Since 1981 a group of volunteers has created the Christmas tree, which entered the Guinness Book of Records in 1981. The shape of a gigantic Christmas tree is created on the slopes behind the medieval city of Gubbio. Over 800 lighting fixtures of various types and colors create an absolutely particular and unique effect that can be seen for miles.
Back in Lucca
The lights in Lucca might not be the most dramatic we’ve ever seen, but they are special because Lucca is special to us. We enjoy strolling the streets at night at seeing the new window displays in the stores along Via Fillungo – the main street in town. It’s fun to run into friends passing along the streets and see the reflection of the lights in their eyes. It is a joyous time of year everywhere you turn but for us – it’s especially wonderful in Italy.
Enjoy the holiday season
If you are looking for a special gift this holiday season, may we recommend: