Italy's Magical Winter Markets

Image courtesy of Matteo Paciotti

As December arrives and the festive season approaches, Italy undergoes a magical transformation – many of the towns and cities across the country welcome the annual winter markets. All over Italy you’ll be able to find charming and picturesque markets full of pretty decorations, indulgent seasonal treats and unique regional specialities. With so much on offer, we look at some of our favourite Italian winter markets.

Bolzano

Set against the backdrop of the majestic Rosengarten Dolomites, Bolzano is home to Italy’s biggest and most famous winter market. Each winter Bolzano’s Piazza Walter is filled with charming wooden huts, beautifully decorated with brightly lit garlands, lamps and candles and offering plenty of traditional treats and gifts. Make sure you take time o browse the candlelit streets of medieval Bolzano and stop along the way for a taste of some regional specialities, such as vine brule - hot mulled wine. The market spans from the end of November to the beginning of January, so there’s plenty of time to get involved.

Merano

If you like the festivities of the Bolzano market but are looking for a more intimate atmosphere, it’s worth heading to the nearby South Tyrol town of Merano to experience Meran Advent – the Market of Merano. Taking place along the banks of the River Passirio, the market is Bolzabo’s slightly less famous – but no less impressive – cousin, full of wooden advent cottages embellished with fairy lights, Christmas trees and unique handmade objects, as well as huge nativity scenes complete with life-size figures. Make sure you stop by the culinary stalls for a wonderful insight into some of the regional specialities; apple strudel, krapfen (doughnuts), apple juice and South Tyrol grappa (brandy) are just the beginning. Wrap up warm and enjoy a horse-drawn carriage and a ride on the carousel!

Milan

Milan is home to several winter markets through the festive season, but the best takes place along the majestic Castello Sforzesco castle. The market plays a rich part in the local culture, dating back to 1510, and is wonderfully named Oh Bej, Oh Bej, which translates to ‘how beautiful, how beautiful’ in Milanese dialect—a name that’s thought to have come from the shoppers who appreciated the market’s artisanal goods and foods many years ago. Originally, the market marked a time when the locals paid homage to the city’s patron saint, but nowadays the beautiful market bustles with activity as locals and tourists meander around over 350 stalls selling handicrafts, antiques, clothing, toys, and plenty of sweet treats and festive foods.

Turin

If you’re after some seasonal indulgence, you’d be wise to head to Turin – the Italian capital of chocolate. The wonderful market in Piazza Borga Dora offers visitors the chance to try some of the more decadent Piemontese delicacies like gianduja (hazelnut chocolate) and bicerin (espresso with chocolate and milk). That’s not all though - Turin is the go-to destination in Italy when it comes to festive lights, with many installations designed by local and international artists. All you have to do is look up and admire the beauty.