What to do in Italy at Christmas time

Centuries old Italian Christmas traditions, delightful Italian Christmas markets, delicious Italian Christmas cakes: here is the list of the five (plus one!) best things to do in Italy at Christmas time.

Discover Italian Nativity scenes

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Preparing a Nativity scene (“Presepe” in Italian) is a widespread Italian Christmas tradition, especially in Southern Italy. Every church will display a nativity scene, and some are real masterpieces, with moving elements and detailed scenes displaying Italian rural life in the XVIII and XIX centuries. Unsurprisingly, baby Jesus is only displayed after December 25th, while you will have to wait until the Epiphany to see the three wise men!

The largest and most famous nativity scenes can be found in St Peters square and on the Spanish steps, but exploring Rome or Naples churches to find the Nativity scenes you like the most can be a really funny way to spend an afternoon, especially on Christmas day when museums and other attractions are closed. If you travel with your children, they will surely enjoy! Continue reading “What to do in Italy at Christmas time”

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Top skiing in the Dolomites: the Sella Ronda tour

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A breathtaking, unique skiing itinerary, in Unesco classified Dolomites

 

What to say about Dolomites? They simply are enchanted mountains, extraordinarily beautiful! Grandiose peaks soar skywards, sometimes almost vertically, and their reddish-purple rock produces variety of shades of pink and flaming red, especially at first light and dusk.

Those of you who follow this blog (thanks!) already know that I’m a Ski Fanatic. But I’m also crazy about nature and beautiful landscapes. So in this post I’m going to merge these two passions and to talk about the Dolomites, arguably the most beautiful mountains of Europe, and the most amazing ski itinerary you can stumble upon: the Sella Ronda.

From a skiing point of view, well, Dolomites are simply the world’s biggest sky network, with over 1200 Km of slopes (the “Dolomiti Superski” area). Among this network, Sella Ronda is the most recognized and worldwide famous ski route.

Indeed, this ski itinerary is unique. The Sellaronda allows you to ski around the imposing Sella Group, in a loop covering four passes (Gardena, Sella, Pordoi, Campolongo): this means over 40 Km round trip, 26 km of slopes, 4 valleys and three provinces with one single skipass!

You can actually choose to make the itinerary either clockwise or counter clockwise: the SellaRonda is accessible in both directions!

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In this post I’ll share with you a quick “reportage” of the Green Route (Sella Ronda counter clockwise).

Let’s start from Selva di Val Gardena, where you will take the Ciampinoi Cable Car up to the Top of Plan de la Gralba. In front of you the Sasso Lungo, one of Dolomites land marks, so close to give the illusion you could touch it with your hand.

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The Sasso Lungo (“long boulder”)
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The most amazing ski area at your feet
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Going to the Sella Ronda “Green” (anti clockwise)

From Plan de la Gralba you will then pass through the well-known “boulder city” to get to Sella Pass, followed by a short decent to Col Rodella which offers a spectacular view of Val di Fassa.

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The group of the Sella, from the “boulder city”
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The “Col Rodella”
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Down the “Lupo Bianco” slope

From Lupo Bianco the gondola goes directly to the ski center of Canazei (here you leave Val Gardena and you enter the second Valley of the tour). A chair lift will bring you to the Pass Pordoi, from which you leave Val di Fassa and enter the Arabba/Marmolada domain. The Sass Pordoi peak is visible to the north.

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The Sassolungo (left) and the Sella Group from Pass Pordoi
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The cable car going up to the 3.000 m high Sass Pordoi station

A long and easy slope will bring you to Arabba. You reached 1/3 of the itinerary, and you can celebrate by tasting a delicious and invigorating Bombardino (typicall Dolomites drink: hot egg yolk liquor topped with fresh cream – so yummy!!)

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Skiing downhill to Arabba
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Bombardino!

If you have enough time, try Arabba slopes, among the most challeging slopes of the area (look for Porta Vescovo).

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Porta Vescovo Chairs

In order to continue the Sella Ronda loop take the lifts that go to Corvara and Colfosco located on the other side of the road. Look behind you to catch a stunning view of Arabba, Porta Vescovo and Marmolada.

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From here the tour continue to beautiful Corvara, overawed by the Sassongher peak.

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The Sassongher from Corvara

From Corvara a couple of lifts will take you to Colfosco (very beautifull slopes to explore) and to the Gardena Pass (the last pass of the tour). Here you will find the most enchanting landscapes of the area.

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The Sella group, viewed from Colfosco slopes

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Once arrived at Passo Gardena, you will find the Sasso Lungo just in front of you. You are getting to the end of the tour: from there, a long slope will bring you back to Selva di Val Gardena, after a long, rewarding and unforgettable skiing day.

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The Sasso Lungo from passo Gardena

Useful information about the Sella Ronda loop:

This itinerary can easily be accomplished in one day, even by kids (my son was six the first time he made it). Nevertheless, it is highly advisable to start out no later than 10:00 a.m. and to reach the last pass no later than 3:30 p.m. otherwise you will risk not being able to use the lifts to reach your final destination. Also consider that there may be queues during weekends, so keep some buffer.

Take your time to enjoy the slopes, and to discover side areas (Colfosco, Arabba, Piz la Villa, …): don’t get trapped in a competition spirit. Rushing to close the loop in the minimum possible time is not necessarily the wisest approach.

Some lifts may close without prior notice due to bad weather, strong winds and snow: pay attention to information and warnings

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Me, and the Sasso Lungo

Enjoy your skiing!

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Delightfullyitaly.com: Italy top destinations and travel itineraries, off the beaten path

Delightfullyitaly.com is the blog for all the ones in love with Italian culture, Italian sights, Italian monuments .. and with Italian food! If you wish to visit Italy for the first time, or if you already discovered Venice, Rome, Florence, the Amalfi coast, but still want more, delightfullyitaly.com is here to disclose to you Italian Must See as well as Italian hidden treasures. And if you like what you read, why not follow delightfullyitaly.com and get free updates?

Top five Christmas markets in the dolomites

Discover the magic of Dolomites Christmas markets: Bressanone, Merano, Vipiteno, Bolzano and Trento.

My last post about Nativity scenes was warmly appreciated (thanks guys!), so I’d like to celebrate Christmas with you by sharing my top five Christmas markets in the Dolomite area.

Dolomites are in my view the most beautiful mountains in Italy (and among the most beautiful in the world!), and they are one of the Italian Unesco Heritage sites. Before Christmas most cities and villages in Alto Adige and Trentino are filled with countless lights and wooden houses offering craft made products, typical food, gift ideas and much more, in a magical and touching atmosphere. Northern Europe Christmas traditions and beliefs, particularly strong in this area, magical mountains under the snow and medieval village settings combine together to create a unique experience not to miss if you travel in Northern Italy between end of November and the 6th of January.

Sure, you may not want plan a trip to Italy just to see its Christmas markets, but if you are passing by, or if you are lucky enough to have reserved your sky break in the Dolomites, they well deserve a stop.

So here is my Top Five Christmas Markets list.

Top 1: Christmas Market in Bressanone

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Bressanone is a delightful medieval town, thirty Km north of Bolzano. You will love its ancient vaulted streets, the hold houses with their nicely decorated façades and the Cathedral Square, which actually host two cathedrals: the old one (medieval) and the new one (baroque).

Unsurprisingly, this is where the Xmas market is organized, among the cathedral, the parish church of S. Michele and the town hall.

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Wonderful decorations and handicrafts are exhibited in many stands: wooden statues, candles, glass balls and angels… In a city pervaded by a sweet scent of mulled wine, cinnamon and cakes, you can taste many typical dishes of Valle Isarco, such as gulasch soup, barley soup and the famous Tirtln, or cakes such as doughnuts, apple or blueberry pancakes and Buchteln with vanilla cream.

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The Nativity scene is also worth seeing: in Bressanone, this tradition is 800 years old! In the Diocesan museum you can admire one of the biggest and most famous collections of nativity scenes.

Reportedly, the Christmas Market of Bressanone rated 9 place on CNN’s list of the world’s most beautiful Christmas Markets.

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Top 2: Christmas Market in Merano

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Merano is a wonderful town, which has been a renowned SPA destination for the last 2 centuries. Merano is rich in beautiful “fin de siècle” buildings and streets and keeps a very classy charm.

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The main area where you will find Xmas stands is the promenade along the Passino River, but all the town transforms itself into a gigantic Christmas market offering Christmas decorations, boiled wool slippers, pottery, traditional fabrics, wooden statues and toys, traditional objects such as nutcrackers, Christmas pyramids, musical boxes, …

In many stands you can also admire the craftsmen while they are creating their works.

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But there’s another reason to come to Merano: the most amazing public Spa of all the region, offering endless indoor and outdoor pools and saunas. Treat yourself with the most amazing public Italian SPA!

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Top 3: Christmas Market in Vipiteno

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The Christmas Market in the old mining city of Vipiteno is really something else. From November 29 to January 6, the streets of the old town – one of the most beautiful in Italy, with many artistic and cultural treasures from the Middle Ages – are filled with lights and colors, creating a fairy-tale Christmas atmosphere.

The imposing tower Torre delle Dodici, overlooking the main square, is the stunning background to this unique market and to the Nativity scene, whose figures are entirely handmade. The smallest trees were taken from the surroundings of Vipiteno and at the end of the Market they will be used for district heating.

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The stands offer the classical selection of handmade creations and local food, such as bread, speck, mulled wine or warm apple juice.

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Top 4: Christmas Market in Trento

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Trento is a beautiful medieval town, and its Christmas market is the most important od Trentino Alto Adige. Here you will experience a more “Italian” flavor, compared to South Tyrol markets.

Trento hosts its Christmas Market in the charming Piazza Fiera. The exhibitors of the Christmas Market in Trento come from Trentino, Alto Adige and different regions in the North of Italy. Here you will find Christmas handicrafts, such as Christmas decorations, candles, nativity scenes, pictures with pressed flowers, but also the Flavors Market, a real gourmet paradise where you can taste sweet and salty specialties from Trentino and Alto Adige, such asTortel de patate, Cevap from Valle dei Mocheni, Knödeln (dumplings) and pastries, and enjoy with some hot chocolate, mulled wine or Parampampoli.

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Top 5: Christmas Market in Bolzano

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Bolzano is the main town of Alto Adige Region, and its market is one of the most important of the region.It takes place in the heart of the city, Piazza Walther, which is lit up in bright and gaudy colors. Many events are organized to entertain adults and children.You will enjoy strolling among Bolzano romantic arcades and streets listening to the bands playing Christmas music and admiring the wonderful Advent decorations.

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By the way: there’s a snow storm expected in Italy just during Xmas days: it could be a great opportunity of visiting these markets in a snowy, magical atmosphere (and maybe to have a couple of days skying)!

Buon Natale a tutti (Happy Christmas to everybody)!

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Delightfullyitaly.com: Italy top destinations and travel itineraries, off the beaten path

Delightfullyitaly.com is the blog for all the ones in love with Italian culture, Italian sights, Italian monuments .. and with Italian food! If you wish to visit Italy for the first time, or if you already discovered Venice, Rome, Florence, the Amalfi coast, but still want more, delightfullyitaly.com is here to disclose to you Italian Must See as well as Italian hidden treasures. And if you like what you read, why not follow delightfullyitaly.com and get free updates?