Don't think of Italy as only a summer destination. There are plenty of things to do and to see during the Italian spring, fall, and even winter. This series of articles provides ideas for your Italian vacation, describing regional spectacles, tourist attractions, and special events, at any time of year. Off-season Italian holidays have several advantages: You won't fight the crowds, hotels and other accommodations are easier and cheaper to find. Whatever time of year you go, every region has its own special festivals. Plan your Italian holidays now. Keep reading.
Sorrento southern Italy, beautiful all year long.
So you are thinking of visiting southern Italy in December, but youíre not sure what to see and what to do. Donít despair; there are lots and lots of special events that simply arenít available in the good old summertime. Here are a few of them. We start our virtual tour in Campania, go to the Mezzogiorno, swing down into Sicily and then head back up to Sardinia. Get rolling; December is almost upon us.
Spectacular Mount Etna.
The third Sunday of every month except August its capital Naples holds a really big antique fair in the Villa Comunale gardens. During the month of December the fair is open every weekend.
Naples is a fine Christmas destination. Youíll see hundreds of Nativity cribs known as Presepi. One of the best exhibitions is at the Church of Gesu' Nuovo, in Piazza del Gesu', starting about December 8. Via San Gregorio Armeno in central Naples is filled with displays and stalls that sell Nativity scenes all year. Il Museo Nazionale di San Martino in Naples has an elaborate collection of nativity scenes from the 1700s; these are considered among the best collections in the world.
Christmas time is also a feast for the ears. Outside churches and in many city squares in Naples, other locations in southern Italy, and even Rome youĒll hear bagpipe and flutes played by zampognari and pifferai often dressed in multicolored traditional costumes with sheepskin vests, long white stockings, and dark cloaks. Naples hosts a December Christmas market near Via San Gregorio Armeno, known for its many nativity workshops. Some vendors are dressed in traditional shepherd costumes. Sorrento, on the beautiful Amalfi peninsula in the Bay of Naples holds a Christmas market through January 6 in the main square. Itís traditional on Christmas Eve to eat the dinner of the seven fish dishes. Would you believe that some people serve up to thirteen fish and seafood dishes?
Naples is known for its musical New Year's Eve fireworks displays. Be careful, in some neighborhoods, people still throw their old things out of their windows. So you may prefer watching the ceremonies on television. Naples originated the tradition known as Lo Sciuscio in which groups of amateur musicians including children go from house to house on New Year's Eve.
December in Italy means Living Nativity Scenes. The Mezzogiorno is no exception. Some of the most interesting are found in Celico (Calabria), Paterno (Basilicata), and Pezze di Greco (Apulia). Be sure to check the dates, the Pezze exposition extends into January. Lecce, Apulia hosts an antique market called Fiera dei presepi e dei pupi. Youíll find hand crafted nativity figures and a lot more for about ten days extending to December 24. Other December events include Saint's Day Festivities in Diamante (Calabria), the Papier-machť Fair in San Cesarea Terme (Apulia), and the Pettole Festival in Montescaglioso (Basilicata.)
Sardinia Santa Lucia is a beloved saint whose December 13th festival is celebrated in many towns such as Nurachi Tempio. Cagliari holds a Christmas Fair for two weeks in December featuring traditional crafts, food, and wine.
Alghero is a great place to spend New Yearís Eve, especially in the Old Town whose piazzas host live music concerts culminating in a grand firework display over the harbor. There are firecrackers in the streets, and most bars stay open until at least 6 am the following morning!
December 4, Saint Barbara Day, is celebrated in the Sicilian town of Paterno on the slopes of Mount Etna volcano. After the parade citizens set up a nativity scene. Santa Lucia Day, December 13, is celebrated in many Italian localities including the city of Siracusa whose huge parade includes a golden coffin carrying the saint to the Church of Santa Lucia. There is a week of festivities culminating with a big fireworks display over the harbor and another parade that brings the coffin back to the crypt. Among the many nativity scenes make sure to see one in Custonaci which is re-enacted inside a cave. The exhibition includes a traditional nativity scene and an ancient village complete with shops. The town of Acireale is also known for its nativity scene. Celebrate New Yearsís Eve in Palermo with fireworks and an outdoor music show. And wherever you go and whatever you do, check out the fine local wines.
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine Italian or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his website www.travelitalytravel.com devoted to Italian travel with an accent on fine Italian wine and food. Visit his central wine website www.theworldwidewine.com with weekly reviews of $10 wine and columns devoted to various aspects of wine including wine and food, humor, trivia, organic and kosher wine and lots more.
Feel free to reprint this entire article which must include the resource box
December events, spectacles, and tourist attractions in southern Italy