While Italy lacks a Thanksgiving kick-off to the Christmas season, by late November big cities and little towns are dressing up in their holiday best.
In Pienza, the day after Thanksgiving happened to be decorating day. Doing our “Black Friday” shopping in the traffic-free town center, we watched work crews erect a proud Christmas tree on the gorgeous Renaissance square, and lovingly hang garlands along the lanes.
Orvieto’s square was also freshly adorned with a not-yet-decorated tree.
Montepulciano—which was hosting a weekend Christmas market—was the most elaborately decked out, with wooden market stalls, an illuminated tree, and a lightshow on the facade of the otherwise austere city hall.
Bustling Rome was less adorned than we expected. But the high-roller shopping streets near Via del Corso were all lit up.
Not surprisingly, the Vatican had perhaps the best Christmas spirit in Rome. On the first Sunday in Advent, St. Peter’s Square heralded the impending birth of the Christ Child with a Rockefeller Center-sized tree (and a not-yet-unveiled nativity scene).
On a previous trip this year, I’d visited Naples — the epicenter of Southern Italy’s passion for nativity scenes. Getting a head start on my holiday shopping, I shipped home the perfect presepe for my mother. Direct from Signore D’Auria’s workshop, my mom now has a perfect Italian addition to her crèche collection.
Wherever you might be headed for Christmas or New Year’s — at home, across the country, or abroad — I wish you holiday travels that are merry and bright!