Decking the Halls, Italian-Style

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.

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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.

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Orvieto’s square was also freshly adorned with a not-yet-decorated tree.

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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.

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Bustling Rome was less adorned than we expected. But the high-roller shopping streets near Via del Corso were all lit up.

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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.

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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!

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