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Befana and other winter festivities in Italy

All you need to know about Befana and other winter holidays in Italy.

By Anna Purpurpurpur

Italy is a great destination for winter holidays, and I’m not talking solely about the ski resorts! You can extend your holidays and celebrate till the 6th of January.

In Italy, the holidays are:

  • Christmas, or Natale, on the 25th of December
  • Santo Stefano on the 26th of December
  • the New Year on the 1st of January
  • and Befana on the 6th of January!

Expect shops and museums to be closed on those days. The 6th of January is the day when the festive period officially comes to an end.

Who is La Befana?

La Befana is an ugly witch from Italian folklore who brings sweets to all good children and lumps of coal to all the naughty ones during her flight on the 5-6 of January. Yes, just like Santa! And she brought her presents this night as I’m publishing this blog. You can find sweet ‘coal’ on the Christmas markets in Italy as well: kids love them!

Historically, this old lady is linked to Epiphany and the feast dedicated to Three Wise men visiting the newborn Jesus. You can spot the figurines of Befana on a broomstick along with the figurines of Santa Claus and you can even meet Befana in flesh: ladies dressed up as Befana frequently take photos with kids in public spaces.

Usually all Christmas decorations stay up until La Befana passes.

Christmas in Rome

Compared to London, usually the festive decorations are not as impressive in Italy: in many places it’s just some brunches with lights and baubles or potted poinsettias.

However, Rome still looks majestic in winter not to mention that for the Christians this city remains one of the most important site of religious pilgrimage and the Pope’s Urbi et Orbi message is delivered on Christmas. One of the primary destinations for you would be Via del Corso and Via dei Coronari with amazing Christmas lights but other central streets are also decorated beautifully.

You can go to the main squares of Rome like Navona with its Christmas Market or Piazza San Pietro. However, I’d recommend you to go to Piazza Venezia, close to the monument of independence and just a short walk from Coliseum and Roman Forums. This is a site where one of the most gorgeous Christmas trees of Rome is located. This year it’s been a gorgeous fluffy real tree with gold and red baubles.

Another place to go is undoubtedly Piazza di Spagna: many local and international shops are showing off with the glittering and the most appealing windows.

When in Italy for Christmas, make sure you see some presepi, or Nativity scenes, usually hand-made by enthusiasts for Christmas Eve. The tradition is often dated back to the 13th century when St. Francis of Assisi was said to create the first nativity scene.

Festivities in Abruzzo

As you know, we have a hideaway in Abruzzo and usually spend New Year break in here. Let me show you some local decorations too including the House of Santa Claus known as Casa di Babbo Natale!

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