Christmas in Abruzzo is magical. The twinkling lights, jolly atmosphere, and delicious traditional food await you in picturesque mountain villages and, if we are lucky, the mountain peaks will be dressed in festive snow caps. In this guide, we invite you to explore the cheerful festivities and timeless traditions that make Christmas in Abruzzo an experience like no other. From wandering through the enchanting Christmas markets to marvelling at intricately crafted or live presepi (nativity scenes), playing in the snowy wonderland of Roccaraso, and indulging in the rich Abruzzese Christmas treats, you will be busy until the celebrations draw to an end on January 8.
Visit Christmas Markets
Admittedly, Abruzzo is not famous for the best Christmas market, but there are plenty of charming ones that you will enjoy. The markets usually sell a combination of Christmas-themed goods, traditional delicacies, and local crafts, so you can pick up a few lovely stocking fillers and gifts for your loved ones. There are always stalls selling roasted chestnuts, hot vin brulé, porchetta sandwiches, or hearty pasta dishes. Often it’s the location that make these mercatini di Natale special. In the latest issue of ABRUZZISSIMO Magazine (available here) we pick our favourite 27 Christmas markets and talk in detail about them. You can also read our post about seven best Christmas markets in Abruzzo.
Find Your Favourite Presepe
Every year, Christmas in Abruzzo is celebrated with beautiful nativity scenes. Miniature and made by local artisans, or live scenes played by children and adults, they are joyous events with a strong community spirit.
The presepe vivente is an old tradition that is celebrated in many of Abruzzo’s towns and villages from Christmas Day through January 6th. It is a theatrical spectacle that combines local traditions with the magical atmosphere of Christmas and involves whole communities. Locals dress up as inhabitants of Bethlehem, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the wise men; in some towns more than 100 people make up the cast of the show. A young baby from the village is given the honour of playing the role of the baby Jesus, making it a community affair that spans all ages.
Read more about the most beautiful nativity scenes in Abruzzo in our article here.
Play in the snow
Abruzzo’s biggest (140km of pistes) and most popular winter destination, the Alto Sangro area around Roccaraso, Rivisondoli and Castel di Sangro is heaving with skiers and snowboarders this time of year. You don’t have to be an avid sports enthusiast to enjoy the snow (the slopes are topped up with artificial white powder if the real flakes are in short supply): hop on the cable car and ride to one of the 14 bars and restaurants along the slopes and admire the magnificent mountains. For more details see the official website. Roccaraso also has a big ice rink and many events are organised over Christmas. Find out more here.
Sample Abruzzese Christmas Treats
Christmas meals are taken seriously in Abruzzo. The traditional Christmas menu is discussed and planned in details weeks prior to the celebration and many dishes are prepared well before the feast. The dishes vary depending on the area and family traditions and you will always find that the Christmas tables, for instance, in the mountains of the Teramo province will have something different from those on the coast in Vasto, in the south of the region. Many restaurants offer set Christmas (pranzo di Natale) and New Year’s (il cenone di Capodanno) menus. You can buy torcinelli, parrozzo, caggionetti and other delicious traditional treats (for more see this article) in supermarkets and bakeries this time of year. We talk about the traditional Christmas menu in Abruzzo here.
See the most Christmassy house in Abruzzo
Going over the top with Christmas lights is not something that is done often in Abruzzo, but Signor Nevio Clivio in Manoppello (PE) twinkling lights more seriously than anyone here. His house, known across the region as Casa di Babbo Natale (the Santa Claus’ House), for the entire month of December, transforms into a dazzling spectacle that makes Clark Griswold’s light obsession look like a mere rehearsal. So, if you’re ready for a luminous experience that rivals a supernova, head there in the evening and enjoy the show! Address: Via A.De Gasperi 3, Manoppello.
Featured image: Christmas market in Campo di Giove. Photo via Proloco Campo di Giove/Facebook