5 or my 15 Impressions from my Solo Christmas trip to Rome: part of a guest post I did for BrowsingRome.com
Although I travel solo to Italy every year and try to stay as long as possible I have never been Home To Italy during the winter. Usually by November I head back to the southern part of the USA to wait out the ice and cold across the Northern Hemisphere.
My December trip was devoted entirely to finding what xmas traditions Italians practicethat Italian Americans also observe. Therefore my visit did not include museums this year or monuments but rather the seasonal foods, street festivals and markets where Italians were enjoying the holidays.
This theme proved to be perfect. It was easy to do a visual inspection of holiday decorations as I progressed from Zurich to Como and down to Rome, but also the tourists were minimal, locals were more available to chat and the topic of Natale was universal to all.
1. Street lighting: In every town and city I visited the streets were blazing with Christmas lights. No plastic snowmen, candy canes or Rudolf but street after street had displays of white lights. Each street was different. Some designs, such as the ‘jellyfish look’ were very unique. I could not find anyone to ask if each neighborhood decides what lights they used nor do I think that question ever came up!
2. The Christmas Markets
I left the USA with a list of markets that would be featured in each of the towns I planned to visit.
Apparently an outside Christmas market can be found in most Italian towns. In Florence it was a German market, in Prato they had a Chocolate fair. Rome has a huge market in Piazza Narvone that goes on for weeks. I visited several times to try to see everything.
In addition to the stands offering sweets and snacks the popular items were something like an over sized donut and crepes filled with Nutella. I enjoyed watching children eating cotton candy for the first time and learning how to eat it.
Since an outdoor market is a perfect location for a solo traveler to spend time, observe, interact and not become the object of everyone’s attention I found lots to keep me interested and except for the biting cold, would have stayed longer.
The puppet stand had me transfixed. Who can you identify?
There were fortune tellers that offered services in several languages:
when I returned to have my palm read later in the week, they were nowhere to be found.
Perhaps you could only know your fortune on weekends.
Many stands offered Christmas decorations. You could find Befana dolls in all sizes.
My first time meeting Befana.
The amusement area at the market made me stop dead in my tracks.
I am from New Jersey where towns along the beach area have a boardwalk and amusement park with rides and games. What a shock to find the SAME games in New Jersey arcades for perhaps 100 years, here at the Piazza Narvone market. Do you think Italian Americans brought these games with them when they immigrated?
3. A tree with letters to Babbo Natale
the Italian version of a letter to Santa.
This tree was in the main train station in Rome
4. Hot Chocolate so thick it looked like pudding. So glad I am not a diabetic And wish I had found this wonderful treat earlier in the trip.
5. Food, food, food Cake, Cake, Cake
I did not even make a dent in all the wonderful treats available. The bakeries were so packed there was no way for me to point and ask for ‘one of everything’ which is what I REALLY wanted to do.
After tasting fresh Panetone I began to think that what we have in the USA is last year’s leftovers…. Olga Stinga at SASL told me you receive gifts of Panetone at this time of year and often pass extra Panetone on to someone else….….the original re gifting.
More solo Xmas observations on part II