Christmas in Italy at Its Best: Christmas Markets, Cashmere and Bicerin

Christmas in Italy at Its Best: Christmas Markets, Cashmere and Bicerin

When conjuring up an ideal Italian vacation, most of us think of sunny warm days eating gelato while strolling cobblestoned streets, or along a sparkling shoreline, but Italy doesn’t only dazzle in the summer. In fact there may be no better place to get away to for the winter holidays.

An abundance of seasonal delights welcomes one and all throughout the country, however we of course have our hearts firmly planted in the region of Piemonte, where the French alps on the west, and the Swiss alps to the north create a snow-capped backdrop throughout much of the region. If you’re a skier you have multiple world class destinations within a stones throw. In fact in 2006 Torino, the capital of the region, hosted the winter Olympics with many events aking place at the beloved ski resort Sansicario.


If you love the feeling of the holiday bustle of a world class city Torino will not disappoint. This former capital was once under French rule resulting in stunning baroque architecture and formal city planning. Gorgeous shops and decadent cafes are safely ensconced in glass-ceilinged arcades that allow one to walk for blocks without facing the winter weather.

Torino provides opportunity for luxury holiday shopping with luxury labels such as Valentino, Gucci, Chanel, Tiffany, alongside artisanal boutiques featuring locally made products. It is imperative that holiday shoppers try the local specialty Bicerin – a very grownup version of hot chocolate which features decadent layers of coffee, chocolate and of course whipped cream.

Bicerin at Guido Gobino in Turin

And if chocolate is your thing, you’re in luck. Piedmont is famous for its numerous chocolatiers, and is home to brands we all know such as Caffarel, Ferro Rocher, and Venchi, but also to some of the best of the best that you may not be aware of including Bodrato and Guido Gobino. The region is laden with hazelnut trees, which in addition to providing the perfect ecosystem for growing the famous white truffles of Alba, also provides the chocolate industry hazlenuts which are ground and mixed with chocolate to create not only Nutella, but more importantly giandua – a foil wrapped melt in your mouth chocolate confection that puts the Hershey’s kiss to shame.

Acqui Terme

A holiday trip to Piemonte must include a jaunt into the countryside, where village after village displays their own unique light decorations. A trip to the ancient roman town of Acqui Terme keeps the spirit alive with a Christmas market, where gastronomes can sample salumi, wine, and cheeses directly from their makers, and a skating rink at the center of town. Located near the intersection of Italy’s coveted Monferrato and Langhe wine making regions, Acqui Terme is an ideal location for an escape to the country, and is surrounded by idyllic villages that host lovely vacation rentals.

Acqui Terme, Provincia di Alessandria

Traditional Italian Christmas treats are available nearly everywhere, with local bakers sharing their perfect panettone, which pairs perfectly with the regional sparkling wine - spumante! Don’t miss Cuvage’s Classico Brut Rose made with Nebbiolo grapes. In fact if you are in the area they have a tasting room in Strevi with a variety of both sparkling and still wines available to sample.

Other Italian Christmas delights

I would be remiss if I did not mention one of Piedmonte’s most beloved (by us at least) locally made must haves – cashmere. The world’s finest producers of cashmere goods are located in Piemonte including Loro Piana and Andre Maurici. And both brands have factory stores in Piemonte’s Saravalle Outlet mall, so you have every reason to gift yourself while you shop for others.

Finally, there are three things every Italian winter holiday traveler must know: It is required by law that your car either have snow tires or chains at the ready, because a snow storm could surprise you and leave you stranded in some wonderful local.

Most shops and businesses, including major grocery stores, are closed or have reduced hours between Christmas Eve and New Years day. Don’t let this annoy you! This decision to shut down and spend time with friends and family during the holidays demonstrates clearly that Italians value time with their loved ones over making money – and this is just one more thing to love about Italy.

Lastly, you will see and hear the word “Auguri” everywhere. Like “magari”, this is one of those Italian words that has no direct English translation. Auguri is used at times of celebration and holidays as a general way of wishing someone happiness. When spoken it is like saying “be well and happy” with fireworks in the background.

And with that, we hope you will find time to travel to Italy’s Piemonte region for the holidays soon. Auguri!

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