The silly season has arrived, and I, for one, am feverish with excitement!
(So expect to be bombarded by Maremman Christmas recipes, traditional stories and festivals over the next two weeks)
One of the things I love about the Maremma, and, well, all of Italy, is that everyone always wait for December 8 before kicking off the Christmas festivities.
It’s not like back home when Christmas decorations start appearing in stores in October. Over here there’s not a hint or a whisper of anything Christmas related until December 8 and then BOOM! It’s like a green and red explosion everywhere you go.
But in the spirit of a very merry Maremman Christmas, I thought I would share my favourite local festive markets, or, as we like to call them, Mercatini di Natale.
Christmas markets are extremely popular in Italy. I guess the best way to describe them would be to imagine absolutely everything you love about Christmas in one place.
There are rows and rows of terribly cute market stalls, made from pinewood and decorated in tinsel and brightly coloured lights. Every stall sells something different, from deliciously spiced vin brulé to handmade glass baubles.
There’s always a brightly lit Christmas tree in the middle of the piazza and a band playing carols around it. And the food! All the Christmas favourites from all spice biscuits to chocolate filled crepes.
Admittedly, no one does a Christmas market better than the guys in Northern Italy, but we Maremmani can spread season’s cheer almost as well.
1. Orbetello’s Villaggio di Babbo Natale
This is my absolute favourite Christmas market this year. Actually, it’s more of a month Christmas-themed extravaganza for young and old. The partying doesn’t stop in Orbetello until Jan 6!
And the Christmas market is only one part of the fun.
The city has literally been transformed into Santa’s workshop – the pro loco plays live free concerts throughout the historic centre. There are children’s games, a North Pole post office and a Christmas window decorating competition for all the shops on the main strip.
But the best part of the entire event is the annual nativity scene competition! From December 20-30, budding artists create the most beautiful nativity scenes, which then go on display in the Oratory of Sant’Antonio on Via Dante Aligheri.
Only one can be crowned the best of the year though, and it is amazing to see what these artists can do with some coloured paper, glue and glitter!
2 Mercatino di Natale a Massa Marittima
This Christmas market might only be on for one day, December 18, but it’s effortlessly chic.
Yes, in typical Massa Marittima style, this Christmas market is the antithesis of the daggy festive cheer we’re all guilty of indulging in. Don’t try to pretend you’ve never worn one of those red and green woolen sweaters with Rudolph on the front!
Aside from its fabulous atmosphere, Massa Marittima’s Christmas Market is famous for its gorgeous handicrafts.
You can get the most beautiful handmade decorations here. Everything from brightly coloured baubles made from blown glass to tree treats made from delicately spiced biscuits.
I love the ornately hand-stitched lace tablecloths they have, and the amazing nativity scene pieces, of course. There is one stall that makes the most beautiful porcelain figurines. I can’t believe that much expression and colour can fit onto such a small canvas.
3. Gavorrano a Natale
This Christmas market might be a lot smaller than the other two, but I think it’s just as charming. The market runs for two days, December 17-18.
What I really like about Gavorrano‘s market is its provincial charm. The stalls here are all tiny, but really beautifully presented and run by the locals themselves.
I especially adore the hand-carved wooden toys on sale. You can’t get much more yesteryear than a wooden train with bright red wheels. I bought one for the kids last year!
There’s always an appearance from Santa, which the children absolutely love, and plenty of the event’s proceeds actually goes to local charities.
That said, there’s really only one thing on everyone’s minds when this market rolls around, and that’s food. Honestly, the food stalls at this event are amazing.
So if you’re lucky enough to be in Gavorrano on December 17 and 18, savour the pretzels, yes pretzels, caldarroste (roasted chestnuts) and beautiful braised game in red wine sauce! Buon Natale!