In Rome in December Christmas markets are one of the first things people ask me about.
Where are they? When do they go up?
And of course, the big question, will there be a Christmas market in Piazza Navona this year?
In 2021, sadly, the answer is no.
The idea of a Christmas market in Rome is a lovely thing.
Going from stall to stall, all bundled up to keep out the cold, maybe stopping for some cotton candy. . .
But did you know that Christmas markets are not part of Italian Christmas traditions?
Christmas markets, called mercatini di natale in Italian, tend to be more common in northern European countries.
They began in the Late Middle Ages in German-speaking parts of Europe and what was once the Holy Roman Empire, which also included France, Belgium, and Luxembourg, among other territories.
The first northern-European-style Christmas market in Italy was in Bolzano (northern Italy) in 1990, which is not that long ago.
And so, today you will find these types of Christmas markets in parts of northern Italy where Christmas traditions are closer to Swiss/German/Austrian cultures.
This being said, we did have a pretty bustling market, Roman-style, in Piazza Navona.
Now it's pretty diminished (you can read why below).
But there are a few more places in Rome where you can check out Christmas Markets - just don't expect them to be like the one that used to be in Piazza Navona, or what you find in northern Europe!
On this page about Rome in December Christmas Markets, you'll find:
The main Rome Christmas market we ONCE had was at Piazza Navona.
It was arguably Rome's biggest and most popular Christmas market and fair.
The history of Christmas street sellers is closely linked to the history of Piazza Navona and its function as a local market.
In 1477, the food market was transferred here from the Capitol, and remained until 1870.
Eventually, as tourism began to grow, the food market moved and eventually combined with the already existing market at Campo dei Fiori (which exists still to this day).
At some point, it was decided that Piazza Navona would only have a market during Christmas.
Every year, from sometime in early December (typically either December 1 or December 8, the Immacolata, until January 6 (Befana), there was a family-oriented Christmas fair that took up most of Piazza Navona.
Stands went up all around the square. Vendors sold everything from Christmas tree decorations to carnival-type food to toys of varying qualities.
There was (and still is) a carousel and a kind of mini-stage with a nativity scene (presepe in Italian.)
In recent years, a bit of grumbling began.
First of all, the market was supposed to open ONLY on December 8, the Immacolata, or Immaculate Conception, the official beginning of the Italian Christmas season.
But it was starting to open earlier, often on December 1, which many thought was a sign of pure crass commercialism.
Then, the artists and artisans who traditionally sold their wares here began to notice an encroachment of foreign-made goods sold in bulk and at low prices, undercutting them.
In 2014, the mayor at the time (Ignazio Marino) tried to "clean up" Piazza Navona and bring it back to its more traditional roots where it was made up of just local artisans and food vendors.
The idea was that Piazza Navona should be about families and children, and less about "commercial" things.
The number of concessions went from 115 to 72.
Then, those vendors who signed up for their concessions did not go pick them up, to show solidarity with their kicked-out brethren.
That year, there was a mini-protest in Piazza Navona, with only a handful of vendors (something like 4-5.)
In 2016, there were about 6-7 stands, all with carnival-type games where you could win a stuffed animal.
No food, no toys, no crafts, nothing to buy.
In 2017, there was supposed to be a Christmas Market, with SOME stands, but it didn't even go up until December 14.
In 2018, there were as usual the carousel, a nativity scene, and a stage for some small shows.
On December 12, 2019, local police SHUT DOWN the Christmas Market in Piazza Navona (something to do with permits) and for the first time since I can remember, there was not even a carousel there (it did come back in time for Christmas but it was a pretty sad Christmas fair by then.)
In December 2019 I made a video about Christmas through recent years. At minute 6:16 I go over the recent history of the Christmas Fair in Piazza Navona:
In 2020, due to Covid, there were lots of restrictions in place so there was no Christmas Market in Piazza Navona, although we were treated to a beautiful light + music show.
You can watch a video of the light show in Piazza Navona from Christmas 2020 in my video below, at minute 02:57:
The point is that while you will find Piazza Navona festive, with a carousel, nativity scene, some lights, a handful of stands and maybe a tree, it is NOT the huge Christmas Fair in Rome we once had.
I suggest going there anyway as it's a beautiful ambiance no matter what.
As for the current year of 2021, it has been confirmed that the Christmas market will NOT be taking place. Covid restrictions and general Italian bureaucracy have meant the arrangements needed to set up stalls and allocate vendors has not happened and will not be happening.
It also does not look like the carousel or light show from 2020 will be taking place either, but I will update this page if this changes!
Besides Piazza Navona, there are a few spots around Rome where you can visit some Christmas markets.
The below list is made up of Rome in December Christmas markets from recent years.
In 2021, we are waiting for confirmation as to whether these will be open and if so, what dates/times. I will update this page once we have details.
Awaiting confirmation for 2021
In recent years, there has been a small Christmas Market and nativity scene at the bottom of the Spanish Steps. Stay tuned for news for 2021.
Confirmed for 2021
There is a vintage/antique market in Piazza Mazzini in Prati which throughout December turns into a fairly large Christmas Fair. You will find gifts, crafts, food, Christmas decorations and more, including some of the stalls that in previous years were in Piazza Navona.
In 2021 the market is open every day from December 3 to December 28, 9am - 7.30pm.
Confirmed for 2021
From December 4, 2021 - January 9, 2022, you can enjoy a small Christmas market with about 30 stands near the Rome Auditorium.
Open daily 10am - 10pm, except Christmas Eve when it will close at 2pm. Food trucks, designers, artisans, Christmas food and decorations.
You can easily reach this market from Rome center, with the Metro red line A, and then transferring to tram 2.
Vintage Market is a company that organizes large flea-market type events almost every weekend throughout the year.
They are usually held in one of several enormous warehouse spaces that were once bus depots around the capital.
Confirmed for December 2021!
Confirmed for 2021
Throughout December, head to the funky Mercato Monti, in the Monti neighborhood near the Colosseum.
This is a year-round market, normally open mostly on weekends. But during Christmas, they are open more often, and with more of a Christmas feel.
This year they have an XL Christmas market, running from 10am - 8pm at their normal location of via Leonina 46 on the following dates:
Confirmed for December 2021
L'artigianato femminile, which translates to "The Female Artisan", puts on several events throughout the year.
For Christmas 2021 they are having two events a bit further away from Rome's center, in the Centocelle and Monte Sacro neighborhoods.
I listed above the Rome Christmas Markets that you can most easily reach from Rome's city center.
There are quite a few other Christmas Markets that are just outside Rome, or in sort of far-off neighborhoods of Rome, like in EUR and in Cinecittà.
If you'd like to see a complete listing even with the farther-away markets, visit this page (only in Italian.)
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If you're looking for Christmas ornaments from Rome, Italy, you have several options.
Below you'll find shops that sell Christmas decorations in Rome.
Some only sell them during the holiday season but they do carry a good selection.
Others are open year-round, where noted.
I have a soft spot for this cute little store near Piazza Navona.
When it first opened, I thought, there is no way that shop will last.
We have huge year-round Christmas stores in the US and I know there is a market for them there but I didn't think there could be enough of a market for this in Rome.
And I was wrong.
This adorable shop sells an excellent variety of high-quality unique Christmas decorations and ornaments.
Some of my favorites include the ornament shaped like gorgonzola cheese and the one shaped like an old-fashioned Olympia typewriter.
Mr. Christmas was founded in Rome in 2016 and has become a small Italian chain that sells Christmas decor and ornaments year-round.
They specialize in personalizing your ornaments.
You can easily find this Christmas shop in Galleria Alberto Sordi, not far from the Trevi Fountain.
At Flakes Trastevere, you can find a treasure trove of wonderful gifts and souvenirs.
Chiara also sells Christmas ornaments, usually ceramic from Deruta, but sometimes she has other kinds, too.
There are two Rinascente department stores in Rome.
The flagship store is between the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain.
The other location is closer to Via Veneto and Termini train station.
Both have excellent Christmas supplies during the Christmas holiday season (but not throughout the year.)
Vertecchi is a local stationery and gift shop that gets super decked out during the Christmas holidays. They sell everything from trees to tree decorations to wreaths and much more. They sell out quickly so you'll want to shop there early in the season.
They don't sell Christmas items throughout the year but they do stock up on other seasonal gifts, for example Easter or Halloween decorations, at the appropriate time.
Many museum gift shops now sell Christmas ornaments, sometimes depicting a famous piece of art from their collection on the ornament.
You can count on being able to find a wide variety of Christmas ornaments and related items at the Vatican gift shops, which you will find at many spots inside the Vatican Museums and also just to the left of Saint Peter's Basilica.
Click here to visit my interactive Google map showing all the Christmas markets and shops listed on this page. It will open in a new window.
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