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 2023, yes there will! The city has confirmed there will be stalls and a carousel from December 8 2023 - January 6 2024.
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 event 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.
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 2023, it has just been confirmed that we will have a festive market in Piazza Navona!
It will take place from December 8 - January 6, with a carousel and a focus on quality products, Lazio food and drink and Christmas-themed goods.
Besides Piazza Navona, there are a few spots around Rome where you can visit some Christmas markets.
The below list are the locations of other markets for 2023:
In 2023 there will once again be a small Christmas Market and nativity scene at the bottom of the Spanish Steps.
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.
For 2023 this Christmas market will take place daily from December 8 through 24 2023, 9:00am-7:30pm.
From Saturday December 2 2023 - Thursday January 6 2024, you can enjoy a small Christmas village near the Rome Auditorium.
Open daily as a complement to their Christmas event season, with food trucks, designers, artisans, Christmas food and decorations and even a small ice rink!
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.
In 2023 this market is taking place the first 3 weekends in December - DATES ARE CONFIRMED
L'artigianato femminile, which translates to "The Female Artisan", puts on several events throughout the year.
For Christmas 2023 L'artigianato femminile is part of many markets running from December 2-24 2023. For details and hours and the most up to date information click here.
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.)
If you're looking for Christmas ornaments from Rome, Italy, you have several options.
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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