For those visiting Abruzzo in December who are used to the long drawn out Christmas Markets at home which run from the last weekend of November through to Christmas Eve, you’ll quickly notice a few differences!
Christmas markets in Abruzzo (mercatini di natale) are beautifully short and sweet, a long weekend at the most, and there is a glut of them around the week of December 8th as their purpose is to celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception which is an Italian national holiday. Their focus isn’t just on purchases for Christmas but the experience, eating and drinking with multiple activities planned around children rather than the simple Meet n Greet of Santa. Small wooden chalets house local craftsman and artisans selling high-quality products that range from christmas decorations to arts and craft interior design accessories, clothes, stationery, handbags and soaps and of course plenty of handmade chocolates.
Generally they are hosted in the main piazza of the town’s historic centre, but spill out into the surrounding narrow cobbled streets where a slight chill in the air gives the perfect excuse to browse whilst sampling seasonal pastries that burst with the final Autumn harvest; caggionetti, those fried ravioli-like parcels stuffed with chestnuts and chocolate, orange zest and rum or Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Mostaccioli cookies. Try taking the mountain train, the Transiberiana d’Italia in the weeks that leading up to Christmas that will take you on a picturesque journey up into the mountains to visit the Christmas markets up high!
For those that prefer something savoury, try a panini filled with fat fegato sausages (pork, liver and orange zest) or porchetta, or just a fritelle, deep-fried bits of dough served hot that are superb alone or stuffed with a slice of prosciutto or bruschetta dribbled with new season olive oil. Aromatic mulled wine, thick hot chocolate will pull you in and one is never enough! Those that have gastro food stands expect to find polenta, mushroom and truffle pasta, bean and bitter winter greens dishes that the region does so well and of course arrosticini will always be on the menu with roasted chestnuts.
Abruzzo Christmas Markets 7-8th December
Abruzzo Christmas Markets 14th-15th December