Italy is positioned in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea and is popularly known as lo stivale (the Boot). The capital is Rome and it is the headquarters of the Vatican as well as ancient relics and landmark sculptures. Most of the visitors to this beautiful country choose summer as their holiday destination, but quite frankly, December is an awesome time of the year to visit.
No matter the time of year, the country is an amazing place to visit, and if you decide to visit Italy in December then be sure to have a checklist of all the remarkable places that you wouldn't want to miss. When the climate in the north turns wet and cold, and temperatures become cooler in the southern region, the people start for the indoors to museums and theatres, or put on a stylish topcoat while wandering the shops and Christmas marketplace set up in town malls. At the end of it all, the Italians hold close the season with their usual passion, choosing to enjoy the arts with enthusiasm, shop with flare and gorge on dishes savoured with the season's harvest. Whether it is the quirky Italian names or the stylish culture you are interested in then it is a must see.
In Italy, the major festivals or holidays that you would get in the month of December is not only and exclusively Christmas but there would also be –
i. St. Stephen's Day (a feast organized on 26th December to honour the first martyr for the Newborn King, Stephen);
ii. 13th of December marks Saint Lucia Day, where a statue of the revered saint is carried to the Church of Santa Lucia with great pomp and splendour in a golden coffin and the same is carried back to her respective tomb in the same manner on the 20th of the month;
iii. the feast of the immaculate conception on 8th of December (a Mass is held to remember the day when Mary was graced by God to lead a life entirely free of sin);
iv. In Milan, December 7th marks the feast of St. Ambrose (one of the key founders of the early Roman Catholic Church);
v. 6th December marks San Nicola, mostly in the northern part of the country. The celebrations are done with taralli (firm round biscuits) consumed with loaves of bread and wine;
vi. On 4th December, St. Barbara Day on Mt. Etna's Slopes, this Saint is considered as a protection for the locals against Mt. Etna;
vii. And of course, New Year's Eve, on the 31st of December.
MUST SEE PLACES:
1. The Vatican: Maximum crowds would gather at Rome and Vatican City in December, especially near Christmas time, as people from all over the world visiting Italy would definitely want to get a glimpse of the Pope and listen to his speech. The main things you wouldn't want to miss are Saint Peter's Basilica and the Museums of the Vatican.
2. Milan: It would be wet and chilly in the month of December here, but the shopping in the design haven of the world is to die for. Every weekend in December, this vibrant city hosts an Antique Fair (known as the Brocantage Fair), that becomes a magnet for all the craftsmen throughout Italy. The town centre hosts a Christmas market known as 'oh Bej! Oh Bej!' – A special candy and confectioneries market for all those sweet lovers. To top it off you have the city celebrating its patron saint, St. Ambrose on December 7th.
3. Alps: For the extreme sports lovers, the ultimate destination would be the Alps and their amazing ski resorts and villages. The breathtaking views and the mountain-top restaurants are as extraordinary as the skiing at these places.
4. Tuscany Hills: These hills, as stunning as they are in the summers, their beauty is unparalleled when the snow covers the hillsides. There is a coastal town, by the name of Suvereto that celebrates its wild boar festival in early December. The local public sets up a large grill in the center of the town and menu consist of hot stews, soups and grilled boar delicacies.
Undoubtedly, the month of December has much to offer to the tourists visiting Italy at this time of year. Be sure to pack an umbrella and, if on a road trip, be careful of the heavy fog on highways in northern Italy.