15 Impression from my Solo Christmas trip to Rome:
Although I travel solo to Italy every year and try to stay as long as possible I have never been Home To Italy during the winter. Usually by November I head back to the southern part of the USA to wait out the ice and cold across the Northern Hemisphere.
An additional thrill was an invitation from the author of Browsing Rome to write about any insights on Rome from my solo my solo trip. Since I no longer travel as a tourist but as a traveler, my trips will not appeal to anyone who spends every day following a tour book.
My December trip was devoted entirely to finding what xmas traditions Italians practicethat Italian Americans also observe. Therefore my visit did not include museums this year or monuments but rather the seasonal foods, street festivals and markets where Italians were enjoying the holidays.
This theme proved to be perfect. It was easy to do a visual inspection of holiday decorations as I progressed from Zurich to Como and down to Rome, but also the tourists were minimal, locals were more available to chat and the topic of Natale was universal to all.
By the time I had arrived in Rome for the first visit (I returned at the end of my trip as well) I had already been through snow, a train strike, VERY COLD weather and had contracted the flu. But when you only have one month a year to visit Italia, none of this stops a true traveler. You just keep going!
1. Street lighting: In every town and city I visited the streets were blazing with Christmas lights. No plastic snowmen, candy canes or Rudolf but street after street had displays of white lights. Each street was different. Some designs, such as the ‘jellyfish look’ were very unique. I could not find anyone to ask if each neighborhood decides what lights they used nor do I think that question ever came up!
2. The Christmas Markets
I left the USA with a list of markets that would be featured in each of the towns I planned to visit.
Apparently an outside Christmas market can be found in most Italian towns. In Florence it was a German market, in Prato they had a Chocolate fair. Rome has a huge market in Piazza Narvone that goes on for weeks. I visited several times to try to see everything.
In addition to the stands offering sweets and snacks the popular items were something like an oversized donut and crepes filled with Nutella. I enjoyed watching children eating cotton candy for the first time and learning how to eat it!
Since an outdoor market is a perfect location for a solo traveler to spend time, observe, interact and not become the object of everyone’s attention I found lots to keep me interested and except for the biting cold, would have spent more time there. The puppet stand had me transfixed. Who can you identify?