Five can’t-miss things to do this Christmas in Rome

Yes it is that season again. If you’re in Rome for Christmas, you’re in luck! Check out our five can’t-miss things to do in Rome. It will get you in right in the mood for some Christmas holiday fun.

1. The decorations in Rome are more widespread than ever, with gorgeous lights and decorations everywhere you look. They’re oh-so-beautiful! For a strong dose of the Christmas spirit go to Piazza Navona. Rome would not be Rome without this annual event that centers around la Befana, the Christmas witch often more popular with children than Santa Claus. This somewhat kitschy fair still attracts fascinating street performers and artists working their magic on a swanky, well dressed crowd out for a stroll.

2. Christmas is also crib season in Rome. Delve into the tradition of Italian nativity scenes by going to the 37th edition of the annual nativity crib exhibition –100 Presepi (cribs made by artists across the globe) in Piazza del Popolo’s Sala del Bramante. 100 Presepi runs daily throughout the Christmas season until 6 January 2013. As an alternative you can visit the Christmas cribs in churches all over Rome. Rome boasts also a private museum near the Roman Forum, Museo Tipologico Nazionale del Presepio, with of more than 3,000 Christmas cribs and crib memorabilia accumulated by crib expert Angelo Stefanucci (1905-1990).

3. Go and see the Pope at midnight Mass (actually at at 10PM, not midnight) in St. Peter’s Basilica or at the “Urbi et Orbi”, the special blessing the Pope gives the crowd on Christmas Day. Tickets are notoriously difficult to get, though you can always watch the mass and the “Urbi et Orbi” outside on St Peter’s square or on television. Alternatively you could go to the midnight service at the Pantheon to hear some Gregorian chants and a concert by the zampognari and pifferai, the traditional Italian bagpipers and flutists. Tickets are not necessary, attendance is on a first-come, first-served basis. This service is mainly outdoors, so dress for cold weather. Or, climb the seemingly never-ending stairs of Rome’s Santa Maria in Ara Coeli. The flickering candles at the stairs and the chandeliers inside welcome locals and visitors alike into this 7th century church.

4. Christmas in Rome is primarily a family holiday rather than something you share with people in the office or your neighbors. Christmas Eve dinner in Rome is traditionally an evening spent at home eating a grand meal, with seven fish courses no less. At Christmas Romans don’t eat meat as a form of respect and penitence and to purify the body from all the excesses of the rest of the year. It is also an occasion to share the traditional and delicious Christmas sweets. Bakeries are working overtime with yummy holiday offerings like panettone (a large, round yeasted fruitcake traditionally eaten at Christmas), torrone and pandoro (a traditional soft yeast cake rich in butter with powdered sugar and no fruit). Make sure to taste one of those Christmas cakes and allow yourself a nice glass of bubbly spumante or a sweet Moscato to accompany the cake. The day after Christmas “La Festa di San Stefano” on the 26th of December marks the announcement of the birth of Jesus and the arrival of the Three Wise Men. San Stefano is also a national holiday in Italy.

5. Natale all’Auditorium/ Christmas at the auditorium. For more than a month the auditorium will be transformed into an “urban village” with sparkling decorations and illuminations, complete with Christmas market, playground and ice skating rink (with skate rental). The Auditorium, designed by Renzo Piano, is getting in the holiday spirit with a festive program of dance recitals, chamber music concerts, and child-friendly puppet shows. From Tuesday 11 to Sunday December 23, Cirque Invisible will drag the audience into the visionary world of Victoria Chaplin and Jean-Baptiste Thierrée. Unique puppeteer Mimmo Cuticchio will play his show commissioned by Musica per Roma later in the program. I particularly like Radu Lupu, the ascetic poet of the keyboard. On the stage with him, for this ‘all-Beethoven’ program, is rising star conductor David Afkham (29 years old). David Afkham will open with the virile Coriolanus Overture followed by the Apollonian Symphony No. 4, secretly the beloved favorite of all true Beethoven aficionados. Also not be missed is Claudio Baglioni on the 26th to December, 30 and on 2 and 3 January in the new year.

Christmas is a magical time in Rome and for those of you who decide on a last minute trip there are still a few rooms available for the Holidays period . Don’t forget to check out our amazing Winter-Sale! If you join our Facebook page (with discounts, articles and news on design and travel from Rome & Barcelona and all around the world) you will get an additional 10% discount using the promotion code FBFRIEND.