Italy isn’t a country which is usually associated with Christmas markets. In fact, when I first revealed to my friends that I was heading out to an Italian Christmas market this year, it was met with quite a few surprised reactions. But for me, combining two of my favourite things, European Christmas markets and Italy, was a dream come true. And I wasn’t disappointed by what I discovered…
Where is Trento?
Trento is a city in the Trentino–Alto Adige region of northern Italy and the capital of the Provence of Trentino. The pretty Alpine town is nestled within the Adige River Valley and guarded by the snow-dusted peaks of the Brenta Dolomites. Trento is considered to be one of the richest cities in the country, with its residents enjoying a high quality of life and standard of living.
Why Visit the Trento Christmas Market?
From late November to early January each year, Trento becomes even more magical than usual, with its towering Christmas trees, twinkling festive lights and the increasingly popular Trento Christmas Market.
Now in its 25th edition, the Trento Christmas Market consists of over 90 stalls spread across two central squares; Piazza Fiera and Piazza Cesare Battisti. The rows of charming wooden huts selling artisanal products and local delicacies are in keeping with local alpine traditions, with inspiration from the town’s past as a part of the Austrian-Hungarian empire.
Trento is such an amazingly festive place during the holidays that it has even gained itself the nickname Città del Natale, or “Christmas Town”. It is undoubtedly one of the most traditional and beautiful Italian Christmas markets.
Piazza Fiera is the main hub of the Trento Christmas market. Home to the largest concentration of stalls, the square is transformed into an enchanting winter wonderland sitting beneath the backdrop of the magnificent Brenta Dolomites.
It’s here where you’ll also find the main gastronomical hub of the market, with a whole section dedicated to delicious festive food and drink (see below for a guide to what to eat at the market).
Piazza Fiera is particularly popular around 6pm each evening when the market really comes alive with locals enjoying a post-work mulled wine in a fun festive setting.
Piazza Cesare Battisti
Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore
Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore is home to another small section of the Trento Christmas market which is specifically for children.
Children can write a letter to Santa, or ‘ Babbo Natale’, and in return receive a gift from the man himself in his central Grotto, along with elves and donkeys. The surrounding wooden chalets also offer a number of educational and recreational workshops for kids.
Piazza Duomo is the heart of Trento and is home to the city’s Duomo, the Cathedral of St Vigilio. The beautiful Romanesque-Gothic building also sits alongside other iconic landmarks including the Palazzo Pretorio, Torre Civica, The Cazuffi-Rella houses and The Neptune Fountain.
During the festive season, Piazza Duomo is decorated with a giant illuminated Christmas tree and a projected light show during the evening. In the square you can also pick up the Christmas train which takes you on a Christmassy journey around Trento’s historic centre.
Every Thursday the piazza also hosts a weekly market, with non-Christmassy items such as clothes, underwear and homeware for bargain prices.
Via Garibaldi is the street located behind the Duomo which connects the two main squares of the Trento Christmas market. On this street is a small number of stalls comprising the market of solidarity and volunteering which offers handmade products in order to raise money for charity.
Palazzo Thun, in Via Belenzani, is a hidden courtyard displaying Christmas art creations made using recycled materials by local school children as a part of the Christmas CreatTivo competition ‘Lights, Recycling and Solidarity’. Hunt down this special little spot for a real slice of authentic Trento Christmas culture.
EMERGENCY Christmas Shop
Although not strictly a part of the Trento Christmas market, the Natale per Emergency (Christmas for Emergency) shop is certainly worth a visit during a festive trip to Trento.
EMERGENCY is an independent Italian association which offers free and high quality medical and surgical treatment to the victims of wars, anti-personnel mines and poverty. During December, the charity opens Christmas shops in several Italian cities, selling items such as calendars, accessories, clothing, books, toys, gadgets, stationery, food and drink.
The EMERGENCY shop is a great place for picking up some lovely and unique gifts, with proceeds going to the EMERGENCY hospitals in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Trento’s Green Project
Another great thing about the Trento Christmas market is its commitment to environmental sustainability, with the use of clean energy, local products and eco-certified paper bags minimising the negative impact on the environment.
What to eat at the Trento Christmas Market
Tortel di Patate – Traditional potato shallow-fried pancakes, topped or filled with traditional meats, cheese and/or cabbage.
Speck – A dry-cured, lightly smoked ham native to the Alto Adige region. Try it in a panino (toasted sandwich) or with a tortel di patate.
Apple Strudel – One of the most iconic dishes of the Trentino-Alto Adige region, owing to its Austrian heritage.
Bretzel (pretzel) – Another popular dish which has remained from the city’s Austrian past.
Polenta – Made of boiled cornmeal, polenta is a very traditional dish which has its roots in the northern regions of Italy spanning back hundreds of years.
Panettone – A delicious Italian sweet bread loaf/cake with dried fruit, raisins or chocolate, particularly popular at Christmas.
Vin Brulé – Because what’s Christmas anywhere without a warming mug of mulled wine!?
How to get to the Trento Christmas Market
The easiest way to get to Trento is by flying into Verona airport and getting the train from Verona Porta Nuova to Trento central station. There are over 130 connections a day from Verona to Trento, taking around 1hr to 1hr30m and costing as little as €7.85.