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Christmas in Italy: Everything you need to know about Bologna during Christmas time

Christmas in Italy the Bologna Place in the middle of Northern Italian hills and easily reachable from any of the major European cities, Bologna is a jewel worth visiting at least once in a lifetime. But it’s during Christmas time that the city becomes more special than ever!

If you are wondering what activities you can do in this city, here you’ll find a detailed article with unique suggestions spiced up with some historical pills.

The best places to visit in Bologna at Christmas

# 1: Piazza Maggiore and the Christmas tree

You’ve just arrived in Bologna and don’t know where to start? Piazza Maggiore, the city’s main square, is the first place you need to see. You’ll feel like you’ve just gone out of a time machine when you get there.

Piazza Maggiore and the Christmas tree

The square keeps still its medieval look: in the middle, you’ll see the beautiful statue of Neptune, the roman deity of the sea, surrounded by Palazzo del Podestà, Palazzo Re Enzo (on the left side), and Palazzo d’Accursio (on the right side). These buildings were all edified during the XIII century.

In the background, you’ll have the chance to admire the fourth biggest Cathedral in Italy: the Cathedral of Saint Petron, the city’s Patron. It was left uncompleted due to economic reasons but remains one of the most beautiful Churches in Italy because of its unicity.

Finally, we get to the highlight of Bologna during Christmas time: the Christmas tree of course! Placed near the statue of Neptune, it leaves every single person enchanted by its beauty and magical power.

#2: Via d’Azeglio

Walking through Piazza Maggiore you’ll notice a little street on the right which you need to see: it’s Via d’Azeglio. This street is primarily known for the hanging illuminations that show the passers-by the words of one traditional Italian song chosen every year by the locals.

Via d’Azeglio

These illuminations are there only during Christmas time: every year the owners of the little shops along the street buy them to make the tourists’ walk unique and help needy people. Coherently with the real Christmas spirit, the lights are sold after the Christmas holidays to collect money to give to charity.

# 3: Christmas markets in Bologna

If you end up in Bologna during Christmas time, you absolutely can’t miss out on the beautiful Christmas markets. Especially two of them will steal your heart (and empty your pockets).

Christmas markets in Bologna

Firstly, you need to see the so-called Market of Saint Lucia. This year it’ll take place from the 17th of November till the 26th of December: it’s one of the oldest Christmas markets in Europe and it’s set under the arcades along Strada Maggiore, called “Portico dei Servi.” Here you’ll have the chance to buy hand-made decorations for your Christmas tree, typical Italian candies, and original ideas for your Christmas presents.

The city also hides something for the most romantic spirits: the French Market, which this year will take place from the 20th of November till the 19th of December in the beautiful setting of Piazza Minghetti.

Here you’ll breathe the typical Alsace atmosphere and while walking through the wooden houses you’ll find typical French food, especially cheese and desserts. I warmly suggest trying a cup of vin brulè or having breakfast with brioche, pain au chocolat, and macarons, a paradise for sweets- lovers!

Christmas traditions in Bologna: the Presepe

Bologna is a very old city with plenty of traditions. But what about Christmas traditions? Of course also in this regard, the city has a lot to tell, but especially one custom deserves to be mentioned.

Christmas traditions in Bologna: the Presepe

In Italy, every family leaves a little space in the house to host some statues of the Nativity scene’s protagonists: the so-called Presepe. But there are also public Nativity scenes and the most ancient in the world is set in the church of Santo Stefano. The main feature of this Presepe, which differentiates it from Naples’ figures, is that the statues are entirely sculpted.

The Church of Santo Stefano that hosts this Presepe was one stop-over for the pilgrims who came from the south to undertake the walk of Santiago de Compostela. It’s called “the Bolognese Jerusalem” because they built it to recreate a little copy of the Holy Sepulcher. It’s also known as “Seven Churches” because it’s an agglomerate of seven different buildings.

Bologna is also a warm city: people are extremely kind, and they will host you always with gentle smiles on their faces. But people have a lot of irony and sarcasm too: even the Presepe, a holy tradition, keeps the memory of this typical feature of the locals.

There are indeed two statues of the Presepe that you won’t find anywhere else in Italy: la Meraviglia, a woman that shows surprise for the nativity, and her opposite, il Dormiglione; in other words, the sleepy man who couldn’t care less about what was going on!

Food traditions during Christmas time

Italians define Bologna with three iconic adjectives:

  • La Dotta (the well-educated), because of the university, the oldest in the world
  • La Rossa (the Red one), because of the red colour of the buildings
  • La Grassa (the fat one), because of the food tradition.

As you can understand from the last adjective, you won’t have to worry about food when you end up in Bologna. But it’s during Christmas time that the culinary tradition becomes even richer.

#1: Tortellini in brodo

It’s a typical Bolognese main course, but families here eat it mostly during Christmas: it consists of homemade pasta filled with fresh cheese, spinaches, or meat. The best place in Bologna where you can eat tortellini is Sfoglia Rina. The queue is always long, but you won’t regret it!

Tortellini in brodo

# 2: Il Certosino

It’s a colourful cake made of dark chocolate, fruit, nuts, and cinnamon; it’s called Certosino because according to oral traditions the recipe was invented by one of the Carthusian monks, in Italian called “Certosini.”

Il Certosino

#3: La torta di Riso

Made of milk, rice, and almonds liquor it has a strong taste: you can find it either in the Christmas market or in a typical Bolognese pastry shop.

La torta di Riso


Christmas in Italy, Bologna and Bologna is a very interesting city, full of joy, colours, and history. I hope I managed to give you some useful tips for your next trip and an exhaustive overview of the city. Let us know if you liked the article and don’t forget to look at our shop to collect some ideas for your Christmas presents. See you soon!

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