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If you were hoping for snow this winter, Rome is usually not the place to find it (as snowfall is quite rare here), but the Eternal City still knows how to turn itself into a perfect, romantic setting where you can spend your Christmas holidays munching on roasted chestnuts and visiting the markets, like the traditional one in Piazza Navona, accompanied by the sound of bagpipers.
The most dazzling, decorated streets are those in the Tridente shopping district. After a stop at the brand new Rinascente in via del Tritone, you can reach the Spanish Steps and then mingle with the crowd, between via Condotti, via Frattina and via del Babuino, with a mandatory break at the sophisticated Caffè Greco to indulge in a comforting hot chocolate. Then choose the most spectacular Christmas tree between the one in Piazza Venezia and the one in St Peter’s Square, where, every year, you can also admire the Nativity scene.
On the evening of the 24th, dinner is usually based on fish dishes. If you are not invited to a relative’s or friend’s home, where can you go? IlSanlorenzo, a stone’s throw from Campo de’ Fiori, offers a sumptuous menu: spaghetti with clams, seafood chowder and fried shrimp, squid and mullets.
After dinner, locals normally attend the Midnight Mass. Among the most popular churches there is Santa Maria in Vallicella, traditionally called Chiesa Nuova, and the Parish Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo.
You can have a fabulous Christmas lunch at Al Ceppo in the Parioli district, with the usual holiday repertoire, from fried vegetables to tortellini in capon broth, chicken galantine and wine ciambelline to conclude the meal.
When it comes to desserts, Rome doesn’t have a particularly rich tradition but there is a typical specialty, the Pangiallo, made with chocolate, honey, dried figs, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts and pine nuts. Curious to taste it out? Head to Roscioli bakery, in via dei Chiavari, where you will also find tozzetti, ricotta and sour cherry tarts and the best panettone in Rome.
The Auditorium Parco della Musica is one of the liveliest and most popular places during the holidays. As the tradition has been for many years, the beautiful Cavea area holds an ice skating rink, giving skaters the feeling (almost) that they’re at the Rockefeller Center in New York. Of course, there is also the much appreciated musical and cultural events calendar, including the Benedict Gospel Choir concert, scheduled for December 25.
If you are staying in Rome with children, or if you just want to go back to childhood, put an afternoon at the LunEur Park on the agenda, Italy’s oldest amusement park, which recently reopened after a complete renovation. During the Christmas season, a 2,600m2 village will be set up, with a toy factory, Santa Claus, ice canyon and cotton candy for everyone. The most nostalgic ones will also find the historic Ferris wheel still in the same place.