By Monica Cesarato in Venice—
Christmas in the lagoon is, in my opinion, a privilege. During the holiday season, Venice is an enchanted and old-fashioned sight, minus the traffic jams and queues at shopping centers that plague most cities at this time of year.
With so few tourists walking down the city’s quiet calli (small streets), this is the quietest time to savor the city. How lovely it is to see the Rialto Market all lit up day and night. The restaurants propose scrumptious menus, while the hotels decorate themselves in their finest. Thousands of lights reflect onto the canals and create a magical environment. Even without tourists, the city feels alive.
Christmastime also offers holiday markets in the small towns and cities of the Veneto region. These markets, with their lively colors and goods for sale, attract thousands of tourists and locals.
Here are some of my favorite ways to celebrate the season in Venice:
Santo Stefano Christmas Market
Campo Santo Stefano
Hours: 10:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.
Through December 24
Vaporetto n. 1/82 stop Accademia
From the beginning of December through December 24 in Campo Santo Stefano the city holds a Christmas market that offers a traditional Venetian atmosphere. Visitors will be able to immerse themselves into a magical world of lights, colors and flavors while experiencing the handicrafts of the Veneto Region.
The market offers its visitors the perfect balance of art and folklore. Walking amongst the wooden market stalls (similar to those used in northern Europe) alongside the magnificent Venetian buildings is an unforgettable experience. Check out the typical Christmas offerings, including Christmas ceramics, dolls, candles, decorations, necklaces, masks, handmade soaps and Murano glass balls. Of course, you’ll also be able to taste the city’s seasonal treats.
Murano: Glass Christmas
Vaporetto n. DM Stop: Murano
Through the end of December
Another lovely market, the “Natale di Vetro,” or “Glass Christmas,” takes place in Murano from the December 5 till the end of December. Murano Island is located a couple of vaporetto stops from Venice.
On December 6, the island celebrates Saint Nicholas (San Nicolo), the patron saint of glass makers, with a glass Christmas market. Stalls offer hundreds of glass Christmas decorations, all of which are produced on the island by master glass makers. The market also includes an exhibition of handmade Murano chandeliers, which light up the ancient portico of the San Pietro Martire cloister.
There are all kinds of entertainment offerings, from concerts to glass-blowing demonstrations.
Jesolo Lido: Sand Nativity
From December 8
In Jesolo Lido (the famous seaside resort only an hour away by bus from Venice) you can admire the Jesolo Sand Nativity, one of the finest in the world. The show is open from December 8 onward, from 10 a.m.-noon and 2 p.m.-7 p.m. and takes place in one of the city’s nicest squares. This year one of the sculptures will be dedicated to Nelson Mandela.
Jesolo Lido: Father Christmas Run
Piazza Mazzini, Jesolo
Another of Jesolo’s events is the “Babbo Natale Run 2010″ (the Father Christmas run). Held on December 19 the run starts at the Piazza Mazzini at 2:30 p.m. and features athletes running while dressed as Father Christmas.