The idea to come and visit your favorite winemaking region during winter months when tourist season could be at it lull, is a good idea. There are plenty of Christmas Markets to visit and and also some things to keep in mind while you are visiting.
The pro’s to visiting during off season is you will benefit from the off season rates for flights, hotels and car rentals. The cons are because there is a low in tourism many places take advantage of the quite season as of recently there has been more and more movement in this area, so people are closing up shop and going to their favorite island to bask in some sun.
Winter holiday, here in Italy we take our holiday very seriously and holidays to keep in mind are 8 December Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Christmas 25th and the 26th is Boxing Day or the second Christmas day. The first of January is also a national holiday. Normally during these holidays it will be hard to find places in the restaurants or hard to find a taxi service or driver services as many people will too be celebrating with their families and friends, or they will be just over booked. Also keep in mind that if any of these holidays fall on on a Tuesday or Thursday most people will take advantage of having a long weekend and plan to do things in another area of Italy. With this overload of Italians in circulation it will become more difficult to find tables in restaurants, long lines at the ski lift, difficulties also for making appointments in wineries they will become full very fast, and we must not forget about the traffic. So keep in mind it is best to do a little research beforehand to make sure you are booked where you would like to go, instead of trying to pop into somewhere.
Weather conditions it is winter here, we don’t tend to get to much snow and the temperature does not drop to often below zero centigrade. But it can and it does. So it is a good idea to bring some winter gloves, a nice warm winter jacket with a hood is a good idea incase you need in a pinch, a hat, a scarf, and a good pair of boots that are comfortable for walking and also are good in the snow. Also here the cold weather doesn’t get us down. There are plenty of things to do on the weekends, farmers markets, Christmas markets or festivals that will have you outside walking around. It isn’t uncommon to find many people eating drinking and dancing outside in the winter months. It actually helps get rid of those cooped up winter blues we sometimes can encounter.
Christmas markets are plentiful here in Northern Italy as well as Germany, Austria, and other European countries. The Christmas markets are nice, they will typically have some traditional music playing, hot dishes to eat, and one thing to keep an eye out for is the mulled wines “Vin Brûlée” that will help keep you warm and get you in the spirit. Be careful as most people tend to add a little kick to the wine of either a Brandy or Rum. Usually the people displaying their wares are artists or crafters if you would like to find something hand made this is usually your best bet. Most of the items will be Christmas themed like tree ornaments, or cookies and candies, but sometimes you can find wooden products and jewelry, etc.
Some markets worth visiting:
Canale (Roero) every weekend, in the center from the first Saturday in December until the weekend before Christmas there will be different activities and also a market.
Alba (Langhe) Every Saturday Alba hosts a very large market where you can get everything from fresh vegetables, meats, cheese, to Italian made clothing, and household goods. But once a year they host a market dedicated to all things Christmas. This year it took place on Sunday 18 December.
Torino being the larger city in the area they have a few more things going on than the other parts of Piemonte. Every day starting from the 26th November to the 8 of January they have a Santa Clause Village that is open everyday of the week from 10am until 11pm. Located in Piazza d’Armi. It offers visits from Santa Clause, ice skating rink, and street food vendors.
You have a more Traditional Christmas market (Torino) open Monday to Friday from noon to 7pm, on Saturday and Sunday 10am till 8pm. Located in Piazza Borgo Dora 34. Here they have about 100 vendors, this market is half inside and half outside and there is a large variety of crafts, typical food products, and Christmas ordainments to keep you busy for a few house. I typically go to this market every year as it has many wonderful things, and if you go on Sunday you can have the added bonus of the Antique market in the near by distance.
The idea of the Christmas market was started in the Germanic countries and to honor the idea in Torino they have an Ital-German market. Located in Piazza Solferino from the 8 November untile the 23 November. This market embraces the Germanic traditions of Christmas and here you have the ability to taste your way though over 100 different types of beers!
One Christmas market that is very popular in the Langhe\Roero is the Govone market. Located around the Castle of Govone here this market is open weekends and holidays from 10am until 7pm and will run from 19 November until the 26 December. This market brings in many from all over so be prepared if you don’t find a parking spot right away. Also there is a wonderful Trattoria right next to the market that is not to miss called Trattoria Pautassi, they make some wonderful traditional dishes and if you are vegetarian have some delicious options as well.