Christmas in Puglia: things to do
Christmas is a magical time of year, and what better way to celebrate the festive season than by visiting the beautiful region of Puglia? Known for its stunning coastlines, picturesque towns, and delicious cuisine, Puglia has plenty to offer during Christmas time too. From traditional Christmas markets to delicious regional dishes, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the best things to do in Puglia for Christmas.
Living Nativity – Presepe vivente
The Presepe Vivente is a traditional Christmas Nativity scene that comes to life in many towns during the holiday season. In Puglia, the Presepe Vivente tradition is especially vibrant and is celebrated in many towns and villages throughout the region.
The Presepe Vivente is a living nativity scene that recreates the events of the first Christmas. It involves actors and volunteers who dress in period costumes and play the roles of the Holy Family, shepherds, wise men, and other characters from the Bible. The scenes are set up in the streets and public places of the town or village, and visitors are invited to walk through them and experience the story of the birth of Jesus.
In Puglia, the Presepe Vivente tradition has been passed down for generations and is deeply rooted in the region’s culture and history. Each town or village has its own unique way of celebrating the tradition, and some have even gained national and international recognition for the quality of their productions.
Among the most notable celebrations, we highlight the one in Alberobello, Faggiano, Locorotondo, Tricase, Fasano, Ostuni, Rutigliano, Pezze di Greco.
Christmas Markets in Puglia
Puglia has several charming Christmas markets where you can find unique gifts, holiday decorations, and traditional foods. Here are a few of the best Christmas markets in Puglia:
Bari Christmas Market: The city of Bari hosts a large Christmas market in the historic city center, featuring stalls selling Christmas decorations, artisanal crafts, and local foods. The market is typically held from early December to early January.
Lecce Christmas Market: The city of Lecce hosts a Christmas market in the Piazza Sant’Oronzo, featuring stalls selling handmade crafts, toys, and food. The market also features a large ice-skating rink and a Santa’s Grotto for children. The market usually runs from early December to early January.
Ostuni Christmas Market: The town of Ostuni hosts a charming Christmas market in the Piazza della Libertà, featuring local crafts, food, and live music. The market is typically held on weekends throughout December.
Martina Franca Christmas Market: The town of Martina Franca hosts a Christmas market in the historic city center, featuring stalls selling handmade crafts, food, and traditional Christmas sweets. The market is typically held from early December to early January.
Trani Christmas Market: The town of Trani hosts a Christmas market in the Piazza della Repubblica, featuring stalls selling local foods, crafts, and holiday decorations. The market is typically held on weekends throughout December.
Alberobello Christmas Market – The picturesque town of Alberobello is famous for its trulli, traditional stone huts with conical roofs. During the Christmas season, the town hosts a market selling handmade gifts and local products. The market takes place in Piazza del Popolo, and you’ll find a range of stalls selling everything from Christmas decorations to traditional foods and sweets.
Decorations and Christmas lights in Puglia
Alberobello and Locorotondo are two of the most charming towns in Puglia and are well-known for their beautiful Christmas decorations and lights.
In Alberobello, which is famous for its trulli houses (traditional dry stone huts with conical roofs), the entire town is decorated with lights and ornaments during the Christmas season. The trulli houses are adorned with wreaths, garlands, and fairy lights, creating a magical atmosphere that draws visitors from all over the world.
Similarly, in Locorotondo, which is known for its whitewashed houses and narrow streets, the Christmas decorations are just as spectacular. The town is decorated with strings of lights, large stars, and other festive ornaments, transforming the streets and piazzas into a winter wonderland.
Both towns also hold various events and activities during the Christmas season, such as markets, concerts, and nativity displays, making them great places to visit for a festive holiday experience.
Nativity scenes – Presepi
The presepe also known as the nativity scene, is a very typical tradition during Christmas time in Puglia, as it is in many other regions of Italy. The presepe represents the birth of Jesus and typically includes figurines of Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, the Magi, and various animals and shepherds.
In Puglia, presepi are often elaborate and can be found in churches, public squares, and private homes. Some presepi are even life-sized and feature live animals. The presepe is an important part of the Christmas festivities in Puglia and is deeply rooted in the region’s cultural and religious traditions.
There is also the Associazione Italiana Amici del Presepe (AIAP) which is a non-profit organization in Italy that promotes the tradition of the presepe. They organize exhibitions, conferences, and workshops on the presepe. You can also find the best presepi in Puglia, both permanent and temporary, at the following link
Try some of the delicious desserts
Puglia, like many regions in Italy, has a rich tradition of festive desserts that are enjoyed during the Christmas season. Here are some of the typical Christmas desserts from Puglia:
Cartellate: These are thin strips of dough that are fried and then rolled into a spiral or knot shape. They are then drizzled with honey, syrup or vincotto (cooked wine) and dusted with powdered sugar. Cartellate are a favorite Christmas treat in Puglia, and they are often served alongside a glass of dessert wine.
Purceddhruzzi: These are small, round cookies made with flour, sugar, olive oil, and sweet wine. After they are baked, they are coated with honey or sugar syrup and decorated with colorful sprinkles or nonpareils.
Pettole: These are small fried dough balls that are made with flour, yeast, and mashed potatoes. They are often served dusted with powdered sugar or honey.
Mostaccioli: These are spiced cookies made with almonds, cocoa powder, and honey. They are often cut into festive shapes and decorated with icing or sprinkles.
Fiera dei Pupi” (Fair of the Puppets) in Lecce’s Christmas markets
Lecce is famous for its papier-mâché art. The craft of papier-mâché has a long history in the city, dating back to the 17th century, when it was introduced by local craftsmen. The art form involves creating objects by layering strips of paper soaked in a paste made from water and glue over a mold or armature. The resulting objects can range from small decorative items to large sculptures.
In Lecce, papier-mâché has become an important part of the local culture, and there are many artisans and workshops that specialize in the craft. The city is particularly known for its intricate and colorful papier-mâché puppets, which are used in traditional street theater performances called “pupi” or “pupi leccesi”.
During Christmas season, the “Fiera dei Pupi” (Fair of the Puppets) is organized in the city. The fair is dedicated to the traditional papier-mâché puppets that are made in the city, and it attracts visitors from all over Italy and beyond.
During the fair, which usually runs from late November to early January, the historic center of Lecce is transformed into a lively marketplace, with dozens of stalls selling puppets of all shapes and sizes. Visitors can find everything from small, simple puppets to elaborate, handcrafted pieces that are several feet tall.
In addition to the puppets, the fair also features a variety of other traditional crafts and products, such as hand-carved wooden toys, ceramics, and local food and wine. There are also street performers, music, and other festive activities that add to the holiday atmosphere.
Eat the tasty pettole
Pettole are a traditional dish from Puglia during Christmas time. They are small, round, fried balls of dough that are typically eaten during this holiday season.
The origins of pettole can be traced back to ancient times when they were known as “panis focacius” and were made with simple ingredients such as flour, water, and salt. Over time, the recipe for pettole evolved and new ingredients were added, such as yeast, potatoes, and sometimes even anchovies or other savory ingredients.
In Puglia, pettole are typically eaten as a snack or appetizer during the Christmas season. Families and friends gather together to make the dough and fry the pettole, which are then served hot and sprinkled with powdered sugar or honey.
In addition to being a popular holiday dish in Puglia, pettole also hold special significance in the city of Taranto during the celebration of Santa Lucia. Her feast day is celebrated on December 13th and it is customary to eat pettole on this day, as they are believed to bring good luck and protection from harm.
According to local tradition, on the night of December 12th, the people of Taranto light candles and place them in their windows to welcome the arrival of Santa Lucia. Whatever their origins, pettole have become an important part of Puglian culture and are enjoyed by people of all ages during the holiday season.
Santa Claus Village in Bari
The Villaggio di Babbo Natale (Santa Claus Village) is a popular Christmas attraction located in the city of Bari, the capital of Puglia. It is a magical place where visitors can experience the joy and wonder of the holiday season.
The village is set up each year in Umberto I Square which is located in the city center and easily accessible. The park is transformed into a magical winter wonderland during the holiday season, complete with festive decorations, lights, and attractions.
It features a wide range of festive activities and attractions, including an ice-skating rink, a Christmas market, a Santa’s grotto, and a beautiful Christmas tree. Visitors can also enjoy a variety of traditional Italian treats and delicacies, such as panettone, torrone, and hot chocolate.
One of the unique aspects of Villaggio di Babbo Natale is its focus on sustainability and environmental awareness. The village is built using recycled materials and energy-efficient lighting, and it promotes eco-friendly practices throughout the event.
For more details check the website https://www.nataleabari.it/
Santa Claus House in Candela
The Santa House in Candela is a unique and charming attraction in the town of Candela, located in the province of Foggia. The house, which is also known as Casa di Babbo Natale in Italian, is a festive display that celebrates the magic and wonder of Christmas.
The Santa House is located in the historic center of Candela and is open to the public during the Christmas season. Inside, visitors will find a magical winter wonderland filled with twinkling lights, festive decorations, and colorful displays. There are also various rooms that are decorated to depict different scenes from Christmas stories, including a room dedicated to Santa’s workshop, where you can see his elves hard at work making toys for children.
The house is particularly popular with children, who are fascinated by the enchanting atmosphere and the opportunity to meet Santa Claus himself. During the Christmas season, Santa Claus is present in the house, where he greets children, listens to their wishes, and takes photos with them.
The Santa House in Candela is a relatively new attraction. It was created as a way to promote tourism in the town and to showcase the warm and welcoming spirit of the people of Candela. Since then, the Santa House has become a beloved tradition in the town attracting plenty of visitors each year.
If you’re planning to visit this area of Puglia during the Christmas season, a trip to the Santa House in Candela is definitely worth considering. It’s a magical and unforgettable experience that captures the true spirit of Christmas and is sure to delight visitors of all ages.