Christmas at Piazza Navona
I’m a sucker for Christmas – Christmas time, Christmas decorations, Christmas trees, Christmas season, the Christmas spirit … So … get ready for the Christmas section of the blog. (yes, I know it’s February … I’ve gotten pretty far behind, huh? It’s ok … I’m going to the states for a few weeks … I’m thinking that’ll give me a chance to catch up.)
Ryan and I decided to stay in Rome for Christmas. Given the cost to travel back to the US, the fact that we had only been away from home for 4 months, and the fact that we were already travelling for the first two weeks of December – we just thought it made sense to see what Christmas was like in Rome. Our first Roman Christmas experience was a visit to the Christmas market in Piazza Navona.
The market at Piazza Navona is part carnival (with balloons, and a carousel, and food), and part Christmas shopping (decorations, stockings, cheap toys for kids), and part amazing Nativity store. Oh, and it’s packed.
The Nativity stalls were quite amazing. They sold everything you could possibly want to create an amazing creche. Everything from moss, to angels, to shephards, roman soldiers, animals of all kinds, city scapes, country houses, etc.
Of course, the big nativity ‘buildings’ were 100-200 euro, and the smallest Mary was 12 euro. Apparently the Italians must take their nativities pretty seriously.
The clear winner in the food department was the Ciambella. As the sign says “The smell of the hot ciambella of Piazza Navona” … it permeated the square, and teased me, following me everywhere, until we were quite forced to buy one.
Note the ridiculous size. They heat the humongous donut on a panini machine and then slather it with Nutella. What could be better?
My original purpose in attending the market in piazza was to find a small gift for our families and Ryan’s grandmother. Ryan and I had finished all the rest of our shopping before he left for a trip, but we wanted to get one small ‘Rome at Christmas’ item for our families. We thought it would be easy to find something that said ‘Merry Christmas’ in Italian … not so. In fact, everything was in English. Doh! So, wandering around the piazza – I came across the same thing over and over … and after quickly looking up the explanation on my iPhone – I purchased witches on broomsticks for all of our family.
Apparently these Christmas decorations (with a striking resemblance to Halloween decorations) are representative of La Befana. The story goes that La Befana is an old woman who ran into the Three wise men on their way to find Jesus. They lost their way (apparently the star went behind a cloud?) and La Befana pointed them in the right direction. The wise men invited La Befana to come with them – but La Befana declined. She later regretted it, and rushed out of the house to join the wise men, with her own gift for the baby Jesus (a selection of candies). Unfortunately, she couldn’t find the wise men, so she wasn’t sure where to find the baby Jesus. So, rather than give up, she stopped at every house leaving candy for the children. She continues to do so the night before Epiphany.