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Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas in Milan


I love the way the Christmas season can change the whole mood of a city. And being the fashion capital of the world, Christmas in Milan is celebrated in its own elegant way. Here's how the city celebrated the 2008 Natale season: The festivities begin early in December, on the Piazza of the Basilica di San Ambrogio, where the O Bei O Bei market starts off the shopping season by offering all kinds of gifts, handmade crafts, religious items, and Christmas decorations. Simple things for the most part; sort of a warm up for the serious shopping to come. And to warm you up while you’re shopping there are vendors with hot drinks, cioccolata and vin brule, to wrap cold fingers around.
To keep the Christmas spirit going Milan has set up two skating rinks, the Villaggio delle Meraviglie at Porta Venezia, and another at the Idroscalo. Fun to watch, even if you don’t feel like skating. There are winter sports for nonskaters too; wander over to the winter wonderland of a snow park that's been created behind the Castle, in Piazza del Cannone, where you can go tubing, or even take a little ski or snowboard run.

As the days tick off towards Christmas many shops in the city will remain open on Sundays and extend their hours. Now’s the time to see and be seen on some of the finest shopping streets in the world. Lights twinkle everywhere. There’s an overabundance of Christmas trees. Trees of silver and gold, trees covered with Christmas balls, and trees wrapped in silken strips. But the piece d’resistance, the thing that sets Milan apart, is the magnificent Swarovski Christmas tree, this year set up in front of Stazione Centrale, Centrale train station. This 12-meter tall tree sparkles and dazzles, emblazoned with 12,000 lights and 8,000 Swarovski crystals.

And as Christmas Eve draws near, the Duomo becomes the center of activity in Milan. Stop inside to warm up, not only your hands but your heart and your soul, moved by the splendor of the cathedral and the music of the many choral groups performing there during the season, and the lovely feeling that only comes at Christmastime.

It’s easy to visit Milan from Stresa and enjoy the Christmas festivities. Visit my post here for some instructions.

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