We might think that the 12 days of Christmas are simply the most annoying of the Christmas songs, but here in the Old Country it still exists. With nearly a fortnight of celebrations, the peak of Christmastime in Italy runs from Christmas Day on December 25th to the Epiphany on January 6th when the Three Wise Men reach baby Jesus.
Here, schools and many places of work are closed, families are away on skiing vacations and Christmas decorations stay up well into the first week of January. Only once La Befana comes (a kind but ugly old witch…don’t ask because really there’s no explanation) to put treats in kids stockings on January 6th can we officially consider the Christmas season closed.
And so, to celebrate, I dragged my family more than an hour away in 40°F weather to the city of Como to see its infamous light show.
Every year Christmas in Como is celebrated with the Città dei Balocchi Christmas Festival. Once intended for the families of Como, it has since grown into a veritable Christmas tradition for Italians in the area as well as visitors from much further afield! That’s largely thanks to the Como Magic Light Festival.
Each year from November 23rd to the 6th of January the entire city is alight not only with classic Christmas lights, but also with colorful, moving scenes projected onto the façade of Como’s most famous buildings.
All Italian cities hang up Christmas lights on their streets, but the illuminations in Como took it to another level. That said, some of our favorite decorations were those that decorated the shops and restaurants throughout Como. It seems no expense was paid in decking out the places of business this time of year and they were so tastefully done that we almost enjoyed them more than the crowded piazza shows.
But with shops like these how could they not be? The Como Magic Light Festival is obviously a chance to soak in the festive atmosphere, but there’s also vin brulè sold at the outdoor market, warm restaurants beckoning you inside and truly impressive window shopping.
If you go, expect pretty insane crowds.
The lights are on from 5:30 pm until 6:00 am and I imagine dinnertime (around 8 pm) or later would have slightly fewer people, especially on a weekday. We were there on a weekend during the school vacation pre-dinnertime…and felt it!
Still, the lights were pretty spectacular.
We love Como. Beyond the gorgeous lakefront, the town itself is elegant, rich, clean and pretty. It’s a pleasure to stroll through any time of year, but if you’re planning a winter trip to Italy, this is a wonderful way to visit Lake Como’s principal city and an even better way to enjoy the Christmas season in Italy! We love Como and we just might love Christmas in Como even more. The festival was especially exciting for the families with children. And despite the crowds, we’d still say this was definitely a perfect kid-friendly activity and the perfect way for kids to enjoy the holidays in Italy.
How to Get There
Living in Monza Brianza, Marco and I typically head to the lake by car, but Como is a different story. For one, it’s the opposite side of the lake compared to our house and takes at least a full hour to get there. Then, of course, you’ll have to pay for parking. Expecting the crowd, this time around we took a local train to Como. Just 20 minutes by train, the station drops you off in the center of the city and it cost us less than 7 euro each round trip.
Look at the Trenitalia website for times and stations to the Como San Giovanni Station. There is bag storage 24/7.
Visitors coming from Milan can catch a train from Milan’s central station, Milano Centrale. There are multiple trains a day, the trip takes 40 minutes and costs less than 5 euro one way. Note that if you can’t find “Como” on the board, it’s likely because the final destination of your train might be Sondrio or Lugano, Switzerland.
So go and enjoy the entirety of your 12 (or more) days of Christmas!