One Italian Christmas market that stands out as more festival than its traditional market rivals is that hosted by Candelara, a stunning fortified town in northern Le Marche that is just a short drive from what must be central Italy’s most cultural Adriatic seaside town, Pesaro and the grand Urbino.
Yes, the Christmas market has the de rigueur standard wooden cabins of every other Christmas festival in Italy, but rather than food on sale here you are coaxed into dropping any festering “bah humbug” by the warm candlelit glow of the hundreds of candles that light and perfume the air as you walk around. Bright and original Christmas ornaments & decorations, artisan soaps and the comforting aroma from roast chestnuts and the real hot chocolate stalls work in unison to uplift the spirit of even the most stubborn sufferer of SAD.
Children enter Candelara’s Christmas market for free and, in a kinder more equalitarian world for their parents, their respective treats are mostly payable by donation rather than a set fee. Treats at this year’s event included taking a pony ride led by an elf, face painting, meeting Father Christmas in his cosy cabin, writing Santa a letter, painting, table football, large-scale wooden puzzles and games like Connect 4 to play. Excellent street artists that include mime and living sculptures are other forms of entertainment that engage children of all ages as they walk around and take in the numerous nativity scenes.
Music on the day we visited was provided by the traditional zampognaro shepherd bagpiper and at second glance due to their attire and compositions, a smaller Italian take on a Salvation Army brass band. Candelara’s electrics are switched off twice every evening at 17.30 and 18.30 for quarter of an hour respectively. This allows you to appreciate the glow from the smallest wick and at the latter shut down enjoy a one-off ambient choral multi-coloured smoke display. Unusually for Italy (and much appreciated by my son) this didn’t end in bangers but rather the release of white balloons against the night sky.
Where to Eat in Candelara
Highly recommended is the fried fish stall set up by one of the Candelara house-owners with a mini marquee large enough to allow one family to dine in their secret garden. Not only can you enjoy wispy light tempura seafood freshly caught locally off Pesaro, an almost wholesome 0 food miles being it is just 7 km away. We particularly enjoyed the battered cuttlefish which are a local delicious delicacy accompanied by Ascolana olives and a side of awesome fries for an alternative afternoon tea. For those looking for a 3-course bash there is a clutch of local restaurants offering dinner for €26+, or alternatively pop into one of the heated marquees for a dinner prepared by the pro loco (festival organisers). Excellent large beakers of fruity Vino Novello are just €1.50.
Christmas Market Dates
Each weekend from the last weekend of November and first two weekends in December including the Italian bank holiday of Mary’s Immaculate Conception when almost 5000 people visit the town. Opens at 10.00 am daily.
Guided tours are offered by the town illustrating a history that involved Redbeard, my favourite named Italian dukes the Malatesta, the Milanese Sforza and Federico da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino, full details of the Christmas market programme can be found on the Candelara website.
Where to Stay/How to Get There
We stayed at Hotel des Bains in Pesaro and caught the free return shuttle bus from Pesaro’s bus station to Candelara which runs every 20 minutes. More on the composer Rossini’s birthplace and Urbino soon.
My Candelara Christmas market visit was enjoyed with the help of Le Marche’s tourism board, have a look at their English language website to help plan adventures in the region. The views expressed in this post are my personal views and do not reflect this regional tourist board.