The steep terraces, winding streets, and crowded markets of Naples...

13 Dec 2019

Gruppo UNA

Neapolitan Christmas breaks: unforgettable experiences.

If you want to enjoy a Christmas in Naples, Gruppo UNA would love to welcome you to our hotels in the region. Properties like the UNAHOTELS Napoli will provide the perfect base during a Christmas vacation, mixing luxury accommodation, first-class service, and locations that make it easy to dive into the city's celebrations. So feel free to explore our Neapolitan hotels, and make a booking.

However, before you do, we'd like to share a few of Naples' festive traditions and secrets, to give you a taste of what makes the city such a special place to be from the beginning of Advent to Epiphany.

Nativity traditions that go beyond anywhere in the world.

Many of us performed in Nativity plays or created models of the infant Jesus in his stable, but there's almost no chance that our performances came close to the Nativities you'll encounter in the city of Naples.

Every Neapolitan home will have a collection of figurines to display throughout the festive season, and families will be happy to show off their creations to foreign visitors. But it's the public Nativities that are so spectacular. For example, the market in Via San Gregorio Armeno becomes a living Nativity during December (and other times of year as well). You can pick up some hand-made figures to take home, see the ornate compositions, and even watch artisans at work on this year's characters.

Don't expect the options to be limited to religious individuals, either. One of the distinctive features of Naples' Nativity scenes is the way they absorb figures from history and popular culture, creating a "living" tradition that retells the story of Jesus for every generation.

Enjoy some typical Neapolitan Christmas cuisine.

As anyone who has eaten a genuine Neapolitan pizza will know, Naples is one of the world's culinary capitals, so it's not a surprise that visitors choosing to spend Christmas in Naples can expect a feast of dishes to sample.

Seafood is typically the star of Christmas Eve meals in Naples, so start off with spaghetti alle vongole (served with clams) and some capitone e baccalà fritto (fried cod and eel), with a side salad of marinated locally grown vegetables.

On Christmas Day, Pranzo di Natale (the main Christmas meal) brings a host of new dishes to the table. Rich chicken and vegetable soups start off many Christmas dinners, followed by a home-cooked pasta dish, and some delicious, roasted chicken. But leave space for desserts like struffoli (dough balls), as they make the perfect bookend to festive feasts.

When you are out and about, keep your eyes peeled for typical Christmas snacks, such as mustaccioli (lightly spiced cakes covered in chocolate), or S-shaped susamielli doughnuts. There's nothing like munching sweets in-between coffees and visits to Naples' unique souvenir stores.

Naples' local folklore to enrich your Christmas experience.

When you spend time in Naples at Christmas, you'll also have a great opportunity to get to know some of the spirits and characters who haunt the coastal city. Most visitors head to the Maschio Angioino (the main castle) at some stage but beware of crocodiles. Legend has it that one of the dungeons in the castle was stocked with deliberately starved crocodiles - and many prisoners were fed to them if they failed to confess.

The smaller Castel Sant'Elmo al Vomero is notorious for its white-veiled ghost, who toys with visitors as they explore the fortress. Then there's the magic egg of Castel dell'Ovo. According to myth, the poet Virgil hid an egg inside the dungeons of the castle, claiming that, should it be removed, the castle and the city would collapse.

Castel dell'Ovo, Naples

Finally, there are witches. Neapolitans are great believers in witchcraft. Some hear wild cries from the summit of Mount Vesuvius and see them as a warning that the volcano is about to erupt (scientists aren't sure about the accuracy of this point). Others fear La Janara, a child-stealing witch who prowls the city at night. It might not be very festive, but the myths and legends of Naples are fascinating - especially when told by experienced city guides.