Delicious food, great shopping opportunities, traditional culture and a welcoming European atmosphere… what better way could there be to prepare for the festive season than to visit some of Italy’s famous Christmas markets? The Christmas Markets in Italy or ‘Mercatino di Natale’ as they are known locally, takeChristmas Market in Bolzano place throughout Italy from late November to early January. Italian Christmas markets are held in many cities, and boast a wonderful, celebratory atmosphere. Elaborate nativity scenes, which form a focal point of many of the markets, are something for visitors to look out for.

One of the most traditional and enticing Christmas markets is to be found in Merano, in South Tyrol, in the very north of Italy. It is perhaps its proximity to its northern neighbors, Switzerland and Austria, that leads this market to feature delicious home-baked goods, often sweetened with cinnamon and spices. Traditional artisan crafts are also popular here. There is truly nothing as magical as meandering around this traditional Italian market whilst admiring the magnificent mountain scenery that surrounds the town.

Two floors of pure Italian style and gastronomic bliss for an investment of 28 million dollars: Eataly opened its umpteenth store in Chicago in which the Chicago Tribune defined it as “a giant food and Italian culture theme park”.  Inaugurated by Mario Batali, New York’s celebrity chef, who is one of Oscar Farinetti’s (founder of Eataly) American partners.Oscar Farinetti, Eataly founder

Farinetti, who opened the first Eataly store in Turin in 2007, “landed” in the United States in 2010 bringing the great Italian Food emporium to New York along with Batali and chefs Lidia and Joe Bastianich. New York’s Eataly is presently in third place (after MoMA and the Empire State Building) among the ten most visited tourist sites of the Big Apple.

Sammezzano Castle (in Italian: Castello di Sammezzano) is located in the picturesque area of Reggello, near Leccio, on the outskirts of Florence. Benefitting from the climate and natural beauty that typifies central Italy, Sammezzano Castle is one of the elegant pieces of architecture standing majestically in an area of outstanding natural beauty.Sammezzano Castle in Tuscany interior The castle is surrounded by a sizeable park which boasts dense, unspoilt woodland and offers tremendous panoramic views of the region. This beautiful castle was built in 1605 at the request of Ximenes of Aragon. It was bequeathed to and later redesigned by another generation of the Ximenes family, namely, Ferdinand Panciatichi Ximenes, who welcomed the then King of Italy, Umberto, to stay at the castle in 1878.

The castle is conveniently located just over 25 miles from Florence. The journey by car travels through idyllic countryside, taking little more than 45 minutes. Sammezzano is also easy to reach using public transport: simply head to the bus station in Florence and take a bus travelling towards Incisa Barberino, changing at Incisa in Val d’Arno, to take the bus to Leccio (which is within walking distance of Sammezzano Castle). The journey takes less than an hour and a half – and, as is the case in most of Italy, travelling from A to B takes you through magnificent natural beauty, making every moment worthwhile.

Italy has a robust transport and communication sector that includes all the main means of transportation used all over the world. With sea ports and an elaborateTravelling through Tuscany by car road and rail network, Italy boasts of a well-developed railways system, modern roads, standard airports and sea-ports. In this post, the main focus is on railway and road networks in this European nation. Away from the port cities, there is no better way of touring the Italian cities other than by train.

The railways network in Italy is so diverse that it links almost every important city or town. It is true to state that all the cities of Italy are intertwined in the railroad network. A major benefit of traveling by train in Italy is the shorter times you can take depending on the kind of train you take and the destinations in question. A major train in the country that many use is the 186 mph Frecciarossa train that links Naples through Rome and into Florence before going all the way to Milan in only four hours. At 186mph, you cannot beat these speeds by road.

The images of Julia Roberts enjoying an ice cream in Piazza Navona during the filming of “Eat Pray Love” traveled all around the world: Rome and ice cream, two undisputed symbols of Italian-ness. But ice cream cannot only be found in Rome: if we allow ourselves to be seduced by this Italian delicacy it will take us on an unusual journey of discovery of some of the “sweetest” places on the Italian peninsula.