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Val Gardena – The World’s Largest Nativity Scene

Val Gardena: a charming & unique Ladin Christmas

There are Christmas markets scattered throughout Europe, but Val Gardena in the Dolomites stands out from the crowd because it hosts the world’s largest nativity scene, which is perhaps not surprising as this region is renowned for its wood carving. The nativity scene will be unveiled on Friday (27 November), but every day during advent a new life-sized statue will be added to it, so the scene will change and continue to grow in the run up to Christmas.


Though it is one of the main attractions, the nativity scene in the village of Santa Christina is not the only reason to visit this picturesque part of the Italian Alps. Ortisei, the main town in Val Gardena, is simply magical in December and will delight all the senses.

Visitors will be able to listen to live outdoor performances and Christmas carol concerts, be guided to the doors of bakeries and stalls by the sweet smell of Christmas cookies wafting through the crisp mountain air, kneel and – ever so lightly touch – the wood-carved figures of the nativity scene, admire the village’s festive decorations and gaze in awe at the surrounding snow-clad mountains, a true winter wonderland, while savouring a steaming mug of mulled wine.

Ortisei’s traditional Christmas market also opens on 27 November and will be packed with the fragrances and flair of unique – and very charming – Ladin customs and craftsmanship (Ladin people constitute less than 5% of the population in South Tyrol, inhabiting just a few small valleys in the region, including this one). Each stand will feature either local food products (think cinnamon sweets, gingerbread, grappa) or different kinds of wood and glass handicrafts, including Christmas decorations.


If visitors take home just one item, it should be something made from wood, be it a statue, nativity scene or candle holder. The wood carvings here are true works of art, created by artisans using methods that have been honed through the centuries, with levels of workmanship that are second to none.

Visitors will also be able to enjoy an astounding number of events during the festive season with something taking place every day. For example, choirs, ensembles, alphorn musicians and students from the Val Gardena Music School will perform; there will be craft workshops and baking classes for everyone; and, in the run up to Christmas Day, a window will be unveiled daily on the massive advent calendar created by the ‘Cademia’ art school students on Piazza Stetteneck.

The traditional Christmas markets of the nearby villages of Santa Christina and Selva, which open slightly later on 4 December, are also worth a visit. While Santa Christina has typical wooden chalet stalls, Selva has tested its wood workers to the limit, producing wooden stalls that are built in the style of ski cabins – a very cute touch!

And then there’s the mountainous winter wonderland to explore as well, with more than 500 kilometres of slopes, connecting to the world’s largest ski carousel, the Sellaronda, which opens for the 2015/16 season on 4 December. From Ortisei, lifts carry visitors directly to the slopes, with endless possibilities for downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snow-shoe hiking and sledding, as well as rides on horse-drawn sleighs, not forgetting the night-time toboggan rides that will have both adults and children squealing with delight!


Stay at the Adler Dolomiti , a family-orientated hotel with a fantastic kids club, perfect for when Mum & Dad want to enjoy the hotel’s spa – the largest wellness facility in the region.

For more information and to book, visit the website.


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