Avoiding Italy’s oldest Christmas Market & The search for handmade crafts

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Ok here goes. This is where my cynicism of some of the tourist “round up” posts come in. If you have ever read any of the “Top Christmas Markets to Visit in Europe” posts you will find the Fiera di Santa Lucia in Bologna is listed in MANY of them.  It is the oldest Christmas Market in all of Italy (some say all of Europe) … so imagine my surprise when I went and discovered – it’s not very good.

 

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With today’s post I would like to tell you that you really don’t need to go to Bologna to visit this Christmas Fair. There I said it. (Freedom is writing the truth every now and then!)

 

Since I live in Modena, which is only 20 minutes away from Bologna, I was really excited to go to the Santa Lucia Fair a few weekends ago. The Fair usually runs from mid November to mid December  and I had read so many “Must Visit Christmas Markets in Europe” lists that had mentioned the Santa Lucia Christmas Market that I was just dying to see it.

 

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The Fiera di Santa Lucia in Bologna – First Impressions

 

One of the most important details of the Fiera di Santa Lucia Christmas Market in Bologna is the location!! I always assume EVERYTHING that takes place in Bologna is in the Piazza Grande, “Big Square”, which is the main square of the city. However, the lovely thing about this market is that it is still housed under the ancient portico right outside the Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Servi (here’s the exact location on google maps).

 

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The stands have since been renovated and updated with a suggestive light wood in a cut out, back lit pattern which is really nice. They are pretty to see and make quite the impression from afar, especially in the late afternoon when the sun is setting.

 

Too bad that the stuff for sale didn’t live up to the expectations the surroundings had set.

 

Cheap quality, banal, over-priced, mass-produced ornaments, candy and generic housewares and clothes FILLED the stands. Booth after booth of the same mediocre stuff you’d find at any of the markets ( I wrote about Italy’s cheap markets here).

 

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Perhaps the only stand that offered something different was that of the Bologna based company selling presepi (the Italian word for nativity scenes). But even then, after a bit of research I couldn’t  figure out if this company artisinally makes them or imports them wholesale.

 

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Where were the ARTISANS?  Where are the HAND MADE Christmas decorations that I was WILLING to spend my good money on?

 

So dear traveler, or tourist or visitor to Bologna during the Christmas season, no need to make any effort to visit the Fiera di Santa Lucia in Bologna as you’ll find nothing of great value aside from the portico and  church itself.  Save your money, and if you get the chance I recommend these two other Christmas Market alternatives, which are relatively close by!

 

In search of HAND MADE – The Artisan Series

 

Each month I will be focusing on a local artisan in Italy as part of my new “Hand Made” series.  This month I want to focus on the Interior designer Cecilia Lugli.  She’s a work at home mom who creates beautiful accessories and home decor items in fabric. I wanted to not only focus on her creations but the two lovely Christmas Fairs near Bologna and Modena where she displays her crafts, and where you’ll find many Italian crafters doing exceptional things!

 

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Cecilia Lugli – La Commode di Amelie

 

So you may remember Cecilia from the blog!! We met because I asked her if I could take her picture for the Real Mom Street Style Series on the blog a while back (exactly a year ago!) and we’ve since become friends. I’ve even taken this beautiful picture of her riding her vintage bike in heels!!

 

I love her taste and with good reason. She’s an interior decorator, who has since started creating hand sewn accessories and home décor objects and runs the blog La Commode d’Amelie.

 

She invited me to a little Christmas Craft Fair I had never heard of near Modena, Natale alla Corte. And for the FIRST TIME I finally saw her creations on display.  Since she doesn’t have her own store or online space (yet!) she relies on carefully selected Christmas markets to show her wares.  She mainly uses fabrics from France, antique fabrics sourced from vintage sellers or even fabrics that were once her own grandmother’s!!

 

I bought myself a beautifully made stocking, and a few gifts for the little ladies in my life.  I think the next time, however, I’ll save some money and get the Christmas advent banner!

 

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Natale Alla Corte – Christmas in the Court

 

I love this Christmas Market! Housed in La Corte dei Melograni, a restructured Villa in Modena’s countryside, it was the perfect backdrop for the beautiful things on display for sale.

 

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I’ve blogged about this Fair a bit here, with what I wore, and also here and here featuring these great mom’s street style!! Every stand was filled with hand crafted creations, or researched items from all over the world.

 

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I met a ceramic artisan who made wonderful glazed pottery pieces, wood smiths selling decorative items and even an artisan who specialized in hand carved wooden canes.

 

I bought a few things from Cecilia, a hilarious Christmas jumper for my son (nearly impossible to find in Italy!) and a vintage porcelain plate with a chalkboard middle for my kitchen and 10 decorations for our tree!  ….and a partridge in a pear tree!

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INFO – How to find the Natale alla Corte Christmas Market

 

The Market has its own facebook page found here. Sadly, it only happens one weekend a year, usually in November.  If you are living in the area or planning to visit in November I recommend sending them a message on facebook for the exact 2015 dates!  I’m marking my calendar already!!

 

I mentioned before the event is housed in the Corte dei Melograni Villa in Cittanova near Modena.  The address is Strada Pompisana 216, here is the link to google maps.  Surprisingly, this location is easily accessible by bus from Modena’s central train station in 30 minutes!  Take bus number 9, here’s the map of the route!

View Larger Map

 NATALE IN SERRA

 

THIS WEEKEND there is another Christmas Market happening that I would have loved to have visited.  We’re in Milan this weekend however, celebrating my 7 year anniversary in Italy and enjoying some culture and gluten free food (feel free to follow along on instagram!)

 

Any market that Cecilia sells in is a market I TRUST!  If you happen to be near Modena, I highly recommend you pop in today (last day, and open until 8 pm) or mark your calendars in advance for next year.  This is the facebook page of the event!  NATALE IN SERRA or “Christmas in the Greenhouse” is housed in a beautiful greenhouse, outfitted to be a winter wonderland, the Vivai Greenhouse in Via Cameazzo N°64 in the town of  Fiorano Modenese

 

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So there you have it. Two Christmas Markets you REALLY SHOULD VISIT in Italy!! And one that you are welcome to skip!  Besides after reading the article

Yiwu’s ‘red factories’: Where the world’s Christmas decorations are made

about a village in China where 60 PERCENT of the WORLD’S Christmas decorations are made, I’m not sure i will ever look at mass produced Christmas decorations the same way again, and I’ll probably focus much more on hand made items if I really need/want to decorate.

 

Who is decorating your home this year?  I hope this inspired you to buy hand made this Christmas, and seek out your local Christmas markets who are ACTUALLY selling real artisan products.

 

This is the second article in a new series called “Hand Made – The Artisan Series”.  Last month I featured the artisan leather boutique La Vacchetta Grassa – here’s the article in case you missed it!

Happy Sunday everyone, l’ll be back on Tuesday with Real Mom Street Style with a new co-host,

Jill from DOUSED IN PINK!!

 

handmade

 

 

 

  • Very interesting post and its refreshing to read a honest account of this Christmas market.Loved the items you ended up buying! x

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  • Katie @ Loverly She

    Love this! People don’t really do Christmas markets here, not proper ones. A friend of mine hosts a couple of really small-scale ones here about twice a year and it’s all quality artisanal stuff, but it would be nice to be able to attend something bigger.

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  • Your friend’s crafts are beautiful! I especially loved the little bird tied onto the tree, so simple.

    I recently visited a Christmas market in Madrid and was also disappointed by the goods for sale, it’s really too bad when that happens!

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