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The Magic of Santa (and Wine) in Northern Italy

Imagine a magical village in the shadow of the Alps where grapes become Barolo, truffles become white, and hazelnuts become Nutella.

We are in Langhe-Roero, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and one of the best places in Italy to drink good wine. It is a section of Piedmont, in the north, about one hour from Turin or from Milan. Here is where Barolo wine, well known all over the world, is made. And here is where you can find some of the best truffles in the world. In fact, the town of Alba holds a fair to celebrate the white truffle every November.  Alba is also where the best hazelnuts in the world grow, and where those hazelnuts magically turn into Nutella.

But there’s more magic to discover in Langhe-Roero, especially for families.

Indeed, there’s a moment in mid- to late November when Langhe-Roero transforms itself into a winter wonderland, the Lapland of Italy, kicking off the holiday with a spectacular fireworks show and keeping the festivities going until the day before Christmas Eve. The little town of Govone — known for its impressive Savoy castle — transforms itself into Santa’s Magic Kingdom, with elves, animation, live shows, reindeers, carousels and — obviously — Santa. It’s one of the most important Christmas events in Italy, and it’s a unique experience to share with kids.

My family and I went there last year, and my little Matilda (age 3) completely fell in love with the place. It was the first time she saw Santa Claus, and for me, it was a very moving moment.

What’s better than Christmas? Christmas with a glass of Barolo!

You can feel the Christmas atmosphere everywhere in Govone: in the big Christmas market, where artisans from all over Italy sells their beautiful items; in the wonderful Savoy castle of the town, where you will find exquisite nativity scenes; in the main square, where there’s an antique carousel sponsored by the traditional Turinese chocolate factory Baratti & Milano. And of course, one of the kids’ favorite places is Santa’s home, where the magic takes place every day with shows and performances.

Would anyone like to play with chocolate? If the answer is a resounding yes, then your kids can take a class in the workshop for little pastry chefs and continue the fun with a full slate of activities on the Magic Kingdom calendar.

In the meantime, parents can eat something good in the street food area or drink some local wine in the Magic Kingdom Wine Shop. Santa wouldn’t want mom and dad to suffer.

The Good Stuff

Even if you anchor your family vacation to northern Italy to coincide with the holiday season, you may want to enjoy a few more kid-friendly destinations in the Langhe-Roero region that are open all year long.

What to Do

  • Wimu – It may sound strange, but this wine museum located in the Barolo Castle organizes many activities and workshops for families and kids.
  • Grinzane Cavour Castle – Children are welcome and, if you’re lucky, you can catch a family tour guided by actors in traditional costumes.
  • Big Bench Community Project – Join a trekking tour across vineyards to find the big and colorful benches created by American designer Chris Bangle. Instagram ready!
  • The Magic Museum – In Cherasco there’s a museum dedicated to the world of magic, including demonstrations, performances and child-centered guided tours.
  • The Toy Museum – An amazing exhibition of ancient and modern toys, featuring more than a thousand pieces from the end of the 1700s to the 1970s.

Where to Stay

  • Hotel Miramonti, Frabosa Soprana – A traditional family hotel, one of the first to be opened in Italy. It offers playrooms, a wellness area and a good restaurant where children are welcome.
  • Rifugio La Pavoncella, Camerana – Camping, Italian-style: Pitch a tent or rent a cabin, but then enjoy locavore dining and handmade pasta in the restaurant on site. Open 365 days a year, La Pavoncella offers the opportunity to practice both summer and winter outdoor sports, including horseback riding, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and bobsledding.
  • Réva, Monforte d’Alba – A luxury resort surrounded by vineyards where you can relax with the whole family. There’s a golf camp, a spa, an indoor pool and a playground, entirely made of wood, for the kids.
  • Agriturismo Malabaila, Canale – A beautiful farmhouse renovated from an old mill; it features wood floors, stone walls and a lot of tranquility. They also have horses you can ride.

 

by Valentina Dirindin, October 2018

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Keywords: family vacation, family travel, travel with kids, christmas in italy

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