Christmas Festivities in Calabria, Southern Italy

As Cosenza is home for a year, then why not start enjoying this city and revel in Christmas festivities, Calabrese style?

Post updated in 2022 and split out to Around Calabria, Southern Italy.

Cosenza has been incredibly busy for the last 2 weeks, but especially this week – so many people rushing around for last-minute presents or food. Following some manic food and liquor shopping over the last few days, Christmas Eve is finally here…

Christmas in Cosenza

Discovering the Christmas markets only 5 minutes from the apartment selling mainly Chrissy decorations, you can also buy a little takeaway food snack from stalls at the markets.

Christmas lights adorn trees in the park but also in the streets above roads, which is the open-air light museum that Cosenza puts on each year. The city is heaving with people.

Christmas, Cosenza, Italy, Calabria, light art
Christmas lanterns in Piazza Bilotti

Typically, Christmas Eve is big in Italy with a feast in the evening. You then wait until past midnight when you can open presents on Christmas day – this is what we did as children in Australia.

There is also another feast that follows this Eve – a Christmas lunch. This sitting takes several hours or more with family gatherings, stories, music, and a lot of stirring – as we call it in Australia: taking the p*ss.

Calabria, Italy, Cosenza, light museum
Corso Mazzini’s open light museum

After cooking a sumptuous garlic prawn over a bed of spiced Cous Cous (not exactly traditional Italian food), decide to venture out just before 21:00 hrs as this is when Cosenza locals put on fireworks.

Not quite expecting a deserted city with only the sound of fireworks and firework bombs going off for around 15 minutes, it’s totally random, mental, and sporadic – almost like a war zone.

Christmas, Cosenza, Italy, Calabria, light art
Shop windows adorned with beautiful Christmas decorations

Fireworks are thrown down from balconies at your feet and everyone needs to scarper or else…although it is fun wandering through the smoke-hazed streets, it’s also crazy.

Scenes from the movie 28 Days Later spring to mind as only one or two souls are brave enough to venture into the deserted and quiet streets tonight.

Christmas, Cosenza, Italy, Calabria, light art
Open-air museum – illuminated art throughout Cosenza’s streets


Definitely worth a mention is this piece of Calabrese history adapted during Christmas time.

The rural Calabrese folk come to Cosenza from the mountains and busk in the streets or go from shop-to-shop busking, playing La Zampogna -an ancient bagpipe.

Typically, men in pairs (Zampognari) play Italian bagpipes made of goat or sheepskin bladder and timber (Cherry wood or other), dressed in folk clothes of yesteryear.

Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Zampognari
Zampognari busking in my friend’s Lab Digital Color (Photo: Mario Viola)

You can find at least five different kinds of Zampogna in Calabria. This history is linked to shepherds and their nomadic pastoral life of looking after herds away from home.

La Zampogna and other instruments would be brought along to comfort shepherds and make them feel at home. Only using the materials available on the mountain, most of the time the Zampognari made their own instruments.

On reaching new pastures with their animals, the Zampognari would rest with a little wine and chunks of hard cheese, before settling down to an open-air concert. Their music would echo around the surrounding mountains and filter down to the valleys below. Children were particularly thrilled when bumping into the Zampognari as this meant that Christmas is close.

Christmas Day

After an obligatory visit to our favourite coffee shop Matteotti to wish everyone best wishes and of course, to stop for coffee and delicious pastries, return home to prepare a feast of roast chicken and vegetables. And for dessert, more sublime pastries from this wonderful coffee shop, of course.

Calabria, Italy, Cosenza, Christmas lights
Christmas lights in the park

A Passeggiata (stroll) through Cosenza to help the feast digest in readiness for the arrival of The Kids (Lorraine and Bob) tomorrow – very excited.

Boxing Day

Hiring a car at Lamezia Terme Airport is so much easier than relying on the airport bus service from Cosenza, and much better with a car to meet guests at the airport.

I still cannot understand why the schedule for the airport bus is so poor when there are so many flights to and from Lamezia Terme International Airport. This is the only International airport that services Calabria.

Christmas lights, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy
Lorraine’s tree

Excellent to catch up with the kids again, which I haven’t seen since July and so very excited. An evening with pasta, wine, a movie, and lots of catching up.


Spending a few hours at the super-busy Metropolis shopping mall in Rende looking at the shops, introduce the kids to a wonderful Gelato from our favourite C House Coffee Shop.

Christmas, Rende, Italy, Calabria, light art
Christmas lights in Rende

Waiting on a parcel from IKEA, decide to try our luck at the depot. Driving out to the backstreets of a commercial area in Rende proves both confusing and irritating as streets omit road numbers.

Finally stopping at the very expensive and flashy Alfa Romeo showroom, the very helpful salesperson provides the correct directions. Off we set once again to the depot. Luckily, the parcel did arrive – success as doubt catching a public bus in this isolated area, later on, is an option.

New Year’s Eve festivities

Last New Year’s Eve in Cosenza saw 100,000 people congregate for festivities, music, and fun in Corso Mazzini, so, decide to leave the car in the car park today.

Instead, walk through the Old Town and up the hill to the Castello Normanno Svevo. It’s a long steep walk up and back, but well worth the wonderful views of Cosenza…

Cosenza, Italy, Calabria
View from the castle

…before returning to the apartment to prepare for the evening with food and drink – also decide that a movie will help to keep everyone to stay awake for the countdown to midnight.

Venturing out at around 15 minutes before midnight down to Corso Mazzini and up to Piazza Bilotti, all seems quiet.

The band is good enough but without a countdown and only the time on a digital board up high, it’s a bit flat seeing 2017 through.

Suddenly from nowhere, the Piazza explodes filling to the brim with people, drinks, and more music. The whole area is rammed with bodies…103,000 to be precise.

New Year's, Rende, Italy, Calabria, light art
Clever street light shows

A great atmosphere but as toilets see either a lengthy line-up or are scarce, we trudge back to the apartment at 02:30 am for a toilet stop, then decide to feast on more but cold lasagne! Perhaps a tad too much to drink?

New Year's, Cosenza, Italy, Calabria, light art
Illuminated street pole walkers

Venturing back out as the morning is still young and wanting to see more of 2017’s first day, after a couple more hours, the cold started seeping in so head back for some sleep at around 4:30 am.

A great effort team and we beat our last year’s effort of 3:30 am in Puzzuoli!

New Year's, Cosenza, Italy, Calabria, street performers
Street fire performers and acrobats

New Year’s Day

Needless to say, no one surfaced until lunchtime. Needing a coffee, head for a long walk to the Bar Bronx for great service, food, and coffee.

Sporting slightly sore heads, a quiet rest of New Year’s Day with another movie in the apartment’s warmth finishes off the day.

Saying goodbye again

An early rise this morning as the kids are off back to the UK.

The drive to Lamezia Terme Airport is eventless and so is returning the car to Europcar. Great service from this company. Hiring a car for eleven days is worthwhile and easier than catching public transport. Timing buses with flights at Lazmezia is an art as buses don’t return to Cosenza regularly. Waiting over an hour is common. On a previous occasion, I waited over 2 hours as the bus never arrived.

Sad to say our goodbyes again but perhaps a quick trip to the UK this year is on the cards – if I’m allowed back in after my detainment at Heathrow last year.


Officially naming our apartment The Cozhotel (Cosenza Hotel) because several groups of visitors are making the effort to venture to Cosenza, which I love.

My very good friend stayed with us in February for a week just absorbing the culture, food, and locals, which also consisted of a 5-hour scrumptious lunch at our lovely friends’ house in Rogliano.

Not much sightseeing on this trip as it was more about chilling and relaxing. The next catch-up will have to be on my friend’s boat in Fiji.

Another invitation

Invited to a friend’s birthday wig party, I also drag (exaggerating) our overseas friend along.

A gorgeous birthday party sees everyone making a brilliant effort with brightly coloured fashionable and not-so-fashionable wigs.

So much fun and such a hoot! And in true Italian style, loads of food and cakes are consumed throughout the evening. I love the get-togethers here but with all this food, I’m not sure how everyone stays so slim.

Cozenza, Italy, Calabria, wigs
Stylish wigs (Photo credit: Self-timed)

Where is Cosenza?

Edging towards Italy’s toe of the boot in the Calabria region, Cosenza’s location is ideal for exploring the Sila National Park. But, that’s not all, Cosenza is only a couple of hours’ drive south to catch the short ferry trip to fabulous Sicily.

Although, this city offers a plethora of activities enough to hold any traveller back to explore for a while…

map of Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Europe

Visit my Nilla’s Photography for more global images. More posts on Italy.

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15 responses to “Christmas Festivities in Calabria, Southern Italy”

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Many thanks for the re-blog China.

  1. The Year I Touched My Toes Avatar

    Paola Looks lovely. Louise

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi Louise, yes, Paola is but this whole region is lovely!

  2. Le Marche Magic. Avatar

    just wonderful!!! I cant belive you got snow, when this past year we normally a month or 2 of it and only got a few days, jelly.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Yes, it was beautiful!
      If it happens again next year I have to take some photos of the Old Town under snow, as I didn’t get a chance to this year.
      Where exactly in Italy are you living at the moment?

      1. Le Marche Magic. Avatar

        Le Marche, area of Fermo. Global Warming is really doing a “number”.

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Of course! Just looked your area up – looks lovely.
        Global warming, what global warning? 😉

      3. Le Marche Magic. Avatar


  3. seasiangirl Avatar

    Love love love your pics…. and dont get me started on the open air light art LOVE IT 🙂

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you!
      This city really goes to town with Christmas lights – it’s simply beautiful and on many streets. So many more photos but didn’t want to give people a Death by Photo experience!

      Keep an eye out for my next post scehdulled tomorrow night on Venice during Carnivale. 😉

  4. Francis.R. Avatar

    So lovely, the design in the city, in the street… music and light. Especially in the night, and at day it looks cute as well. A great think you were there to see the snow in the mountains n_n

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      I think that Cosenza really tries hard to adorn the city during various festivals but also offers many free and fun activities.

      Whether it’s day or night, the Old Town is the most beautiful part of the city for me and I love to wander its ancient alleyways – I always see something different on a Passegiatta.

      Cosenza under snow was quite special. I missed taking a photo of the Old Town under snow – next time…

  5. LuLu B - Calabrisella Mia Avatar

    I absolutely adore seeing your photos as you explore Cosenza and other areas nearby! 🙂

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you Lulu and appreciate your wonderful feedback! 🙂

      Still much to explore…

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