Christmas in Trentino Alto Adige: The best Christmas Markets in Italy and Zelten Christmas Cake!

For the holiday season this year, NIAF is highlighting a few traditions from each of Italy’s 20 regionsthat perhaps is carried on in your Italian American family or is a new tradition you’d like to start.

Considered the crossroad between the Mediterranean and Central Europe, Trentino Alto Adige is one of Italy’s northern-most regions and is breath-taking, full of culture and snow-covered landscapes.

Night aerial view of Madonna di Campiglio city, Italy on Christmas night. Credit: Shutterstock

Christmas Markets

Bolzano’s Christmas Market

Besides this year due to the pandemic, Bolzano, the largest city in the region hosts a magical Christmas market. Roughly 80 exhibitors set up their booths to offer typical decorations made of glass, wood and ceramic, many linked to the most authentic artisan traditions of Trentino Alto Adige. If you have a chance to go, there are plenty of vendors offering specialty foods from the region, like zelten (featured later in the post).

Beyond Bolzano, Christmas markets in Trentino Alto Adige are so well known that five towns’ markets are called the “five stars route” with Bolzano included. Bressanone, Brunico, Merano and Vipiteno are considered the other four charming towns that are part of the route.

Main piazza in the city of Trento

Interestingly enough, Trento is not included, but also has a beautiful market which attracts more than 500,000 visitors every year. Italians and Europeans alike go to these famous markets in the region to purchase gifts as well as buy artisanal food and wines for the holidays.

Zelten: Italian Christmas Cake from Trentino Alto Adige

Boasting a long history, this Christmas sweet bread is a traditional product common across Trentino Alto Adige made with flour, eggs, dried and candied fruit. The name of the sweet bread has a German origin which traces to the German adverb “selten” which means “sometimes.” This is a winter cake enjoyed during the Christmas season, which is why the recipe calls for dried fruit. Naturally, recipes differ in valleys across the region mainly due to the historical availability of certain ingredients.

Try La Cucina Italiana’s Zelten recipe at home!

Stay tuned for more Natale in Italia posts! If you want NIAF to share a tradition, email us a description at

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