Even if I were suddenly to lose all concept of time, I would immediately recognize the arrival of the Christmas season from one unmistakable detail. When strolling through Piazza Bra, I see the large comet anchored to the ground, with its tail forming a big arch that disappears into the Arena, and only one thought comes to mind: Christmas is coming.
The Bra Star is the undisputed symbol of Christmas in Verona, along with the traditionalnativity scenes exhibitioninside the Arena, which this year is held for the 32nd time. My parents used to take me there when I was a kid: fighting the cold of the Arena in winter, I stared at the windows, charmed by the brooks and waterfalls in those merry countryside scenes peopled by shepherds, craftsmen, and blacksmiths. Now, I go there as a father, seeing the same amazement in the eyes of children.
Regarding shopping, in the last few years the main attraction in Verona has been an import: the market stalls of the German city of Nuremberg, which for the occasion are placed in Piazza dei Signori, one of the most beautiful of Verona’s many squares. Christmas decorations, candies, roast sausages, all in a festive (and bustling) atmosphere. It is amazingly popular and loads of people come to Verona for Christmas just for this.
However I prefer other stalls that are connected to my childhood memories. The ones set up on December 13th for the feast ofSaint Lucia, who is to the children of Verona what Santa Claus is to the rest of the world. Many bemoan the fact that the goods for sale are not what they used to be, but children’s tastes have also changed. Be that as it may, now that I am somewhat older, I no longer go there to buy toys, but for food. In fact, only here in Verona do I treat myself to a doughnut!
This year at Christmas, strolling around Verona, you’ll come across two exhibitions that are definitely worth visiting. The first is dedicated to Post Impressionism in Europe, with works by Van Gogh, Seurat, and Mondrian, beautifully arranged and exhibited at the Palace of the Grand Guard, which is in Piazza Bra.
The second exhibition is being held at Forti Palace, where the Amo opera museum is also based: this is an exhibition dedicated entirely to Tamara de Lempicka, a Russian painter who became famous from the 1920s onward in Paris for her elegant, modern, and unconventional works (including several naked paintings of some of her female lovers).
Anyway, what I love most about Christmas in my town is not its markets, nor its exhibitions. It is the atmosphere of the center that becomes lively with people looking for gifts, friends crowding into cafés to exchange best wishes for Christmas, and families strolling through the city to enjoy the lights and decorations. Under the comet in Piazza Bra, the entire world seems a better place.