All I Watch for Christmas

by Danilo Brunetti

If Miracle on 34th Street gets you misty eyed and Kevin McCallister is your spirit animal, this is for you. Let your favorite festive flick inspire a tour of the Eternal City that’s bound to get you in the holiday spirit—Grinches included.

In the classic 1980s movie A Christmas Story, nine-year-old Ralphie famously pines for a Red Ryder BB Gun. Now that you’re a grown-up and don’t need to rely on Santa to deliver the goods, why not treat yourself to your own dream gift? If designer duds make you weak at the knees, peruse Via Condotti, lush in luxe names like Bulgari and Cartier. Christmas comes early for tech geeks at Rome’s Apple Store (Galleria Porta di Roma – Alberto Lionello, 201), while Ducati diehards can swoon over the brand’s sleek motorbikes, accessories, and apparel at their showroom (Via del Foro Italico, 501). On a budget but still have a rather lavish Christmas list? McArthurGlen Designer Outlet Castel Romano boasts styles by top Italian and international designers with prices slashed up to 70%, all year round. Browse everything from ball gowns to bags, sunglasses to kitchenware… just don’t expect to find a bunny suit.

Crabby around Christmas, much like the infamous green protagonist of How the Grinch Stole Christmas? Get out of your funk with the next best thing to a choir of singing Whos with an evening at Rome’s annual Gospel Festival. Held at Auditorium Parco della Musica, the series hosts gospel superstars like the Harlem Gospel Choir and Danell Daymon & Greater Works, whose soaring pipes are sure to grow your heart at least three sizes bigger. Afterwards, go for a whirl around the venue’s outdoor ice skating rink, where you may (begrudgingly) have a bit of fun.

Find yourself solo this Yuletide just like Home Alone’s precocious Kevin McCallister? Look on the bright side: when you’re on your own, you can celebrate exactly how you please, free from dinner with pesky relatives and obligatory gift giving. Unapologetically splash out money on yourself, whether that’s by booking a table at a Michelin-starred restaurant (try 2-star triumph Il Pagliaccio) or going for a glitzy spa treatment. QC Terme coddles you with waterfalls, pools with underwater music, salt baths, solariums, massages, and an infinity pool (Via Portuense). Make sure to stock up on panettone cake at your local bakery, and bonus: you won’t have to share. Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal.

If Love Actually is the Christmas flick you heart the most, chances are you’re spending this holiday with your true love. There’s no better place for a romantic meal than Casa Coppelle (Piazza delle Coppelle, 49), a gorgeous French-Italian restaurant with cozy corner tables where you can kiss between courses. After dinner, take a romantic stroll through the historic center to admire the Christmas lights. Finish your walk at Il Piccolo (Via del Governo Vecchio, 74). This hole-in-the-wall wine bar is casual and extremely intimate, with just a few tables clustered together under walls teeming with bottles. Best of all? They make their own mulled wine, served outside where passers-by can purchase a cup and continue their stroll, warmed from the inside out.

An absolute classic is Miracle on 34th Street, and if it’s a must to get you into the holiday spirit, it can only mean one thing: you love Santa. If you’re traveling with kids, take them to Porta di Roma mall for a visit with the man in red, but be sure to check their website first for the exact days to find him (galleriaportadiroma.it). If you’re interested in St. Nick’s origin story, visit San Nicola church on Via dei Prefetti. This small, unassuming place of worship is dedicated to the Greek bishop of the 3rd century who became famous for his acts of charity toward poor and orphaned children. The same historical figure eventually morphed into the jolly old elf loved by tots everywhere. Here you’ll find a painting of the saint by Giacomo Triga that shows what he actually would have looked like, as well as three babies he resurrected from death, one of his many miracles.

No other Christmas movie warms the heart quite as much as It’s a Wonderful Life. If it’s your fave, you probably love helping others. Why not volunteer your time this holiday? The Sant’Egidio Community is a Catholic organization that offers a large, convivial Christmas meal for Rome’s needy families. Visit santegidio.org to see how you can get involved. On your way there, be sure to pass by St. Peter’s Square at noon to hear the bells peal out, and imagine all those happy angels getting their wings just in time for Christmas.

Is The Nightmare Before Christmas your idea of a great holiday movie? If so, you might just prefer Halloween to Christmas, and really, who can blame you? If you’d rather do some spooky sightseeing than go to midnight mass, visit the Capuchin Crypt, a small museum under the church of Santa Maria della Concezione (Via Veneto, 27). It consists of four chapels decorated entirely with human bones, taken from the skeletons of some 5000 Capuchin monks from over the centuries. A less gruesome but equally fascinating place to contemplate death is the Non-Catholic Cemetery (Via Caio Cestio, 6). This sublime graveyard is the resting place of John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and many other famous non-Catholic Roman residents of times past, and the funerary monuments and towering cypress trees make it one of the most beautiful spots in the city.

By Tiffany Parks and Alexandra Bruzzese