I’m already ridiculously excited about Christmas.
The kids are at that lovely age where they’re old enough to get excited with me, and young enough to still believe in all the magic around it. And that’s why, after a fair bit of umming and aahing, I’ve decided to bite the bullet and take them to Italy for a Christmas festival called the Magico Paese di Natale (I’ve written about it for the Evening Standard if you fancy a sneak peek. EDIT: And if you want to see how we got on and watch a video from our trip, head over to this post written after the event).
It’s a long way to go for a Christmas festival, right? That was my first thought, too. But when I started to look into the logistics, it’s a really easy trip, and doable in a weekend. I found flights from my closest airport – Luton – for less than £40 each one-way (more info on flights at the bottom), and the journey is only two hours long.
Once we get to Turin, we’re very kindly being hosted by the event organisers, who’ve invited us along to see what the Magico Paese di Natale is all about. They’ll ferry us from Turin airport to Govone, in Piedmont, which is about an hour’s drive away.
I’m busy planning the logistics and digging out our thermals, but here’s a taste of the bits we’re most looking forward to from our trip, as well as how to get there if you fancy visiting – there are still lots of flights available for this year.
Magico Paese di Natale 2017 – highlights
This is the eleventh year of the festival in Govone, which also branches out into the nearby towns of Canale and Monticello d’Alba. It all kicked off on November 19th with a visit from Topo Tip – an Italian kids’ TV character (the equivalent of one of the Paw Patrol pups, I’m guessing) – who opened the family-friendly festival.
Sunday 26th November is the fireworks display, so this would be another great time to visit.
This is probably the thing I’m looking forward to the most – I love a good Christmas market. The street markets (mercatino) at the Magico Paese di Natale are all about craftsmanship, from handmade wooden toys to traditionally crafted Christmas decorations, and – of course – local Italian food.
The region of the Langhe and Roero, which Govone calls home, has a rich wine-making heritage and is blanketed in vineyards. During the festival, there’s a big Christmas winery where you can sample the tipples of the region just next to Govone’s UNESCO-listed castle, another beautiful sight we can’t wait to see. I’m looking forward to trying the traditional hot chocolate from the Milky Bar, too.
Steam train and Santa Claus
On Sunday December 17th there’ll be a special steam train to shuttle families from Turin Porta Nuova station into the Govone countryside and on to another highlight – The Country House of Santa Claus, or La Casa di Babbo Natale, which is set in Govone’s castle. Here, kids will get a chance to watch performances and meet Santa himself, and I’m hoping my two might get to say hello to the big man in red.
Children’s shows and performances
The Magico Paese di Natale is all about families, and the list of performances, workshops (laboratori) and shows for kids is a long one. The theme this year is all about games and construction, and I noticed there’s a LEGO workshop running with Bricks4Kids, and one involving chocolate that I know would definitely be a big hit with my children if the chocolatey-faced photographs are anything to go by.
How to get to the Magico Paese di Natale
We’re flying from Luton to Turin on a Friday morning with budget carrier Blue Air. It’s a 10:20 flight, which means we don’t have to fly on the red-eye (never a good idea on a weekend trip) and can – hopefully – arrive in Italy without having to write the first day off due to tiredness.
From Turin, it’s about an hour’s drive to Govone, the heart of the Magico Paese di Natale. The easiest way to do it is to hire a car, although you can make the journey by train and bus if you’re using public transport.
We’re flying back from Turin to London Gatwick with British Airways on a Monday morning, as there were no flights back in to Luton. You can also fly in or out of Milan Airport to get to Govone and the Piedmont region, although it’s closer to a two-hour drive time.
What’s close to the Magico Paese di Natale?
Govone is in Piedmont, a beautiful slice of northwest Italy that’s a foodie’s dream. It’s inbetween Asti – home of Asti Spumante sparking wine – and Alba, which is famous for its truffles. Plus, the red-wine producing hub of Barolo is just down the road.
Turin is the closest airport, and the city itself is well worth a visit, too. Sadly we won’t have time to see it on this trip, but having done a little research, it’s already on my list to come back to.
Want to know more about visiting the Magico Paese di Natale? All the details and tickets (bigletti in Italian) are available on the website, there’s a webcam link to watch it all live, and I’ll be posting photos and video here when we get back from our trip, so come back and take a look!