Postcards from Italy

Dream of a White Christmas in Switzerland

Come December, cities across Europe transform into winter wonderlands, with twinkling lights, open-air ice rinks, and festive Christmas markets...but none can match the beauty and Yuletide spirit of Switzerland. With it's Hallmark-card ready landscape of snow-capped mountains and wooden chalets tucked in thick fir forests, Switzerland effortlessly creates a timeless holiday atmosphere where holiday traditions and Alpine majesty manage to overshadow the creeping commercialism that has overtaken the season elsewhere.

St. Moritz - Badrutt’s Palace(Photo by Kecko via Flickr)

If you're dreaming of a white Christmas, consider spending your winter holidays in Switzerland, where the country spends much of the month of December decked out and ready to celebrate. From a ski break to a rail trip through some of the most breathtaking scenery in the country, Switzerland is the perfect destination for an unforgettable Christmas and New Year's with family and loved ones.

Here are some ideas to inspire you for a Swiss Christmas:

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The Best Chocolate Festivals in Italy

Italians are purists when it comes to seasonal foods. At the outdoor markets, the months of the calendar are marked by what is stacked high in the market stalls: asparagus, strawberries, and lamb in spring; tomatoes, zucchini, and goose in summer; mushrooms, chestnuts, and pork sausage in fall; and legumes, truffles, and charcuterie in winter. You may be surprised to learn, however, that even foods that are normally not considered “seasonal” outside of Italy are harder to find during certain months of the year in the Bel Paese.

chocolate-modica-cr-ciutravel(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

Chocolate, for example, is celebrated whole-heartedly in Italy from autumn through spring, but is often pulled from store shelves during the country's hot and humid summer months, when many chocolate factories and artisan workshops either slow or halt production entirely. With the first cool days of fall, however, chocolate reappears at shops, cafés, and, most importantly, festivals. Exact dates of Italy’s chocolate festivals vary from year to year, but they are all held in the fall or winter months when Italy's endless varieties of bars, truffles, candies, and “sippables” can be displayed and sampled without fear of melting or curdling.

This is sweet music to the ear of any chocoholic visiting Italy during the autumn and winter months, as there are a number of chocolate festivals held across the country each year where visitors can sample offerings produced by everyone from the most famous Italian and international chocolate powerhouses to the tiniest local artisans. Some festival highlight a local specialty, be it a unique flavor or style of chocolate; others include a variety of chocolatiers offering new concoctions, free samples, workshops, demonstrations, and cultural events like concerts and performances.

Amedei. the Italian family
(Photo by Everjean via Flickr)

If you'd like to wander through a food festival where even the air smells of cocoa, here are five of Italy’s most popular celebrations of “the food of the gods”:

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