Christmas in Italy: Befana the witch

befana-christmas-in-italy-via-francigena-francigenawaysWho will bring your Christmas presents if you are walking the Via Francigena in Italy? We answer this important question for Christmas pilgrims:

Santa will definitely find you if you are walking in Italy, as he also delivers presents to kids around Italy on the 25th December. But apart from Santa, Via Francigena pilgrims walking in Italy should be expecting additional Christmas gifts from the old witch Befana on Epiphany Day, 6th January. Befana is loved by Italian children for obvious reasons and a very important part of Christmas in Italy.

On the night of 5th January, the eve of Epiphany Day, Befana travels all around Italy on her broomstick to fill your stockings with sweets and gifts; only if you have been good all year of course. If you haven’t been so good, it is quite likely she will find you still but only to leave a few lumps of coal instead. So if you are on the Via Francigena in Italy at Christmas time, don’t forget to leave your stockings by the Christmas tree and a small glass of wine and some food for the Buona Befana on the eve of the Epiphany.

Like Santa, Befana is a difficult one to spot but according to legend, she may appear at a window in Piazza Navona in Rome on Epiphany Day. If you make it to Rome around those dates, it is well worth going to the Piazza and have a look.

Fornovo di Taro, in Parma on the Via Francigena, hosts an annual festival dedicated to Befana on 5th and 6th January.

Here’s a traditional poem dedicated to the Befana:

La Befana vien di notte
Con le scarpe tutte rotte
Col vestito alla romana
Viva, Viva La Befana!

The Befana comes by night
With her shoes all tattered and torn
She comes dressed in the Roman way
Long life to the Befana!

Happy Christmas!

For more information about the Via Francigena, the Camino to Rome, and to book your holiday, contact our travel specialists.

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