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THURSDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2014 www.italoamericano.com L'Italo-Americano 2 sweets. Bressanone, or Brixen in German, is one of the best, most romantic and quaintest towns of the area and a perfect starting point to explore the region and its unique culture – a mixture of Italian, Austrian and German. The town center is as picture perfect as one can imagine, with ancient roots, medieval alleys and a truly spectacular cathe- dral, the baroque Brixen Dom. A c c o m m o d a t i o n o p t i o n s a r e p l e n t i f u l a n d g a s t r o n o m y i s absolutely top-notch. For a real treat, stay or at least enjoy a m e a l a t t h e H o t e l E l e p h a n t (http://www.hotelelephant.com/ en/), a legendary luxury hotel that has been in business for over 400 years. Brixen is indeed charming, but so is the rest of the area because of its peculiar geogra- phy and history. For centuries South Tyrol's secluded side val- leys were hardly influenced by the outside world, so their sto- ries and traditions were handed down from generation to gener- ation and are, to this day, con- sidered incredibly important by youngsters and older folks alike. Advent, the four weeks lead- ing up to Christmas, is a truly magical time filled with reli- gious customs and festivities: in both major and minor villages of South Tyrol it is possible to enjoy many of these traditions, as locals are w elcoming and friendly and enjoy sharing them with strangers. Advent officially starts four Sundays before Christmas, when people buy their Advent wreath: evergreen branches shaped in a circle adorned with four candles, usually red or gold. Each candle represents one of the four weeks of Advent: on the first Sunday the first candle is lit, followed by the second on the following S u n d a y a n d s o o n u n t i l t h e Sunday before Christmas when all four are lit. The wreaths are usually bought outside church on the first Sunday of Advent, b u t c a n a l s o b e b o u g h t a t Christmas markets and, nowa- days, come in all sizes, colors and shapes, although the circular ones with red candles are still a favorite in the area. A n o t h e r t r a d i t i o n d e e p l y r o o t e d i n S o u t h T y r o l ' s C h r i s t m a s f e s t i v i t i e s i s S t . N i c h o l a s ' D a y . I t f a l l s o n December 6th and is celebrated in many villages with a proces- sion. Dressed in bishop's robes, St. Nicholas hands out sweet treats to children, accompanied by angels dressed in white and by the "Krampuses" - devil-like, horned creatures with scary- er and embrace tradition, there is one area of Italy that, more than others, has roots that run deep into its past: South Tyrol, t h e n o r t h e r n m o s t p a r t o f Trentino Alto Adige, with the gorgeous backdrop of the pink Dolomites, its wide valleys and abundant snow, is one of those places so Christmassy it would probably make even Scrooge smile. Its holiday traditions, too, are numerous and varied, as are its famous Christmas markets: Bolzano, Vipiteno, Bressanone, Merano and Castelrotto are the biggest and most renowned, but a multitude of other smaller vil- lages offer their fair share of beautifully decorated market stalls selling locally handcrafted wooden sculptures, Christmas o r n a m e n t s a n d h o m e m a d e Continued from page 1 Bressanone or Brixen, is the perfect starting point to explore the region and its unique culture The market stalls sell locally handcrafted wooden sculptures, Christmas orna- ments and homemade sweets Continued on page 3

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