Believe it or not, Italy is known for more than just its incredible Italian ice; it’s also the home of the world’s largest Christmas tree display. An Italian tradition that was born in 1981 when people of Gubbio wanted to celebrate Christmas in their own Italian way, the giant Christmas tree is lit up every year on the eve of the Immaculate Conception (December 7) on the side of Mount Indigo and remains until after the Epiphany (January 7).
Nearly 300 green lights outline the shape of a 650-meter-tall evergreen tree along the side of the mountain. The center of the tree is lit by thousands of colored lights, topped by a 1,000 square-meter star.
Around its tenth birthday, the Gubbio tree was inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records. Tens of thousands of people come from all across the world to see this Italian marvel.
Some more fun facts about this gigantic Italian tradition include:
1. Electricity for the lights has been generated by a photovoltaic (solar-powered) system since 2010.
2. Pope Benedict XVI switched the lights on remotely using a tablet computer in 2011. He spoke to the people of Gubbio via video link from his papal apartment in Vatican.
3. Don Francesco Soddu, Director of Italian CARITAS, led the lighting ceremony in 2013 as a tribute to volunteers’ contributions during times of emergencies in Italian communities.
4. Pope Francis lit the tree like his predecessor in 2014.
All in all, it’s a pretty neat Italian tradition. But let’s not let this incredible tribute to the birth of Christ outshine the fact that Italy is still best known for its Italian ice, and no one makes Italian ice better than Repicci’s. Our recipe is an Italian tradition that goes back over 100 years—much older than the world’s largest lit-up Christmas tree.