With its stunning attractions and charming atmosphere, the so-called Cradle of Renaissance is always ready to amaze you. But Christmas in Florence can definitely be one of the greatest experience of your trip to Italy!
In December, (but actually from November till February), tourists in Florence can admire the traditional decorative lighting and twinkly decorations inspired by the theme of Christmas through the whole city center. This festive holiday is a unique occasion to visit the majestic squares and monuments of Florence magically, but it’s also a good opportunity to enjoy some Christmas shopping in the typical markets and taste delicious seasonal foods!
If you are in Florence, or in one of the other beautiful Tuscany cities, during the Christmas holidays, there are a lot of things to do to get into the Italian Christmas spirit. ItalyXP has listed for you the essential activities to do, in five things not to be missed in Florence at Christmas. It will take you in the right mood for a Florentine holiday fun.
1. Enjoy a shopping sessions in the pretty lit streets and Christmas markets
There is no doubt that Florence has become one of the world’s shopping capital. In its gorgeous historic centre, which has not changed in over 500 years, there are endless amounts of goods, from leather bags from local markets to high-end designer label suits and gowns. Shopping in Florence is a pleasure regardless of budget or taste, but it becomes even more pleasant at Christmas time.
In fact, in winter tourists are few, the streets are less crowded, and the artisans in the handicraft shops are happy to take the time to chat. And don’t worry about the holiday: all shops, restaurants and museums will be open over the holidays. Also, you will have the chance to visit the beautiful typical Christmas markets located in the centre of the city - see next paragraph.
Walking through the alleys is fun and interesting, as you will admire decorations in the shop windows and street lights to admire. And if you are lucky enough to be there when there is a dusting of snow, it can really be magical!
And between a gift and another for your family and friends, we suggest to recharge your energy stopping from time to time to have a nice hot chocolate or a good cappuccino in one of the many local cafeterias.
2. Explore the Christmas markets of Florence
The Christmas markets animate the city center, such as the vast Piazza Santa Croce which becomes filled with stalls selling decorations for the tree and the house, Christmas sweets, mulled wine(to warm you up), foods not only Italian but also international (wurst and sauerkraut in the first place).
Obviously, the Florentine Christmas markets cannot compete with those in Austria, Belgium or Poland, but they’re still very characteristic as Italian markets and worth visiting. Christmas markets attract thousands of visitors and tourists each year, and even if they’re not that big they are certainly embellished by the stunning surrounding monuments and squares of Florence.
Held from the last weekend of November to the epiphany, for the past 100 years. Every day you can visit the stalls of traditional Christmas decorations, which is said to bring good luck for the coming year. You can buy hand-made toys, crafts and souvenirs. Also you can taste sweet, giant donuts, caramel apples, chocolate coal, and other sugary delights. At the centre of the square is one of the oldest rides with wooden horses still functioning. Santa and the Befana (an old woman from the Italian folklore who delivers gifts to children) complete the atmosphere doing, for a fee, photos with the children.
Strolling through the stalls of course you’ll also have the opportunity to admire the wonderful oval square and its magnificent fountains… Strolling around those markets is a nice way to get a strong dose of the Christmas spirit!
3. Check out the winter activities and museum openings
December and winter are definetely the coldest months in Florence and it represent a good occasion to enjoy some typical winter activities within the city (the mountains are not that close, unfortunately)!At the Parterre area (near Piazza della Libertà) you can have fun skating in the ice rink: not as big as those in other colder countries, but definetely embellished by the surrounding monuments of Florence. The Obihall (in eastern Florence), houses the Tuscany Winter Park with skating on ice, snow tubing and a downhill ski.
But if you're not much into sports, you might want to explore the Florence's main museums. Know that practically everything is closed on Christmas Day and January 1st as far as museums go. Christmas time is the ideal period to explore them, as many museums that are closed on Mondays (such as the Uffizi Gallery and the Galleria dell'Accademia) will hold special openings depending on the dates of the holidays. If you want to book your tickets ahead of time, we suggest to book one of our tours including skip the line tickets :)
Please keep in mind that december 25th, the Christmas day, all state and city museums are closed! However, the whole city of Florence is an open-air museum and you can take advantage of this day to wander around the historic centre ad enjoy the city during this special time of the year.
4. Taste the traditional Florentine Christmas food
Eating is undoubtedly the best way to embrace the holiday spirit in Italy. And Florence is rich in gastronomic traditions and seasonal delicacies that you cannot miss if you're visiting the city during Christmas. Take this opportunity to scoff your way through the best food markets in the historic centre and experience this yuletide, including a visit to gourmet shops and the best wintry dining.
The Florentine Christmas food has been passed down through generations. The vast menù includes appetizers (generally a selection of hams and salamis, cheeses and plump olives produced within the local area) to be consumed over a glass of celebratory prosecco. There will almost always be 'Crostini Toscani' (chicken liver-pâté on Tuscan bread).Other typical Christmas foods are hand-made tortellini served in broth; pasta with a boar sauce or a lasagna; the 'bollito' (mixed boiled meats in delicious sauce), and a side dish or two of the freshest of fresh in-season vegetables. And last but not least, a variety of pastries, cakes, and other traditional Tuscan sweets.
If you want to experience the true essence of the culinary traditions in Florence you can rely on our food tour, through which you will have the opportunity to explore the city, visiting the main eateries and tasting delicious foods!
5. Admire the best Christmas trees and nativity scenes
Hundreds of lights and decorations, Christmas trees, crowds of shoppers, the smell of roasting chestnuts in the cool, brisk air: all signs that winter is approaching and Christmas is almost here in Florence!
Here is a suggested itinerary: start in Piazza San Lorenzo, then head to Piazza del Duomo, then down Via Calzaiuoli to Piazza della Signoria. Continue down past the Uffizi Gallery to Ponte Vecchio admiring the Arno along the way and end up at Palazzo Pitti. If you still have energy, climb up to Piazzale Michelangelo to enjoy the extraordinary panoramic view of Florence!Also many churches will be open albeit for Christmas religious services... best times for visits is in the afternoon. We suggest the following: San Miniato al Monte, Santa Maria Novella, Santa Trinità and Santo Spirito.
As if Tuscany isn't spectacular enough at any time of the year, add the magic of Christmas into the mix and you have a truly wonderful, unforgettable festive season.In Florence, and in the surrounding hill towns, the streets are decorated with Christmas lights. The window displays are bursting with reds and greens, sparkling and dazzling with tinsel and fairy lights to be just impossible to ignore.