Christmas in Florence

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Photo by danciaba
Photo by danciaba

Christmas in Florence

by Amanda Palumbo
Stripes Europe

There are two major reasons to head to Florence in December. One, it’s the off-season for tourism so everything is much cheaper. Two, visiting the Florence Christmas market. It’s a perfect mix of German tradition and Italian romance.

Why Florence

There are hundreds of Christmas markets throughout Europe. Florence is special because not only does the city turn into a small Christmas village complete with the typical wooden chalets filled with delicious food, drinks and crafts but it’s all with a gorgeous Tuscany backdrop. Plus, it’s a lot warmer in Florence than its neighboring Christmas markets to the north. For example, Florence’s average December temperature is 15 degrees higher than Munich. So, you can enjoy all that Christmas markets have to offer and still feel your toes.

Sites you won’t want to miss

The city’s primary Christmas market is usually held late November through late December at Piazza Santa Croce. Behind the market sits the magnificent Basilica of Santa Croce, the largest Franciscan church in the world and also known as the Temple of Italian Glories. It’s where Italian greats Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavelli are buried. A fact that is a little morbid but also kind of cool. You can tour the more than 700-year-old church and its museum for just six euros.

Florence does not hold back when it comes to lighting up the city for the holidays. The F-Light Festival coincides with the Christmas market. Some of the city's most famous monuments like Ponte Vecchio, Palazzo Santa Maria Novella and the Oltrarno will be lit up in artistic displays you will find nowhere else. Details for the 2019 F-Light Festival can be found here.

All through the city, you’ll spot “presepi,” Italian nativity scenes. The Italians take their “presepi” very seriously, so expect to see some over-the-top displays in front of most churches and homes. If you have time to spare, head to Palazzuolo sol Senio, a small town northeast of Florence that will have more than 100 “presepi.” Scenes will be on every street corner and in front of every home and business.

 

 

What to eat and drink

Florence’s Christmas markets will have traditional staples like mulled wine and gingerbread. But this is Italy, so there will be lots of wine, cheese and pastries. Keep an eye out for “ricciarelli,” an Italian style macaroon. It’s a Tuscany favorite that started in the 14th century made from almonds and honey with powdered sugar on top.

You can try a slice of “panforte,” an Italian fruitcake. Don’t get this confused with the American fruitcake that goes untouched at family gatherings. It’s a dense, chewy dessert filled with dried fruit, nuts and spices. If you’re looking for something salty, there will be stands set up full of cured meats, cheeses and pasta.

How to get there

You can fly into Florence direct from just about anywhere in Europe. Munich to Florence by train is eight-and-a-half hours. From Frankfurt, it’s 10 hours. It’s about a four-hour drive or train ride for folks in Aviano.

Where to stay

Since it’s the off-season hotel rates are considerably cheaper during the Christmas market season. If you’re booking a room six months out they can range anywhere between 50 euros a night all the way up to 250 euros, depending on how bougie you are. 

Christmas is a magical time of year and there is no better place for you to spend it than in one of the most romantic areas of Europe. Even if you can’t make it to Tuscany before Christmas, the party continues the first week of January. More information about visiting Florence during the holidays can be found here.

 

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