Not surprisingly, Florence – now the capital city of the Tuscany region – is a major tourist hub. The medieval era buildings, renaissance art and iconic old city remain loved and adored by all. It is fantastic European city break destination.
Florence – or Firenze – is where most scholars agree the Renaissance began. It was, at one time, a world centre for trade and culture, and even the capital of the Kingdom of Italy itself.
You might expect that the warm Italian summer is the ideal time to visit Tuscany. But the best time to visit Florence, Italy might well be in the heart of winter. The city has many charms to offer the winter tourist, here are a few things to see and do over the winter months in Florence.
Image by Michelle Maria from Pixabay
Florence in November
This is Tuscany’s wettest month. However, even as you start needing to wear another layer, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the atmosphere during the Florence, Italy winter. It’s a city that never loses its lustre, even in wet weather.
All year round, the numerous iconic museums and popular sites are there to be explored. But November sees a drop in tourists, partly because it’s become a little colder. This means fewer crowds around the city and its monuments like the Piazza del Duomo, the Palazzo Pitti and the Basilica of San Lorenzo.
In addition to seeing these (which you absolutely must do), there are some special events you probably won’t want to miss.
The Florence Marathon
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The Firenze Marathon may not be the most famous marathon in the world, but it’s certainly one of the most visually stunning. It courses its way through the streets, past all the famous Florence attractions. The event takes place on the last Sunday of November each year.
Even if you’re not participating yourself, it’s thrilling to stand along the course cheering on the thousands of runners. You might want to find a spot in the old city to watch from. That way, you can still steal a moment to visit the Duomo complex or the Piazza San Groce.
Florence in December
Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay
Christmas time in Florence is incredibly special. Like elsewhere, it’s closely related to food traditions in Italy. If you’re curious to experience the season in a traditional way, note these unmissable things to do in Florence, Italy in December:
- Eat fish-based meals on Christmas Eve, the 24th of December.
- Christmas Day and 26th of December are reserved for family gatherings and big meals eaten together.
- Go all-out with another extravagant dinner on New Year’s Eve.
- Make sure to include lentils in your food plans on the 1st of January – it’s good luck.
In terms of activities, the spirit takes hold from early December, with the city being lit up and lots of markets taking place. A Christmas tree is set up in the Piazza del Duomo on the 8th of December, which is celebrated as the Day of the Immaculate Conception. This kicks off the Christmas season to follow, which includes lots of markets, a festival of lights, and even a winter park!
The Florence Light Festival
The lighting of the tree is just the official focus of the opening of the Florence Light Festival. A number of monuments and iconic locations around the city will be lit up or decorated in light displays.
Among these is a video projection on the Ponte Vecchio. The city’s famous churches and towers are colourfully rendered throughout the month, making Florence even more beautiful through its winter nights.
The Nativity Scene in the Piazza del Duomo
A life-size nativity scene, made entirely with terra-cotta figures, adorns the Piazza. It’s erected on the 8th of December and will be the centre piece of the square until the 6th of January. It’s one of many nativity scenes you’re likely to see around the city.
The Christmas Markets
Image by Gerhard Gellinger from Pixabay
There are numerous markets to walk, browse and shop at over December. The most well-known is the den Weihnachtsmarkt German Market, strangely enough, better known as the Christmas market in Piazza Santa Croce. You’ll certainly be able to find a welcome cup of Gluhwein to warm the insides there as well as more than 50 little wooden houses selling everything from original gift ideas and decorations to food from across Europe to purchase.
And you may need it, as the market is open from 10 am till 22:00 each evening. It runs for most of the month but ends a few days before Christmas day.
You should also try the Immaculate Small Fair at the Piazza Santissima Annunziata. It only runs for two days, but it’s more Italian in the traditional sense.
Many people like to rent a villa in Tuscany to experience an authentic Italian Christmas. It’s a great time for family gatherings in large Tuscan farmhouses with roaring fires and huge kitchens, so synonymous with the Italian families. To Tuscany have probably the largest selection of villas in Tuscany, ranging from great value to utter luxury.
Florence Winter Park
A section along the banks of the Arno river is declared a winter park, where you can ice-skate, ski, snowboard or toboggan to your heart’s content. For beginners, there are lessons on offer.
And at the other end of the spectrum, there are races and competitions. Everything you need for the feel of a traditional white Christmas for kids of any age.
Image by Pexels from Pixabay
Strings City is an amazing music and arts city festival that celebrates the music of stringed instruments. Various performances of iconic classical pieces and more contemporary songs are performed at various locations throughout the city.
For two days in December, it’s almost impossible to not see or hear beautiful music echoing through the halls and auditoriums of Florence. Why would you not want to be a part of that?
Florence in January
It’s still seriously cold, with temperatures averaging around 10°C during the day. It’s the ideal time to binge on the Italian version of hot chocolate, which is much thicker than anywhere else.
The markets, museums, and skate park are all still available to visit, but the main reason to be here in January is the Feast of the Epiphany on the 6th of the month.
Cavalcata dei Magi
A definite social highlight in January is the Cavalcata dei Magi. This is a re-enactment of the arrival of the three wise kings, bringing gold, frankincense and myrrh to the infant Jesus. It takes place on the 6th of January as well.
The fully-costumed ‘Kings’ and their procession of more than 700 make this the largest and most extravagant procession in Florence. The whole event involves choirs, speeches, the presenting of the gifts at a live Nativity scene, readings and finally a mass at the cathedral.
Vintage Car Procession
Seemingly at odds with the religious theme of the day, the annual Vintage Car Show and procession also draws a crowd of enthusiasts on the Feast of the Epiphany. Though it lasts only an hour in the morning, it is nonetheless a great example of how Italian life is as rich and colourful as it is traditional.
Vehicles dating as far back as the 1940s wind their way through the streets, delivering gifts to the Piazza delle Repubblica.
Beyond the everlasting historical and cultural beauty, Florence in Winter offers an experience for tradition, culture, art, fun and celebration. It is truly a city like no other, providing a winter getaway that few others can match. It should definitely be near the top of any list of winter destinations to visit. Aside from all the famous landmarks, there are authentic areas of Florence to visit, local eateries to discover, special views only few know of and a history hidden beneath the layers that only the real Italian City Break holiday specialists can tell you about. Its all about authentic experiences these days.