Romance, fine food and picturesque surroundings: Florence dishes up the perfect ingredients for a traditional Italian Christmas.
Giotto’s frescoes, Michelangelo’s David, canvases by Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci: the cradle of the Renaissance can rightly claim to be one of Europe’s great art cities. The architecture is a wonder in itself. A stroll along the cobbled streets takes you past grand palaces, medieval chapels, fresco adorned churches, marble basilicas and world-class museums – the entire city centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site. When you’re not feasting your eyes on the cultural and urban fabric of Florence, you can indulge in a food scene to die for.
Visit the Tuscan capital over the Christmas period and you won’t be disappointed. There’s everything from nativity scenes and midnight mass to fresh local produce and parades to get you in the Christmas spirit.
It wouldn’t be Christmas without a festive themed market. And Florence has all bases covered. If you’re looking for something traditionally Italian, head to the Leopolda Centre to browse the Florence Noel. If bratwurst and beer are more your thing, the German market (Weihnachtsmarkt) in Piazza Santa Croce should be top of your itinerary – it’s the biggest in town.
The city’s spectacular cathedral – the Duomo – is the place to be on Christmas Eve for a truly Florentine festive experience. The Catholic church remains entrenched in Italian life, so the Cardinal of Florence’s annual midnight mass service forms an important part of local celebrations – in Italian of course. Entrance is first come, first served, so try and get there early to avoid disappointment.
Italians love a nativity scene. Families up and down the land take great care to make their own, before placing them in their living room from early December until Epiphany (6th January). Don’t worry, you won’t have to go knocking on doors to see one for yourself, you’ll find public displays dotted throughout the city. The most popular is created in Piazza del Duomo. This isn’t just any old recreation of the birth of Jesus; it consists of life-size terracotta statues made just up the road in Impruneta.
Whether you’re eating alfresco with your fingers at a market or dining in a Michelin-star restaurant with sweeping city views, we couldn’t discuss Christmas in Florence without mentioning the grub. It’s up there with the likes of Bologna when it comes to being crowned culinary capital of this food-obsessed nation. And there’s no better time than Christmas to experience all the delicious flavours on offer – from locally sourced appetizers like ham, salami, cheese and plump olives to Crostini Toscani (chicken liver-pâté on Tuscan bread) and hand-made tortellini. Of course, it would be rude not to wash it all down with a glass of local red – a Chianti perhaps?
Florence Winter Park
It hasn’t snowed in Florence since 2010, so don’t hold your breath for a white Christmas. You can, however, visit the Florence Winter Park to ice skate on the banks of the Arno River. When you’re not hurtling around the rink, the park is a great place to escape the bustling city centre and enjoy a nice cup of hot chocolate.
Christmas is far from over when the bells of the Duomo chime at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Celebrated on 6th January, the feast of the Epiphany (the 12th day of Christmas) is a big deal around here. In 1997 Florence resurrected the ancient tradition of re-enacting the arrival of the Three Kings in Bethlehem, to mark the VII Centenary of the cathedral’s construction. Each year the city celebrates by hosting the “Cavalcade of the Magi” – a grand parade in magnificent costumes through the historic centre.
Purchase a property in Florence with help from the experts
If the way to your heart is through your stomach and you love a spot of tradition, Florence is the place to be in December and January. Imagine having all this and more on your doorstep every Christmas. All you need to do is purchase your own property there. This doesn’t have to be a pipe dream.
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