Get into the Christmas spirit in Tuscany! The trees are lit, markets are set up and parties prepared, and the atmosphere is wonderfully festive. But it’s more than just lighthearted fun. This is a place where traditions are honoured and Christmas has plenty of its own. If you travel to Tuscany at this time of year you can expect mouthwatering traditional food, twinkling towns and some of Italy’s best Christmas markets.
Christmas in Tuscany – Lights, markets, magic
All over Tuscany, events and celebrations mark the Christmas holiday in style. From the last weekend of November onward, Tuscany gets itself ready for the biggest celebration of the year. Christmas trees are illuminated in the squares, as in Piazza del Duomo in Florence or in the lovely Piazza Salimbeni in Siena. And everywhere, from the tiniest borgo to the bigger towns there are markets and lights galore.
What could be more atmospheric than a Medieval town twinkling with Christmas lights? Towns like Siena, San Gimignano, Monteriggioni and Montepulciano always put on a great show at this time of year. The squares and avenues are decked out with lights, which together bathe the ancient buildings in a twinkly glow. It’s Christmas, but with a whole lot more magic.
Christmas in Siena, the Palazzo Pubblico dressed for Christmas
Find the best Christmas markets in Tuscany
Florence, Piazza Santa Croce (28/11 – 26/12/2017) – wooden houses and all sorts of Christmas decorations liven up this beautiful square in Florence.
Siena (2 and 3 December 2017) – local products for a scenic market in Piazza del Campo.
Arezzo (thursday to sunday from 18/11 to 26/12) Piazza Grande becomes the enchanted setting for a great market with local typical products and souvenirs.
Montepulciano (18/12/2017 – 7/1/2018) – the main square hosts a wonderful market with 80 wooden stalles selling local artefacts and gastronomical goodness. This scenic hilltop town has a Father Christmas Castle too, perfect for the little ones.
Cortona – markets in Piazza Garibaldi and Piazza Signorelli (every day from 21/12 to 1/1) with local delicacies, decorations and gift ideas.
More ideas for le feste? Discover the Best things to do at Christmas in Tuscany!
See a traditional Nativity scene
If a nativity scene doesn’t sound like a crowd pleaser, it’s because you’ve never seen one in Tuscany. Here as in other places in Italy, these aren’t a few plastic figures round a manger. Instead many towns create nativity scenes in or near their churches, putting a huge effort into their production. Craftsmen and lighting technicians are often drafted in to make them as grand and realistic as possible, and the results can be extraordinary.
In Italy you can even find “live” nativity scenes involving real characters. Head to Caprio, near Filattiera in the Lunigiana area for one of the best presepe vivente in Tuscany!
The very first nativity scene was created by Saint Francis of Assisi, who in 1223 received authorisation from the Pope to set up the first presepe in Greccio. Having just returned from the Holy Land, he wanted to create a simple, humble scene, that would capture people’s interest in the story of the birth of Christ. After this, the nativity scene became a more common sight over the years.
Christmas food in Tuscany. From Tortellini to Ricciarelli
Food is a serious undertaking in Tuscany, and Christmas is no exception. Tables fill up with all manner of delicious treats, most of which have earned their place on the menu over centuries. And though there are plenty of little differences in the way things are cooked, a typical Christmas lunch in this part of the world will generally include the following: liver pate’ crostini and salumi (cured meat) as starters, tortellini in broth or handmade tortelli, and meat as a second dish, usually a choice of capon, pork loin, duck, pigeon and guinea fowl.
There are plenty of Christmas sweets too. You’ll obviously find the typical Panettone and Pandoro made in every conceivable variety, and plenty of Torrone or nougat. But Siena is the birthplace of some favourite Italian Christmas treats: panforte, cavallucci and the almond based ricciarelli biscuits. The local Vinsanto sweet wine is perfect to be enjoyed with dessert.