Visit a Christmas Market. See the glittering lights in Florence. Attend a special festival dedicated to Nativity scenes. And try out all the festive treats while you’re at it. These are our top things to do at Christmas in Tuscany. Buon Natale!
Christmas, as the saying goes, is a very special time of year. And where better to enjoy a bit of Yuletide atmosphere than Tuscany. If you like the idea of seeing how Tuscany’s towns get dressed up for Christmas and what delicacies appear on the table during this time of year, why not plan a trip in December and explore the magic of the Christmas tradition in Tuscan style.
1. Visit a Christmas Market
In the last few years Tuscany has been joyfully infected by Christmas Market fever. The markets usually sell a combination of Christmas-themed goods, local delicacies and art crafts. And often it’s the location that make these markets special. Take the one in Piazza Santa Croce in Florence (28 November-17 December 2017), with the stunning church forming a delightful background to the colorful stalls. Or the one in Piazza Grande in Arezzo (every weekend from 18/11 to 26/12 ), where its lovely square is taken over by an authentic Tyrolese market. Meanwhile there are other markets in the small towns of Lucignano (on the last weekend before Christmas, this year 16-17 December 2017) or Chianciano Terme that during the months of November and December turns into the Paese di Babbo Natale (“Land of Father Christmas”) with lots of attractions for kids of all ages.
2. Be dazzled by the lights in Florence city centre
Every year come December, Florence is filled with excitement and sparkle. The city centre lights up, the shopping district around Via calzaioli, Piazza della Repubblica and Via Tornabuoni and glitters with golden and silver lights. Shops invite you to dream and give their absolute best with beautifully designed windows. If you’re not up for spending, but still think Christmas is about beautiful things, you can admire the huge tree in front of the Duomo (up from the 8th of December) and then enter the Cathedral, (it’s free) to awe at the golden frescoes inside the cupola.
3. Experience the magic of Christmas in a Medieval town
There’s something magical about a Medieval hilltop town immersed in the spirit of Christmas. The narrow streets twinkle with decorations, the little shops and trattorie spill over with festive feeling. Some of Tuscany’s small towns make for perfect Christmas settings. Scenic Montepulciano this year fills up with wooden stalls selling local artefacts and food. In Abbadia San Salvatore on the Mount Amiata the weekends of December are dedicated to the building of wooden bonfires that are lit on Christmas Eve in a big festival with ancient roots, “Fiaccole”. On December evenings San Gimignano and Monteriggioni look even more irresistible than ever with lights decorating their ancient stones.
4. See the presepi. One of the top things to do at Christmas in Tuscany
Nativity scenes (presepi) are a quintessentially Italian tradition, born in ancient times long before the christmas tree was introduced from northern Europe. These presepi commemorate the birth of Jesus. If you visit Tuscany in December you are bound to see one. Many people still decorate their homes with little nativity scenes, either for religious and aesthetic value. Every town puts up a nativity scene inside or near its churches. If you want to see a town that really takes its presepi seriously, Palazzuolo sul Senio is your best bet. This small town in the Alto Mugello is set for the “100 Presepi” festival, with a nativity scene on literally every corner ( every year from 8th December to 6th January).
5. Try some traditional Christmas sweets
The local traditional sweets known as ricciarelli come from Siena. A soft almond pastry with an oriental touch, they are a firm favourite in Tuscany. Some prefer another speciality from Siena, the panforte, a dense flat cake with candied and dried fruit and plenty of honey. Of course all of these are sold in supermarket all around Italy. But there’s nothing like trying the real thing from a traditional pasticceria, like Nannini in Siena. We recommend you savour them with a sip of sweet Vinsanto, Tuscany’s ‘holy’ wine, to round off the experience.