Medieval towns and hamlets around Tuscany are the perfect places to be at Christmas. Lights twinkle over cobbled streets and the picturesque squares are alive with festive magic. So here we give you some trip ideas for Christmas in Tuscany: Arezzo and Montepulciano with their amazing Christmas markets, San Gimignano with its illuminated towers, and some magical places with ancient rituals and live nativity scene.
Magical Places to Visit in Tuscany at Christmas
1. Arezzo turns Tyrolese at Christmas
The fabulous Piazza Grande, the beating heart of Arezzo and setting for the monthly antique fair, gets all dressed up at Christmas, and takes on a Tyrolese theme. Wooden huts and all sort of Tyrolese delicacies invade the square: including pretzels, raclette, polenta, Tyrolese sausages and of course beer.
This historic square is one of the most impressive in Tuscany, and at Christmas a chorus of multicoloured lights infuse the square with magic. Children are invited to explore the house of Father Christmas (Casa di Babbo Natale) inside the Palazzo Fraternita dei Laici.
The Tyrolese Village (Villaggio Tirolese) is open from 18th November 2023 to 1st January 2024, from Thursday to Sunday until 21st December, from 22nd December every day – from 10am to 9pm. On the same days, the light show is on, making Arezzo a truly magical place to visit in Tuscany at Christmas.
=> Check out the top things to do in Florence at Christmastime.
2. Montepulciano – Great Christmas Market
The hilltop town of Montepulciano, located an hour south of Siena, also gives its best at this time of year. The scenic square Piazza Grande, and the surrounding streets, become the special setting for one of central Italy’s biggest Christmas Market. What’s on offer? Tuscan-style street food, artisans selling their creations, traditional food and of course Christmas decorations for every taste. Try out the ricciarelli, the traditional Tuscan Christmas biscuits!
The magnificent Town Hall watches over the feast, inundated with lights. The cobbled narrow streets take on a magical feel. And don’t forget that Montepulciano is famous all over the world for its red wine, the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, so there are wineries and wine shops on every corner, where you can taste local wine with a plate of traditional affettati (cured meats) and crostini.
3. San Gimignano – ‘Natale tra le Torri’, Christmas among the Towers
With the impressive Medieval towers bathed in beautifully coloured lighting, the big Christmas tree in Piazza Duomo and the shops adorned for the feste, San Gimignano’s historic centre shows its magical side more than ever at this time of year. It’s a bit like being in a fantasy land, with the picturesque stone squares and the 13th century buildings all prepared for Natale.
From 1st December, the historic centre of Tuscany’s most attractive Medieval town goes all out. There are decorations around Piazza della Cisterna, the Cathedral Square, Piazza delle Erbe and Sant’Agostino. Throughout December, at weekends, San Gimignano hosts various markets and events to celebrate this special time of year.
4. Abbadia San Salvatore – An ancient fire ritual
The small town of Abbadia San Salvatore on Mount Amiata – in southern Tuscany – is called the ‘Città delle Fiaccole’ (torches’s town) after a long-lived tradition that still takes place every Christmas’ Eve. On the evening of 24th December the fire ritual celebrating the beginning of Christmas takes place in the main square. A huge pyramid-shaped structure made of wood – every piece a perfect fit thanks to the skills of the fiaccolai – is lit, bringing victory of light over darkness. Around towns other tall bonfires join the feast, while traditional music fills the air.
Fire has always been an important symbol in ancient cultures – representing purification, warmth, and protection from dark forces. Taking part in this tradition is like going back in time, a celebration of the primal link between man and nature. Definitely one of the magical places to visit in Tuscany at Christmas.
5. Equi Terme – the Lunigiana mountains for a live nativity scene
Nativity scenes (presepi) are a quintessentially Italian tradition. One born in ancient times long before the christmas tree was introduced from northern Europe. These presepi commemorate the birth of Jesus, and if you visit Italy 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.
Equi Terme itself looks like a presepe, hugged by the tallest mountains of the Apuan Alps. This small hamlet in the Lunigiana region, known for its beautiful landscapes and thermal waters, puts on a live presepe every year: a wooden hut, a crib and actors in costume to bring the birth of Jesus to life. The natural beauty of the place does the rest.
You can see this on the 23rd, 24th December (from 8:30pm to 11:30pm) and 25th, 26th December (from 6pm to 9pm) -> these are the dates for 2023 – see the official FB page.