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.
=> Explore Medieval Tuscany on this Full day Guided Tour: visit San Gimignano, the “Manhattan of the Middle Ages”, Siena’s historic centre and the picturesque walled village of Monteriggioni. Including typical lunch at a Chianti winery, tasting local food and wine. Excellent value for money!
Find the best Christmas markets in Tuscany 2019
Florence, Piazza Santa Croce (23/11/2019 – 22/12/2019) – wooden houses and all sorts of Christmas decorations liven up this beautiful square in Florence. ⇒ Discover the 6 Top Things to do in Florence at Christmas time!
Siena (7th and 8th December 2019) – local products for a scenic market in Piazza del Campo.
Arezzo (Thursday to Saturday from 16/11/2019 to 26/12/2019) Piazza Grande becomes the enchanted setting for a great market with local typical products and souvenirs.
Montepulciano (every weekend from 16th November to 20th December 2019 – then from 21st December 2019 to 6th January 2020 open every day from 10:30am to 7:30pm, except on Christmas Day, when the market will be open only in the afternoon ) – 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. ( see official site)
Cortona – markets in Piazza Garibaldi and Piazza Signorelli (dates for 2019 have not been confirmed at time of writing) with local delicacies, decorations and gift ideas. Plenty of other events and entertainments for kids. For full program see the official site .
This year Lucca hosts its Christmas market from 7th to 26th December, just outside the city walls, with Tyrolian food and artisanal beer. While the spa town of Chianciano Terme becomes the setting for a fairy tale-like “Paese di Babbo Natale”, inspired by Father Christmas’s land, set in the beautiful park Parco Acqua Santa (famous for its thermal waters) every weekend starting from the 4th November to 26th December 2019.
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 Fivizzano in the Lunigiana area for one of the best presepe vivente in Tuscany! (On the 24th of December 2019, from 8:30pm to 11:30pm, and 25-26-26 December from 6pm to 9pm).
Or the live nativity scene in Monterchi, with more than 250 people staging a great outdoor representation. Unmissable for all the presepe vivente fans! (see official site). There’s a Museo del Presepe in Usigliano, near Lari (PISA) in a 18th century farm presents small and big nativity scenes for every taste.
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: chicken liver paté 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.