by Louisa Loring
Is it the sound of music, the sweet smells or the bright, colorful lights that let you know Christmas has arrived in
It’s not only these things but much more as Florence opens its city walls to the twelve
days of Christmas by welcoming sweet treats and German markets to accompany the
twelve meter high center piece, the Christmas tree in Piazza del Duomo. Florence
It is always exciting to be in a city around Christmas time and watch the masses pass through crowded streets, arms overloaded with shopping bags, filled with music and store front decorations but especially in Florence as it is chalk full of activities and beauty around every corner. Whether it is the smell of freshly roasted chestnuts, which you can buy from street vendors or the brisk breeze nipping at your nose, it is clear the season has come. What makes
so wonderful in
this season is how well the city adapts. Florence
To kick off the Christmas season,
lights up on Sunday, December 8th after sunset.
It is a magical evening in which all the Christmas decorations and
lights are finally illuminated and the city is filled with color and bright
lights. Piazza del Duomo is the ideal
spot to see the illumination because it is really the Christmas tree, which is
lit for the first time that you want to see.
From there, you can walk down to Piazza della Signoria or Piazza della
Repubblica, all avenues glittering with blue and white lights. Florence
Follow the lights and smells down to Santa Croce where the piazza is magnificently transformed into a German Christmas market (Mercatino Tedesco di Natale) with vendors selling various crafts, gifts and traditional seasonal food. Sip on a cup of mulled wine or enjoy a slice of traditional strudel while you shop around and soak it all in.
This is not the only market in
around Christmas to keep you busy. You
can find all kinds of artisans selling their hand made crafts at le Murate
until the 24th of December.
If you are looking for something a little bigger, check out Florence
Noel at Parterre, near Piazza della Libertà where you can go ice skating and
continue shopping. Take advantage of the
seasonal opening weekend by visiting Santa Clause at Palazzo Corsini from the 6th
to the 8th. Artisans will be
selling their goods and donating a part of their profits to the Fondazione
Italiana di Leniterapia Onlus. In case
you didn’t get all your shopping done or get your fill of markets, there is
always the Fierucola dell’Immacolata on Saturday the 7th and Sunday
the 8th at Piazza S.S. Annunziata.
To get out of the city and indulged in a stunning city view, Florence is the perfect
spot. With fewer crowds and a breath of
fresh air, Piazza Mino hosts the Merry Christmas Market on the 15th. Fiesole
To warm up after all this shopping, stop off at the Caffe Rivoire in Piazza della Signoria or Caffè Gilli in Piazza della Ruppublica for a piping cup of hot chocolate (cioccolato caldo). It’s more than just a warm cup but rather, a thick, almost pudding like beverage made from pure melted chocolate. There is no better place to splurge! Be sure to take home a panettone, a traditional Christmas bread from
which is wonderful as an afternoon ‘Merenda’ as the Italians say for snack or
for breakfast with a strong coffee or cappuccino. This brioche bread (egg based) with sweet
morals baked inside can be brought from various cafes and specialty shops around
For something a little different, visit Palazzo Strozzi on either December 8th or 12th where you can trim the palace tree and take part in various activities. For a change of pace, there will be folk music on the 12th and nothing says Christmas like the sound of music. To hear more traditional holiday tunes, there are a variety of free concerts in churches during the later afternoons and evenings. It only takes an open ear to track down the many places from which the hymns sound. St. Mark’s
in Via Maggio offers concerts in English by the Orpheus Ensemble on Tuesdays,
Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays each week.
While in the churches, check out the various Nativity scenes that each
church displays. And don’t miss the
largest of all in Piazza del Duomo. For those who want to get the full experience and practice their Italian and Latin, take part in the
midnight Mass on Christmas Eve at the Duomo.
Entrance is based on a first-come, first-served basis so be sure to get
there early! For English services, St. Mark’s and St. James both hold masses at
11.00 p.m. English Church
But it doesn’t end here. In
Christmas lasts until the 6th of January, through Epiphany. To bring the holiday season to a close, make
your way to the city center to see the Parade of the Three Kings of the Orient
at 2:30 p.m. that runs from Piazza Pitti all the way to the Duomo. Italy