The Christmas atmosphere in Florence is very beautiful: long before the 25th of December, the whole city is decorated with lights of all shapes and colors; you can enjoy the smell of chestnuts roasting and the site of people walking hurriedly throughout the downtown streets with many packages.
The Christmas lights are specially arranged to illuminate and highlight details of historic buildings, churches and monuments.
Through solemn Masses, concerts and beautiful nativity scenes, Florence’s churches celebrate one of the most heartfelt moments for the Christian religion: the anniversary of the birth of Christ.
Christmas might just be one of the best times to visit Florence, a city of art and history with timeless appeal.
In Inferno, Robert Langdon defines Florence thus:
This was the city on whose streets Michelangelo played as a child, and in whose studios the Italian Renaissance had ignited. This was Florence, whose galleries lured millions of travelers to admire Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, Leonardo’s Annunciation, and the city ‘s pride and joy—Il Davide.
Below is a short list of things to see or do if you are in Florence during the Christmas season; there is something for all tastes.
FLORENCE LIGHT FESTIVAL 2013
December 10, 2013 – January 14, 2014
The Florence Light Festival (F -LIGHT for short) puts on an illuminating show every holiday season. From a giant Christmas tree in Piazza Duomo, to glimmering garlands and strings of lights, to animated video projections mapped on the facades of Florence’s most famous churches and monuments, this nightly event will have everyone glowing with wintertime cheer.
To enjoy the festival, simply take a walk around downtown Florence, such as Piazza della Repubblica, Piazza della Signoria, Piazza Santo Spirito, Piazza Beccaria, Le Murate, Corso Tintori, among many others places.
WEIHNACHTSMARKT – CHRISTMAS MARKET
November 27, 2013 – December 19, 2013
Florence is renown for its Christmas markets. The most famous is the traditional Christmas market of Heidelberg, the oldest in Germany, which takes place annually in Piazza Santa Croce. The two cities were connected by a bond of marriage: the wife of Prince Elector of the Palatinate of Heidelberg was Maria Luisa, the last descendant of the Medici family, nicknamed the Electress Palatine. For this reason, the Heidelberg Christmas Market occurred in Florence. In Piazza Santa Croce one can find gift ideas, Christmas decorations, vin brulè, beer, sauerkraut and wruster, and many organized events such as the flag-waving of historic Florentine football, as well as music and entertainment for the little ones. Also around the square are wooden houses that remain open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
TUSCANY WINTER PARK
November 30, 2013 – March 2, 2014
Snow lovers need not reach the highest peaks for winter enjoyment as they can go skiing, ice skating and snowtubing directly in the city, specifically in the Ex Area Kontiki, next to Obihall on the Lungarno Aldo Moro, which contains a built-in Winter Park. In addition to the sporting activities, one can attend events and collateral public performances, taste food and drinks, and go shopping. Moreover, from December 20 to 23 runs the great festival of Christmas with the presence of a skiing Santa Claus and elves.
LO SCHIACCIANOCI (THE NUTCRACKER) BALLET AT THE THEATER OF THE MAGGIO MUSICALE FIORENTINO
December 20, 2013 – December 31, 2013
The Theater of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino has its headquarters in the Municipal Theatre. Since 1933 this institution has organized the Maggio Musicale Festival, one of the oldest and most prestigious festivals in Europe, given that it has been a duty for all music and opera lovers who have lived in Florence. While the festival takes place in May and June, the theater operates all year long, as evidenced by its work, concert and ballet seasons. During the Christmas Period the most famous and appreciated theatrical event is Lo Schiaccianoci (The Nutcracker) ballet.
The plot of this ballet is very simple: during Christmas a German family organizes a party, and Maria (the protagonist) receives a nutcracker as a gift from godfather Drosselmeyer, a funny-looking soldier with a big head and teeth strong enouh to crack the shells of nuts. Maria’s brother breaks it but it is immediately repaired. Maria then begins to dream but her dream soon become a nightmare as out from the dark come the Mouse King and his soldiers. The nutcracker transforms himself into a prince and succeeds to defeat them. Mary and her Prince begin to travel into the wonderful realm of fantasy, but all of this ends quickly once Maria wakes up and realizes that she experienced only a dream and remains alone with a small wooden toy soldier.
NEW YEAR’S DAY DINNER AND CELEBRATIONS
December 31, 2013 – January 1, 2014
For Italians the New Year’s Day Dinner is among the rituals of Christmas time, and in Florence choices abound.
In local taverns and restaurants do not miss out on traditional Tuscan products and toasts of Tuscan wines. To celebrate the new year it is custom to try a slice of toast with panettone (the traditional Italian Christmas cake) accompanied by Italian sparkling wine. After dinner those who like to stay out late can find many activities around the city, from the Fortezza da Basso—which, like every year, offers an evening of techno music—to pop concerts, classical music, gospel performances and swing and jazz music in the various squares of Florence, such as Piazza della Stazione, Piazza Santissima Annunziata, Piazza Libertà, or Piazza Signoria.
Do not miss the 1st of January New Year’s Concert organized by the School of Music of Fiesole.
Pictures by Francesco Maiorano (Florence Christmas Lights) and bwgtheatre (Christmas Market in Santa Croce)