Florence’s monuments and squares get an illuminated makeover for the holiday season with the return of F-LIGHT Firenze Light Festival. A festive, month-long series of video mapping, light installations and educational initiatives, F-LIGHT kicks off with the customary lighting of the Christmas tree in piazza Duomo at 5pm on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. After sundown on the days that follow, Florence’s facades, bridges and basilicas—San Lorenzo, Santo Spirito, the Porcellino market and Palazzo Medici Riccardi, among others—become a canvas for colorful projections and poignant messages. This year’s theme is Frontiere, or “borders”, with many of the installations aiming to raise awareness of the global refugee crisis. For the full program, see the website.
Few Florentine film festivals are as wide-ranging as River to River, which showcases the rapidly changing realities of contemporary India through cinema. Opening the 17th edition is the Italian premiere of Amit Masurkar’s political satire Newton, India’s nominee for the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 2018 Academy Awards. A dark comedy delving into issues of corruption, the story is told through the eyes of a young, inexperienced government clerk who gets in over his head while going about his duties in a small, conflict-ridden village. Producer Manish Mundra will introduce the film (8.30pm, December 7). Beyond the big-ticket movies in the lineup, around 40 other events are on the calendar, spanning art and photography exhibitions, cooking shows and lessons, lectures and more. For the full program, see the website.
After the runaway success of last year’s inaugural edition, Strings City turns Florence into a giant concert hall once again, this time expanding into several comuni outside the city limits (Campi Bisenzio, Fiesole, Scandicci and Lastra a Signa). The event includes about 80 musical performances—all strictly string instrument-based, from violins to vocal cords. Upwards of 50 cultural venues (Teatro della Pergola, Museo Novecento, Casa Martelli, to name a few) will host concerts put on by members of the Scuola di Musica di Fiesole, the Conservatorio di Musica Luigi Cherubini, the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, the Orchestra della Toscana, and others. All events offer free admission, but some of the more exclusive venues require a reservation: see the website for the full program.
Carve out time for two of Florence’s top charity Christmas markets, taking place on the same weekend this year. Nataleperfile benefits FILE, a program providing free assistance to the terminally ill and their loved ones, and will feature dozens of exhibitors, a high-stakes raffle and a catered lunch buffet at a small cost. AILO’s Christmas Bazaar is the key fundraising event for the American International League of Florence, and this year 17 charities, all vetted by the organization’s screening committee, are being considered for contributions. The marketplace always features baked goods, stacks of secondhand books, clothing, accessories and more; this year’s edition will newly introduce a Nordic gastronomic stand and an “Artisans’ Corner”.
Stazione Leopolda hosts a marathon weekend of palate-pleasing delights during the third edition of Food & Wine in Progress, which celebrates innovation and experimentation in the food and wine sectors. Organized by the Associazione Italiana Sommelier Toscana and Unione Regionale Cuochi Toscani, the event brings together hundreds of chefs, sommeliers and wine producers for a weekend of conferences, tastings, book presentations and cooking shows. A dedicated “Mixology” area will host cocktail masterclasses and bartender competitions. Entry is 20 euro for adults, 10 euro for AIS members and the under-25 crowd, and free for children under 12. For the full program, see the website.
Online marketplace Etsy comes offline for the first-ever Florentine market featuring local artisans, artists and designers who use the platform. Part of Etsy’s Europe-wide effort to carry digital-world connections over into face-to-face community events, the event will feature approximately 20 local artists, designers and artisans selling their creations: illustrations, graphic design items, textiles and clothing, ceramics, home goods, accessories, jewelry and more. Beyond selling their wares—all made by hand here in Florence or nearby—the participating “makers” will also offer workshops for curious visitors or DIY types aiming to make their own holiday gifts. Gallery-workspace La Zaffera will be the backdrop for the festive fun. For more information, head here.
Based on E.T.A. Hoffmann's 1816 story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, adapted by Alexandre Dumas and later set to music by Peter Tchaikovsky, The Nutcracker (Lo Schiaccianoci) is a Christmas fable for the ages and a ballet that merits an annual viewing. With its colorful cast of characters (including miniature soldiers, mean mice and snowflakes come to life), plus its elaborate costumes, scenery and memorable music, The Nutcracker has made Christmas wishes come true for all ages for generations. The St. Petersburg Ballet will perform against the magnificent backdrop of Teatro della Pergola in an afternoon show recommended for families (5.45pm) and a nighttime finale (8.45pm). Early booking via Boxoffice Toscana is highly advised.
For families in Florence, keeping the kids occupied during the “dead zone” between Christmas and New Year’s Day can be a challenge. Enter Firenze Winter Park, the Obihall’s very own winter wonderland, open every day to keep cold-weather boredom at bay. The structure features two separate ice skating rinks (“Master” for big kids and adults, and “River” for little ones and first-time skaters). Feeling adventurous? Try your hand at “Ice Stock,” a quirky bowling-curling combo sport, suitable for both children and adults. When you need a time-out from the chilly activities, indulge in a warm cup of mulled wine, or head for the food stands managed by favorite street food eateries PescePane, Panino Tondo and La Toraia. For more information, see the website.