Christmas in Florence: 2018 events, lights and markets

What to do in Florence this holiday season

Editorial Staff
December 6, 2018 - 17:36

Christmas in Florence is a magical time of the year when elegant lights illuminate the cobblestone streets, trees take centre stage in city squares and nativity scenes reiterate the essence of the holiday season. This is The Florentine’s guide to Christmas in Florence.

 

 

 

Christmas trees in Florence

 

 

The Christmas tree light construction in piazza Santa Maria Novella, waiting to be switched on

 

 

There will be 32 official Christmas trees in Florence for the 2018 holiday season. The main two are in piazza Duomo and in piazzale Michelangelo, with smaller trees decked out in piazza Ciampi, piazza Pier Vettori, piazza Primo Maggio in Brozzi, piazza Acciaiuoli al Galluzzo, Giardino del Lippi by Villa Vogel, piazza Puccini, borgo Ognissanti and outside Santa Maria Nuova Hospital. Other trees to look out for include the one decorated by The Student Hotel in the Fortezza da Basso gardens and an unusual tree and light construction in piazza Santa Maria Novella, part of the F-Light Festival. At the Palazzo Vecchio, look out for the tree in the Cortile della Dogana courtyard and one in the Salone dei Cinquecento. The city’s tramline is entering the festive spirit with trees lining the route in piazza Leopoldo, piazza della Costituzione and Careggi Hospital. Traditional lights are going up along the ring roads between piazza della Libertà and piazza Beccaria.

 

 

 

Lights

 

 

Last year's video mapping on the Ponte Vecchio

 

 

The city’s official light switch-on takes place on December 8 at 5pm, starting with the tree in piazza Duomo.

 

The F-Light Festival returns from December 8 to January 6 with a focus on Leonardo da Vinci, ahead of next year’s 500th anniversary of the Renaissance polymath’s death. Check out the creative light displays on the city’s towers from 6pm to midnight: Torre della Zecca, Torre di San Niccolò, Porta al Prato, Porta Romana, Porta San Gallo and Porta San Frediano facades. City centre highlights include a massive “tree” light spectacle in piazza Santa Maria Novella, plus multicoloured under the loggia at the Museo del Novecento; video mapping on the facade of the Palazzo Vecchio, illumination of the Torre di Arnolfo and the projection of the #EnjoyRespectFirenze campaign on the Loggia de’ Lanzi; the much-awaited light show on the Ponte Vecchio focusing on arts and crafts; Da Vinci-themed projections in the “Medici Gardens” at Palazzo Medici Riccardi; Marco Lodola’s installation at Mercato Centrale Firenze; and the ever-impressive full-on facade at the Rinascente department store in piazza della Repubblica. The festival also extends to the suburbs, lighting up the fountain in the Fortezza da Basso gardens, piazza Niccolò Tommaseo in Settignano, piazza Elia dalla Costa in Gavinana, the Passerella delle Cascine in Isolotto and Parco di San Donato in Novoli. The Artemio Franchi football stadium, home to ACF Fiorentina, will take on a new look for the holidays, bathed in purple (and more) lighting.

 

 

 

Religious services

 

 

Mass at Florence Cathedral

 

 

St. James Episcopal Church (via Rucellai 9, Florence / www.stjames.it / 055 294417) is holding a Mass and Christmas Pageant at 6pm, as well as Midnight Mass starting at 11pm on Christmas Eve, plus an 11am Mass on Christmas Day.

 

In the Oltrarno, St. Mark’s English Church (via Maggio 16, Florence / www.stmarksitaly.com / 055 294764) is holding a Christmas carol service on December 23 at 6pm, Midnight Mass at 11.30pm on Christmas Eve and a Christmas Sung High Mass at 10.30am on Christmas Day. The choir will also host its annual carolling outing on December 18 (6pm).

 

All churches in Florence hold services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The December 24 Midnight Mass at the Cathedral begins at 11pm, while the Christmas Mass is held at 10.30am.

 

 

 

Nativity scenes

 

 

Last year's nativity scene by Florence Cathedral

 

 

From December 8 to January 6, the life-size nativity scene returns to the cathedral steps featuring terracotta statues made by artisans in Impruneta. On January 6, the figures are replaced by people and animals to recreate the three kings story around the streets of Florence: the Cavalcata of the Magi begins in piazza Pitti at 2pm, reaching piazza Duomo at 3.30pm.

 

From December 8 to January 6, Modena-born artist Carlo Ladurini’s 30 contemporary nativity scenes return to Rivoli Boutique Hotel (via della Scala 33, Florence) for the seventh consecutive year. Entrance is free; donations welcome (proceeds go to children’s charity Tommasino Bacciotti Foundation).

 

Also part of the Tuscany Region’s “Put a nativity in your shop window” campaign: antique store Gallori Turchi (via Maggio 14R); homeware store Cose Così (borgo la Croce 53R); bookstore Libreria San Paolo Firenze, piazza Duomo, 32-33R; leatherwear POST&CO, via dei Neri, 82R. Share your favourites with us by emailing photos and a description of the store to redazione@theflorentine.net.

 

Read our pick of the nativity scenes in Tuscany.

 

 

 

Music, theatre and culture events in December 2018

 

 

Behind the scenes at castings for Teatro? #BellaStoria!

 

 

Treat teenagers in your life to concerts and culture this winter through the Teatro? #BellaStoria! campaign. For the cost of one ticket, everyone aged between 14 and 19 can enjoy eight shows and a pop concert in Florence, attend mask-making workshops, go behind the scenes and even meet the stars.

 

On December 14 at 9pm, the One Voice Gospel Choir will perform at St. James Church (via Rucellai 9, Florence) with a mix of Christmas carols and traditional gospel songs.

 

On December 8 at 6pm, join the St. Mark’s Church Choir for carolling around the Oltrarno, ending with mulled wine and mince pies at the church. Starting point: St. Mark’s Church (via Maggio 16, Florence).

 

Cinema and Christmas are a match made in heaven. From December 20 to 26, munch on popcorn while watching the highly anticipated The Old Man and the Gun at Odeon Firenze Cinehall (piazza Strozzi, Florence / 055 295051).

 

Christmas Comes But Once a Year sees the British Institute of Florence staff present an evening of festive readings and carols in the Harold Acton Library (lungarno Guicciardini 9, Florence) on December 19 at 6pm.

 

On December 22, the St. Petersburg Ballet comes to La Pergola Theatre (via della Pergola 24, Florence) with Tchaikovsky’s world-famous ballet, The Nutcracker. As the orchestra swings into action, playing the instantly recognisable score, feast your eyes on ballerinas, animals and glorious decorations to get into the festive season. Get tickets here or call the Box Office Circuit 055 210804.

 

Sing along to Christmas carols at the Ognissanti Church (borgo Ognissanti 42, Florence) on December 23 at 8pm. There’ll be a charity collection for church aid and a school in Malawi. If you’d like to sing in four-part harmony, contact Rebecca at rkdin114@gmail.com.

 

December 30 is the Florence date of the touring Toscana Gospel Festival featuring the exuberant Pastor Ron Gospel Show at Teatro Cantiere Florida (via Pisana, 109). Tickets cost 15 euro from www.ticketone.it.

 

Take in a cinema viewing at Cinema La Compagnia over the holidays. Christmas Day options include Alexandria Bombach’s On Her Shoulders and The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned from a Mythical Man.

 

 

 

Christmas markets in Florence

 

 

The popular Weihnachtsmarkt in piazza Santa Croce

 

 

Strudel and stinco galore, the Weihnachtsmarkt "German" Christmas Market is on in piazza Santa Croce until December 20.

 

The British Institute of Florence is hosting a Christmas Fair on December 7. Books, arts and crafts, homemade goods await all in the Harold Acton Library (lungarno Guicciardini 9, Florence) from 3 to 6pm, in addition to tea and cakes, a raffle and library memberships.

 

Walk over to piazza Santissima Annunziata for the Fierucolina dell’Immacolata fair on December 8 and 9 for original holiday gift ideas and to piazza Santo Spirito on December 16 for the Fierucola di Natale market.

 

Spazio Natale Emergency 2018 is a charity Christmas market being held at Galleria Artedove (via de’ Macci 81R) every day until December 24 from 10am to 7.30pm (December 24, 10am-4pm).

 

The Creative MANI-Factory market is being held at Manifattura Tabacchi (via delle Cascine 35) on December 8 and 9 (10am-9pm) to showcase traditional and digital designers, illustrators and artisans.

 

Grab some haute-couture vintage bargains at the ATT (Association for Tumours in Tuscany) Christmas Market at Hotel Albani Firenze (via Fiume 12, Florence) from December 7 to 9 (9.30am-7.30pm). 

 

Check out the Charity Sale at Art Store Momentum on December 11, 10am-7pm (sponsors include the Art & Space Gallery, Stile di Vita, the International School of Florence and the Hotel Lungarno). Choose jewellery handcrafted by international designers, original artwork and festive ceramics by Richard Ginori. All proceeds will go to the Marta Cappelli Foundation, which is set to open Casa Marta in 2019, a hospice for chronically sick children by the Meyer Children’s Hospital.

 

On December 15 and 16, indulge in the Gran Bazar Christmas Market at Tasso Hostel (via Villani 15, Florence) for vintage and streetwear, vinyls and even a temporary barber’s shop (11am-9:30pm).

 

On December 15, enjoy Christmas in the Wine Cellar at Ruffino’s flagship winery Poggio Casciano (via Poggio al Mandorlo 1, Loc. Quarate, Bagno a Ripoli / 055 6499712), just 25 minutes from Florence. From 11am to 8pm, stock up on discounted wines for the festive season as well as local produce and special gift ideas. Fun and games for children.

 

On December 8, the Natalotto market lines the main streets of the Isolotto neighbourhood, December 16 is the turn of Natale in via Romana and December 21 sees via de’ Serragli come to life for Solstizio d’Inverno with farm-to-table happy hours and atelier open doors. Every Sunday in December via Gioberti closes to cars with fun activities taking over the popular street. Head over to Novoli for the Christmas market in the main square at the San Donato shopping centre with readings and music from all over the world.

 

Just outside Florence, the Pazzagli Art Park (Parco d’Arte Enzo Pazzagli, via Sant’Andrea a Rovezzano, 5) is opening an “enchanted” Christmas garden (entrance 2 euro, children under 2 go free), plus a market selling sustainable gifts (free entrance). Open 10am to 7pm, December 8 and 9; 15 and 16; December 21 to 26; December 29-31; January 1; January 4-6.

 

Every December, the Four Seasons Florence embraces the city with its Open Day. On December 16, 10am-4pm, your 1 euro door donation (entrance from via Gino Capponi 54, borgo Pinti 97 and piazzale Donatello 12) allows you a glimpse of luxury while making a difference: all monies will go to completing the children’s outdoor space at the Istituto degli Innocenti.

 

To give back this Christmas in Florence. Read more…

 

 

 

And for Father Christmas…

 

 

Babbo Running Firenze. This year, watch out for The Florentine's Leo Cardini. First to send in a photo of our graphic designer wins a subscription!

 

 

Christmas isn’t Christmas without visiting Santa Claus (or “Babbo Natale” as he’s known in Italy).

 

Out-of-town shopping centre I Gigli (via San Quirico 165, Campi Bisenzio) is the place to go with its Christmas Village: Santa will be in situ on December 8, 14, 21, 22, 23 and 24. From December 20 to 23, children can write letters to Father Christmas aided by his helpers.

 

You might have to rub your eyes as countless Father Christmas take to Florence’s streets on December 8. It’s just Babbo Running Firenze, a 5-kilometre run in Santa costumes with all proceeds going to children’s charity Tommasino Bacciotti Foundation. Sign-up here (cost 20 euro for adults; 15 euro between 11 and 25; kids under 11 go free).

 

On December 15 (10am-7pm), Father Christmas will be welcoming adults and children alike at Baby Bottega (via il Prato 53-55R, Florence) just to say ciao and photo ops (10 euro donation). It’s a fundraising event for Marafiki primary school Onlus helping little ones in Kenya. Reserve your place by email: hello@babybottega.com

 

Also on December 15, enjoy Breakfast with Santa from 9.15 to 11:15am at the Hard Rock Cafe for a buffet breakfast, fun face painting and the chance to hand deliver your letter to Santa. 16 euro for adults, 10 euro for children. Reserve by email florence.sales2@hardrock.com or phone 055 277841.

 

Santa to be confirmed, but there’ll be plenty of fun at My Tata Inglese (via della Fonderia 9R, Florence) on December 15, 4-5.30pm. Make festive gifts and enjoy hot chocolate while speaking in English for 15 euro. Book your spot: 338 6584939.

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