Wondering how to celebrate Christmas and entertain the babies while school’s out and the holidays are upon us? Luckily, Florence is positively overflowing with Christmas cheer. So much so that I’ve compiled my top 10 for making the holidays as fun and easy as possible.
1. Capture the photo op
First things first: Bundle up and get down to Piazza del Duomo to take your family holiday photo in front of the massive Christmas tree framed by the cathedral and the baptistery.
2. Visit with Babbo Natale
Whether the kiddies have been naughty or nice, they’ll no doubt want to make their case directly to Santa. Thankfully, Babbo Natale has set up temporary house at the Florence Noel (www.florencenoel.it) holiday fair at the Stazione Leopolda until December 12. Bring letters to read in person or leave them in the mailbox marked ‘punto letterina.’
3. Shop, party and puppet
Who needs the same old Christmas market when you can go to a kids-only mercatino instead? The Libri Liberi Christmas party features a holiday market with items made by and for children; call 055/2658324 to reserve your table. No Christmas season is complete without Clara and her favorite dancing nutcracker, hence the ‘Lo Schiaccianoci’ puppet show. All events take place on December 19 at the Libri Liberi bookshop, at via San Gallo 25r. Market and party begin at 3:30pm; puppet shows at 3:30pm and 5pm.
4. Do a good deed
Support the Istituto degli Innocenti, one of the city’s oldest (and noblest) institutions for children, by attending a special Christmas party hosted by the Four Seasons Hotel in the historic Giardino della Gherardesca. Games, roasted chestnuts, hot chocolate, vin brulé and Babbo Natale. December 19 from 10am to 4pm. Entrance at via Gino Capponi 54; Borgo Pinti 99; and P.le Donatello 12. Tel. 055/26261. Minimum donation one euro.
5. Warm it up
Don’t let the cold get you down-warm and cozy libraries and ludoteche are bursting with holiday activities for the little ones. Make your own shooting star, decorate a tree, listen to a lively reading of A Christmas Carol, star in a pageant and much more. See www.fiorentinisicresce.it and click on ‘Centri di Natale’ (in Italian).
6. Make Christmas cookies
Put on the Christmas tunes, pull up a stool for the young ones and get baking. Find every Christmas cookie recipe you’ve ever wanted…and some you wish you’d never heard of-Velveeta Peanut Butter Fudge, anyone?-at www.christmas-cookies.com.
7. Build your own capannuccia
Kids and families can create their own nativity scene-affectionately called a capannuccia in Florentine dialect-as part of a special program sponsored by the Archdiocese of Florence. All entries to the Capannucce in città initiative will be recognized by Archbishop Giovanni Betori at a ceremony on January 5 at the church of San Gaetano on via Tornabuoni. See details at www.capannucceincitta.it.
8. Remember the reason for the season
Caroling and Christmas pageants abound at St. James American Church (www.stjames.it), St. Mark’s English Church (www.stmarksitaly.com) and the Methodist Church (http://englishlanguageworship.blogspot.com). Check the Diocese of Florence (www.diocesifirenze.it) for a children’s mass at a church near you.
9. Laugh at the Befana
Does your kid get as big a kick out of wrinkly old ladies as mine does? I can’t wait until the Befana comes to town this year so Giacomo can have some real fun. (P.S. The benevolent witch will be bringing him some Fireman Sam videos straight from Amazon.it, baby.)
10. Enjoy a nice glass of bubbly
The kids are asleep, the toys are assembled, the tortellini are in their brodo-mamma and babbo, you deserve a drink. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!