Best events in Florence in December 2018

Our top picks

Mary Gray
November 29, 2018 - 9:22

Illustration by Nicola Giorgio

INDIA/River to River

December 6-11

Cinema La Compagnia and various venues in Florence

Ph. Majlend Bramo (from "Like sugar in milk")

Immerse yourself in India without setting foot outside Florence at the 18th edition of River to River, Italy’s only festival focused entirely on Indian cinema. Highlights will include the road comedy Karwaan from Akarsh Kurana (8.30pm, December 8); the tense drama Mulk, based on a true story in which a Hindu lawyer fights to defend her husband’s Muslim family as they experience hatred and Islamophobia in the wake of a terrorist attack (8.30pm, December 9); and the Bollywood rom-com Manmarzivaan, the festival’s grand finale, recently screened at the Toronto Festival (8.30pm, December 11). Outside the cinema halls, cooking classes, parties and photography exhibitions will run: mark your calendar especially for the Pink Panther Bollywood DJ set at Amble’ (11pm, December 7) and the photo show Like sugar in milk at Fondazione Studio Marangoni (vernissage at 6pm, December 6). For the full program, see


CHARITY/AILO Christmas Bazaar

December 1-2

Tepidarium del Roster, Giardino dell’Orticoltura, via Vittorio Emanuele II 4, Florence

The charitable “Christmas elves” of AILO (American International League of Florence Onlus) are gearing up for their annual fundraiser, the Christmas Bazaar: a mega-marketplace filled to the brim with accessories, home goods, children’s toys, books, an eclectic White Elephant booth and baked delights galore (brownies are a staple). As AILO’s key fundraising effort, the bazaar’s proceeds go—in their entirety—to a selection of local and regional charities chosen by members (past recipients have included the Artemisia association and the Banco Alimentare della Toscana, among numerous others). Come for the venue if nothing else: the striking Liberty-style “Crystal Palace” greenhouse in the Giardino dell’Olticoltura. Entrance is free; opening hours are 3.30-7pm December 1 and 10.30am-7pm December 2. For more information, see



December 1-24

Various venues in the Oltrarno, Florence

Ph. Niccolo Cambi/Massimo Sestini

Via Maggio will transform into a holiday village throughout December, kicking off with its customary switching on of the Christmas lights in the company of area shopkeepers, local officials, neighborhood residents and merrymakers (December 1). Contemporaneamente celebrates the new-and-now in via Maggio and surrounding areas – holiday-hued but more than just candy canes and caroling. More than 50 art galleries, shops, bar-cafes and artisan botteghe will have thrown their hats in the ring, hosting exhibitions, tastings, children’s activities, guided visits and workshops. Highlights to look out for: tours will run at literary stronghold Casa Guidi; Roberta Cipriani Pampaloni will give a Leonardo-themed Rêve de feu performance (December 15) ahead of the 500th anniversary of his birth; and Anna Corcione’s site-specific, migration-themed installation Italian Roots at her via Maggio studio. For full program details and times as more are announced, see


MUSICAL/West Side Story

December 13-16, 18-22

Teatro del Maggio Musicale, piazza Vittorio Gui 1, Florence

One hundred years after the birth of composer-conductor-musical giant Leonard Bernstein, revival shows and remembrance initiatives are taking place. Florence gets in on the fun with a week-plus of West Side Story, the classic musical inspired by Romeo and Juliet: filled with star-crossed love, feuds and, naturally, plenty of finger-snapping and dancing from New York’s gangsters (the Jets and Sharks) as they fight for their turf. In Federico Bellone’s adapted version, dialogue will be performed in Italian but all of the Stephen Sondheim-authored lyrics will be sung in their original English. As for the finger-snapping, expect to see all of the original choreography by Jerome Robbins, reproduced for today’s stage by Fabrizio Angelini. For more information and tickets, see


ABRAMOVIC/The House with the Ocean View

December 4-16

Palazzo Strozzi, piazza Strozzi, Florence

Should you have been lodged under a Renaissance city rock the past few months, there’s a Marina Abramovic retrospective currently happening at Palazzo Strozzi. But there’s one tidbit of news even those of us above ground might have missed: for a nearly two-week stretch this December, the performance artist’s landmark work “The House with the Ocean View” will be re-staged at the ongoing exhibition The Cleaner, making its Italian premiere. First exhibited in 2002, the much-imitated, much-mocked, and generally pot-stirring performance art piece consisted in Abramovic taking up residence in New York’s Sean Kelly Gallery for 12 days, fasting, remaining silent and (effectively) trapped inside a suspended structure supported by a ladder with rungs made of blades. Hours for the exhibition and this Italian debut are from 10am-8pm daily and 10am-11pm Thursdays; as for what the artist gets up to after closing, it’s all left to the honor system.



December 1-2

Various venues in Florence

Musicians from around the globe are rolling up their sleeves and drawing up their bows in preparation for the third edition of Strings City, a musical marathon taking place across some of the Tuscan capital’s coolest venues, from blockbuster museums (the Uffizi) to niche libraries (the Istituto Geografico Militare), lesser-known historical haunts (the former stables of the Granduchy) and trailblazing post-2000 spaces (The Student Hotel). Musicians in the lineup include Naomi Berrill, Kirill Troussov and Aiman Mussakhajayeva; per custom, many of the international soloists will be joined by members of local and regional orchestras and music schools. All concerts are free; the majority of events are open until seats fill up, but for the high-demand venues requiring booking, registration closes November 29. For the full program, see

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