Christmas in Florence 2023

Christmas in Florence 2023

What to do this December in Florence

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Fri 01 Dec 2023 9:57 AM

The city gets glowing as twinkling lights accompany seasonal strolls through festive Florence. Here’s our pick of what to do over the Christmas holidays.

Christmas trees

Green Line - F-Light 2022 Ph. Nicola Neri
Green Line – F-Light 2022 Ph. Nicola Neri

The annual lighting up of the Christmas trees takes place on December 7 from 5.30pm, with the Mayor of Florence Dario Nardella setting off from piazza della Signoria along with the many Santas from the Compagnia di Babbo Natale to switch on the tree lights in piazza del Duomo at 6pm, with the Gonfalone di Firenze, the Light Gospel Choir and a historic costumed parade adding to the occasion. The tree in piazzale Michelangelo will be switched on at 7.30pm and the tree in piazza San Firenze dons its holiday guise at 8.30pm. Every zone of Florence gets dedicated decorations, totalling 60 trees across the city.

From December 8, the Nativity returns to piazza del Duomo where it will remain until January 6. The life-size terracotta statues were created by Impruneta-based Luigi Mariani and donated to the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore. This year, the figure of Saint Francis will be added.

Green Line light festival

Last year’s Green Line light festival. Ph. Nicola Neri

From December 8 to January 7, video mapping on the Ponte Vecchio and Palazzo Vecchio gathers gazers to share in the Christmas spirit, with the theme of this year’s light festival being ‘The Winter Garden’, urging viewers to care for the planet. Promoted by the City of Florence, curated by MUS.E and with artistic direction by Sergio Risaliti, the visuals and sounds were created by Stefano Fake and The Fake Factory, with the video projection on the facade of Palazzo Vecchio down to HELLO!, with Alessandra Ioalé, created by Francesco Cacchiani. The citrus trees in the garden of Palazzo Medici Riccardi will also receive original lighting with a Christmas tree decorated in collaboration with the Leon Battista Alberti art school. The historic towers, gates and other sites will be specially illuminated, including the facade of the basilica of San Marco, the Rinascente store and the central market in San Lorenzo. An installation by Nico Vascellari titled OLTRE is an exciting addition this year, set up in the Palazzo Vecchio’s Sala D’Arme.

Family holiday fun

Santa’s house at the Palazzo Vecchio

Santa’s house at the Palazzo Vecchio is the perfect spot to drop off your Christmas letters, with five lucky winners being granted a pass to one of MUS.E’s museum workshops. A carriage pulled by white horses is an unmissable and magical memory, and a train driven by elves takes little ones and their grown-ups through the Cascine park. See the full programme.

Florence on Ice Village + Panoramic Wheel

Florence on ice village

The popular ice skating rink pops up from December 8 to January 15 in the new location of piazzale Vittorio Veneto, in the Cascine park. Skaters dash through the spectacular setting from 10am to midnight. While there, don’t miss the chance to take a spin on the 55-metre-high panoramic wheel, which will be on site from December 8 to June 10. Not a fan of heights? There’s a fabulous Christmas village with specially curated activities for families and children, as well as plenty of food stalls and more.

Children’s Christmas Party

The Children’s Lending Library in the undercroft at St. James’ Church (via Rucellai 9) is holding their annual Christmas party from 4 to 6pm on December 9, with Santa making an appearance!

Hard Rock Cafe family festivities

A Christmas event for little ones takes place at Hard Rock Cafe Florence from 4-6pm on December 17, with a magical Harry Potter experience that includes the famous sorting hat, spell lessons, duels, and themed make-up. Suitable for children up to 10 years of age, the activities (in Italian) and buffet cost 15 euro, with adults costing 20 euro and infants under 2 free. Check out their website for more on their Christmas offers.

Christmas shopping + markets

Craft walks with Artex

Artex

Firenze Creativa, in collaboration with Artex and The Florentine, have curated free festive shopping experiences focused on artisanal crafts, taking place over the course of Christmas crafts week, December 11-16. The first route sets off at 3pm on December 11, taking participants to discover the heart of Florentine craftsmanship. On December 12, the itinerary takes a contemporary twist in the Oltrarno, dedicated to female creative energies and taking place in English. At 3pm on December 15, the products highlighted will be in the Santissima Annunziata area. Finally, the event at 10am on December 16 is inspired by Pratolini’s Le Ragazze di San FredianoRegister here.

Natale at Manifattura

Natale in Manifattura ph.Giovanni Savi

Three weekends of Christmas-themed workshops, shows and performances come to Manifattura Tabacchi with free admission. From Christmas brunches to artisanal objects for sale, there’s truly something for everyone with dozens of activities for all ages. December 2-3 is dedicated to Christmas flowers and plants, with workshops on offer and live presentations. December 9-10 is themed Christmas for kids, with a fantastic treasure hunt for little ones and a toy swap as well as readings, while December 16-17 takes a family and friends focus. Guided tours will be on offer, and there will even be the chance to get a photograph with your loved ones, taken by professional photographer Clara Vannucci. Don’t forget that the car park has 50% discounted rates from December 1 to January 14!

German Christmas market in piazza Santa Croce

Weihnachtsmarkt

The much-loved German-inspired market brings street food stalls, sweet gift ideas, and a whole lot of atmosphere through December 17.

Nataleperfile

The 20th edition of the charity market at the opulent Palazzo Corsini on December 15-17 (10am-7pm) raises funds for FILE Fondazione Italiana di Leniterapia, which gives assistance to seriously ill patients and their families. With plenty of gift ideas, clothing, household items, fragrances, food and wine, there will also be the popular FILE Panettone and Pandoro and their raffle with great prizes. A cafè and refreshment area in the Ninfeo of the Palace gives you a chance to rest your shopping bags and soak up the resplendent setting.

AILO Christmas Bazaar

AILO Christmas Bazaar

Vintage clothes, accessories, decorations and games are just some of the many items on sale for the 47th edition of the charity market organized by the American International League of Florence at the Tepidarium del Roster in the Giardino dell’Orticoltura on December 8-9 (10am to 6pm). Grab a brownie, enjoy the live music, tell Santa Claus what you’re hoping for this Christmas, and make sure to get yourself a raffle ticket with great prizes up for grabs.

Creative People in Florence Holiday Crafts Fair

The Creative People in Florence group is organizing a contemporary craft fair at Ditta Artigianale Sant’Ambrogio on December 10 and 17 (10am-5.30pm), with a festive event featuring over 20 crafters to give you plenty of handmade gift ideas, including homeware, clothes, ceramics, footwear, plants, woodwork, jewellery and illustrations.

Designs by watercolor artist Lisa Brancatisano

Female Arts in Florence Christmas Pop-Up

Female Arts in Florence presents their annual Christmas pop-up from December 1-24, with a wide range of artisanal goods creating the ideal gifts.

The22 Christmas Souk

The22

On December 16 (4-8pm), yoga, fitness and lifestyle space The22 hosts its annual Christmas Souk, a magical celebration of the holidays. A curated selection of local brands, artists, nibbles and live beats includes luxury cashmere inspired by the moon cycles, mouth-watering matcha and mystical scents.

Christmas concerts 

The Nutcracker
The Nutcracker performed by the Romanian National Opera at Teatro della Pergola

Ballerinas from the Romanian National Opera perform Tchaikovsky’s timeless classic, The Nutcracker, at Teatro della Pergola on December 23, transporting audiences to a magical winter wonderland. The festive favourite includes all the charming symbols of the season, from a Christmas tree and snowflakes to toy soldiers and sweets. Delighting audiences of all ages, Clara and the ‘Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’ will glide you into the holiday period in spectacular style. Tickets (20-56 euro) can be purchased via Box Office Toscana and TicketOne.

A Christmas Opera Gala by Fondazione Mascarade Opera at Palazzo Corsini al Prato takes place at 7pm on December 7. Audiences will be treated to Puccini’s La Bohème, ‘Stars’ from Les Miserables, Strauss’ Die Fledermaus, and many memorable works. Your ticket also gives you access to the Fondazione and Corsini gardens, weather permitting from 6pm, including a glass of wine.

On December 19 at 6.30pm, The British Institute of Florence holds a Christmas concert with readings and songs (plus mulled wine!). All are welcome.

Maggio Musicale Fiorentino hosts its Christmas concert on December 19, with the children’s choir of the Accademia del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, while Teatro Verdi takes its turn on December 24 with works by Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Dvorak starring violinist Erica Piccotti, conducted by Diego Ceretta.

Dining and wining this holiday season

The Place Firenze

The Place

The Place Firenze in piazza Santa Maria Novella offers a Christmas lunch menu that’s bound to delight, with nonna‘s antipasti, handmade tortellini, and pork belly with potato rosti and winter turnip tops, followed by classic Christmas treats like pandoro (80 euro per person, drinks excluded). The Christmas Dinner stars dishes like Calvana beef fillet Wellington-style and molten chocolate gianduia cake with cinnamon ice cream (130 euro per person, drinks excluded).

Hotel Number Nine

Enjoy a two-night stay at Hotel Number Nine, with à la carte breakfast, a welcome drink on arrival, a special gift in your room, and daily access to the spa with sauna, jacuzzi and steam rooms. A family Christmas lunch (115 euro per person) with musical entertainment celebrates the occasion in style, with the traditional Italian four-course lunch on offer from midday to 4pm.

Tenuta Ruffino Poggio Casciano

Savour a wine-filled day amid the vineyards of Tenuta Ruffino Poggio Casciano, taking in the charming historic cellars and tasting the finest Ruffino wines with holiday discounts. Mark your diaries for the Ruffino Christmas Experience with complimentary tours and tastings on December 16 and 17. It’s a charming way to stock up on gifts ahead of the holiday season. Book your Christmas Day meal at the charming on-site Tre Rane restaurant: 75 euro (95 euro with wine flight) for a Tuscan fine-dining meal.

Christmas at Hotel Savoy

Hotel Savoy

Italian artist Gianpiero D’Alessandro has worked with world-famous figures, including Justin Bieber, Cristiano Ronaldo and Stefano Gabbana. His crypto art adorns the walls of Hotel Savoy for the season with an exhibition titled Love is in the Bear and an exclusively designed series of decorations for their Christmas tree, featuring a special bear named Rocco Forte (after the hotel’s owner). The items are available for purchase with proceeds donated to the Istituto degli Innocenti Foundation.

Irene at Hotel Savoy Florence hosts candlelit dinners every Monday until February 5, with a special Christmas Eve menu created by Chef Fulvio Pierangelini that fuses traditional flavours with exciting elements like white truffle and caramelized fennel, for 95 euro per person. A Christmas Day lunch centred on delectable local ingredients is also available for 150 euro per person.

Four Seasons Florence

The Four Seasons holds a red and white charity dinner and auction (225 euro per person, wines included) on December 10 to raise funds for the Patrizio Cipollini Foundation with a truffle-based menu and musical entertainment. The five-star luxury establishment hosts its annual Open Day on December 17 from 10am to 4pm, raising funds for the Tuscan Cancer Association (TAA) and the Tuscan Hydrocephalus and Spina Bifida Association as visitors enjoy the Gherardesca gardens with themed entertainment and gourmet food stations. One euro minimum donation requested per adult. Christmas Eve and Day dinners are bound to delight, with festive brunches and afternoon teas also on offer. Don’t miss the panettone inspired by the Renaissance gardens!

Religious services

Florence’s churches and the Synagogue host English-speaking masses and celebrations this season. Find out more on where to worship.

St. Mark’s English Church (Anglican)

St Mark's English Church
St Mark’s English Church

St Mark’s English Church (Anglican) holds an Advent course at 7.30pm every Thursday until December 21, where participants watch the BBC drama The Nativity followed by a discussion and aperitivo. A festive wreath-making will be at 7pm on December 13, costing 10 euro per person with materials and aperitivo included. At 6pm on December 17, there will be Nine Lessons and a carol service led by Mark Spyropoulos, celebrated with Christingles, a memorable candle-lit moment. A Christmas Eve choral eucharist will be held 10.30am, followed by refreshments, and a Midnight Mass at 11.30pm. The Christmas Day Eucharist will be celebrated at 10.30am on December 25.

St. James Episcopal Church

St. James’ Episcopal Church, Florence

St. James Episcopal Church (via Bernardo Rucellai 9) holds a festival of Nine Lessons and carols at 11am on December 17. On December 24, the fourth Sunday of Advent mass will be at 11am, the First Mass of Christmas with choir and hymns at 6pm, and Midnight Mass with hymns at 11pm. Christmas Day Mass with hymns will be at 10am on December 25.

Santi Apostoli Roman Catholic Church

The Santi Apostoli Roman Catholic Church will have a Christmas party at 7.30pm on December 13. December 24 Mass times will be 10.15am and 5pm in English, and 11.45am and 6pm in Italian, with the 11pm Christmas Vigil Mass in both Italian and English. Christmas Day Mass in English will be at 10.15am.

Synagogue

Florence Synagogue
Florence Synagogue. Ph. Marco Badiani

Get in touch with Florence’s vibrant Jewish community for their calendar and information on guided tours of the Synagogue and museum.

Holiday highlights in Tuscany

Christmas at Castelfalfi

Natale a Castelfalfi 2023

A magical three-day event for all ages comes to Castelfalfi from December 8 to 10, when the charming village will be transformed with local crafts markets, live music, performances and delicious street food, with a cup of hot chocolate or mulled wine adding to the experience. Experience the thrill of meeting Santa Claus and his elves, and little ones can even take a pony ride in the stunning Medicean park.

Find out more about the new Castelfalfi Spa for winter relaxation.

Dievole Christmas Brunch

An atmospheric Christmas brunch at Dievole in the Chianti Classico countryside not far from Siena is ideal for pre-holiday get-togethers, with the wine shop serving great gift ideas alongside delicious dishes from 11.30am-4pm, December 10+17.

Arezzo Città del Natale

From light shows and enchanted forests to Santa himself, Arezzo is transformed into a winter wonderland from November 18 onwards, complete with a panoramic wheel and ice skating. The long list of festive activities makes this an unmissable winter line-up to add to your Christmas calendar.

And in Umbria…

Experience the magic of the season in Umbria at the new design hotel Vocabolo Moscatelli. From festive events and the ultimate New Year’s bash in the private chapel to cozy accommodation, joyful vibes are a certainty. On December 10, check out the VocMos Christmas market featuring local artists and artisans, chestnuts, vin brulé, workshops, music and wine tasting, all with free entrance. There’s a special Christmas Eve dinner with intriguing dishes like Mediterranean stew and a coconut snowball with white chocolate (80 euro per person, drinks excluded). Have a Christmas Day lunch you’ll never forget (85 euro per person, drinks excluded), with slow-cooked lamb and a bonfire in the hotel garden. December 26 sees a Christmas movie night in the chapel with popcorn and mulled wine, while a New Year’s Eve dinner and party in the chapel is followed by an all-day breakfast on January 1. To get the full experience, make a note of the Suite Life winter package for stays until December 28, including a festive welcome drink, holiday-themed welcome amenities, fire pit experience, and even the possibility of truffle hunting.

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