If you're fortunate enough to be in Tuscany's capital city during Christmastime, you'll be happy to know that there are plenty of events to occupy your time. From festivals and musicals to art exhibitions and plenty of decorations, the holidays in Florence doesn't leave anyone wanting. These are some of my recollections from the Christmastime of 2007 during our year of living in Florence.
Just after Halloween we began to see the stores putting up new window displays and the toy store that is next door to our apartment has a great display with a snow machine and miniature village that attracts crowds throughout the day. A couple times I've even had to push my way through just to put my key in our outside door. Then a few weeks later we started seeing city workers with their large ladders putting up Christmas lights across many of the streets in the center. I kept wondering when they would finally turn them on, and then finally at the end of November we saw the first ones lit! All the streets then followed suit, especially Via Calzaiuoli (the main shopping street between the Duomo and Piazza Signoria) finally gleamed with thousands and thousands of little sparkles. So for a couple months, our evening walks are filled with beautiful Christmas lights, holiday store windows, and the occasional Christmas song coming from a street musician or cafe.
During the first week of December there was a a German Christmas festival in the square at Santa Croce, one of the most famous churches in town. It was full of sausage, pastries, cheeses, candy, toys, and lights! We went one evening and had a fun time browsing at the stalls, and because this market was held for another week or so, we returned again because I had had my eyes on some tasty-looking donut creations! There is even a cafe on a merry-go-round - that, fortunately for those stuffing big Wurstel in their mouths, doesn't move! but instead is used as a creative outdoor table seating area.
There are seasonal fare that starts popping up around the city, one of our favorites being castagne (chestnuts). We enjoyed these quite a bit during the season since the vendors around town set up small stands on the streets and sell bags of roasted chestnuts to passerbys who are drawn in by the tempting aroma. Many of the restaurants display baskets of this nut in their windows and even gelaterias showcase the whole fruit outside as well to advertise the flavor of the month. There are also many Marron Glace' (candied chestnut) in several of the specialty cafes'.
Lighted Christmas trees show up all around the town - in store windows, private apartments, and public squares. The most famous is in Piazza della Repubblica. We were there for the lighting ceremony of the big "albero di Natale" (Christmas tree)...complete with thousands of lights, a kids choir, balloon artists, Father Christmas, hot chocolate, and LOTS & LOTS of people.
From November to February, there are so many holiday events that take place organized by the non-profit cultural group, Inverno a Firenze (Winter in Florence). Many events are free of charge, as was an Opera Gala and Wine Tasting we attended. It was so nice to get dressed up, and enjoy an evening out - and the music was absolutely wonderful...selections from La Triviata by G. Verdi performed by a soprano, tenor, and pianist.
So, as you can see - just a stroll around Florence during this season is bound to contain many fun surprises and events in which you can participate! It's a lovely, active, and beautiful time.