Things To Do in Florence in Winter | Christmas & New Year’s

Give yourself the gift of travel with a holiday vacation to Tuscany. Our winter itinerary includes Christmas lights and markets, beautiful weather and tasty traditions.


Festive in Florence for the Holidays

Is Christmas a good time to visit Florence?

The holiday season is a time to bring family and friends together, to share old memories and make new ones, and for the travel-minded, a chance to gather around a blazing fireplace inside a centuries old Tuscan villa in the countryside near Florence. Surrounded by holiday decorations, with an ever-ample flow of good wine and locally produced delicacies to enjoy, a spirited seasonal celebration in Tuscany may be just what you’ve been waiting for.

We find all of Tuscany to be captivating in winter, with an inviting, “treat you like family” atmosphere. But its heartbeat, the vibrant city of Florence, feels decidedly different from the high season of summer when crowds of tourists fill every cafe and bar. During the holidays, the city is bustling with more locals than tourists and, as is the Italian way, massive Christmas light displays and wooden, hand-carved holiday decorations fill shop windows and city squares with something to marvel at, at every turn. In some of Florence’s family-owned businesses, these decorations have been passed down and added to for generations. There are life size nativity scenes made of terracotta and more than 200 Christmas trees dotting the city for passersby to enjoy.

The entire holiday season from Thanksgiving through New Year’s—is arguably the most magical time of all to vacation in Florence and Tuscany. Experiencing the holidays against the backdrop of charming hilltowns like Castellina in Chianti can make traditions like Christmas lights, music and decorations feel renewed with wonder.

Winter Weather in Tuscany

It’s a common misconception that the weather makes it a bad season for seeing the sights. With average daily temperatures in the mid to high 50’s, and mostly sunny skies, it’s just the right crisp and cool weather to bring out your best layering pieces and boots and stroll the cobblestone alleyways stopping off for a cup or two of vin brulé, a hot red wine spiced with scents of the season like allspice, orange and vanilla.

While we can’t promise anything, you may get a beautiful flurry of snow towards the end of December that turns the whole city and countryside into a giant snow globe, just like the one your grandmother told you not to touch as a child. While snows are certainly possible, they never last long this time of year and pose no travel risk. The later winter months are the time for heavier snows; December is more in line with the cool, fall weather of the American midwest.

Winter Shopping: Italian Leather and Cashmere

When considering what to pack for your winter in Florence, we highly recommend an empty suitcase along with your sweaters, jeans and jackets. The thrill of the hunt through Christmas markets for custom designer Florentine leather jackets, gloves and handbags and regionally produced cashmere sweaters and scarves is something that brings tourists from all over Europe And the United States back year after year for the holidays.

Did we mention this season happens to be the best time to purchase? Black Friday-like sales on leather and cashmere make bringing a trunkful of handmade designer pieces home possible and you’ll still have plenty of room for some truly heartwarming gifts that will make the family Christmas feel like Santa came again.

A Chianti Christmas: Winter Cuisine in Italy

Holiday meals in Italy are tasty and traditional, and yes, you will find turkey, (tacchino in Italian), widely available for your Thanksgiving feast. Roasted seasonal vegetables with fresh herbs and truffles make a perfect pairing with the region’s Super Tuscans–Bordeaux style red wine cuvées of non indigenous grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cab Franc, blended with or without Tuscany’s star Sangiovese–from wine houses of note like Sassicaia and Ornellaia.

Christmas tables are set with platters of rich roast pork dishes and in the place of honor, right in the center, sits the queen of lasagna, Crespelle alla Fiorentina. Delicate crepes layered with ricotta cheese and spinach soaking up a rich bechamel sauce that feels like luxury itself.

Tuscany’s holiday celebrations extend well beyond Florence, south toward Greve and Siena, and into every town and village along the way. Visitors are often welcomed with comforting bowls of piping hot Ribollita—a deliciously hearty soup of cabbage and beans—as well as game meat entrees.

New Year’s celebrations aren’t complete without indulging in dishes of handmade sausages and lentils, symbolizing wishes for prosperity not unlike America’s tradition of eating black-eyed peas and greens. For toasts to the old and welcoming of the New Year ahead, be sure to include glasses of a well-chilled Prosecco on your menu.

Sweets of every flavor, color and texture fill the windows and booths in the cities. We all have our favorites - the first bite of the chewy, nut-filled Torrone signals the start of the holidays for many on staff at our villa. Others favor slices of chocolatey dried fruit-stuffed Panforte di Siena. Panettone, an unusually light (and wildly tall) fruitcake, that isn’t heavy like its American counterpart–is a venerable part of Tuscan and Italian culture during the holiday season, presented in colorful wrapping with generous bows and brought as gifts to meals with friends and family alike. It would take many a cookbook to fully explain the breadth and complexity of Italian holiday fare but these are a few of our favorites to get you started.

Things to do In Italy in December: A Winter itinerary

If it sounds like a storybook, you’re imagining it correctly. At the start of November, the whole region transforms into something right out of a classic Christmas card.  

Wooden booths covered in evergreen branches and twinkling lights line major walkways and pedestrian zones. The whole city smells like a freshly cut Christmas tree. These stalls or Christmas markets as they are known in Europe,  bring in some of the area’s finest craftsmen, bakers, glass blowers, wood and leather workers to sell trinkets, sweet treats, hand painted Christmas ornaments and artisanal goods. Forget Macy’s, this is the best holiday gift shopping experience you will ever have.

Behind the market booths the discerning shopper will discover a host of world-renowned designer boutiques with  clothing, shoes, jewelry and home decor items you will never find anywhere else. Visitors looking for a premium experience often choose to enlist the assistance of a local shopping concierge who will help curate a selection of luxury finds to bring home as cherished memories of their visit.

Holiday Festival in Florence 2023

The highlight of the season is Florence’s Festival of Lights. Also known as The Green Line,this month- long spectacle runs from early December 2023 through the Epiphany on January 6th, 2024. The holiday festival features nightly light shows with artistic video mappings cast against the Ponte Vecchio, the Palazzo Vecchio and monuments around the city. Visitors of all ages will enjoy the spirit of the season coupled with dazzling technology during this uniquely Florentine experience.

Rejuvenate with Thermal Spa's

Thermal spas, called terme, are located throughout the region and offer a peaceful escape from the typical Christmas hustle and bustle. These natural hot springs are considered essential to the holistic Tuscan mindset and help melt away the stresses of the past year. You can also choose to rejuvenate after a long day of shopping and site seeing at a man-made terme, or spa treatment center, offering a wide range of therapeutic massages and facials.

A select few villa’s in the region offer on-site spa amenities and scheduled massage and facial therapies. On site amenities can include options like a 10-person whirlpool, Finlandia dry sauna, and Turkish steam bath —an ideal way to wind down after a day of traversing leather shops, Christmas markets and other holiday happenings across the region.

Religious Services at Christmas in Italy

For the predominantly Catholic Italian citizens, the holidays are a deeply spiritual time and there are many beautiful cathedrals and churches available for services, tours or concerts. Churches offering masses in English are plentiful  throughout the region for visiting Catholics and celebrations of the season leading up to Christmas Eve.

St Mark’s English Church hosts an afternoon of crafts for children and a Christmas tree lighting event in early December and later in the month, a traditional Christmas carol service with the St Mark’s choir– followed by mince pies and mulled wine—in addition to their Christmas Eve and Christmas Day masses. For visitors celebrating Hanukkah, Comunita Ebraica Firenze hosts daily services.

With so much to see, hear and taste, winter—and the entire holiday season—offers visitors to the city of Florence and its bucolic Tuscan countryside an undeniably magical vacation experience.