Florence in winter: what to do and where to eat
From the magic of Christmas to the winter sales, here are the reasons to visit the city at this time of year
Who said that Florence is enchanting only during the summer? Her magic surrounds and fascinates visitors at any time of the year, and winter is full of its own scents, colors and ideas to experience it to the full. The Tuscan landscape is dotted with snowy peaks in the distance, the bars and cafes downtown serve steaming hot chocolate and tea at any time of day and the scent of roasted chestnuts warms the air in every alley. In December the Christmas holidays illuminate the streets and squares with lights and colours, stores create magical Christmas display windows, followed by fun carnival themed evenings in February. Winter brings an even more lively, real, regal air to the city, it is less crowded and noisy, and is the perfect time to visit with fewer tourists. One of the best times to visit it is undoubtedly between December and January, when red, yellow and orange Christmas lights give it an even more fairytale charm. Wear comfortable shoes, stroll through the streets, and remember to keep looking up and be amazed. The Ferris wheel looms in the sky above the city.
Between one Christmas tree and nativity scene and another, you can look for gifts at the Weihnachtsmarkt, the German Christmas market located in Piazza Santa Croce, where wooden chalets also offer tastes of delicious North European specialties. Do not miss the shopping streets par excellence, Via de’ Tornabuoni, Via degli Strozzi and Via della Vigna Nuova, home to the boutiques of top name fashion and jewellery designers, and the most gorgeous decorations during the festive season.
If it's too cold outside, take the opportunity to see the beautiful Anish Kapoor exhibition at Palazzo Strozzi, or the Cecily Brown exhibition at the Museo Novecento (Here you can see all the must-see exhibitions in the city at this time). You can also fight the cold with a thick, tasty hot chocolate at Rivoire in Piazza della Signoria, a landmark since 1872 for chocolate lovers, or at Caffè Gilli, an historic, evocative cafe opened in 1733, and a meeting place in the 1900s for writers, intellectuals and artists of the day, where you can enjoy made in Tuscany chocolate, obtained from the best single-origin cocoa. Iginio Massari’s iconic maritozzo, or cream-filled brioche-style bun, at the new pastry shop inVia de’ Vecchietti, is a tempting treat before a show at the theatre (Here are all the other cafés in the city centre to try).
From Teatro della Pergola to Maggio Musicale Fiorentino,Teatro Puccini and Teatro Verdi, shows and ballets follow one after the other in a whirl of events that add even more art and delight to a stay in Florence. January is also sales time – lights and decorations may be put away at Epiphany, but that doesn’t stop the festive feeling or the inclination for shopping. Every store is ready to put its best offers on display: clothes, bags and flashy accessories that were unobtainable dreams finally become purchasable reality.
Between one shopping trip and the next, don’t miss the sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo, in winter it is even more incredible. The horizon is tinged with that romantic orange-red color, and the city’s ethereal beauty is shown at its best. The magic of winter continues on Sundays in February, coloured by confetti, streamers and the laughter of children. It is Carnival time, time for pancakes, masked parties and merriment, because even winter in Florence can offer moments of carefree joy.