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December 15, 2017

Xmas in Tuscany

Between city and mountains, where to go during the festivities

Raise your eyes. You will once again feel like little children who get excited when they see so many lights and decorations. It may be cold but during the Christmas season Tuscany takes on a bright sparkling look that makes it warmer and more magical. Our region is so beautiful when it dresses up for the holiday period: the shopping streets sparkle, and the roads of the old towns are colored with decorated fir trees. And for a top-notch Christmas, take to the mountains for the snow covered slopes where you can even meet Santa Claus in the flesh on his reindeer-drawn sleigh.
So here is a guide to the must-see cities and places, selected based on the spacial events dedicated to Christmas.
I may be the lights and candles that give Florence its holiday feel but the lights seen from above from Piazzale Michelangelo, at this time of the year, are something magical. It is something that we discover upon entering the tangle of Christmas illuminations that decorate the shopping streets, in the triangle between Via Calzaiuoli, Via degli Speziali and Via del Corso. The entire fashion quadrilateral is festively decorated and the window dressings of the great names of fashion stand out. The traditional Christmas tree lit up in Piazza Duomo the afternoon of December 8 with the performance by the Bandierai degli Uffizi, a 14-meter tall fir tree dotted with many red lilies, is a spectacle for both the young and the old, in the shadow of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, of Giotto’s Bell Tower and of the Baptistery. Along the same theme, a Christmas itinerary through the treasures of Florence must include the Magi Chapel in Palazzo Medici Riccardi with the fresco cycle by Benozzo Gozzoli.
But you also can’t miss the emotion of breathing in the Christmas air in the major hotels around the city, adorned with their decorations. Enjoy a break from patiently searching for your gifts to put under the Christmas tree as you sip on a vanilla-perfumed hot chocolate or an English tea with scones, cakes, canapés and macarons.
The city of the Palio is always splendid but at Christmas it is even more beautiful. Among the walls, towers and ancient gates, it seems that here the clock of history stopped in the Middle Ages. Every year, in early December, a majestic spruce is lit up in the central Piazza Salimbeni with many, many cards hanging from the tree, while the magnificent Piazza del Campo becomes the frame for the Mercato del Campo market (the 2017 edition falls on December 2-3) for a dip into the 14th century surrounded by the history, crafts and flavors of the region. Many religious ceremonies are celebrated in the Duomo where on December 22, the newly founded “Guido Chigi Saracini” Choir of the Siena Cathedral will hold a concert. From the pulpit in Nicola Pisano to the Piccolomini library with its frescoes by Pinturicchio, the Duomo is a treasure chest of precious works. Every year in Siena the Christmas billboard has many activities for kids with the Christmas Village in the La Lizza gardens and with the Siena Francigena Kids for ‘baby walkers’. The Sienese Christmas has delicious aromas of spices, almonds, honey, sugar and marshmallows: we are in the paradise of the panforte and the ricciarelli and the window displays of the most popular pastries shops remind you of this as you walk along Via Banchi di Sopra, Via di Città, Via dei Termini and Via Montanini .
It is the square that is the symbol of the city that gave birth to the great Petrarch that, on the first weekend of every month hosts the Antiques Fair. Until 1 January 2018, Piazza Grande will become the ideal stage for the typical Advent markets in Northern-European style. In Arezzo Christmas becomes a spectacle with 220 events and 12 squares involved, from the tour-train through the streets of the historic center to the elves’ laboratory of the Fortezza. The Christmas itinerary also becomes an opportunity to discover the famous cycle of frescoes by Piero della Francesca and to take a break for the Christmas shopping season and bring home maybe an original souvenir from among the Valdichiana ceramics, the Casentino fabrics of the Sansepolcro lace.
Val di Luce and Amiata
Traditions and ancient rites, enchanted castles, popular songs and music: these are the ingredients of Christmas on Monte Amiata from Arcidosso where every year Natale di Luce takes center stage to Abbadia San Salvatore, which becomes La Città delle Fiaccole. It is at the beginning of December that the construction of the torches begins in the historical center of Amiatino, typical stacks of wood that are burned on the evening of 24 December. For those who want a ‘white’, a trip to Val di Luce is a must where on 29 December there is the torch-lit procession by the ski instructors and on 4 January the torch-lit procession for the guests. And on Christmas day Santa Claus comes directly to the snow-covered slopes with his sleigh. 


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