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What to see and Do in December and during the Christmas holidays in Florence

The Christmas atmosphere in Florence, as in many Italian cities, starts in early December. During the first days of the month, in fact, storekeepers begin to decorate their shop windows inspired by the theme of Christmas and the staff of the municipality of Florence begins to place the traditional decorative lighting along the city streets.

presepe in Piazza del Duomo

FEAST OF THE IMMACOLATA - DECEMBER 8

December 8 in Italy is a National holiday that celebrates the Immaculate Conception. This day of festivity unofficially starts the countdown to Christmas as many families traditionally use this day to set up and decorate their Christmas tree and Nativity scene in their homes, although that tradition is changing.

Exactly on December 8 the large Christmas tree set up in the magnificent setting of Piazza del Duomo is turned on.... but not this year! The lighting took place on the 7th (we learned that later), in order to surprise us and not have too many turn up and create crowds. The lighting up of the Christmas tree is accompanied by an official public ceremony with the participation of Florence's mayor and other events, such as concerts and entertainment.

Also in Piazza del Duomo you'll find the Nativity scene set up in front of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. The Nativity has life-size beautiful statues made in terracotta by an artisan of Impruneta, a small town outside of Florence famous for their production of terracotta home and garden items.

Both the Christmas tree and the Nativity scene are up until January 6, the day of the Epiphany.

The Uffizi and Accademia Gallery are generally open on December 8.

F-LIGHT, THE FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS

The Festival of Lights - F-Light - takes off on December 8th! It starts with the lighting of the Christmas trees in Palazzo Vecchio and in front of the Duomo. Then, for an entire month, the city's monuments and piazzas in Florence are illuminated with video-mapping, projections and other "light" games as part of a holiday event that has become quite important for its type across Europe.

The 2021 edition is titled "Reflections: Where we are, Where we are going" and everyday from 5.30pm to midnight the city is lit up thanks to many artistic light projects. This includes a video-mapping on Ponte Vecchio, a monumental projection on the theme of "reflections".

There are many monuments and locations across the center of Florence that are part of the festival, from the Galileo Museum to Piazza San Lorenzo, from the Chamber of Commerice to Piazza SS Annunziata, to the towers and old gates of the city and to suburbs. In addition to the tree in Piazza del Duomo, in 2021 there are five more trees in the historical center, from Palazzo Vecchio to Piazza della Repubblica, from Piazzale Michelangelo to San Lorenzo and Piazza San Firenze.

There are over 200 trees covered with over 60km of LED Christmas lights across the city, from the "viali di circonvallazione" to the streets in the outer residential neighborhoods.

CHRISTMAS MARKETS AND SHOPPING

Many Christmas markets take place in Florence and the surroundings in the weeks before Christmas (especially during the weekends). Here you'll find gifts of various kinds, from furnishings, food, and wine.

mercatino di Natale in Santa Croce

The biggest Christmas market in Florence is located in Piazza Santa Croce, and generally goes from the second part of November to a few days before Christmas. It draws on the tradition of German Christmas markets, with the traditional small wooden houses serving as stands, and offers different items from crafts to food products, small pieces of furniture and Christmas decorations. There are both foreign and Italian exhibitors.

In 2021, the Christmas market runs from the 20th of November to 19th of December, from 10 am to 10 pm.

Those that love walking the streets and shopping will find shops open every day until Christmas, both in the historical center and in the outskirts.

Among the traditional markets of the period, you can visit the Fierucola dell'Immacolata (Small Fair of the Immaculate) organized in Piazza SS Annunziata on the 8th of December.

You will also find many smaller Christmas markets in the different neighborhoods of the historical center, mainly organized on the weekends.

If you're going to visit the surroundings of Florence, you'll find many smaller Christmas markets and fairs in the Mugello area, but also in many towns across Chianti and in Fiesole. Read our article on Christmas markets in Florence and Tuscany for a more complete list.

FUN HOLIDAY ACTIVITIES

This year the heart of these activities are centerer around the Piazza da Basso where you will find the Florence Ice Village with a colorful, bright and 55 meter high Ferris wheel and the longest skating rink in Europe (300 meters). In the area all around the gardens you will find the Christmas village with food and other stands offering lots of ideas for gifts. You can find more daily information on their Facebook page.

The ice skating track is open every day from December 4th to January 16th from 10am to 11.45pm, while the village is open from 10am to 8pm Saturday and Sunday and 3pm to 8pm Monday to Friday. Paid entrance to the rink and Ferris wheel, skates can be rented on site.

In Piazza della Signoria and Piazza San Firenze you can enjoy Christmas music offered by the Andrea Bocelli Foundation from December 7 through January 6.

In Piazza della Repubblica, from December 11 through the 24th, you can find the "Christmas House" operated by the Meyer Children's Hospital to raise funds for charitable activities. On December 11, 12, 18 and 19, the Santas will be at the Cooperative of the Legnaia together with the Vinai Mati with a show for families.

On Sunday, December 12 at 11am head to Piaza della Signoria to witness nine elves and Santa Claus descend from the top of Palazzo Vecchio and unroll a 12x2 meter long banner and land on the front of Palazzo Vecchio (show offered by Confcommercio and Edilizia Acrobatica).

On December 15, Mayor Nardella will preside over the traditional holiday ceremony from the city, from the Salone dei Cinquecento in Palazzo Vecchio at 6 pm, with the performance of the ReMuto rhythmic symphonic orchestra and the Corteo Storico of the Florentine Republic.

On Sunday, December 19, you can head to the Hard Rock Cafe in Florence where you can find the best looking Santa in Florence available for photos! From 5-7pm.

albero di natale in piazza del duomo

RELIGIOUS CELEBRATIONS

Those who wish to attend Mass on Christmas Eve and Day may find celebrations in most of the churches of Florence and beyond.

In the Cathedral of Florence, the traditional Christmas Eve Mass is celebrated by the Cardinal of Florence at midnight (Vigil prayers start at 11pm). On Christmas morning, Mass is celebrated at 10:30am, in conjunction with the Pope's blessing in Rome.

giardino di Boboli

MUSEUMS OPEN DURING CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS

Museums in Florence are generally only closed on December 25th and January 1st, in addition to their usual closing day (on Mondays for the Uffizi and Accademia).

You can find additional information on the planned openings of Florence's major museums during the Christmas holidays here.

concerto di capodanno

NEW YEAR’S EVE 2022 *** CONFIRMED EVENTS CANCELLED ***

New Year's Eve in Florence is generally celebrated across several of the main squares of the city with concerts of various kinds, from classical music (in Piazza della Signoria) to Gospel (in Piazza Santissima Annunziata) and other events in other piazzas. 

For this year's New Year's eve, there will be NO big concert, but many events in 7 squares in Florence to celebrate 2022 in safety (mask wearing will be required) and to avoid creating any large crowds.

The program is to include musical concerts, circus shows and other entertainment for the entire family, including children: the events will spread across the historical center and the suburbs. After last year's stop, the city has announced the return this year of New Year's Eve events but we don't yet have a definitive program.

The general idea we know so far is this: in the historical center, three piazzas will hold events. Piazza Signoria will have acrobatic circus shows, plays with light shows, projections and music while Piazza Santissima Annunziata will host, as is tradition, a Gospel musical concert.

Piazza del Carmine will host jazz notes and a marching musical band will enliven the evening by moving around the streets of the Oltrarno.

The New Year's Eve 2022 program will also bring life to 4 piazzas in the residential areas outside of the main city center. The four squares will be Piazza delle Cure, Piazza Bartali, Piazza dell’Isolotto and the outdoor spaces of the San Donato shopping center in Novoli.

UPDATE: We have unfortunately received confirmation that these events in the piazzas are cancelled. It seems that private events can go on, as long as Covid measures are adopted. I'll update soon with more details on those.

cavalcata dei Magi

EPIPHANY

On January 6, the day of the Epiphany, the Catholic Church celebrates the arrival of the Magi to Bethlehem and the delivery of their gifts to baby Jesus. In Italy, it is a feast day and most shops are closed.

Florence celebrates the Epiphany with the "Cavalcade of the Magi", a grand parade in the historical center which evokes the journey of the Magi and the delivery of the gifts to baby Jesus, arriving to the Nativity scene set up in front of the Duomo in Piazza del Duomo. The reenactment, in magnificent costume, involves many people from all over Italy and is a traditional and special event we recommend you see if you are in town. You can find more information and beautiful photos of the event in the Cavalcade of the Magi here. The procession was cancelled in 2021 and I have just found confirmation that it is cancelled for 2022 as well :-(. *** PROCESSION CANCELLED FOR 2022 ***

Also on the 6th at 11am, you can head to piazza della Repubblica to see the Befane descend from both the arc and the Rinascente store, a show offered by Confcommercio and Edilizia Acrobatica. Don't know who the Befana is?? ;-)

If you're in Florence during the Christmas holidays, you should also visit the marvelous Chapel of the Magi frescoed by Benozzo Gozzoli inside Palazzo Medici Riccardi. It is a small, precious frescoed chapel in the palazzo which traces the journey of the Three Wise Men. It is, of course, open all year, but in this season it is a must-see considering the theme!

LAST UPDATE: 22 dicembre 2021

We make every effort to offer correct and up to date information, but please double check on the official websites we link to before finalizing your visit to ensure there haven't been any changes in the meantime!

Did you find an error? Let us know so we can correct it, thank you!


Author: Lourdes Flores

I'm from California but have called Florence my home for over a decade. I love to explore Italy; it is a lot of fun to try to see everything like I'm seeing it for the first time, keeping you, our readers, always in mind. I enjoy sharing what I know and helping others as they make their travel plans for Tuscany through our Forum. If you have itinerary-related questions, please post them there!



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