Last updated on December 6.
The big pro of a city trip to Florence during the winter months is that there are far fewer tourists and you can experience the city in an authentic way as the locals do. Of course, the city is not completely deprived of tourists, Florence doesn’t have a low season, but compared to the super busy summer months, the winter offers a welcome respite.
Winter in Florence
Florence is protected by the surrounding hills, and the winters are generally mild. The temperature doesn’t start to decrease until November and although the nights can be chilly with temperatures below 10°C, the day temperature is pleasant and can reach even 15°C until the second half of the month. December, January, and February are the coldest months with night temperatures as low as a freezing 0°C. Rain falls mostly in the last two months of the year. Snow can usually be found in the surrounding hills and mountains, but the chance to spend a white Christmas in Florence is quite small.
Do not take an example from the Italians how warm you should dress; they put on their winter coat mid-November regardless of the temperature. Better pack various types of clothes and dress in layers. Do not forget to bring a good pair of walking shoes, the center of Florence is relatively small and all the sights are well within walking distance.
Museums and churches
Winter is the ideal time to visit the many museums and churches of Florence. Because there are far fewer tourists during this period, you can enjoy the overwhelming amount of art and treasures without having to wait in line for hours. Still, it is wise to make reservations online for popular museums such as the Uffizi and the Accademia in advance, so you do not run the risk that there is still is a line and you can enter directly without having to wait.
If you want to climb the dome of the famous Duomo of Florence, a reservation is mandatory. Entrance to the cathedral itself is free. With the same ticket which costs € 15 you can visit the museum of the Duomo, climb the dome and Giotto’s Bell Tower, visit the crypt in the cathedral and baptistery.
For the true museum fanatics, there is the Firenze Card that allows you to visit as many as 72 museums, churches, and monuments in 72 hours.
Please note that the museums are closed on December 25, some, however, are open on 1 January. Each museum has its own weekly closing day, there is no rule for that, better check online if the museum you want to visit is open that day. The first Sunday of the month, the municipal and state museums are free for everyone.
Christmas tree and Nativity scene
On December 8 at 6 pm, the lights will be lit in the big Christmas tree on Piazza Duomo in the presence of Mayor Nardella and accompanied by a performance of the famous flag-wavers Bandierai degli Uffizi. Near the Christmas tree on the square in front of the cathedral, you’ll also find a Nativity scene with life-size figures made of terracotta. Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus are handmade in a pottery in Impruneta, the terracotta region of Tuscany. The nativity crib remains empty until Christmas Eve when the terracotta baby is placed inside.
You can attend the Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve or the mass on Christmas morning in most Florentine churches. In the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (the Duomo), theMidnight Mass led by the cardinal will be celebrated at 11 pm. The celebration of Mass on Christmas morning begins at 10:30 am and coincides with the blessing of the Pope.
For the English midnight mass and Christmas service you can go to St. Mark’s English Church in Via Maggio 16.
On January 6 the colorful procession of the Epiphany celebration winds its way through the historic center of Florence. The Three Wise Men on horseback lead the long parade with 700 extras that starts at 2 pm from Piazza Pitti and ends on Piazza Duomo where the procession is expected around 3:30 pm. At the nativity scene, the Three Wise Men will honor the baby Jesus with gifts.
The German-style Weihnachtsmarkt on Piazza Santa Croce is the most famous Christmas Market in Florence. From November 30 until December 21 you can taste typical German delicacies as bratwurst, strudel and mulled wine, and also specialties from other European countries such as England, Austria, Greece and Hungary. Furthermore, many stalls with Christmas decorations, pottery, trinkets, and decorations. The Light Gospel Choir performs on Saturday, December 10th at 4 pm and on December 11 at 10:30 am there is a performance by the famous Florentine flag wavers the Bandierai degli Uffizi.
Weihnachtsmarkt – Piazza Santa Croce | November 30 – December 21 | 10:00 am to 22:00 pm
Fierucola dell’Immacolata – Piazza SS. Annunziata | 8 December | 9:00 am – 20:00 pm
Fierucola di Natale – Piazza S. Spirito | 18 December | 9:00 am – 19:00 pm
Video impression of the Weihnachtsmarkt with snowy special effects.
Charity Christmas Markets
For the 14th time, Palazzo Corsini hosts the popular Christmas market in the historic 17th century building overlooking the Arno. The beautiful location alone makes this charity Christmas market worth a visit. There are over 60 stands with clothing, accessories, jewelry, candles, perfumes, cosmetics, delicacies, wine, and more. Entrance is free. The Christmas market proceeds are donated to the Foundation for Palliative Care.
Palazzo Corsini – Lungarno Corsini 8 | December 1: 6.30 pm – 9.30 pm |December 3 and 4: 10:00 am – 7:00 pm
At yearly Christmas Bazaar of the AILO (American International League of Florence ONLUS) that takes place on December 10 and 11 you’ll find accessories, baked goods, books, Clothes, handmade/Christmas decorations, jams/jellies, jewelry, lottery, lucky dip, silent Auction, tapestry, toys, vintage and White Elephant. The proceeds Christmas market are donated to local charities.
Convitto della Calza | Piazza Della Calza 6 | December 10 (3.30pm – 7pm) and December 11 (10.30am – 7pm)
The Creative Factory Xmas Edition will be held at the Museum Bellini this year, which houses one of the most important private art collections in the world with more than 11,000 pieces, ranging from Roman times to the 18th century. In addition to the Christmas market with lots of handmade Christmas goodies several workshops for children and adults, guided tour of the museum, snacks and a lottery to raise money for the regions affected by the recent earthquakes.
Museum Bellini | Lungarno Soderini 5 | 10 – December 11 | 10: 30 am – 8: 30 pm
The Four Seasons Hotel in Florence opens its doors on December 18 for the annual open house and Christmas market, this year’s proceeds will be donated towards a school bus for the children of the village Cittareale which was hit by a massive earthquake on August 24. At the Christmas market, you will find tasty snacks, all kinds of Christmas decorations and gift ideas for all ages. At 11:30 am Santa Claus is expected. Entrance € 1.
Four Seasons Hotel – Borgo Pinti 97 | December 18 | 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
New Year’s Eve
All kinds of parties are organized on the last night of the year in discotheques, clubs, restaurants and bars; there is live music on many squares in the center. A big party takes place for the first time this year on the hill overlooking the center on Piazzale Michelangelo with a free live show by the famous singer Marco Mengoni. Other squares where you can toast the New Year are Piazza della Signoria, Piazza San Lorenzo and Piazza del Carmine.
Firenze Light Festival
The lighting of the lights of the Christmas tree on December 8 also kicks off the Firenze Light Festival. Until January 8, 2017, there will be light shows, projections and video mapping on several top locations in the city. Once again the Ponte Vecchio will form the canvas for a spectacular video mapping show while on churches, historic buildings and towers projections will be shown.
Watch an impression of last year’s Light Festival.
Do not be surprised if you encounter an old witch handing out candy to the children on January 6. In Italian folklore, the Befana is an old woman who brings gifts and sweets to the children on the eve of Epiphany. This feminine version of Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus is usually portrayed as a kind of good witch with a black scarf and a flying broomstick.
Theater and film
Medici Dynasty Show
The Medici Dynasty Show is an English-language 60-minute theater production about the history of Florence’s most prominent family, the Medici. Travel back in time to June 24, 1737, and meet Gian Gastone and Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici, the two last remaining descendants of the family that ruled Florence more than three centuries. The brother and sister look back with nostalgia and humor at the highs and lows in their family history without trying to attempt to hide their love-hate relationship. The beautiful backdrop of the show consists of the baroque church of the former convent in Via Faenza 48.
Even if you do not speak Italian, you can still go to the cinema in Florence. Every week Cinema Odeon on Piazza Strozzi shows a different film in the original language (English) with Italian subtitles. For December Nocturnal Animals, Sully and Rogue One are on the program.
In December the shops in the city center (and beyond) are open every day until December 25th.
The best (handmade) Christmas presents and souvenirs can be found in the Oltrarno neighborhood on the south bank of the Arno, where you can find many small shops and craft workshops.