Festive Florence in December

Hello friends! How are you? Did you have a good Christmas break? I absolutely love these days in-between Christmas and New Year’s – made for lounging in your comfy pants, eating leftovers, and watching alllll the movies. We’ve been doing plenty of that, while also fitting in lots of time with families and loved ones. It’s the best time of year, and I love every single second of it. I’m dropping in today for just the briefest of moments to share this: Florence in December. A quick recap about our trip to the Tuscan capital two short weeks ago. I had intended on posting this before Christmas to get us all in the mood, but then life happened. We got stuck in Italy for an extra few days, I was behind on my Christmas gifting, my self-inflicted job got in the way, etc. etc. Better late than never, right?

I might sound like a broken record, but there is already a couple Florence travel guides on the blog. Florence is my absolute favourite spot in all of Italy – followed closely by Bologna – and I find it hard not to share new discoveries here when I get home. That is more true today than ever before, because this is the first time I’ve been able to experience Florence in the wintertime, and gosh it is so magical. Before our trip, I had no idea what to expect from Florence in December, but I was truly blown away by how festive the entire city was! Fiancé & I tried our very best to capture a tiny portion of that magic through these photos, and so, in order to let the images speak for themselves, I’ve made a concerted effort to keep my recommendations brief and to the point. Enjoy, friends!

PS! All of my old guides are updated and fact-checked regularly, so they’re all still as relevant today as they were the day they were published. If you’d like to read them: Italian Adventures in Florence / An Ode to Florence / Three days in Florence.

Festive Florence in December
Festive Florence in December


Florence in December
Festive Florence in December

before you visit

Just a few things to keep in mind if you’re thinking of visiting Florence in December!

Festive Florence in December

• the weather is unpredictable. It rained rained rained all day every day of our long weekend in the city. As someone who genuinely enjoys a good downpour of rain, this didn’t bother me, but it might not be what you want.

• related: even when it stopped raining for brief periods, the nooks & crannies of the charming old Florentine cobblestones perfectly held any of the rainfall that came their way previously. We ended up with a wet foot or two during our time walking around. You have been warned.

• aside from the rain, it was actually a little cold! I think the weather dropped to something like 6C – how joyous! It was so nice to be able to be in my favourite city, wearing a nice cozy jumper, and to not be sweating. Who even knew you could visit Florence without sweating?! A true dream!

Festive Florence in December
Festive Florence in December

getting there

We actually had a rather nightmarish time getting into Florence this time ’round, but here’s the details anyways:

Festive Florence in December

• we flew direct from Dublin to Pisa with Ryanair, which normally takes about 2.5-hours. We had done this in the past and it has always been totally fine, but this time we were subjected to horrible HORRIBLE travel delays. On the day of our flight, Dublin was doused with a light layer of ice/frost, and, unsurprisingly, the airport only had one working de-icer and was barely able to handle the pressure. We were moved around the airport countless times and delayed by 5+ hours – but at least our flight wasn’t cancelled.

• when we did finally arrive in Pisa, it was after 1am. I was mentally prepared to sleep in the train station overnight, but we somehow lucked out & managed to get a bus from the airport directly into Florence’s Santa Maria Novella Train Station! The company was called Sky Bus Lines Caronna, and it was €25 per person, one way. I believe they might wait for the last flight of the night to arrive, because we managed to get onboard despite arriving a good 30-minutes after their scheduled departure. The bus took approx 1-hour to get into Florence.

Festive Florence in December
Festive Florence in December

where we stayed

Leonardo Tourist House // never not staying here – especially when we book early enough to get the room with the en suite. No frills, basic, but with an absolutely unbeatable location, and a very friendly manager/owner. Would recommend. Address: Via del Trebbio, 4, 50123 Firenze

Festive Florence in December
Festive Florence in December

where we had coffee

Caffé Gilli // sure, the staff are a little rough around the edges, but just ignore them or treat them in kind. Pro tip: stand at the bar with your coffee, and enjoy with either a crema sfoglia or a butter croissant – or both! A must visit. Address: Via Roma, 1r, 50123 Firenze

Caffe Paszkowski // right next door to the above café, this is basically the exact same – except the staff are a little friendlier and the prices are slightly lower. Would recommend. Address: Piazza della Repubblica, 6, 50123 Firenze

SimBIOsi Organic Café // such a great little find! We were actually attempting to go for coffee at nearby La Ménagere, but the queues were so ridiculously long; this place is a few doors down the street – it’s just as cute & suuuper cheap! Added bonus: it felt very local and cutesy 🙂 Would recommend. Address: Via de’ Ginori, 56r, 50123 Firenze

Festive Florence in December
Festive Florence in December

where we ate

As per usual, we managed to squeeze in a lot of foodie stops during our stint in town. Did you even visit Italy if you didn’t have snacks in between your actual meals? I think not! Everywhere we ate and loved listed below, divided into sections for ease: sandwiches / lunch / dinner / gelato. And no, sandwiches don’t count as lunch in Florence. Act like a local and stop in for a quick one with a small drink on your journey around the city; it’s literally the best.

Festive Florence in December

sandwiches

Ino // just as great as it was in the summer! Fiancé went for the same sandwich as last time, the ‘ale’, and I went for the ‘super italiano’: slices of mortadella, pesto, and stracchino cheese. It was so fantastic, I actually preferred it to the ‘ale’, which is really saying something! We enjoyed our sandwiches with a Menabrea each, the perfect accompaniment. Read about our last visit here. A must visit. Address: Via dei Georgofili, 3r/7r, 50122 Firenze

Panini Toscani // I have to admit, I was skeptical to try out this place – it’s proximity to the Duomo made me doubt the great reviews – but it was so! good! It’s super small, cheap, and very familial. We stopped in for a quick toasted sandwich to share: fennel salami, medium aged pecorino, sun-dried tomatoes + peppers; it was sublime. Including a glass of chianti classico each, we spent a grand total of €15 – amazing value! A must visit. Address: Piazza del Duomo, 34/R, 50122 Firenze

Festive Florence in December

lunch

5 e Cinque // now that we’ve discovered how great this place is, we’re never not going back. Naturally, we had to order the foccacia di recco to share – it is one of the nicest things I’ve ever enjoyed in a restaurant. We also devoured a pasta dish between us – spicy spaghetti with olives, grated ricotta, & chicory – and I enjoyed a glass of vernaccia while Fiancé opted for a chianti classico; everything was mouthwateringly delicious. Read about our last visit here. A must visit. Address: Piazza della Passera, 1, 50125 Firenze

Il Santino // we had the best of intentions of just stopping in here for a glass of wine, but that’s easier said than done in Italy. Perched at the counter on bar stools, I sipped on a glass of vernaccia, Fiancé on chianti classico, and together we shared a lovely meat board. It’s such a romantic little nook of a wine bar – we prefer this spot to its big sister next door. Read of past visits here and here. A must visit. Address: Via Santo Spirito, 60/R, 50125 Firenze

Festive Florence in December

dinner

Full disclosure: neither of the below places were our first choice of restaurants for this trip. We were looking to return to Sostanza and also try out another family run trattoria, but many of those popular local spots aren’t open on the weekends, so we had to go elsewhere. Here’s where we hit up:

Festive Florence in December

Osteria dell’Enoteca // a really very good restaurant, with a large wine selection. We had read excellent things online about their house bistecca, so we went for that, along with sides of fagioli and patate al forno to share- everything was delicious. The steak was fantastic: charred, crispy & salty on the outside, melt-in-your-mouth rare on the inside. The sides were both great, but the potatoes were especially delightful – they tasted like they were cooked in meat drippings. All of the above was paired with a bottle of sangiovese, which never disappoints. Aside from the food, the space is beautiful, and the staff were friendly. Would recommend. Address: Via Romana, 70/r, 50125 Firenze

Osteria Belle Donne // located a very convenient 2-minute walk from our guesthouse, I was pleasantly surprised by how good the food was. To start, I had bruschetta and Fiancé had the pappa al pomodoro soup; mine was fine, but the soup was fantastic! We both opted for pasta mains – cacio e pepe for me, and cinghaile pappardelle for Fiancé – and both were superb. We also shared a cheesecake with mixed berries for dessert, which was so light and airy we forgave it for being set instead of baked. If I had to give one note: we were almost entirely surrounded by Americans, so not an ideal spot if you’re looking for local hangouts… Address: Via delle Belle Donne, 16R, 50123 Firenze

McDonald’s // listen – this is a place of no judgement. We didn’t get into Florence on our first night until 2:35am because of flight delays and we were absolutely ravenous. Thankfully, there’s a 24-hour McDonald’s just across the road from the train station – and besides, is there anything more reliable than a McDonald’s meal? I think not. Address: Piazza della Stazione, 25/37, 50123 Firenze

Festive Florence in December

gelato

Gelateria Santa Trinita // a really very good gelato place! This little corner spot was literally on our route back home after dinner in the Oltrarno one evening and the lure of gelato is often too hard to resist. I ordered my regular, pistachio & hazelnut, and, while both were great, omg the pistachio was incredible! Perfectly salty and nutty and *chef’s kiss*. Would recommend. Address: Piazza de’ Frescobaldi, 11/red, 50125 Firenze

Festive Florence in December
Festive Florence in December

where we drank

Bulli & Balene // the best spritz in the city, at the absolutely unbeatable price of €4.50. There has been a .50c increase since we last visited, but, seeing as it’s the first in the 6-years we’ve been visiting, I’m willing to let that slide. Read more here, here, or here. Would recommend. Address: Via dello Sprone, 14/R, 50125 Firenze

Pint of View // a cute little beer/cocktail/gastropub spot that opened during the pandemic. It’s run by the same crowd that own Archea – it has much the same vibe and atmosphere, just with a nicer interior. We each had a pint of the Mahrs-Bräu Pilsner, which went down exceptionally easily. Would recommend. Address: Borgo Tegolaio, 17/r, 50125 Firenze

Manifattura // a cool cocktail place, whipping up drinks with Italian liquor only. We struggled a little with the menu – there was no whiskey/bourbon available – but the waiter helped us out and offered up alternatives. I had a brandy old fashioned and Fiancé had a brandy sazerac, both of which were just a little too strong for our tastes – but if you’re into brandy, mine was better. Added bonus: our drinks came with a little tray of food! Olives, little olive biscuit bites, and some baked chickpea thing. Would recommend. Address: Piazza di S. Pancrazio, 1, 50123 Firenze

Dublin Pub // yes, we went to an Irish pub in Florence. It was Fiancé’s idea, so you can send any questions his way, but it wasn’t as bad as I imagine some Irish pubs to be. The interior was quite nice, loads of Irish memorabilia adorning the walls, nice dark wood paneling etc. We both had a pint of Italia lager, which was nice and beer-y. Address: Via Faenza, 15, 50123 Firenze

Festive Florence in December
Florence in December

where we tourist-ed

I must admit, we find it near impossible to visit Florence and not hit up some of our favourite spots in the city. No matter if we’re visiting for one day or one week, we always hit: Loggia dei Lanzi, Ponte Vecchio/the view of the PV from Ponte Santa Trinita, gawping up at the Duomo, walking through Palazzo Strozzi, and the retro photo booth on Via Santa Monica. Aside from those, here’s what we got up to:

Festive Florence in December

Basilica of Santa Croce // of the countless times I’ve wandered past this church from the outside, this was the first time I’ve ever actually ventured inside. Spoiler alert: it is so worth the €8 entry fee! To begin with, it’s huge! There are several adjoining chapels to explore, as well as two semi-attached cloisters and gardens, all of which are filled with must-see artworks. On top of this, there are many famous tombs inside, but we were mainly interested in that of Galileo Galilei and Michelangelo Buonarroti. Honestly, we were a little overwhelmed by how much there was to see, and ended up spending a good 1.5-hours wandering around. A must visit. Address: Piazza di Santa Croce, 16, 50122 Firenze

Visit Pisa // I don’t know why we didn’t do this sooner – we both loved Pisa! I’ve only ever heard very mediocre things about the city, but I was very pleasantly surprised by what we found there! Great coffee, food, cocktails – not to mention the obvious attraction. Blog post coming in the new year!

Festive Florence // generally speaking, the entire city felt rather magical, but especially at these locations:

  • the main city Christmas market is at Piazza di Santa Croce. It’s a German themed market, so expect to find all the usual favourites: food, decorations, drinks, clothes, etc. The smells coming from the market were so! mouthwatering! We shared a cone of churros while we browsed the stalls, and I sampled a cup of vin brulé 😉
  • there’s also a cute little row of Christmas stalls outside the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella. No foodstuff that we saw, just homemade trinkets and the like.
  • Rinascente department store was entirely covered in lights, changing from one festive colour to the next in a matter of minutes. We stood under the awning at Caffe Gilli across the road and watched the show.
  • there should be mangers in every other church in the city; we came across the hand-painted(!) construction of one in Santa Croce, but it wasn’t finished by the time we were leaving.
  • to the left of the Duomo, in the main square, you’ll spot a huge bauble laden Christmas tree & large manger. These are the biggest we came across in the city.
  • festive twinkly lights basically cover the whole entire city. We found the ones lining Via Tornabuoni and the Ponte Vecchio to be the most Christmassy, but everyone’s tastes are different.
  • until the 8th of January 2023, there’s a light exhibition called ‘Green Line’ taking place across the city. The exhibition projects light displays onto some of the most beautiful monuments in the city, and it’s quite something to see! We caught it on the Ponte Vecchio and Palazzo Vecchio, but there’s more information on this website here.
Festive Florence in December
Festive Florence in December

And there we have it: Florence in December! Isn’t it just the most magical city you’ve ever seen? I had no idea it would be so dressed up for Christmas, but I’m so glad we got to experience it for ourselves! I might love it even more in the winter than I do in the summer? Controversial, but I think yes! Have you been to Florence in the wintertime? Let me know any of your thoughts using the comment box below!

Chat soon,

Vicki xo

Festive Florence in December
Festive Florence in December

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