Move over summer gelatos; it’s time for icy skate rinks to take the stage. From its shortened lines to cozy, hot cocoa cafés, Florence in winter is a frosty treat. With fewer tourists filling the streets (goodbye sticky summer crowds!), visitors get a feel for the city’s warm and cheery side. Escape the nippy weather in its many indoor marvels, or bear the cold to admire Florence’s twinkling winds and bends. Whatever you choose, be sure to pair your winter wanderings with mulled wine and lip-smacking panettone.
Florence’s holiday season is filled with bustling, citywide events. And if you missed the December markets, you’re still in time to enjoy glimmering snowflakes crowning the streets, or the New Year festivities coming your way. If you’re planning on celebrating in Florence, make it a musical moment: between the bopping pop concert in piazzale Michelangelo and the Oltrarno’s upbeat tunes, you’re sure to find a concert perfect for ringing in the New Year. And on January 6 (Epiphany), you’ll find the so-called Procession of the Magi, a Renaissance tradition showing the Three Kings making their way from Pitti Palace to the Florence Cathedral: a magical fusion of Florence’s Medici past with the city’s curious, modern spirit.
Escape the cold in Florence’s mix of museums and churches. The Uffizi Galleries (which now includes the Pitti Palace museums) boasting shorter lines and discounted prices. Visiting the Uffizi is less of a challenge when it’s not crowded. And with fewer wanderers flooding the city, you’ll have ample space to peruse age-old churches in their original, contemplative setting. Besides these historic galleries, don’t forget Florence’s symphonic treats in the Teatro del Maggio. Between Tchaikovsky, Mozart and Strauss, the philharmonic season’s fantastic program is a Florence-in-winter perk.
Florence is filled with tasty shops brewing mouthwatering winter delicacies. From Hemingway in San Frediano or Coccole Cioccolato in San Lorenzo, you won’t have trouble finding a warm and inviting spot to indulge in steamy hot chocolate. Vestri, a swanky hub with the feel of another era, offers a fun twist on the original cocoa recipe, while piazza della Signoria’s Rivoire remains a world-famous spot for enjoying Florence’s majestic monuments in the café’s “belle époque” air. And speaking of tasty treats, Florence’s traditional winter cuisine is a sure delight worth discovering: from juicy bistecca Fiorentina to filling ribollita drizzled with still-new olive oil, winter is the perfect time to indulge in local cuisine, with a glass (or two) of red wine in hand.
Firenze Winter Park
Open every day until February 25, Firenze Winter Park is your Tuscan mountain getaway in city. Located in the Teatro Obihall garden, this winter wonderland features two indoor ice rinks, a ritzy restaurant and an array of yummy food stands. From ice-skating to snowy aperitivi, this park is the perfect spot to get your winter fix without trekking far from Florence. Inside, you’ll find the “Rifugio del Ghiottone,” a chalet eatery offering mountain-style dishes. Here, a Mugello-based chef offers warm and tasty dishes, including meatballs, fried rabbit and typical zuccherini, a scrumptious Tuscan dessert.
Dinner and a movie, anyone? Snuggle up on gold-velvet seats for an original language film. From Star Wars to indie flicks, the Odeon’s program offers a unique film selection in a one-of-a-kind space. Located in a famed Renaissance palace, the cinema’s every detail exudes the flair of the 1920s splashed with a touch of Art Nouveau. Along with the Cinema della Compagnia and the Spazio Alfieri (to name a few), the Odeon is a real Florentine culture hub, a space that merges local life with the international community. With movie-watching goodies in hand, cozy up to a special someone in this stylish space, a perfect pick for braving Florence in winter.
Fewer crowds are surely a reason to head to Florence’s must-see spots, but it also makes the perfect setting for a bit of winter shopping, especially with saldi around the corner (starting January 5). Head to the via de’ Tornabuoni area, Florence’s most stylish zone, where you’ll get a taste of the latest trends while reveling in the city’s historic air. Or head down via del Corso, a throughway of narrow streets vaunting a mix of restaurants and local Florentine shops. The Oltrarno, a much-loved district touched by bohemian flair, offers treats from artisanal jewelers to antique shops – a classic shopping setting decked out in glittering lights and Florence’s typical wintery air.
Cover photo credit: A rare snowfall in 2010 – Filippo on Flickr