Are you heading to Tuscany for the holidays? If so, you’re in for a treat.
While Christmas in Tuscany may look different than what you’re used to at home, it’s truly a special time here, for young and old.
We’re a family of five living just outside Florence, and we love this time of year in Toscana.
Here are our 8 favorite things to do during Christmas in Tuscany.
Browse Tuscan Christmas Markets
I’ll be the first to admit – Christmas markets in Italy are best up north, near the border with Austria, where they take on a German/Austrian feel.
However, we have plenty of festive Christmas markets here in Tuscany and it’s fun to spend an hour or an afternoon visiting them and checking out the gifts, local foods, and artisan handicrafts in their stalls. Most also have mulled wine, hot chocolate, and sweet and savory snacks.
Some Tuscan Christmas markets you may want to check out:
Soak in Tuscan Hot Springs
Tuscany has no shortage of thermal waters, and Christmas time is the prime time of year to enjoy them. Either visit one of the many free natural hot springs (like those in the Bagno Vignoni, Saturnia, or Bagni San Filippo) or stay at a hotel with thermal baths (adjacent to hot springs, or in thermal bath towns like Chianciano Terme, Rapolano Terme, Saturnia, and Bagno Vignoni).
You can visit free hot springs in the daytime or in the evening. Both offer beautiful settings – in the daytime, you can see the pools and in the evening, you can see the twinkling stars.
Read about our Favorite Hot Springs in Tuscany.
Meet Babbo Natale
Young and old can meet Babbo Natale – Italy’s Santa Claus!
Tuscany doesn’t have many shopping malls, and they aren’t the best places to see Santa here.
Some of the Tuscan villages and cities have ‘Santa’s Village,’ which often has paid entry. Before meeting Santa, you usually participate in other activities like writing a letter to Santa or walking through his bedroom or toy workshop.
Wondering where you can see Santa in Tuscany?:
- In Montepulciano, he’s in his Castello di Babbo Natale (Santa’s Castle).
- In Arezzo, his base is La Casa di Babbo Natale (Santa’s House).
- In Florence, Babbo Natale and his elves rappel down the Arnolfo Tower of Palazzo Vecchio and greet children, and pose for photos. He’s at the Christmas market at the Fortezza and sometimes at the Christmas market in Piazza Santa Croce. And, hotels will have info on the excellent Santa that makes appearances from late November through early January throughout Tuscany (with many appearances in Florence).
Good To Know: Some visits to Santa are paid and entry numbers are limited. Book in advance if you’re interested.
Find Your Favorite Presepe
Like the rest of Italy, the presepe (Italian nativity scene)is a major part of the Christmas holiday.
You’ll find them displayed everywhere – inside churches, outside churches, at entrances of towns, in offices, and in private homes.
Some of our favorite Tuscan presepi are:
- the terracotta presepe in front of the Duomo in Florence
- the daytime/nighttime presepe inside the Chiesa di San Francesco in San Quirico d’Orcia
- the presepi inside the Rivoli Boutique Hotel in Florence
- the presepe inside the San Zeno church in Pistoia
- the presepe vivente (live nativity scene) in Equi Terme
- presepi in tiny towns and villages
If you’re in a small town and want to find its presepe, you can ask:
Scusi, dov’è posso trovare il presepe?
Excuse me, where can I find the nativity scene?
This season, we hope to visit the enormous mechanized presepe in Cigoli (San Miniato) and the Via dei Presepi (Path of Nativity Scenes) in Castelfiorentino.
Read more about Presepi – Italy’s Nativity Scenes.
Play in the Snow in Abetone
If you’re someone who can’t get into the Christmas spirit without snow, head to northern Tuscany’s snowy playground of Abetone. Less than two hours from Florence, Abetone has ski and snowboard slopes, sledding hills, and cozy casual restaurants.
You can rent ski equipment and snow gear easily and without breaking the bank.
Good To Know: You need a car to get to Abetone, but you don’t need to spend the night. Our family often makes the day trip from Florence.
Stay Warm in a Cozy Tuscan Café or Restaurant
Tuscany’s winter specialties include:
- pappa al pomodoro
- bistecca Fiorentina
- papardelle al sugo di cinghiale
You can also stay warm in a café – sip on hot chocolate or coffee. Many outdoor cafes in main cities put up temporary walls so you can stay warm, enjoy your drinks, and look at the lights and passersby.
Sample Tuscan Christmas Treats
Tuscany has its own special Christmas treats, including panforte, a spicy and chewy fruitcake made of nuts and candied fruits.
Not a fan? Try ricciarelli, especially if you’re passing through Siena. You can get them year-round now, but they feel especially festive with their powdered sugar coating.
Children love befanini (seen around the time of the Befana) in pastry shops and grocery stores. These sugar cookies with colorful sprinkles bring cheer to adults too!
And of course, the holidays in Italy wouldn’t be complete without the two dueling Christmas cakes – pandoro and panettone. Read all about the two famous cakes in our article – Pandoro vs. Panettone.
Soak Up the Holiday Cheer in Florence
Tuscany has quite a few festive cities during Christmas, including Lucca, Siena, and Empoli, but our favorite city to spend time in during the holidays is Florence.
Florence’s streets are lit up with lights and you’ll find about fifteen Christmas trees as you wander around the city streets. Our favorite trees are in Piazza Duomo and in Piazzale Michelangelo.
Our favorite lights are on Via Tornabuoni and the side of the Rinascente department store in Piazza della Repubblica.
Browse the stalls of the Christmas market in Piazza Santa Croce and relax with a hot chocolate (cioccolata calda) in one of the main piazzas.
Get a prime view of the city from the ferris wheel at the Fortezza and explore its Christmas village and ice-skating track!
Do some Christmas shopping alongside locals and visitors, and in the evening, cozy up in a restaurant with a bowl of ribollita and a glass of Chianti Classico!
Christmas in Tuscany with Kids
Christmas in Tuscany is magical for children. During the holidays, kids love:
- spending time in Florence looking at lights and the video light displays, seeing the window displays, riding the panoramic ferris wheel
- visiting Christmas markets
- seeing Babbo Natale, especially in Montepulciano and Arezzo
- trying Christmas sweet treats like pandoro and panettone
- participating in cooking classes
- soaking in outdoor hot springs (older kids and teens)
The only things you’ll miss out on are:
- beach and swimming pool time
- time at playgrounds
Good To Know: Few private homes go all out with Christmas lights, so we don’t have the ‘drive around and look at Christmas lights’ tradition that you may have at home. If you want to see lights, head to city centers.
Helpful Tip: Dress kids warmly – Tuscany winters are cold and humid (and very unpleasant if you’re not warm!). If you find you need more layers, you can find thermal layers at sports stores like Universo Sport or Nencini Sport. You can find basic layers at stores like H&M or OVS in Florence.
Weather in Tuscany During Christmas
The weather in Tuscany at Christmas tends to be cold, wet, and humid.
December Temperatures in Tuscany:
|CITY||AVERAGE TEMPERATURES (° C)||AVERAGE TEMPERATURES (° F)|
|Florence||3 – 11||38 – 52|
|Siena||3.5 – 9||38 – 48|
|Arezzo||4 – 12||39 – 53|
|Viareggio (coast)||3 – 12||38 – 53|
|Abetone (mountains)||2.5 – 10||37 – 50|
Temperatures are fairly consistent throughout the region, with highs in the low 50s (°F) and lows in the upper 30s (°F). December is one of the rainiest months in Tuscany.
We have plenty of rainy days, but also gorgeous sunny days. Visitors are often surprised by the vibrant green hills in December (if we’ve recently had rain). And we’ve had more than a handful of Christmas Days spent in short-sleeved shirts!
It snows in the mountains (like Abetone mentioned above), usually sometime in December but it’s not guaranteed. Florence and other parts of Tuscany rarely get snow (although occasionally you’ll see it on mountaintops).
What to Wear in Tuscany at Christmas
Don’t forget to pack:
- Warm, Close-Toed, Water-Resistant Shoes
- Heavy Coat
- Scarf, Hat & Gloves
- Warm layers
- An umbrella!
Helpful Tip: If you’re visiting with a baby, make sure you have a stroller footmuff!
Christmas in Tuscany – Rainy Day Options
If it’s raining during the Christmas period in Tuscany, have no fear – there are plenty of rainy-day activities to keep you busy:
- Explore the region’s famous museums without the crowds
- Soak in Tuscan hot springs
- Dine on Tuscan specialties in a restaurant
- Participate in a wine tasting
- Join a cooking class
I hope you enjoy your Christmas in Tuscany!
FAQ About Christmas in Tuscany
Yes, you can attend the Christmas mass at the Duomo. Please see the Duomo’s official schedule for timing of celebrations and events during the holiday season.