Last updated on October 9th, 2023
Florence in December is a time of chilly weather, twinkling lights, and festive holiday spirit.
While Florence definitely sees the majority of its international visitors in the spring, summer, and fall, those who are okay with bundling up and adjusting their itineraries to include indoor activities will find a pleasant holiday destination.
I’m a local mamma of three, and our family enjoys our time in Florence in December. In this guide, I’ll be honest about the things we love about Florence in December, and also the things that aren’t so fabulous. And I’ll give you a list of the best things to see and do in Florence in December – many of which we see and do every year!
Finally, I’ll give you ideas for things to do nearby, what the weather’s like, how to get around, what to pack for Florence in December, where to stay, and how to make the most of a December visit to Florence with kids.
Andiamo – let’s go! (Or, in the local dialect, “gnamo!”)
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Table of Contents
Why You Should Visit Florence in December
Most international visitors head to Italy’s ski slopes or bigger cities like Rome in December. But, Florence is a quieter place to visit, and you’ll appreciate:
- The festive holiday atmosphere
- Fewer crowds (except at Christmas and New Year’s)
- Lower prices (except at Christmas and New Year’s)
- Seasonal sweet treats
Reasons to Skip a Visit to Florence in December
As I already mentioned, Florence in December can be tough for a few reasons:
- It’s cold and humid, and sometimes windy
- Sunshine isn’t guaranteed and there are fewer hours of daylight than other times of the year
- Shoppers will be disappointed to be a little too early for the saldi (biannual sales, which begin first week of January)
- Christmas market lovers should look elsewhere in Tuscany (like Arezzo or Montepulciano) or in northern Italy (If you’re passionate about mercatini di natale, Florence’s main Christmas market probably won’t knock your socks off)
Best Things to Do in Florence in December
You won’t be short of things to see and do in Florence in December. Our family spends quite a bit of time doing these activities in dicembre, because we love being in Florence when the streets are full of lights – and our kids are out of school for the end of December. Here are our top recommendations:
See the Christmas Lights and Light Displays
Ok, so it’s not London, or the US – you won’t see lights everywhere, but there are a few places in Florence that get especially festive.
- Via Tornabuoni – We always head here first, because every year there are lights hanging above the streets and there are usually a couple of light displays that you can walk in or take photos in front of (like a big present or a huge ornament).
- Rinascente in Piazza della Repubblica – The entire building is covered in covered lights that change colors and make a light show. And the Rinascente (department store) windows are some of the most festive in the city.
- Green Line Light Displays – There are light shows projected on a few monuments throughout the city. Our favorite is the spectacular display on the Ponte Vecchio – this is the number one request from my boys on a chilly December evening.
Read more about What to Do in Florence at Night
True, it’s too early for the twice-yearly Italian saldi (sales), but you can still enjoy the festive holiday shopping along with Florentines and Tuscans that drive in for holiday shopping. You can find everything in Florence, from designer to vintage clothing, beautiful housewares, fun toys for kids, leather products, and more. You may want to check out:
- Via dei Calzaiuoli – at this point, it’s mostly international brands and shops, but it’s a nice pedestrian street to stroll in the winter
- Via Tornabuoni – designer shops galore, from Gucci to Ferragamo (check out the shoe museum inside!)
- Ponte Vecchio – gold and jewelry; it’s not a tourist trap – my husband and I bought our wedding rings here
- Mercato dei Pulci – a tiny flear market in the Sant’Ambrogio neighborhood; if you’re patient, you may find a treasure
- Via Santo Spirito – artisan and antique shops
- Via Gioberti – a local’s shopping street with clothing, homewares, bookshops
- Rinascente and Coin – Florence’s department stores
- Scuola del Cuoio – Leather artisans at work making products you can purchase
- SOTF Firenze – The best shop in Florence for sneaker addicts
Have Hot Chocolate or Coffee Outdoors
Need to warm up after strolling the chilly Florence streets?
Have a hot chocolate (cioccolata calda) at:
- Badiani – Badiani is serious about its gelato and its hot chocolate; snag an indoor seat and sip the divine drink!
- Rivoire – it’s sooo good, and you can pick up chocolate souvenirs to bring home (we like the chocolate spread)
- Gilli – sip your hot chocolate on Piazza della Repubblica
- Ditta Artigianale – casual, hip coffee shops scattered throughout the city
- Dolci e Dolcezze – get fancy with some of the shop’s gorgeous sweet treats
- Oblate Library Café – enjoy the view of the Duomo
Or, do like many Florentines do and enjoy a gelato – even in December!
Visit Florence’s Museums Without the Crowds
December is an excellent time to check out some of Florence’s major museums that are packed during the rest of the year. It’s actually my preferred time to visit some of the classics like the Uffizi Gallery and Accademia Gallery.
- Uffizi Gallery
- Accademia Gallery – say hello to David
- Bargello Museum
- Palazzo Vecchio
- Pitti Palace
Helpful Tip: Check the hours for the museum you’d like to visit (some have reduced hours in the winter and may close for holidays like Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve).
Stroll in Boboli Gardens
December is the perfect time for a stroll in the quiet and sometimes misty Boboli Gardens.
Helpful Tip: You can enter the Boboli Gardens for free on the first Sunday of December.
Looking for more green spaces? Check out the Best Gardens in Florence.
Have a Cozy Meal in a Restaurant
Grab a seat in a cozy trattoria or reserve a meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant.
Ideas for a winter meal in Florence:
- Trattoria Cesarino
- Osteria dello Sgrano (gluten-free)
- Hosteria del Bricco
- Vini e Vecchi Sapori
Make sure you try some winter favorites like:
- bistecca alla fiorentina
- pappardelle al cinghiale
- pandoro and panettone
Sample Tuscan Wines
You don’t have to drive into the Chianti hills to taste Tuscan wines.
Pull up a chair (ok, actually you should reserve) at Le Volpi e L’Uva and ask Ciro and his amazing crew to serve you up a glass (or three) of Tuscany’s best vino. Go with an empty stomach because the crostoni and appetizers are delicious! After 2+ decades, this is still one of my favorite spots to sip wine and hang out in Florence.
Have a meal and taste wine in an elegant setting at Cantinetta Antinori. An easy stop after you’ve looked at the Christmas lights on Via Tornabuoni. Or, for a more casual (and quicker) option on the same street, grab a stool (and truffle sandwich) at Procacci.
Celebrate Christmas in Florence
If you’re in Florence in dicembre, you can’t miss the Christmas festivities and spirit.
- Holiday Lights – We always walk by the Ponte Vecchio for the light display and we like the lights on the Rinascente building in Piazza della Repubblica, and on Via Tornabuoni.
- Christmas Tree Lighting in Piazza Duomo – On December 7th (the eve of The Feast of the Immaculate Conception – La Festa della Concezione Immacolata – on December 8th), you can see the main tree in Piazza Duomo being lit up for the first time.
- Presepe – The presepe (Italian nativity scene) is an Italian Christmas tradition, and you can see them in multiple places in Florence. The easiest one to see is just to the left of the Duomo entrance.
- Midnight Mass (Christmas Eve Mass) – You can also attend midnight mass at one of the churches, including the Duomo (but arrive at least 1.5-2 hours early in order to get a place inside). Also check timing of the ‘midnight’ mass at other churches – it’s not always at midnight.
- Christmas Lunch – While some restaurants close for Christmas, you’ll find others open and serving Florentines and visitors. Reserve your meal in advance.
- Christmas Market – The main Christmas market in Florence is in Piazza Santa Croce.
Ring in the New Year in Florence
If you’re looking for a crazy New Year’s Eve, I’m sure you can find it – but I’m not the one to ask. I’ll be at home on the couch with my family!
I have celebrated the New Year in Florence and it’s important to know that it’s common to book your restaurant and stay there for dinner and the countdown. You must book your restaurant in advance.
If you’d rather be out-and-about, you can wander around Florence and check out concerts and musical events around the city (usually in piazzas).
Or, get cozy in your hotel and watch the countdown on Italian television!
Have a Rooftop Aperitivo
While some rooftop bars close for the winter, many remain open and the views are just as lovely – especially when you add the twinkling holiday lights!
SE.STO on Arno (above the Westin Excelsior) is covered and indoors and has gorgeous views. We also really like the Angel Rooftop Bar (above Hotel Calimala) and its selection of cocktails (including kid-friendly options).
Another option is the café on the upper floor of the Oblate Library – grab your cocktail (or hot chocolate!) and soak up the view of the Duomo’s dome.
Take a Cooking Class
Why not have an indoor Tuscan experience on a chilly December day? There are tons of cooking classes available in Florence, like:
If you make a day trip to the Tuscan countryside, join Paola and Simonetta at their cooking class in their home.
Hang Out at a Bookstore
Head to a bookstore and look for a new book or get a warm beverage (in some of them). Our favorite winter bookshops are:
- Todo Modo Dilà – unique, special Florentine bookshop for kids
- RED Feltrinelli – we like the main branch in Piazza della Repubblica (lots of space, multi-level with a few seat scattered around, café on ground floor)
- La Cité – cozy café / bookshop in the hip San Frediano neighborhood
Good To Know: Paperback Exchange has the best selection of English books but doesn’t really have places to sit and read or linger.
Explore Sant’Ambrogio Market
One of Florence’s most authentic markets, Mercato Sant’Ambrogio is my pick for a winter wander or a quick lunch.
Helpful Tip: Love panini? Head across the street to Semel for your soon-to-be-favorite Florentine sandwich.
See Florence from Up High
Need to warm up? Climb up! Along with some warmth, you’ll also get great views of Florence. Winter is also the best time to climb up to Piazzale Michelangelo – you may even have the place to yourself!
Duomo Climb – Reserve your spot to walk up to the top of the Duomo; enjoy the close up view of the frescoes on the inside of the dome
Giotto’s Bell Tower Climb – Reserve and climb up the bell tower for views of Florence and the Duomo up close. Read my guide to Climbing Giotto’s Bell Tower.
Piazzale Michelangelo – Like I said above, this time of year is perfect for walking up to an uncrowded Piazzale Michelangelo. Read my guide to Piazzale Michelangelo.
Large Ferris Wheel – Take the chance to ride this ferris wheel that will be set up in a new place this December (2023) – in the Parco delle Cascine. And, as a bonus, it will be allowed to stay up until June 2024!
Discover more of the Best Views of Florence
Try Ice Skating
Incredibly, Florence has not one but two ice skating options: the Firenze Winter Park (by the Tuscany Hall) and the Florence Ice Village (Fortezza da Basso) – with a 300 meter long ice track.
Go on a Scavenger Hunt of Michelangelo’s Art in Florence
You’re in Michelangelo’s ‘hood, so why not look for his art and legacy in the city? You’ll find his works at:
- Accademia Gallery
- Medici Chapels
- Santo Spirito Church
- San Lorenzo Church
- Palazzo Vecchio
- Bargello Museum
- Uffizi Gallery
- Piazzale Michelangelo (replica)
- Casa Buonarroti
- Boboli Gardens
- Duomo Museum
You can read more about the works in each of these places and print out the checklist in The 11 Places to See the Art of Michelangelo in Florence + Map & Checklist.
Things to Do Near Florence in December
After you’ve seen the holiday lights and explored Florence’s uncrowded museums, you may be itching to explore some more:
- Go wine tasting in the countryside– Take a tour, or rent a car and go on your own. Be sure to arrange winery visits in advance as they may be on holiday.
- Go on a road trip – Visit San Gimignano, Volterra, Chianti villages (like Gaiole, Castellina, Radda, Panzano, and Greve), Siena, the Val d’Orcia and its villages (Pienza, Montepulciano, Bagno Vignoni). Take a cooking class in the Tuscan countryside. Soak in Tuscan hot springs, including the famous Saturnia hot springs.
- Take a train to Bologna – Visit its Christmas market and have tortellini in brodo!
- Go skiing and play in the snow in Abetone – Visit on a day trip or stay overnight.
- Shop at the Mall Outlet – You can catch a special bus from the Florence city center.
- Take a day trip to Venice – Yes, it’s a big day trip, but Venice is gorgeous in the winter!
- Take silly photos at the Leaning Tower of Pisa – And explore the rest of Pisa in this quiet time of year.
- Drive to the Vespa Museum in Pontedera – What’s more adorable than seeing a Vespa in Italy? Seeing an entire museum of them!
Weather in Florence in December
Florence weather in December tends to be chilly, wet, and sometimes windy.
Typical temperatures in Florence in December range from 38-52°F (3-11°C) and the city sees almost 1.5 inches (almost 37 mm) of rainfall.
What to Wear in Florence in December
You’ll be miserable in Florence on your December visit if you don’t dress properly. When we walk around the city center I always make sure we’re bundled up and protected from the (possible) rain, wind, and cold temperatures.
Based on our many winters here, my top tips are to:
- Dress in warm layers. Wear a sweater, coat, hat (like a cozy beanie), mittens or gloves, and a scarf. I know it seems like overkill, but you can always take them off if you’re warm enough.
- Wear a pair of water-resistant shoes or boots (puddles form in the uneven cobblestones). Shoes like ballet flats are cute, but not a good choice for December in Florence. If your shoes aren’t waterproof, bring a second pair. Helpful Tip: Stuff wet shoes with newspaper overnight to dry and place them near (not on) the radiator in your hotel room.
- Bring a travel umbrella. You can buy them on the street here but they’re not high-quality, and quality umbrellas are expensive here.
Good To Know: The weather can also be surprising. We’ve celebrated a couple of Christmas Days in sunshine and short sleeves!
How to Get Around Florence in December
Florence has a very walkable historic center, and that doesn’t change in the winter. I still move around on foot in December.
December is quite lovely for walking in Florence in the evening – you can see the twinkling holiday lights, Christmas trees, and light displays.
You can also use public buses, the tram, or taxis.
Helpful Tip: You can’t hail cabs in Florence. Instead, you need to go to a designated taxi stand (they’re scattered throughout the city) or call a taxi to come pick you up (+39 055 4242 or +39 055 4390).
You may want to read Is There Uber in Florence?
Where to Stay in Florence in December
You’ll want to be ‘in the action’ in Florence in December. This is the time to get a place somewhere in the city center or close by. I don’t recommend staying so far away that you need to take a bus (or taxi or tram) to get to the museums, restaurants, and shops of the city center.
If you’re normally put off by staying in the center because of crowds, you don’t have to stress about that in December (except right around Christmas and New Year’s Eve) – Florence is much less crowded now than other times of the year. So, while you’ll definitely see people out shopping, checking out the tree lightings, etc – you won’t be shoulder-to-shoulder with other visitors.
You can read all about my recommendations on Where to Stay in Florence.
I hope this helps you enjoy visiting Florence in December! Buon viaggio!