Tuscany is famous for its art, history and fantastic architecture. Tuscan wine tastings
and visiting Michelangelo’s David are what jumps to mind when you think of visiting Tuscany. These famous sites and exhibitions are absolutely worth a visit, but if you’re lucky enough to be spending Christmas in Tuscany, you have to take advantage of the Christmas markets!
Christmas in Tuscany is a wonderful experience for anyone lucky enough to experience it. Today we’ll look at Tuscan Christmas traditions but in particular, the BEST Christmas markets that I’ve found in the region.
Christmas traditions in Tuscany
It's unsurprising that food plays an important role in Christmas traditions in Tuscany. The foodies amongst us (me included) will love the 3-day feasts around Christmas leading to the fish dinner on New Year, known as Cenone di Capo d’Anno.
The big dinners around Christmas time involve a lot of meat such as chicken, liver or beef, potatoes, lots of bread, pasta and even snails. In some places vegetables are an important part of a meal whereas here in Tuscany they’re more of a side dish. Something we spoke about in a previous article, Christmas in Rome
, holiday dessert in Italy involves a delicious cake known as Panettone.
The BEST Christmas Markets in Tuscany
The best Christmas Markets in Tuscany are in Florence, Lucca, Siena, Pisa and Arezzo. I’ve listed the best ones here for you with some dates and locations as this can vary from year to year.
Let’s take a look to find out which ones (or all of them!) will be most interesting for you!
Some Christmas markets open at the start of December but in Tuscany the festive celebrations begin on December 8th. This is because it’s the day of the Immaculate Conception. There are wonderful Christmas markets all over Tuscany where you will find so many great gifts for friend and relatives (or yourself). Nativity scenes and the city center decorated with lights, tinsel and a Christmas tree!
Siena Christmas market 2018
Siena is quite a small city and you can quite easily make the most of your Christmas visit in just one day. There a few Christmas markets around and a really interesting one is Mercat del Campo in Piazza del Campo
. It is a medieval style marketplace that is split between two themes. Half of the Mercat is dedicated to handcrafts and decorations while the other focuses on food and mulled wine. Early closing time can be a little annoying (but that’s just my personal opinion).
There are around 150 stalls that are set up at the start of December until 6th January so visitors can explore and enjoy them for the entirety of the festive period. There aren’t really official opening times for the Siena Christmas market but it’s generally open from the morning (around 11 am) until 8 pm. I would advise you to go in the evening anyway, after 5/6 pm. It’s a little more crowded after dark but the atmosphere is much more Christmassy (is that a word? It should be because English people say it all the time).
Many of the vendors speak English very well and will even let you try a little of their delicious cheese, meat or other products. Interestingly the stalls are set further apart from each other than most Christmas markets I’ve been too. I really like this because it means you never feel like a sardine in a can!
The takeaway for this Mercat? Visit Piazza del Campo around 5-8pm!
Bonus tip: try the Ricciarelli cookies!
Lucca Christmas market 2018
Lucca is undoubtedly one of the lesser-known spots to visit in comparison to neighbors such as Florence and Pisa. There are a few markets, for instance, Piazza San Michele but the best is undoubtedly found in Piazza Napoleone.
The thing about the Christmas market in Piazza Napoleone is that it’s great for all ages. Found within the walled city A wide selection of foods, potential Christmas gifts and ice skating rink is great fun. Having the rink and a carousel means any of you readers taking your kids along will have activities to do with them as well. The ice skating rink in particular really adds to the Christmas atmosphere.
The Christmas market in Piazza Napoleone is the biggest and best known but for all you history buffs, you absolutely must visit Natale nel Medioevo. The last word may give away what this market is all about. It’s a medieval Christmas market! I absolutely love this one! It looks so old-fashioned on the cobbled streets, wooden huts, smoke billowing out of warm huts offering you shelter from the cold! It even looks gothic in places with dark wood panels housing a wide collection of toys, dolls, candles and more.
The streets can be a little crowded as people return for more delicious food or Christmas ale, but that’s for good reason!
My tip for Natale nel Medioevo?
Try the Bratwurst/sausages. Large, thick and delicious!
Let’s head North to Pisa!
Pisa Christmas market 2018
Tuscany in December is pretty chilly so you must dress up for Christmas in your warmest hat, scarves and gloves! Pisa, in North-Western Tuscany has a few different Christmas markets for you to try. I’ll just let you in on the best ones so you can choose for yourself.
We’ll start with…
Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, a nice market where can you can buy some presents from late November until Christmas Eve (great for last minute shopping).
The largest market you’ll find in Pisa is Mercato delle Vettovaglie. The many stalls house a variety of the usual suspects found in the markets such as fresh, homemade food. But where is the best Christmas market in Pisa?
The best Christmas market in Pisa is in Palazzo dei Congressi! This building is usually the setting for many of Pisa’s fairs and walking around the stalls is sure to get you in the Christmas mood.
Are you spending the Christmas holidays in Pisa with kids? Then you have to try this next place…
Fabbrica di Babbo Natale
, or in English, the Father Christmas Factory! Needless to say, this is the place to go if there will be children in your group. They can create their own gifts and even write letters to the North Pole. A fantastic way for and your family to spend Christmas time and really catch the festive feeling!
Arezzo Christmas market 2018
Piazza Grande in Arezzo is another Christmas market that is great for kids and adults alike. There are the usual Christmas themed gifts, decorations, food and drinks but also workshops for kids. Definitely worth checking out if you are in the area.
The Arezzo Christmas market is so bright and inviting with an abundance of lights all over the piazza. This provides a nice warm glow to the market on the brightest and dullest days alike!
You also get to appreciate some of the sculptures and architecture as you meander towards and through the market. The buildings that surround of a beige color (they vary but it’s mostly beige) draw your eyes down towards the huts.
Florence Christmas market 2018
I have to include the Florence Christmas market on my list as I love Florence. Thing is, I am not particularly fond of this one. To be perfectly honest, it’s not very good. Florence is a beautiful city, so I was excited about the Christmas market but ended up really disappointed.
Maybe, because the rest of Florence is so amazing the Christmas market pales in comparison. The best Christmas market in Florence is in Piazza Santa Croce. It’s quite a big market with some nice food, however, there are better options outside Florence on our list!
My tip for visiting Tuscany at Christmas?
Avoid the Florence Christmas market in 2018, hopefully next year they’ll make it as amazing as the rest of the city!
So, all things considered, how is Christmas in Tuscany?
I’m happy to say that for anyone spending Christmas in Tuscany in 2018 you have a plethora of places to visit
and Christmassy (remember we agreed this IS a word) activities to take part in! From my personal experience I would say Siena has the number one Christmas market but its followed VERY closely by Natale nel Medioevo. I would love to hear your opinion, what did you think of the markets? Did I miss any good ones? Let me know!
Climb Duomo Florence Tour with Reserved Entrance