Celebrating Christmas Week in Florence, 2019

The Christmas tree by Mimmo Paladino near the church of Santa Maria Novella

The following is a guide to celebrating Christmas week 2019 in Florence.


The traditional Christmas concert of the Orchestra della Toscana (ORT) will be conducted by Paolo Bortolanameolli on December 24 at Teatro Verdi (5 pm).  The program features Romantic works by Tchaikovsky and Dvorák.

The concert begins with the popular Concerto No. 1 for the piano by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, known for its sequence of pounding chords opening the first movement.  Written between 1874-5, it premiered in Boston on October 25, 1875 with the celebrated German conductor and pianist Hans von Bulow as the soloist.  Dmitry Masleev, born in Ulan-Ude, Siberia in 1988, who will perform the concert with the ORT, is the 2015 winner of the First Prize and Gold Medal of the International Tchaikovsky Competition, the most prestigious award in the world for pianists.

The Symphony n. 7 in D minor, Op. 70 by Antonín Dvorak rounds out the program. The themes are dark and passionate and reflect his strong sense of patriotism for his country. The work debuted in London on April 22, 1885, conducted by the composer and was considered one of the greatest triumphs of his career.  (anne lokken)

For last minute stocking stuffers, head to the Spazio Natale Emergency on via de’ Ginori 14, a holiday fair dedicated to helping victims of poverty and conflict.  Clothing, accessories, toys and crafts made by the hand will be on sale from 10 am to 3 pm.

Museums will have regular visiting hours, with the exception of the Uffizi and the Pitti Palace complex; both will close earlier than usual, at 6 pm.

For those seeking church services in English, St. James’ American Church, via Rucellai, 9, is offering a Christmas Eve Mass and Pageant at 6 pm, with a midnight mass beginning at 11 pm; there will also be a midnight Mass at St. Mark’s Anglican church, via Maggio 14 starting at 11:30 pm.

Although many restaurants will be closed in Florence on December 24 and 25, those open include the Golden View (via dei Bardi 58/r) for that traditional seafood Christmas Eve dinner and untraditional sashimi; Gilda (piazza Ghiberti 40/r) with its seasonal menu that uses only the best ingredients when crafting Tuscan cuisine and Italian regional sweets in the sense of truly market fresh; Boccanegra (via Ghibellina 124/r) for Florentine T-bone steak, tagliolini noodles with truffle shavings and more; while the Ristorante Accademia (piazza San Marco 7) which offers pasta with clams, baccalà (codfish) or octopus, followed by homemade panettone for dessert. Except for Gilda, these locales are also open on Christmas Day.


Church services in English include the Sung High Mass of the Nativity at St. Mark’s Church, via Maggio, 14 at 10:30 am; Christmas Mass at St. James, via Rucellai at 11 am; and Mass at the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo) at 5 pm, (followed by Mass in Italian at 6 pm).

On December 25, museums are generally shut in Florence.  Alternatively, Santa Maria Novella will be accessible from 1 – 5:30 pm for families to enjoy its impressive architecture and artwork. Other landmarks open on Christmas include the churches of Santa Felicita with its Pontormo frescoes (9:30 am – 12:30 pm), SS. Annunziata (4 – 5:15 pm) and Santo Spirito (11:30 am – 1:30 pm, 3 – 6 pm) plus the basilicas of Santa Trinita (8:30 – 10:45 am; 4 – 6 pm) and San Miniato (1 – 5:30 pm).

Palazzo Strozzi welcomes visitors all day on December 25 to an extensive exhibition focusing on the Russian avant-garde artist Natalia Goncharova (1881-1962), open 10 am – 8 pm, admission €16. The retrospective includes 130 pieces from her artistic beginnings in the Russian countryside to her relocation to France and Italy where futurist artists heavily influenced her.  Goncharova’s paintings are displayed on walls covered in floral wallpaper in many vivid colors that complements the artist’s striking style that radiates light.

Also showcased are select works by Picasso, Gauguin and Matisse as well as futurist artists such as Giacomo Balla, Fortunato Depero and Umberto Boccioni. All had an impact on Goncharova’s art after she moved to Europe. Each exhibit includes a thorough background and description in Italian and English.


Three modern Christmas trees by Italian contemporary artists are lighting up the squares of Florence.  F-Light is using video-mapping, projections, light shows, and art installations to light up the city through the first week of January. The overarching theme for ‘F-Light” is in honor of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.

Palazzo Medici Riccardi is honoring its Magi chapel with projections illustrating aspects of the Benozzo Gozzoli frescoes. The Central Market and Loggia del Grano are hosting installations, and the facade of San Miniato and Loggiato degli Innocenti are lit up as well. The ancient city gates glow with colorful and dynamic lights, welcoming people into the city center of Florence, starting at 5 pm for the entire night. The Piazza Poggi fountains, which appear to be more like a three-tiered waterfall, received permanent lights during the holiday season. The Galileo Science Museum is hosting projections exploring this year’s theme of the moon through the history of astronomy. Essentially, everywhere you walk in Florence, you will find gorgeous lights and art installations, guaranteed to make Christmas week all the more cheery and beautiful.  (jax viteznik)


Although December 26, Santo Stefano, is a legal holiday in Italy, the city’s major museums will be open, and free admission will be gifted to the two exhibitions at Villa Bardini.  One is “Corpo a Corpo,” which means body to body, but it also denotes close encounters. The expression “Corpo a Corpo” is used to describe close-range combat representing man’s daily struggle when confronting life and one’s self. The large collection of paintings and sculptures primarily focused on portraits, bodies and still life works are based on a modern return to naturalism. Lie May (2017) by American artist Steven Assael is a close-up image of a teary eyed young girl staring back at the artist in front of a background of reddish brown brush strokes.  Another painting by an American artist, Nikolai (2000)by Charles H. Cecil depicts the head of a stoic man wearing a turtleneck.

Also hosted by Villa Bardini with free entrance is the “Pinocchio Enigma.”  The show is less about discovering what Pinocchio is and more about what he has become as part of our universal consciousness. Visitors to Villa Bardini are given the chance to explore the many meanings of Pinocchio through late 20th and 21st century interpretations by such artists as Venturino Venturi, David LaChapelle, Alberto Giacometti, and others.   (alex reilly)