Handling the Christmas holidays while living abroad

Ways to feel Florentine over the festive season.

The joys of life in Italy are many, drawing vast numbers from all over. However, one aspect that might need a little more managing is how to spend the festive season when you’re far from loved ones. Luckily, there are many events and magical memories to be made in Florence, keeping you occupied throughout the season and helping you feel part of the city. 

An easy way to get into the Florentine festive spirit is to grab a cup of rich hot chocolate and stroll through the sparkling streets, admiring the lights, trees and decadent decorations. Bear in mind that hot chocolate here is almost thick enough to be eaten with a spoon, making it the ultimate treat that’s bound to make you smile!

Don’t miss a wander through via Tornabuoni with its lavish display, making sure to spot the sites lit up as part of Green Line Firenze, the artistic lights festival giving Florence a holiday make-over until January 8, 2023. A definite for your Christmas to-do list is also ice-skating at the Fortezza da Basso gardens, an annual highlight that sees the return of the fabulous Ferris wheel!

Take part in local traditions

English-speaking churches host carol singing and services with hymns, while you’ll also find the annual religious rituals taking place in the city’s many churches. The nativity scene (presepe, in Italian) situated beside the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral in piazza del Duomo is a handcrafted life-sized terracotta scene, made from the same material that Brunelleschi used to craft the tiles of Florence’s cupola (dome).  

Typically Florentine dishes

Panettone, panforte and pandoro abound in the stores, the traditional Christmas cakes you’ll see served on every table over the season. While originating from outside Florence, they’re to be found all over Italy at this time of year. Everyone has their own personal favourite, so make it your mission to discover yours! Cotechino is the traditional New Year’s Eve dish: a slow-cooked sausage that’s typically served with lentils to symbolize good luck and prosperity. Check our Florentine Christmas Menu!

Keep connected with community groups

The international community in Florence is certainly strong, with many local groups coming together to celebrate the season. Keep an eye on the various Facebook groups and websites that share all of the international on-goings, helping you have a sense of home when the holidays start to feel long. 

Of course, an easy way to socialize is by participating in a walking tour or guided museum visit, bringing you to mingle with fellow Florence-lovers and giving you a social outlet as you learn about the city’s rich heritage.

Give back to the community by volunteering

Another way to connect to the community over the holidays is to contribute to the admirable work of the many charities. Angeli del Bello is a non-profit known for their care for the city, with a year-round calendar of activities aimed towards improving the areas in which we live. Perhaps you’d prefer to join the efforts of Oxfam, fighting against poverty, or take part in the food donation programme at the Banco Alimentare. Whatever way you choose to give back, you can rest assured you’ll have a feel-good factor that will set you soaring. 

Head for the hills

Having wandered the streets of the city, why not take the chance to explore a little farther with a trip to Fiesole or to one of the other hills surrounding Florence. You’re never far from nature, with an exploratory walk to any of the nearby villages and towns a sure way to deepen your understanding of Italian culture, taking you beyond what you already know and giving you plenty of chances to sample Tuscan cuisine!

Truly Be.Long to Florence by joining the community of Belongers, the mid- to long-term residents in the city. The platform gives you the tips and tricks needed to make Florence feel fully like home.