Any frequent traveler to Florence likely has their favorite season to visit Italy’s famous Renaissance city. Food lovers flock in the fall, flower enthusiasts adore the spring and everyone can find something to love about the winter holiday festivities and summertime dolce vita. In short, you’re spoiled for choice when picking a good time to stay in Florence. Each season has its highlights, so consider this our case for spending at least one autumn, winter, spring and summer in the capital of Tuscany.
You don’t want to miss the harvest time in Tuscany, which runs from late September to mid-October and yields some of the most delicious things to taste in Florence’s restaurants. The vendemmia, or grape harvest, sees farmers picking grapes to not only bottle into Tuscan wines, but also to bake into schiacciata con l’uva—a sweet and sticky flatbread you’ll be able to sample at the bakeries around town.
The early Tuscan olive harvest, meanwhile, guarantees that you’ll start to see bottles of deep green, peppery oil popping up with the “olio nuovo” (new oil) label in Florentine shops and restaurants. The best way to taste it? On a slice of toasted, unsalted Tuscan bread.
These harvests—in addition to all the fresh truffles, porcini mushrooms, chestnuts and pumpkins growing in the countryside—make autumn the best time to dine in Tuscany. With temperatures hovering in the comfortably cool 50s to 70s range, the mood is just right to tuck into a plate of tagliolini al tartufo, pappardelle with wild boar sauce, or pumpkin ravioli and fried porcini. Taste the bounty at Florence’s many trattorie, or visit Tuscan fall festivals in nearby towns like Greve, Impruneta and San Miniato.
As for what to do between meals, the fall means Florence’s theaters reopen after their summer breaks. Film buffs may want to check out the 50 Giorni di Cinema a Firenze, a festival running from early October to mid-December and showcasing international filmmakers. In the mood for the theater? Teatro della Pergola, Teatro Verdi and Teatro Puccini begin their seasons in September and October.
You’ll need a coat and an umbrella if you’re visiting Florence between late November and February—but fear not, there are tons of things to do on a rainy day in Florence. Better yet, as the high tourist season ends and the holiday festivities begin, winter reveals itself to be the best-kept secret in Italy.
Though you’ll thoroughly enjoy escaping the rain by popping into one of Florence’s countless cafes for a cup of rich hot chocolate or one of the 72 museums for art and history, there’s plenty of outdoor fun to be had this time of year. Starting in late November, for one, Florence’s main Christmas market in Piazza Santa Croce opens. Grab Polish sausages or Czech pastries—and a steaming cup of Italian mulled wine to wash them down—all while shopping for ornaments and relishing the holiday cheer.
The days surrounding the Immaculate Conception on December 8, a national holiday, mark the lighting of the towering Christmas tree in Piazza Duomo. All month long, you’ll want to bundle up for glorious evening strolls to admire twinkling lights all over the city. Highlights include the decorations on Ponte Vecchio and along the luxury Via de Tornabuoni shopping street, the nativity scenes at the Santo Spirito and Santa Maria del Fiore churches, and trees at Palazzo Vecchio and Piazzale Michelangelo.
Want more holiday fun? There’s an ice-skating rink, Florence Ice Village, near the Fortezza da Basso every year, as well as smaller Christmas markets and local events throughout December. The festivities culminate with Christmas Eve and Day Mass in the Cathedral of Florence, then settle down after January 6—the day of the Epiphany. This national holiday includes a parade reenacting the journey of the wise men to the nativity, plus glimpses of La Befana, the old woman who delivered gifts to Italian children the night before.
After a quiet January, Florence in February marks the beginning of Carnival season. This lively time of year means you’ll be able taste typical pre-Lent treats—like frittelle di riso, or fried rice pudding balls—and delight in traditional parades. While the most famous are in Venice and Viareggio, Florence’s own Carnival procession happens the weekend before Lent in Piazza Signoria, and it promises plenty of masks, 18th-century costumes and papier-mâché floats.
With daytime temperatures in the 60s and sweet-smelling wisteria and jasmine blooming all over the city, sunny spring is a fabulous time to be in Florence. The season kicks off with Easter, which is really a two-day affair thanks to Pasqua on Sunday and Pasquetta (little Easter) on Monday. This gives you two excuses to book a long lunch of lamb, torta pasqualina, asparagus and local fava beans served with pecorino. On Sunday morning, don’t miss the 300-year-old tradition of the Explosion of the Cart, when a dove-shaped rocket is shot at the cart from the inside of the Florence Cathedral—creating a fireworks display right in front of the Duomo. On Monday, grab a traditional dove-shaped colomba cake to take to a picnic at one of the gardens below. Florence’s major museums are open on both Sunday and Monday, making this holiday weekend particularly spirited.
If your ideal Italian vacation involves strolling around gardens, then you’ll definitely want to plan your Florence trip for around late April or early May. This is when the somewhat under-the-radar Iris Garden, tucked behind Piazzale Michelangelo, opens for its annual four-week window. Free of charge, sit on a bench to admire irises of all hues, which attract horticulturalists from all over the world. This is also the best time of year to visit the Bardini Garden, as its mesmerizing, Instagram-famous wisteria pergola is in full violet bloom. For a full day of soaking up fragrant flowers, buy a ticket for both the Bardini and Boboli Gardens, which have plenty of flower-speckled hillsides for lounging on a blanket. Finally, stop at the Rose Garden on your way back to the city center, whose 350 varieties of roses are at their peak in the spring.
Summers in Florence are hot, which means it’s the ideal season to wake up early, stay out late and take full advantage of afternoon siestas. Wear cool clothing and slather on the sunscreen, and you’ll have plenty of fun experiencing Florence’s high season.
Any local will tell you that the highlight of summer in the city—besides cooling down with an Aperol spritz or a cone from the best gelaterias in Florence—is the exhilarating local game of Calcio Storico. This traditional sport is an intense combination of soccer, rugby and wrestling, and it sees 27 brave volunteers from each of the four districts of Florence—Santa Maria Novella (the red team), Santo Spirito (white), Santa Croce (blue) and San Giovanni (green)—battle it out in the name of pure love for their city. If you’re lucky enough to snag a ticket to the semifinals and final match in June, you’ll sit in the stands overlooking a sandy field set up in Piazza Santa Croce. Otherwise, book one of our apartments in the piazza for a bird’s eye view of the action. The June 24 final begins with an afternoon parade through Florence, when medieval costumed players (and their rowdy supporters) make their way toward Santa Croce to the beating of drums and much fanfare.
On the same day, Florence celebrates the Festa di San Giovanni, or the feast day for its patron saint, St. John the Baptist. The day begins with mass and a civic parade from Palazzo Vecchio to the Baptistry of Florence. If you’re in the mood for a climb (and a rewarding view), one lesser known perk of the holiday is the reopening of San Niccolò tower, a fixture of Florence’s ancient city walls that can be seen in a guided small-group tour. After dinner, grab a spot along the Arno to watch the annual fireworks display—perhaps the only time of year when you get to see the Ponte Vecchio illuminated by dazzling fireworks.
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