Looking for a fun way to kick off your Italy travels this year? Winter is the best kept secret in Italy, and there’s no better place than Florence in February to find out why. Sure there might be some drizzly days, they’re also punctuated by the loveliest clear skies and crisp air. You’ll have plenty to do thanks to the city’s late-winter fun and, especially, Carnival celebrations. Better yet, with the sights and streets being emptier than usual, February in Florence will feel like your own little secret.
Winter Fun in Florence
Winter is an unexpectedly ideal time to visit Florence. If you’re met with February’s typical rain showers and cool temperatures, fret not: There are plenty of things to do on a rainy day in Florence. Whatever your weather app tells you, this is the perfect time of year for enjoying the city’s historic treasures – and so much more.
Café Hop for Hot Chocolate
Go out (or, rather, in) for a cioccolata calda and a book break at one of Florence’s many cafes specializing in chocolate. Rivoire (Piazza della Signoria, 5/R), Coccole Cioccolato (Via de’ Ginori, 55/57r), and Pasticceria Dolci e Dolcezze (Piazza Cesare Beccaria, 8/R) are a few addresses chocolate lovers won’t want to miss.
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Eat Seasonal Specialties
Browse the fruit and vegetable stands at Mercato Centrale or Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio for something to whip up at your Florence apartment rental, like hearty Tuscan soups swimming with velvety pumpkin or vibrant black kale, or a light tasting of winter pears with pecorino. And if you’d rather go out, now’s the easiest time of year to snag a reservation at local institutions like Trattoria Cammillo (Borgo S. Jacopo, 57/r), Vini e Vecchi Sapori (Via dei Magazzini, 3/r) and Cibrèo (Via del Verrocchio, 8r). Don’t miss out on menu items featuring in-season artichokes, radicchio and citrus. Check out these Florence favorite dining spots from Italy Perfect founder Lisa Byrne.
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Shop on Sale (or Not)
With sale season starting in early January and extending through February, now’s the time to have our Personal Shopper take you to the best places for Florence’s famous leather boots and jackets, marbled paper and other artisan-made goods for a deal. Prefer to browse market stalls for unique treasures? Head to Piazza Santo Spirito on the second and third Sundays of the month for art, crafts and foods from organic farms. For antiques and vintage clothes, try the Fortezza da Basso market (every third weekend of the month) and Cascine market (Tuesday mornings).
Enjoy Less Crowded Streets, Sights & Museums
Save for a few study-abroad groups, Florence’s most popular churches and museums are quiet in February. Enjoy having the Uffizi, Bargello and Pitti Palace to yourself, and take advantage of the cooler weather to climb the Duomo or Giotto’s Bell Tower without breaking a sweat. And when the weather’s good, it’s passeggiata time: Take a stroll to uncover Florence’s hidden gems, followed by an early sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo.
Head to Special Events in 2023
If you’ve already enjoyed Florence’s perennial offerings and want to take advantage of the season’s special events, you’re in luck this year:
- Celebrating Valentine’s Day in the city? Treat yourself to an expertly made cocktail or a bottle of sparkling wine at Procacci ( Via de’ Tornabuoni, 64/r). Many restaurants offer special tasting menus for the holiday; call ahead for a reservation.
- Through February 26, Banksy’s street art will be projected on the walls inside the former Santo Stefano al Ponte church. Your ticket includes the chance to put on a VR headset and “spray paint” the walls like Banksy.
- Until April 18, the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum will have a Women in Balance exhibit dedicated to Wanda Ferragamo, the famous Florentine designer’s wife who helmed the fashion house after his death, and Italian women of the 50s and 60s.
Carnival Celebrations in Florence
And now for the main event: Carnival season. While you might only think of Venice’s Carnival celebrations, during the month of February Italians all over the peninsula celebrate their last few weeks to eat meat, indulge in sugar and hold elaborate parties and parades before the Lenten season begins. In 2023, the main Carnevale dates to know are those from Giovedi grasso (Fat Thursday) on February 16 to Martedi grasso (Fat Tuesday) on February 21 – though you’ll find plenty of festivities sprinkled throughout the month.
Feast on Fried and Sugary Delights
For those with a sweet tooth, February is the best time of year to be in Florence, when bakeries and cafes churn out fried and sugar-coated Carnival sweets all month long. Look out for classic treats like frittelle di riso (bite-sized balls of deep-fried rice pudding, sometimes filled with custard), cenci (“rags” of fried dough, dusted with powdered sugar), and schiacciata alla Fiorentina (a local sheet cake with Chantilly cream filling, decorated with the Florentine fleur-de-lis). You’ll find these at most traditional coffee bars and bakeries, but Pasticceria Giorgio (Via Duccio di Buoninsegna, 36) a little outside of the city center is particularly famous for its Carnival offerings.
Delight in a Carnival Parade
Hang around Piazza Signoria on the weekend before Lent to catch Florence’s annual Carnival parade. You’ll know it when you see it: Groups of revelers, dressed in elaborate masks and 18th-century costumes, will march, dance and wave flags along the streets – trailed by bands, confetti and papier-mâché floats. Enjoy a glimpse of the holiday fun in this video from the 2020 Carnival in Florence:
If you’re up for a day trip, one of Italy’s most famous Carnival celebrations is just over an hour away by train. The coastal town of Viareggio attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to its annual Carnival parades, which just rang in their 150th anniversary. This year’s celebrations fall on six different dates in February and, as usual, promise larger-than-life papier-mâché floats, towering as tall as buildings and intricately decorated around the 2023 theme of “dreams, hopes, and desires for a better world.”
See a Concert
If the weather isn’t on your side or you’d rather celebrate Carnival indoors, a seasonal concert is a wonderful idea. This year on February 21, the Orchestra della Toscana will play a Carnival concert at Teatro Verdi near Santa Croce.