Italy’s Best Kept Secret: Florence in the Off-Season

  • View of the city of Florence

  • padlocks on a gate

  • huge Christmas tree outside of a church

  • The Arno River in Florence, Italy

  • Window display with jewelry

  • Statue of David

Florence in December is pure magic. From the twinkling lights encircling the ethereal Duomo, to the markets brimming with handcrafted goods to menus bursting with fresh truffles and slow-simmering stews, there is no doubt that visiting Florence during the winter holidays is one of Italy’s best-kept secrets.

Globally recognized as the birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence (known by the locals as Firenze) has long been a coveted destination where art, food, and culture aficionados have flocked to for centuries. The herds begin to dissipate in early September – making way for those “in the know” to enjoy the peace and tranquility of the harvest season, followed by the magic of the winter holidays.

So the next time you are dreaming of handmade pasta and the finest Italian shoes, here are our top three reasons why you should visit Florence in December as if you needed an excuse.

Enjoy the Museums & Attractions Nearly All to Yourself
During the off-season, feel free to sleep in till nine, enjoy a light breakfast of espresso and a croissant, and then leisurely stroll over to the museum of your choosing, where you will likely be granted instant admission. The impressive Statue of David and the magnificence of the Duomo of Santa Maria del Fiore are even more incredible when they are not obstructed by masses of tourists and selfie sticks. A few of our favorite experiences include climbing the stairs to the top of the Duomo of Santa Maria del Fiore at sunset, and wandering the halls while admiring artwork at the magnificent Uffizi Gallery, and window shopping along the Ponte Vecchio, Florence’s oldest bridge.

Your Wallet Will Thank You
Contrary to popular belief, Europe is relatively budget-friendly. The recent influx of international flights, as well as the ease and affordability of overseas transportation, make the trip across the pond a lot easier. Combine these factors with the lower prices during the off-season and you can find some of the best hotel, flight, and restaurant deals around. During our last trip, we enjoyed relaxing massages at the 5-star Arya spa for only €60, as part of their winter spa special. You would pay nearly double that amount here in the States, when you factor in gratuity.

Pro-Tipping Tip: In Italy, you are not required to tip, occasionally, you will see a coperto, or cover charge, on your bill for small concessions such as bread and oil, but you can always request no coperto when you are seated and save a few euros.

Holiday lovers, rejoice!
Beginning in December, the entire town of Florence is illuminated with thousands of twinkling holiday lights. Expect to find the town painted in red, green, and gold. Delight in the multi-story, live Christmas trees decorated throughout the town, the largest of which you can find outside the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.

In addition, you’ll discover a multitude of holiday markets, filled to the brim with handcrafted leather goods, jewelry, linens, and pottery. A few of our favorites include the Fierucola dell’Immacolata (Immaculate Small Fair), located in the Piazza Santissima Annunziata, and the German-themed market in the Piazza de Sante Croce, which features not only Italian themed gifts and goodies, but also a multitude of German treats including hot mulled wine, schnitzel, and strudel.

There’s no denying that Florence is an incredible city to visit, no matter the time of year. But if fantastic travel deals and a slower pace of life beckon your name, be sure to visit in the winter months. You’ll be truly inspired and surprised by the magic of Firenze in the off-season.

Know Before You Go

This post was written by Hilton Suggests Team Member, Courtney S. Are you interested in traveling to Florence? Let us know if we can help you with any other recommendations. Tweet us for more great local travel tips!

More posts from Courtney S.