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Two weeks in winter

Philadelphia...
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Two weeks in winter

We have just under two weeks to spend in Florence, and seeking suggestions for Christmas-New Year time activities. In addition to main museums, what would you do? I assume it might be too cold for long walks, but would like to get an opinion from travelers who have experienced winter in that region. Should we consider day trips to Pisa,Sienna,Venice, Milan? Should we stay put in Florence? Are there any annual Christmas festivals we should consider? Theater shows, fireworks? When we travel, we try to get a taste of what it is to live like locals, including daily activities,foods and traditions. Will appreciate any insight offered.

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1. Re: Two weeks in winter

By Philly standards, Florence in December is not "too cold for long walks".

While it's ludicrous to predict the weather four months ahead, you should plan on temperatures in the high 40s (F) or low 50s during the day and the high 30s to high 40s at night. It may be a tad colder or warmer, but that's about the range.

Day trips to Siena or Pisa - or Arezzo or Bologna, make a whole lot of sense. Overnight trips to the gems in the south of Tuscany -- Montepulciano, Montalicino, Chiusi, all of the Val d'Orcia, make a whole lot of sense.

Milan or Venice for a day trip makes no sense whatsoever to me. Just because you can get to a place and back in one day doesn't mean it's a good day trip. I also don't think New York makes sense for a day trip.

Montepulciano, Italy
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2. Re: Two weeks in winter

A few random thoughts. First off, great time to come, I would personally say the best (the only?) as the city looks even lovelier than usual during the holiday season. You’ll notice a huge difference in crowds during the period prior to 26th December and immediately afterwards up to 6th January as Italian tourists descend en masse. It’s manageable even then but if you want to visit the Uffizi and the Accademia, climb the tower of Il Duomo I would do that early in your stay. Day trips. Milan is a bit too far for a day and is it really worth it when you get there? Venice is possible, I know someone who did it in reverse a couple of years back and enjoyed the day out and if you’ve never been to Venice, you certainly should and it’s best to see it in winter, no question. Bologna is easy too on the train, 40 mins? I have Florentine friends who do the commute daily. If you haven’t seen it before I suppose you should see Pisa, and you must definitely go to Siena, on no account miss that. If you really have a total of 14 days in Florence then a couple can be spared to go elsewhere. Now living like locals. Forgive me here please but the locals I know in Florence spend the daily lives navigating their way around and complaining to anyone within earshot about tourists. Their life is much like yours at home only some have to work two jobs to make ends meet, they can’t walk down the street without a bunch of tourists blocking the pavement with suitcases and they are being priced out of housing due to wretched short term rental lets. It’s not very romantic or something visitors would want to copy. The ones I know shop (usually in a hurry in the early evening on their way home from work) at small supermarkets such as Conad grabbing ready-made pasta dishes and probably eating a lot more fruit and veg than you would at home. Re seasonal activities, there are Christmas concerts in several of the churches starting as early as the middle of the month. You'll see cribs in lots of places, including a large one outside the cathedral. There are party celebrations of varying sizes in different piazzas on New Year’s Eve as well as fireworks. There’s also usually a big Italian act on New Year’s eve night in – Venerosi, correct me if I’m wrong – Piazza della Repubblica? People take year end celebrations quite seriously here. They can be rowdy.

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3. Re: Two weeks in winter

Just to clarify, busier 26 Dec- 6 Jan? Or quieter?

Montepulciano, Italy
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4. Re: Two weeks in winter

Much busier from 26th December onwards with lots of Italian tourists as well as some foreign. 26th, 31st December and 6th Jan are public holidays in this country and many local people take the opportunity to travel whereas the pre-Christmas period is very quiet. But it's all relative and crowds even during last week of Dec / first week of Jan nothing compared to what you find June to September.

Edited: 08 August 2018, 13:45
Sydney, Australia
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5. Re: Two weeks in winter

Thanks for the info

Montepulciano, Italy
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6. Re: Two weeks in winter

Correction though, Italian public holidays should read 26th December, 1st and 6th Jan.

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7. Re: Two weeks in winter

I live in Florence and can suggest to you to stay in a smaller town over the new Years holiday, unless of course you are ok with very loud nights, tons of european students coming for NYE and trashy streets. Many things are closed on the 1st anyway. If you decide to stay in Florence for NYE, book now and more than likely will be paying some of the highest rates of the year. It's the second busiest day of the year in Florence. It's chilly in Florence during this time of year, but I imagine it's comparable to Philadelphia and still ok to talk around with the adequate clothing.

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8. Re: Two weeks in winter

I understand your dates are ones which will be much busier in Florence, but I'm copying my trip report from 5 days in Florence from last late January. Maybe there will be something useful, although there is nothing about Christmas time in Florence.

Day 1 - we took the Italo train from Rome to Florence and walked to t our Airbnb in Santa Croce about 1:00. We loved the location. We had several restaurants within a few minutes walking, and only 5 minutes from Piazza Santa Croce. During our time in Florence, we easily walked everywhere in the city we wanted to go. Buying the train ticket one day ahead was fine, and walking to our lodging worked well. It was about half an hour walk.

We spent the afternoon at the Santa Croce basilica. There is so much to see, including many beautiful paintings, that was a couple of hours. Highly recommended, beautiful artwork in several chapels. We also looked into the leather school accessible through the church. We spent the rest of the afternoon walking down to Ponte Vecchio and back through Tourobuoni Street taking in all the upscale window shopping and views of the Duomo. The only place in Florence where we experienced crowds was in the square around Duomo and Ponte Vecchio in the afternoon. On another day we visited Ponte Vecchio in the morning and it was empty; great for photo opportunities.

Day 2: We had tickets for the Uffizi at 9:45, and for the Accademia at 1:00. It turned out I had gotten tickets for the wrong day for Academia, but we were able to buy them for that day and walk right in. We did lose the price of the ticket though. Stupid error on my part. We had taken the opportunity before our trip to view about 20 hours of lectures from the Great Courses on renaissance art of Italy, and that tremendously enhanced our enjoyment. I admit that in the Uffizi we concentrated mainly on artists we had learned about, and their work. In general, I think it pays to focus on smaller bits rather to try to take in everything on the walls.

After a rest, we walked over to Oltrarno, up to Monti Miniato and took in the sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo. Although there were certainly people in the Piazzale, it was far from crowded. We had beautiful sunny weather. I recommend this walk for people who are active. We had dinner at Trattoria Benvenuto and found it good.

Day 3: Duomo day. We had purchased the ticket from the window the day before and had the time of 12:00 to climb the dome. I noticed when we got to the dome climb that the only times that were not filled were around noon, maybe because people eat lunch then. Anyway, it was probalby slightly less crowded than normal. It takes awhile to walk up, mainly because of pauses due to crowding, but the views are beautiful. Before doing the dome, we visited the duomo museum. Of special note to me were the Michelangelo Pieta, and the two choirs, Della Robbia and Donatello. After that we visited the baptistry with it's mosaics. The line for the inside of the church was long; we gave that a miss.

In the afternoon we visited Orsanmichele, and the Brancacci Chapel. We walked right into both, very few people. These might be my favorites. There are both small and have masterpieces of sculpture and fresco respectively. We spent quite a bit of time.

After a rest we had dinner at Trattoria Osteria Ganzi. It was fine, but not especially great food, although service was excellent.

Day 4: We got up and out early to visit the Bargello Gallery. It's a beautiful venue, modern inside with an unbelievable amount of important and masterpiece sculptures from the renaissance. The upstairs has fabrics, majolica and other medieval items. We spent about 3 hours here. In the afternoon, we took a bus from San Marco to Fiesole as it was another fine day. It takes about 1/2 hour to get to this hilltop village and the information office can give you a map with several walks in the area. Very bucolic, with views of Etruscan ruins and an extremely lovely Franciscan monastery. Not sure what it's like other times of year, but we were virtually alone to enjoy the natural and manmade beauty.

This night we took in a concert of Mozart at Teatro Verdi; only a few minute walk from our B&B, and a beautiful venue. Very enjoyable.

Day 5: Another day of almost beauty overload! We visited San Lorenzo and the Laurentian Library, designed by Michelangelo. I didn't expect to be so impressed as my knowledge of architecture is not that great, but it was beautiful. There is also the cathedral with the Brunelleschi Dome, Bronzino and Donatello pulpits. AND the Medici chapel with it's Michelangelo. Again, very few crowds and able to view at our leisure and close up.

We then visited San Marco for the Fra Angelico frescoes; another favorite for me. Very simple and moving and quiet. We spent the afternoon exploring the area east of Santa Croce where there is very little tourism, street tripe stalls, and very local. We visited Ambrosia market. This area might be a place to escape crowds in the high season. We also saw the Galileo Museum, very well done and quite large, although less interesting to us than the art museums and churches.

We had dinner at what turned out to be our favorite restaurant, Cucina Ghianda. A little expensive, but very good food and service.

We departed Florence for Rome the next morning. There is still a tremendous amount to see, and we didn't even quite make it to all the priorities on our list. For us, winter was a wonderful time to experience the city without hordes of tourists.

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9. Re: Two weeks in winter

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