While the spending the holiday season abroad can bring about some homesickness, it also give you the chance to experience another culture during a special time of year. CAPA blogger Payton is making the most of spending the holiday season in Florence, Italy. Read more as she she takes us around to see the a tree lighting, Christmas markets and more!
Ciao! Last week was the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception, an Italian national holiday that rings in the Christmas festivities every year. The holiday is celebrated with, you guessed it, a feast, as well as parades, a Christmas tree lighting, and projection light shows! So now Christmas is in full swing here in Florence! Here are a few highlights so far:
1. Christmas lights go up all around the city
Christmas Lights like these hang throughout the city
Shortly after Halloween (yes, Halloween), we all started to notice strings of unlit Christmas lights popping up on different streets; a new one every day. This really got us excited, because we knew that it meant that Florence would soon become the Christmas-time-in-Europe haven that we all dream about. And soon enough, once all the lights were finally strung up, they would spring on once it got dark and fill the streets with gorgeous whites and golds and blues. My favorite ones hang down along Via de’ Tornabuoni, a very wide street with luxury brand stores on either side of it (which also have great holiday window displays!) The lights hang on wires that have been strung across the street, so that they fill the entire space above you as you walk through them. Pictures don’t do them justice, you’ll just have to see for yourself!
2. You get to experience new Christmas Tree lighting traditions
The festival right before the tree lighting in Piazza Del Duomo!
At around 4:00 pm on December 8th, Italian citizens started to gather in the Piazza Del Duomo, near the Christmas tree and the nativity scene that had recently been installed. Within minutes, there was a huge crowd surrounding men wearing traditional costumes with flags sporting the Firenze Fleur de Lis, dancing and throwing their flags as a band played behind them. This went on until 5:00, when the mayor arrived in the square on a little Christmas train! After a rousing rendition of jingle bells sung by roughly 50 Italian men in Santa suits that accompanied the mayor, the countdown to lighting of the tree began. Everyone cheered as the white lights of the tree blinked on when the countdown reached “uno,” smiled and took it all in, and then went on their merry way to continue to the feast day festivities with their families.
3. F-Light Firenze puts on public light shows.
F-Light Firenze projecting special affects onto the Ponte Vecchio!
After the tree lighting, my friends and I popped on over to the Ponte Vecchio, where F-Light Firenze was kicking off their first projected light show of the season. This year, the animations are dedicated to Leonardo Da Vinci, as 2019 marks 500 years since his death. The bridge lit up with special effects that made it appear to be in motion, mixed in with slides of some of Da Vinci’s most famous works. December 8th marks the first day of F-Lights shows that aim to turn the architecture of Florence into modern works of art themselves. These shows are projected at Ponte Vecchio, Santa Maria Novella, Palazzo Vecchio, Palazzo Medici Ricardi, Mercato Centrale, San Miniato al Monte, and many other towers and buildings, starting at 5:30 pm every night.
4. You can explore the Christmas Market at Santa Croce
The Santa Croce Christmas Market - this is the largest Christmas Market in Florence.
Last but certainly not least is the Christmas Market at Santa Croce. The market opened up on November 20th, and fills the piazza with booths selling sausages, waffles, churros, and other holiday treats, as well as handmade ornaments, lanterns, toys, and even spices and flowers! Anything that you can imagine gifting someone, you can find at Piazza di Santa Croce this time of year. And the backdrop of the beautiful, ancient church makes it that much more special. I try to stop by the market once a day, as it is a short walk from CAPA, to get myself in the spirit of things. There’s sometimes even live Christmas music! It’s the best time of the year!
Vendors sell everything from sausage and waffles to handmade ornaments, lanterns, and toys!
For me, the only thing that’s missing from Christmas time in Florence is the snow that I’m so used to having (maybe a little too much of) in Boulder, CO. That being said, the daily 50 degree weather in December is pretty easy to get on board with. Getting to experience the holidays in Europe is yet another reason why I’m so glad I studied abroad in the fall, and Florence could not be a better place to get into the Christmas spirit!
Payton Meyer is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2018, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A Strategic Communication major at University of Colorado Boulder, she is studying abroad in Florence this semester.
Payton's journey continues every Thursday so stay tuned.