Sunday, January 8, 2012

Natale in Italia - Christmas in Italy

I know, I know...Christmas is over.  The Christmas Season ended last Friday with Epiphany.   I know.  But...a lot of folks have been asking me how it was to be in Italy for Christmas, so let's just pretend it's still Christmas for a few minutes, ok?  Besides, Christmas is "the most wonderful time of the year" according to the song made popular by Andy Williams, so who wouldn't want to re-visit for a bit?

The Christmas tree in the Piazza del Duomo, Florence
Christmas is a magical time of the year to me.  I found that it was even more so when I experienced it in Florence.  Christmas in Italy is amazing.  You might not get a white Christmas, but the spirit is definitely alive and well.  Decorations abound.  The first week of December, there was a "Festival of Light" in Florence.  They streets, buildings and bridges were all decked out in beautiful lights.  We made the trip into the historic city center twice to see the sights.  They were gorgeous.

Christmas lights suspended above a street in Florence.

Ponte Vecchio, lit up for the holidays.

Piazza della Repubblica, awash in Christmas lights

The Piazza della Repubblica was a beautiful site.  Lights completely covered one of the buildings.  The carousel was turning, accompanied by light-hearted music and the laughter of children.  There was a market set up in part of the piazza.  Booths with vendors selling cheeses (we bought a fantastic peccorino nero), meats, roasted nuts, small gifts, and...necci.

The necci booth was run by an absolutely adorable elderly couple.  Necci are a type of crepe made with chestnut flour, which is cooked on round, flat, hand-held irons.  The recipe hails from the mountains of Pistoia, a town approximately 30 -35 minutes away from Florence.  We got them con ricotta - with ricotta spread in the middle.  Fabulous!

The Christmas market in Piazza Santa Croce
Christmas markets pop up all over Italy in the month of December.  The biggest and most famous in Florence is the one that comes each year to the Piazza Santa Croce.  Funny enough, this is a German market!  The booths are filled with such treats as apple strudel, pork, sauerkraut, pretzels, and gifts with a German flair - such as Christmas tree ornaments and toys.

A booth at the German market.  Apple Strudel and Pretzels the size of your head!

Presepe (nativity scene) next to Santa Maria del Fiore.
Presepe, nativity scenes, are all over Italy during the Christmas season.  Every church has one.  Some are traditional...

some are...not so traditional.

La Pietra Prende Vita - The Stone Takes Life.  Created by Stefano Innocenti.  (Pistoia)
A presepe made entirely of dried pasta!

A Christmas Eve tradition in Italy is to have fish for Christmas Eve dinner.  In Southern Italy, they have the tradition of "The Feast of the Seven Fishes".  Well, we were in Central Italy, so we only had 3 forms of seafood.  2 different types of fish and a fabulous crustacean.


Christmas Eve Dinner...prior to being roasted.

Christmas Day 2011 was gorgeous.  The sun was brilliant and I think it reached around 50 degrees.

Christmas Day in Florence
We walked around the city in search of Madonnari - street artists who produce gorgeous sidewalk chalk paintings of the Madonna and Bambino.  We only found one in the whole city, but his work was amazing.

We hiked up the hill from the Arno all the way up to San Miniato al Monte as the afternoon drifted into twilight.  The view was magnificent.

View of Florence from San Miniato al Monte.
We closed Christmas Day 2011 by visiting the Piazzale Michelangelo at night.  The views of the city from the Piazzale are absolutely breathtaking at anytime you visit, but on was extra special.

Christmas Tree at Piazzale Michelangelo
My Christmas in Italy was better than I could have imagined.  The country definitely knows how to celebrate. Everyone enjoys the markets, lights, parties.  You see families, lovers, and friends all gathering together to celebrate the season.  It is truly magical.

No comments:

Post a Comment