Last year, I dedicated the month of July to recapping our Christmas market adventures. While I don’t have as much content this year, I do have some updates to share from our trips in November and December 2021. While not nearly as well known as the German Christmas markets, the Tuscany Christmas markets should be on anyone’s Italian bucket list. These Christmas markets are more temperate than their German / Czech / Austrian / Slovakian counterparts, so they might be just as enjoyable as their northern counterparts. If you don’t like the cold, you might even find them more enjoyable!
2023 Tuscany Christmas Market Dates
- 11/23/2022 – 12/22/2022 – Santa Croce Christmas Market in Florence
- 11/19/2022 – 01/08/2023 – Arezzo Città del Natale Christmas Market
- 11/19/2023 – 01/06/2024 – Montepulciano Mercatino Natale
- 11/27/2021 – 12/19/2021 – Lucca Christmas Market
- 12/04/2021 – 12/05/2021 – Siena Christmas Market
Which Christmas Markets in Tuscany Are Worth Visiting?
You already know the answer. I’ve never met a Christmas market that I didn’t enjoy. I think all the Tuscany Christmas markets are worth visiting, even the ones I haven’t seen yet. (I’m coming for you next, Mercato nel Campo Siena!) I’ve decided to highlight three of my favorite Tuscan Christmas markets thus far. All of these markets are geared towards locals. They all have delightful Christmas gifts, family-friendly activities and events, and plenty of food and wine to try. If you have any questions, drop them in the comments and I’ll try to answer!
Just a reminder: Tuscany Christmas markets are not open nearly as often or as long as their German counterparts. While the Christmas season technically lasts until Epiphany, many markets are closed by Christmas Eve, at the latest. If this is important to you, you’ll want to plan your Tuscany trip carefully and check the dates for the year you are planning to go. While most seem to open at the end of November or first weekend in December, some are only open for specific weekends and dates.
Montepulciano Christmas Market
For two years in a row, we have visited the Christmas village in the heart of Montepulciano. The first time was in late December (after Christmas) and the second time was in late November (before Thanksgiving). Both times, we agreed that it was the most lively, local Christmas market we’ve visited. Christmas music was blaring and the locals were singing along happily. It was impossible not to join their holiday spirit. The largest part of the Christmas market takes place in the Piazza Grande and winds its way up to the Montepulciano Fortress, which becomes Babbo Natale and a winter wonderland for children and families. If you are coming to Tuscany with your family, the Montepulciano Villaggio di Natale is your best bet.
Believe it or not, the Montepulciano is the market for shopping! The wooden houses of the Montepulciano’s Christmas market are filled with Tuscany’s finest treats. There are plenty of Tuscan meats and cheeses to try, but there are a lot sweet treats, too. I’ve purchased a few home decor items at this Christmas market, ranging from wooden statues to hand-painted ceramic Christmas ornaments. The lavender booth will lure you in with delightful scents and soaps, but you can also find pens and journals for the writer in your life. Everything is unmistakably Italian and the products are very local to the region. You might need some Italian skills if you come during a quiet time. We found mornings to be the quietest time to visit!
Santa Claus and his castle take over the Montepulciano Fortress with activities, entertainment, and a carousel. (It’s worth walking through just to see the Christmas decorations, too!) If this type of family fun isn’t your speed and you need an excuse to warm up (or get away from the rain), head to the backside of the fortress for a wine and/or olive oil tasting at Enoliteca. If you need something more significant, there’s a food court (only during Christmas time) with plenty of options for everyone!
The Montepulciano Christmas market runs from the end of November until January 6. The days and times vary a little bit during the early part of the holiday season, so check the dates on their website when you’re planning your trip!
Where to Stay in Montepulciano
I recommend spending at least a night in Montepulciano. It’s one of my favorite Tuscan hill towns.
One, the Christmas market is beautiful at night (even in the rain). You will get a different experience by staying in the town, rather than being a day-tripper.
Two, I love Osteria Acquacheta and it is only open for very specific times for lunch and dinner. Four seatings a day. Closed on certain weekdays and regularly throughout December, including the week before Christmas. You really have to plan for this meal. On our first trip to Montepulciano, we missed it. We ended up taking a day trip from Siena for lunch. It was worth it. Reservations mostly required, even in the off-season. Guilo’s pici with olive oil, chili and garlic is some of my favorite pasta.
Three, Palazzo Carletti is a gem. The staff is so lovely and so helpful, even before arrival. They are always a text message away and always have recommendations for restaurants when we check in. We’ve stayed with them three times and they’ve given us different restaurants every time! This palace-turned-hotel has five suites. We’ve stayed in three of them (and my mom stayed in the single). The Albany suite is my favorite room because of its sweeping views of the countryside, but all the rooms are comfortable and well-appointed. Breakfast, a complimentary honor bar, and free parking are included in your room rate. It’s in the middle of the old town walls and a short (somewhat steep) walk from the Piazza Grande.
Arezzo Christmas Market
In November 2019, we took an early morning Vueling flight from Barcelona to Florence. Knowing that we would have quite a bit of time to kill between our arrival and check-in at the Carletti, we headed to the Arezzo Christmas market! Arezzo is about an hour from Florence and halfway between Florence and Montepulciano. This Christmas market also takes place in the Piazza Grande, in the shadow of Santa Maria della Pieve, and though we got there shortly after it opened on a Sunday morning, it was hopping! We missed some sort of parade while we were walking to the market; we could hear the horns but couldn’t see what was happening! Try to get there early and find out!
Mercatini di Natale Arezzo, as it is called, is the most Austrian Christmas market I’ve visited in Italy. From the strudel stands, to the pretzel stands, to the beer and mulled wine offerings, it’s easy to feel like you’re at one of the Vienna Christmas markets. The architecture and the language will remind you that you’re in Italy though. We didn’t hear any English the entire time we were in Arezzo. Similar to Montepulciano, the market felt very local with Christmas trees for sale, cold weather gear, and beautiful Christmas ornaments. They had beautiful hand-painted ornaments, as well as the mouth-blown ones, too. I came home with a few Arezzo ornaments as souvenirs because I loved the painted ones so much!
This is a very family-friendly market, though the line to see Santa Claus was very, very long while we were there. This market is generally only open on the weekends (though it tends to open in mid-November), so make sure to check the dates before you go!
Florence Christmas Market
Fun fact: I’ve been coming to the Santa Croce Weihnachtsmarkt since 2004. That’s right, I bought many Christmas gifts at this very market before coming home from my study abroad semester. The biggest Christmas market in the city of Florence is in the Piazza Santa Croce, right in front of my favorite church. While this market certainly has a traditional German Christmas market feel, it is also a trip around the continent with products from all over Europe. I actually wondered if it had become one of the Nuremberg sister cities markets because it was more eclectic that I remembered. (It hasn’t; you have to visit he Verona Christmas markets for that!)
I highly recommend visiting the Santa Croce market when you are hungry. There are so many eclectic food stands that you could make lunch or dinner out of an entire visit. This market really shines when it comes to food. You could have Belgian waffles for breakfast, a bratwurst for lunch, a brezen (pretzel) for a snack, and churros or strudel for dessert. There truly is something for everyone to eat. (I’m reminded of the woman in our pasta cooking class who didn’t want to add garlic to the food. I think even she could have found something here.)
There are still a lot of gift items for sale – candles, soaps, housewares, winter gear, Christmas decor. I noticed that they carried a lot of products similar to the things we saw at the Rothenburg ob der Tauber Christmas markets. One of the more original things that I thought saw was an artist personalizing Christmas ornaments. My favorite moment? When the dog was doing his Christmas shopping at the market. Seriously. The Florentines weren’t even phased. They just let him stand there and go about his business. Too funny.
The Santa Croce market typically opens at the end of November and closes before Christmas. We’ve never seen it – or any remnants of it – when we’ve been in Florence to celebrate the new year.
Staying in Florence
I think you should plan for a few days in Florence. In addition to the Santa Croce Christmas market, there are beautiful nativity scenes spread throughout the city. If you want to stay in the middle of the action, I highly recommend the Gallery Hotel Art or the Arte Boutique Hotel, which are in heart of the city center and offer terrific low-season rates. If you have a higher budget and you don’t mind walking, the St Regis Florence is my hotel of choice. Adore their staff, adore their rooms, adore their view. It is not as convenient to Santa Croce though (20 minute walk).
There are so many amazing cooking classes, tours, and museums in Florence that it really deserves more than just a stop at the Christmas market… not that anyone would ever do that. My Florence restaurant list gets longer every time we go, which is a good problem to have, but I literally have a list of places to try that could last me for a lifetime of visits, too.
Other Tuscany Christmas Markets on My Radar
Signa Christmas Market
One of the Christmas markets that we wanted to visit last year but didn’t make it to is the Signa Oberdrauburg Christmas Market. This is a sister-city market of Maromme, France and Oberdrauburg, Austria and is supposed to have hand-crafts and local products. It’s approximately 15 minutes outside of Florence. We were going to stop by before turning in our rental car, but ran out of time after spending more time wine tasting.
Siena Mercato nel Campo
I recommend staying one night in Siena, at a minimum. I’ve been to Siena on a day trip in December, and the days were not crowded at all. I love people watching in the Campo at any time of the year, but I imagine it’s especially fun at Christmas time, too.
There are a lot of smaller local markets between Siena and Florence, so you really could rent a car and make a Tuscany Christmas Market road trip out of it with some fun weekday activities mixed in with the weekends. Lucca is supposed to have a nice market, too.
A Few Notes About Christmas in Italy
Recently, I posted a photo on instagram from Venice and someone mentioned that Venice was too touristy when they visited. I think the year we spent Christmas in Venice was one of the most magical times that we’ve been there, and we’ve spent Christmas in Rome and Paris, too.) You could tell that the tourists had gone home and the locals were out and about. The decor was lovely and the ice skating rink in the middle of Campo San Polo was such a fun thing to stumble upon.
The same spirit is true when we have visited some of the smaller towns of Tuscany at Christmas time. It’s a completely different vibe than traveling in high season. I definitely recommend visiting Italy for the Christmas markets or to celebrate the holidays. While you do have to be deliberate about your planning (and you definitely won’t get Buon Gusto in Pienza), it is a fun and festive time to visit Italy…. and I just adore our New Year’s celebrations in Florence.