We find that so many of our overseas guests think of Florence, Tuscany and Italy as summer places. Perhaps that enjoy an eternal summer. Many are surprised that in Florence temperatures can sink right down to minus 7/8 degrees regularly every winter, and even very harsh minus double digit temperatures can occur. Famously in the winter of 84/85 minus 25°c was recorded (along with record losses of olive and cypress trees). At least one snowfall normally occurs each winter (we are not used to it, it brings the entire region to a grinding halt!), and copious amounts of rain invade the cities and countryside. Yes, we have winters too!
But to every cloud there is a silver lining. Florence in winter is still a live and vibrant city, but without the throngs that bused, planed and trained in each summer season between April and October. It becomes a more civilised place altogether without the jostling crowds, endless queues for the big art sites, and tempers are generally much calmer once the 40° heat is removed.
And lots of things still happen in Florence in the winter.
November: the first winter sweet chestnuts come down from the wooded hills in Tuscany, and the Vino Novello makes its debut. Also, with the large number or American residents now permanently in Florence, Thanksgiving has become an annual event – celebrated in numerous restaurants (including this one).
December: Christmas and New Year of course. Lots of beautiful window shopping to be done, decorated streets and shop fronts.
January: On the 6th is Epiphany when traditionally an old witch on a broomstick visits children during the night leaving sweets and candies for good kids and coal for the naughty ones.
February: Carnival, and the big Tuscan one in Viareggio is not the be missed. Speciality cakes and biscuits are cooked by the millions – cenci, schiacciata alla fiorentina and fritelle.
March: Spring is normally well on the way by now, and warmer temperatures make an al fresco lunch an absolute possibility. A visit to the coast now is wonderful for a brisk walk on the beach and a fresh fish lunch.
And just think of all the fabulous winter dishes and great wines there are to try!
Hotel prices of course are lower, and flights are cheaper. It makes you wonder why anyone would want to come in the summer!