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The magic of Christmas holidays in Florence

When the Christmas spirit pervades the streets of Florence, the cradle of the Renaissance offers a wonderful spectacle. From the Feast of the Immaculate Conception to New Year's Eve, passing through December 25th, there are some places that give back all the magic of Christmas.
 
 

The Markets in Piazza Santa Corce and in Piazza Santissima Annunziata
 

After the forced break of a year, the delightful Christmas market returns to Piazza Santa Croce, inaugurating the entrance to the city in the festive atmosphere. It starts on November 20 and, until December 19, the appointment is set every day from 10 to 22

Over fifty stands are expected in the square, as per tradition housed within the wooden stalls. A golden opportunity to go in search of handcrafted Christmas gifts and let yourself be conquered by exquisite gastronomic specialties from all over Italy and abroad. 

Among the stands set up there will also be the Santa Claus House, a true center of attraction for the little ones. Thanks also to live music, there will be opportunities for fun for adults too. 

For the whole day of 8 December the appointment is fixed with the famous Fierucola market in Piazza Ss. Annunziata. This market-meeting focuses on the taste and goodness of products grown at zero kilometer, together with the splendid products made by Florentine artisans. 


 

The Florence Cathedral, the Christmas tree and the nativity scene 
 

The start of the holiday season is accompanied by the lighting of the majestic Christmas tree in Piazza Duomo. Located in front of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, the event attracts a large number of enthusiasts and onlookers. 

The inauguration ceremony usually takes place in the presence of some representatives of the institutions. Animations and concerts will be at the center of the evening even after the Christmas tree is turned on. 

The nativity scene of the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore will be set up in the same square. In the churchyard of the Cathedral will be placed some statues that reproduce the Nativity, handcrafted with the famous terracotta of Impruneta and built in natural dimensions. 

 


New Year's Eve 2021, Florence dressed up 
 

On the last night of the year, Florence dresses up and floods its streets with joy and fun. The classic New Year's Eve is staged in the restaurants, with set menus (mostly based on Tuscan cuisine) that will gently accompany the start of the new year. 
 

Between concerts, performances and shows, there are many initiatives planned in the most important squares of the historic center of Florence. Everything is set up to experience a magical evening full of fun, art and culture and thus welcome 2022 in the best possible way. 

Unusual Florence: the lesser known museums and the unmissable gardens with unique city views

September in Florence means many things: we come back from summer holidays (in Italy we traditionally leave in August), schools and university courses start again, the city begins to change colors and purifies itself from the heat. Tourists and Florentine families appreciate this month to discover the attractions making us famous in the world.

I personally love September and the sparkling air blowing in the streets, I think it’s the perfect time to walk around in the historic city center. And to fall in love every time with a different, hidden corner. Or a museum far from the bustle, nestled in the urban landscape, almost invisible to cursory glances.

Our city hides many gems of art, collections of unexpected beauty to admire without haste. Today, come with me in the alternative Florence museums, ideal to visit in September.

 

The Stibbert Museum and its weapons

 

On top of a gentle hill away from the center of Florence, a refined villa became a museum thanks to the generosity of an intellectual, Frederick Stibbert. Son of an English soldier and a Tuscan woman, he was born in Florence but was educated in England. He came back here in his early twenties and decided to reside in a villa, built by great Florentine artists.

The Stibbert Museum, a city property at the death of the owner, today collects fifty thousand objects, the result of Stibbert's two greatest passions, travel and collecting. The most fascinating section is the one dedicated to the armory: if you love armors and fights you will have pleasant surprises. White weapons and firearms are set next to each other in the European and Islamic armories of the museum. Costumes, porcelains and refined paintings complete the exhibition tour, in itineraries immersed in History and Beauty.

Leaving the museum, take a stroll in the Stibbert garden, designed as a nineteenth-century English garden, with small temples and neoclassical architectures, caves and fountains. Have fun catching the unusual and characteristic details ... there are plenty of them.

 

An art gallery inside the blue: the Bardini Museum

 

Like the Stibbert Museum, the Bardini Museum owes its origin to the passion of an Italian collector. Stefano Bardini, a passionate of arts and a painter, soon discovered his real vocation: trading ancient objects and artifacts.

If you love Greek and Roman civilizations and you are fascinated by non-traditional spaces, this museum should stand on top of things to see in Florence.

The building is located in San Niccolò district, in the Oltrarno area, but it isn’t don't easy to find: if there were no signs, you would have some problems to identify it. The palace itself boasts a fascinating history, it was built in 1237 as a church and convent to celebrate the peace between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines. In 1775 it was converted into the Palazzo dè Mozzi, then acquired by Bardini.

The collector gathered here ancient objects, artifacts, sculptures and paintings, all set in an ideal scene: the intense blue walls bring out the whiteness of the marble, items from different times and styles combine with unnatural but perfect harmony.

Do not expect a canonical museum: take your time to recognize aesthetic languages ​​and guess the chronology of the works. It will be a new and pleasant experience, I promise you.

Even here ... leave yourself some time at the end of the visit! Stroll around the Bardini Garden, one of the most evocative and well-kept in Florence. The city view is extraordinary.

 

 

The Horne Museum, a house-museum

 

In Via de ’Benci, very close to the lively Piazza Santa Croce, lies a residence, vestal of the Florentine Renaissance. The Horne Museum is the precious legacy of Herbert Percy Horne, London architect and intellectual who chose Florence as his home in 1911. The building he purchased was restored taking inspiration from a noble Renaissance residence.

At his death, the furnishing of the rooms was completed, according to Horne's desires. The current collection contains paintings, sculptures, ceramics, goldsmith's and everyday objects, furniture and fabrics. The entire heritage dates back to the period between 1300 and 1500.

Visiting this museum is a special experience: you are in a house, an environment embodying the memory of repeated gestures, an intimate routine, a rarefied atmosphere. But at the same time, you walk slowly in different eras, among artifacts of incredible charm. A journey into the Florentine Renaissance, with a British touch… irresistible!

 

Natural History, the family-sized museum

 

The Museum of Natural History of Florence is one of the oldest in the world: most of its collections are due to the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo. He sponsored the sciences and the Specola Museum, whose collection of fossils was the first nucleus of the current Museum of Natural History. The other "father" of the museum was Filippo Nesti, a Florentine scholar who gave a complete overview of fossil vertebrates.

The current exhibition is a plunge into the entire Italian paleontological history, an encyclopaedia following evolutionary criteria: from the first micro-organisms of 3.5 billion years ago to the appearance of mammals. I like to come back here from time to time, I believe that the passing of the ages and the changes of our planet - and of living species - is a warning to keep in mind, because the journey up to now has been complicated and millennial.

This museum is particularly suitable for families with children, who remain captivated by fossils and rocks never seen before. If you travel with the little ones, take half a day to slowly enjoy a museum interesting for all ages but especially for them, usually intolerant of "traditional" museums.

Green masterpieces: a stroll in the monumental gardens of Florence

There are so many things to do and attractions to see in Florence that you are spoiled for choice!

Among the historic buildings and the ancient Medici palaces, the most famous museums and cathedrals, not to mention the alleys of the historic center and the Lungarno full of sun.

The exclusive shopping is waiting for you in the boutiques of Via de 'Tornabuoni and Piazza Strozzi, for an espresso with a touch of elegance, the historic cafés of Piazza della Repubblica and Piazza della Signoria are the best choices.

However, if you visit the city with the eyes of a Florentine, you will soon recognize green treasures of unexpected beauty next to mighty walls and Renaissance coats of arms. The monumental gardens of Florence are precious gems, mosaics of nature to explore with slowness and wide-open eyes.

The most famous garden: Boboli

Everyone coming to visit Florence has certainly heard once about the Boboli Gardens... it would be strange otherwise! Due its central position, within the museum complex of Palazzo Pitti but accessible from other points in the city, and the sculptural masterpieces housed inside, our most noble garden is probably the best-known one. Precisely thanks to its lucky position, Boboli is ideal for tourists taking a break in nature while working their way between one museum and another.

Florentines love it the same way, or even more: I personally like to take an hour or two a week, in the spring, to stroll among gushing fountains and stone allegories. The Medici family created the Boboli Gardens in 4 centuries of constant work and I thank them every time for such a gift.

Immerse yourself in this open-air museum with curiosities and you will be amazed by the Fountain of the Ocean by Giambologna, Buontalenti’s Grotto and the eighteenth century Kaffehaus.

Embrace the city at the Bardini Garden

Not far from Boboli, there is another garden worthy of a visit (but also more than one!): the park of Villa Bardini. Inside, you will feel in a small eighteenth-century court, surrounded by English gardens, neat flowerbeds and refined statues. Intense spots of color and very sweet fragrances come from blooming wisteria.

But what I appreciate most here is definitely the view: with its terracing, the garden ensures an overall view of the city center. In a single glance, your eyes embrace Brunelleschi's Dome, the noble profile of Palazzo Vecchio, the frenetic riversides and the solemn Church of Santa Croce.

The most romantic gardens: Iris and Rose

If you are traveling in couple, you can’t beat a stroll in the Rose Garden, in my opinion. The atmosphere is impalpable and magic, due to the gentle slope of Piazzale Michelangelo, the terrace overlooking the city and the sweetest scents in the air. From May to July, in fact, the fragrances of more than 350 species of roses bloom, giving all their essence. Treat yourself to a very romantic walk, among enchanted petals and the sculptures by Jean-Michel Folon. You will not regret it!

The Iris Garden too is entirely dedicated to a flower, the lily, symbol of our city. The flowering season of this flower is brief, so the park is open less than a month a year, from 25 April to 20 May.

At other times of the year, it can only be visited by appointment. If you stay in Florence in springtime, I really recommend you to take some time to breathe deeply the indescribable fragrances of this garden.

The green outside the city center: the Cascine

The Cascine garden is a bit far from the center, but you can easily reach it by public transport and is definitely worth the trip. Vast and well kept, it was designed by the Medici and it has long been the main park of the noble Florentine family.

Nowadays families, couples and lovers of running and cycling come here, especially during weekends. Looking for a little escape from the city, the Cascine Park is one of my favorite spots. This is the largest Florentine public park, 130 hectares of leafy trees and green meadows where you can run or lie in the sun.

Stroll through the internal avenues, admire the ducks and herons on the Arno riverside or treat yourself to a sandwich on the grass. Breathe deeply.

The little known Florence: discover the Opificio delle Pietre Dure

Everywhere in Florence you can meet famous museums, ancient churches and wonderful bridges. All the most renowned attractions are within walking distance.
But our city has lots of treasures hidden behind thick walls, inside museums that are less known but not less fascinating than the others.

We have to admit that unfortunately, Florence is usually seen as a long series of clichés: going walking along the river towards Ponte Vecchio, the candlelit dinner at Piazzale Michelangelo and the visit to the house of Beatrice, the woman that inspired all the artworks of Dante.

Sure, all this stuff is beautiful and interesting, but as a local, I feel like I have to give some advices to all our guests, in order to discover that our city is so much more than this. It is full of extraordinary and off-the-map places.

For example, the Opificio delle Pietre Dure (the Factory of the Semi-Precious stones), proud watchdog of semi-precious stones since the Medici Family ruled Florence.

 

A life long tradition

 

If you are visiting Florence with your partner, the Opificio is a not to be missed attraction. Especially if – just like me and many other Florentines – you are fond of unique and little known places.

The Opificio delle Pietre Dure is a purely Florentine excellence, because it was funded by one of the Signori of Florence: the Granduca Ferdinando I de’ Medici in 1588 subsidized the foundation of a lab specialized in the art of inlaid semi-precious stones.   

At the factory, expert artisans invented the complex technique of the “commesso fiorentino”, a kind of perfect puzzle made of a combination of inlaid pieces of marble and semi-precious stones. They were able to create astonishing figures, humans, sceneries with clear profiles and hues. A particular effect very close to painting.

 

A present and past art hero

 

For over than 3 centuries, the prestigious factory formed artisans that created true artworks to adorn the villas and residences of noblemen in Florence and all around the world.
Later on, the factory became an important restoration laboratory for top-notch works of art.

Today the people that work here are the best you can find and the Opificio is the most important restoration institute in the world: the restorers worked on the Cross of Giotto, the Pala di San Zeno of Mantegna, Alchemy by Jackson Pollock and La Visitazione of Luca della Robbia.

Young restorers and students from all around the world try to spend some months at the Opificio to learn the best techniques of this art.

 

An exhibition about the Twentieth Century

 

If you are staying in Florence these days, I recommend you to spend some time at the Opificio delle Pietre Dure and its Museum. On display, there are the Medici Collections, the tools and instruments to make the commesso fiorentino and the exhibition The Twentieth Century of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure.

Until the 4th of May, 2019 you can have a look at the recent history of the factory, especially the artworks made with commesso fiorentino technique during a competition of 1953.
As a fond of arts Florentine, I was really moved by this exhibit and I ended up falling in love with the inlaid stones I could see.
Falling in love is definitely the right word to describe this world, a strong feeling that you can perceive all around you in this place.

A magic and unique place, perfect to be visited by couples, even better if you are coming on Valentine’s Day.

 

Book your Valentine’s Day Deals at Grand Hotel Adriatico

My first suggestions: 5 things not to be missed in Florence

Let me introduce myself: I am Chiara Caridi, the owner and manager of the Grand Hotel Adriatico and the Rivoli Boutique Hotel in Florence.

I was born and grew up in these hotels, breathing hospitality all day long. I am very proud to represent the third generation of hoteliers in my family. My grandmother Mirra was the first to become an hotelier: in fact, she opened a boarding house in her own home during the post-war Jubilee. She transmitted her passion to my father Gianni, who expanded the hospitality activity together with her, inaugurating the first family hotel in Florence in the '60s.

I can say I inherited the same passion of my father and so it was natural for me to take over the reins of the business. Actually, I graduated with full marks in civil engineering and I travelled to Austria, Germany and England to learn languages. After this linguistic-scientific start, the choice to take care of the family business came naturally, so I started paying my dues in the hotel and today, thanks to the guidance and support of my father, I manage all our properties.

I love traveling, mountains and sport. I am fond of skiing and I go looking for snow whenever I can. This helps me taking a break from everyday life. My own family, together with parents and my job, is a fundamental part of my life.

Managing hotels at first glance may look a trivial job and people often fails to understand the complexity and the continuous innovation that it offers. This is exactly what I love about my work: it is not ordinary, there is no script, it requires continuous updating, even in very distant sectors.

Obviously, you are always at the center of everything: you are our guests! For me, if you want to get customer satisfaction, you need a hotel that is up to date with quality and service, but above all, you have to make guests feel at home. Welcome you with a smile that tells all our passion is essential.

I adore my city and one of my greatest desires is to share with you the Florence that I know, the Florence I have the pleasure to experience as a true Florentine.

 

For starters, here are some suggestions of things not to be missed in Florence:

  1. A walk in Oltrarno area, from Vespucci bridge to Santo Spirito, among the artisan shops and Florentine shops. We are outside the "magical quadrilateral" of the center, always so crowded with tourists.
     
  2. If you are in Florence for the first time, you have to visit the Uffizi, one of the most beautiful art galleries in the world, or the Accademia Gallery, home to the memorable artworks of Michelangelo. But remember that there is also something else, from the new Museo dell'Opera del Duomo to Palazzo Strozzi, Palazzo Pitti, the Stibbert Museum and the Bargello.
     
  3. Just for one evening, desert the renowned restaurants in the center of Florence and treat yourself to a very florentine lampredotto sandwich eaten in one of Florence's many trippai stands, perhaps followed by a delicious ice-cream ate while strolling along the river.
     
  4. You cannot absolutely miss the Antico Setificio Fiorentino, where artisans still works on Renaissance looms to make beautiful fabrics. It is located in Via Bartolini, just a few minutes from the hotel.
     
  5. I love the Officina Santa Maria Novella, an ancient pharmacy perfectly restored where perfumes, soap bars and a many other home and body essences are still produced. 

 

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