Florence is beautiful any time of year but I especially love it when all of the Christmas lights are up. The streets are all strung with lights and there is always a tree in the principal piazzas. I especially love all of the decorations in stores. Everything feels very festive and the whole town shut down from December 24 to January 6, after the feast day of the Epiphany, locally known as La Befana.
The Italians have a saying, “Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua dove vuoi” which translates into stay at home with your relatives for Christmas and go anywhere you want for Easter. No one travels more than the Italians largely because most have six weeks of holiday. For Christmas though everyone tries to stay at home. Many leave the next day, December 26 or December 27 either for Ski locals or warmer climes. In some towns, Christmas is celebrated on December 13, Santa Lucia, but in most it is celebrated on December 24 and 25.
Here I am making homemade ravioli with friends in Florence but not for Christmas when Tortelli in Brodo are usually the pasta of the day. This dish is not from Tuscany but everyone always eats it then. One part of the Christmas meal that is very Tuscan are the Crostini con Fegato, not my favorite dish, but a necessary one. The meal continues with a roast, side dishes and then a parade of desserts, again, many from other parts of Italy. One very Tuscan tradition though is the Vin Santo.
Vin Santo is made from dried grapes that spend time in small barrels called carratelli. These pictures were taken at Castello di Poppiano.
I love Vin Santo, both the traditional version and Occhio di Pernice which comes from Sangiovese grapes and is much rarer.
On my table I always have a bottle of Susanna Crociani’s Vin Santo, a family favorite.
With the Vin Santo, everyone dips their cantucci, the Tuscan biscotto par excellence. I have spent many a Christmas in Tuscany and it has always been an all day affair. A huge lunch, lots of games of cards, more eating and maybe a walk between lunch and dinner. I once sat at the table for 12 hours but that was in Rome. All told, Christmas in Florence is magical and nowhere do I prefer to wait for Babbo Natale than on the banks of the Arno.
However you celebrate your Christmas we’ll have lots to share on how Christmas is celebrated throughout all of Italy so don’t miss it! Here is a preview of what’s to come this Saturday December 3rd. Join us for a live Twitter chat this Saturday at #ItalianFWT 11am EST.
Vino Travels -Christmas in Molise
Feast on History – Feast of the Seven Fishes in Italy: Myth or Tradition
Culinary Adventures of Camilla – Biscotti di Castagne + Vin Santo Dei Chianti
Avvinare – A Florentine Christmas
L’Occasion – 5 Italian Christmas Dishes and Wine Pairings
The Wining Hour – A Venetian Holiday: Wine, Food,Tradition
The Wine Predator – Italian Holiday Traditions Adapted to CAlifornia Conditions: 3 dishes with wine