Yo, check it out! You already know Italy is gorgeous from spring on but the real surprise is catching the charm of its villages in winter. And guess what? Many resorts will stay open to throw down some fun Christmas and New Year’s activities and parties until January 7.
From December 8 to 10, Castelfalfi, this Tuscan medieval village turned into a luxury hotel with spa and golf, is hosting a classic Christmas market. Wooden stalls will line the streets, lit up with lights and decorations. While you stroll, looking for handmade presents to place under the Christmas tree, warm up with a glass of mulled wine and a cone of roasted chestnuts. You can also groove to a gospel concert, follow the marching band, or catch the roaming dancers putting on The Nutcracker story. If you got kids, hit up Santa Claus House, drop off their wish list, and catch a puppet show or head to Medici Park for a pony ride. Oh, and you can even ice skate on a 10×10 rink.
Down in Southern Italy, they’re all about a lavish (but meat-free) Christmas Eve dinner on December 24. After nougat and mandarins, they stay up till midnight to open gifts. Up north, presents get torn first thing in the morning of the 25th, even before breakfast. Then it’s family lunchtime, where meat takes the stage from tortellini in broth to roast. Lots of families double up, celebrating both on the 24th night and the 25th at noon. Hotels in the holiday mix, like Castelfalfi, roll with two menus – one for dinner and one for lunch. At Olivina bistro, Chef Davide De Simone mixes Tuscan dishes with traditional and international flavours. Every meal wraps up with a slice of panettone, the ultimate classic treat, fluffy, filled with candied fruits and raisins, chocolate and topped with almonds, to dip in chantilly cream or mascarpone. A real delight made by the pastry chef Michele Rinaldi. Get ready and enjoy.
New Year’s has two solid dates too. On December 31, for New Year’s Eve (called “Cenone” in Italy, meaning big dinner), it’s going down at the Country Clubhouse or the bistro with a James Bond-themed night. Dress sharp in a tuxedo or a fancy gown. Just like in Casino Royale, there’s roulette, live swing music, the whole deal.
The day after, sleep in, hit up a late brunch at Olivina’s food stations, then take a lazy afternoon stroll on the estate to soak in the stunning views of hills, vineyards, and cypresses in this corner of Tuscany, one hour away both from Florence and Pisa.