December 16, 2010, 07:22 PM
Christmas week in Tuscany
We are planning a trip for my father's 80th birthday next year in Tuscany during Christmas to New Year's. We are looking to rent a villa at Barberino Val d'Elsa, Firenze we are a party of 12 or so.
My worry is that things will be closed in the local towns, due to the holidays? Such as restaurants, markets, historic sites. Should we be looking more towards renting in big cities. Any assistance would be much appreciated.
December 18, 2010, 09:00 AM
aside from the official holidays, most everything remains open
Barberino Val del'Elsa is a very pretty town between Florence and Poggibonsi, I am sure you will like the Chianti area where you'll find yourselves.
Actually, the actual holidays in Italy are the 25th and 26th of December. Most shops will be closed the 25th for sure, many restaurants in Florence as well but many outside will offer lunch on the 25th with reservations (read this post for some examples). If you have a villa, you'll definitely have a kitchen so you should just make sure to plan to have dinner on the 25th in to make it simplest.
Most museums actually are just closed the 25th and are open on the 26th, unless it were to fall on one of their normally closed days of the month.
Markets are usually kept going on regular days so you shouldn't have any problem in finding them on their usual days, make sure you get details from local tourism offices once you're here.
On New Year's Eve, many restaurants will offer a single seating per person feast.... just for an example, something like a 100 euro per person fee with dinner and party included up to midnight, including the champagne to celebrate the new year. You definitely want to make reservations for that ahead of time considering you're also a pretty large group for a special event. January 1 is also a holiday so everything will be closed, then so if you're still here for the 6th of January, that is a holiday as well, the Epiphany and there are several events connected to that day around Tuscany.
The last week of the year is generally a bit more quiet since it is right after Christmas but with New Year's coming up, generally shops and restaurants and museums remain open as usual. Florence, as any city, and the countryside as is Barberino, have their differences all year round so if you stay in Chianti, it will more quiet than staying in Florence... if you get lucky, it might snow like it has been these last day and you might get a white Christmas even in Chianti or Florence. If your family would like a day skiing in Tuscany, just head either to Monte Amiata sound of Siena or to the Abetone area north of Pistoia in the Apennines.
Hope I've been helpful, do let me know if I've raised other doubts .
January 13, 2011, 08:24 PM
How about the small villages of Tuscany, open Dec.26 to Jan.1
Thank you so much in getting back to me. I was busy with the holidays and forgot to check the forum. The towns that your site advise to visit on a seven day trip itinerary in Tuscany: Montepulciano, Montalcino, Pienza, San Quirico D'Orcia,Bagno Vignone, Buonconvento and Radicofani; Cortona, Arezza...Would their small shops and restaurants be closed (Ghost Town) from December 26th to Jan 1st?
Also how about the vinyards for touring?
I understand that the larger cities Siena, Florence will be okay but...worried we will not get the full experience of the small villages.
All The Best,
January 14, 2011, 11:22 AM
no ghost towns although less visitors for sure
The holidays are a busy time, I also was not on here as much as usual. Hope the holidays went well and that the new year has gotten off to a good start for you!
Expect many shops to be closed on the 26th, it is a national holiday but unless the shop owners are taking a vacation they had delayed in other periods of the year, expect them to be open regularly the rest of the week throughout all of these smaller villages/towns. Some are smaller than others, but all have residents year round and most depend a lot on tourism so they're open in general. That will definitely be the case for
Montepulciano, Montalcino, Pienza, San Quirico D'Orcia, Cortona and Arezzo. Arezzo is a large town but in comparison to Florence and Siena it will seem small as it is very quiet and peaceful.
Buonconvento and Radicofani are less well known and receive less visitors, Radicofani is the furthest away so might generally receive few visitors in general except in high season. Bagno Vignone is a thermal spa location, really small but it has great business during the winter precisely because of the hot springs -- the place is made up of hotels/spas and a few restaurants that look onto the central square which is a pool where the hot springs were enjoyed by the Romans. Now it makes for spectacular view during the winter, as the hot water meets the cold air and creates this fog/mist right around it, really beautiful. Today you can't take a dip in the central outdoor pool; the hot springs are enjoyed inside the very modern facilities of the spas and hotels around the square. So as this is the attraction of Bagno Vignone, you definitely will not find it empty during the winter.
Expect restaurants to be open as normal from the 26th on, in the smaller towns they might alternate - who was open on the 25th closes on the 26th and vice-versa. Most are good on organizing themselves and not leave people without options.
The wineries are definitely on their slow season - grapes are in and fermenting into wine, the vineyards are resting during the winter. The wineries that are open with shops to do wine tastings will likely still be open, you'll have to see which ones in the local tourism offices once you're in the area. They are the best resource to point you to the local wineries open on specific days, with hours and suggestions.
I think you'll have a great time, just remain flexible with your schedule so you can adapt it day to day. As long as you've got your accommodation settled, make a list of the things you'd like to do overall and decide the specifics once you're here!