Despite its famed associations with sunlit vineyards and al fresco dining, Tuscany isn’t solely a summer time destination. Those undulating hills and mediaeval cities are just as beautiful in December, creating a wonderful destination for holidays over Christmas and New Year without the crowds that flood the region during the warmer months.
When visiting Tuscany in December, the first thing you’ll notice is the mild weather. The summer’s stifling heat is long gone, with daytime temperatures ranging on average between 7-13ºC. However, it’s worth remembering that those picturesque stone buildings were built for a warm climate, so if you’re staying anywhere particularly historic, you’ll need to wrap up and pack accordingly.
When it comes to cuisine, many Tuscan specialties like ribollita, a vegetable and bread soup, are better suited to the winter weather and provide a hearty and delicious lunch. The sweet, honey-flavoured fruits known as persimmons are in season in December, and they’re perfect for baking, preserving, or roasting and eating with wild boar and pheasant, also specialities of the winter months.
You may not want to visit many draughty cathedrals in winter, but Tuscany has plenty of alternatives, with hot springs perhaps the most enticing. The thermal pools in the village of Saturina in Southern Tuscany are fed from springs an amazing 200 metres below earth, and swimming in the cosy 37ºC waters against a peaceful backdrop of Tuscan hills is a beautiful way to enjoy a winter’s day. Alternatively, the thermal baths of Bagni di Lucca offer history as well as scenery, with notable past bathers including Lord Byron and Puccini. As well as being a spa town, it’s also home to Europe’s oldest casino, which dates back to 1839. Just 30km away you’ll find the town of Lucca, whose cobbled streets, mediaeval churches and Renaissance-era city walls make it well worth a visit at any time of year.
If you’re more of an adrenaline seeker, Tuscany’s ski season begins in December, with powder coating the Apennine Mountains until the end of March. Abetone is the region’s most popular ski resort, boasting 54 km of trails, a snow park for extreme sports enthusiasts, and a thriving après ski culture that’s particularly welcoming of newcomers.
Christmas is probably the most important holiday in Tuscany, and the region responds accordingly. Festive concerts are held in the mediaeval Cathedral of Siena and charming Christmas markets spring up throughout Tuscany’s larger towns, selling local snacks and warm drinks as well as souvenirs and gifts. On Christmas Eve, restaurants traditionally prepare a set menu and many Italian families eat out, before heading to Midnight Mass.
Visiting Tuscany in December reveals a new side of the area that far fewer tourists see. Purchasing a property here provides an opportunity to not only get to know its winter character, but to watch the seasons unfold in one of the most beautiful regions on earth. Whether you’re looking for a holiday home or simply want to add to a larger rental portfolio, with Engel & Völkers you can rest assured we’ll help to find the right property for you.