This is my second post about pre-Christmas initiatives for children in Florence and I’m not going to repeat the ones suggested in last year’s post. I’ll tell you what I’m planning to do this year with 4 year old Francesco.

If you want activities for kids between Christmas 2012 and Epiphany 2013 click here.

Nativity Scenes in Florence

It’s the second year that in Piazza Duomo you will see a terracotta nativity with life-sized statues of the Holy family plus the ox and the donkey that Cardinal Betori wanted as a cultural and religious answer to the commercial Christmas tree with Florentine lilies commissioned by Matteo Renzi, Florence’s Mayor. At the Epifany during the Magi procession the terracotta figures will be replaced by living persons and animals. The traditionally Tuscan sculptures are hand-made by Luigi Mariani at the historical furnace Mital and donated to Santa Maria del Fiore.

From December 8 to January 6 in piazzale Donatello 28 local artists have made a Nativity with life-size modern figures such as laundress, fire-fighter (Francesco and I saw the artist, Enrico Bandelli, in via Sarpi while he was producing some of the figures in his studio!), hairdresser, baker, etc.

An animated presepe is what you can find at Don Orione Institute (via Capo di Mondo 34 in Florence): from original sin in the Resurrection, through the birth of Christ. The history of salvation is all represented, with various scenes, in a glass case. This scene of the birth of Christ includes 60 moving figures: the ox and the donkey, the fisherman on the lake, etc.

Nativity scene at Don Orione

Exhibits, workshops and special openings

Four Seasons garden

The Four Seasons Hotel (entrance from via Gino Capponi, 54 or Borgo Pinti, 97 or piazzale Donatello, 12, 10am to 4pm)  in Florence provides an annual opportunity that I won’t miss to visit their gorgeous garden and have fun with the family. This year it’s on Sunday December 16 (it’s also my birthday!). With a small donation (starting from 1€), you and your children have the chance to participate in many fun activities – they will meet Father Christmas in flesh and blood (the famous Italian actor and TV presenter Flavio Insinna) in the fantastic Gherardesca Park, the biggest private garden in the city, which from 2008 is part of the Four Seasons hotel. Children and their parents will walk among the Christmas markets, taste chestnuts, sausage and polenta or a hot chocolate, spiced ‘vin brulè’ and a good glass of Tuscan wine. Children will join “La Bottega dei Ragazzi” workshops “Animani” for the youngest and “C’era una volta un gioco” for the bigger kids. There’s make-up to transform your children’s faces, Pasticca clown, zia Caterina with her famous taxi and, at 12.00, a children choir followed by balloon launch (children will add their father Xmas letter). Things to buy at La Bottega dei desideri (The wishes shop) and Marangoni students will photograph you for free in a real professional set. Last year more than 4.000 people joined the Open Day but this year we have to be more!

For children (and adults) Museo Nazionale Alinari della Fotografia (piazza Santa Maria Novella, 14 in Florence) will be open till 22.30 every Saturday until the 6th of January, animated with workshops and events related to the exhibition “Gli archivi Alinari e la sintassi del mondo. Omaggio a Italo Calvino”. On Saturday December 15 at 18.30 lights and dance performance and installation “Improvvise conseguenze” powered by Animation Lights Project, Axe Ballet e Fiabesque while on Saturday December 22 and January 5 at 19.00 animated readings from “Il castello dei destini incrociati” acted by Fulvio Cauteruccio of the Kripton Company. Have a look at the website to know more about booking and prices. Workshops for families are: “Foto-racconti in omaggio a Italo Calvino” are held at MNAF on Sunday Dec 16, Thursday 27 December, Thursday 3 and Saturday 5 January at 10.00 and at 11. while on Sunday December 23 and Wednesday 26 December and Sunday 6 January from 15.00 to 19.00 “Castelli Incrociati” will take place at Fiabesque La città delle fiabe in Peccioli (FI)

Santa Claus and Christmas music in Florence

Yesterday we visited Santa in Florence. He asked Francesco what he wants for Christmas and if he has been good, and gave him a candy… Write your letter with your wishlist and give it to him (and then be good at school and in your family). He collects the best ones and prints them, making for an amusing book to read! Here is the list of days, times and places where you and your children can find Father Christmas in Florence and Tuscany:

Santa’s appointments: December 10 h.15.30 Center of Prato with the sled, December 13 h.15.30 – December 17 h. 10.00 and December 24 h. 10.00 Confectionery “Cesare” via D’Annunzio in Florence, December 15 h.16.00 Newsstand in piazza Beccaria Florence, December 16 h. 16.00 La Tazzina Viola and Fantasy Shoes via De Gasperi in Florence, December 17 h. 15.00 Centro Naturale La Rondinella with sled in Florence, December 18 dicembre h. 9.00 Centro Commerciale Punti di Incontro with sled via Datini in Florence, December 19 dicembre h.15.30 Confectionery Erika via Manni in Florence, December 20 dicembre h.15.30 Benetton shops via De Sanctis in Florence, December 21 dicembre h. 16.00 Parco Giochi Paci con slitta a Limite sull’Arno (Firenze), December 23 dicembre h.15.30 Pubblica Assistenza Caldine with sled Caldine (Firenze) then at h. 21.00 Circolo ACLI Faella a Pian di Scò (Arezzo) and December 24 dicembre h. 16.00 Tensostruttura ProLoco di Pian di Scò (Arezzo).

Santa will also be arriving by BOAT between Ponte Vecchio and Ponte delle Grazie, on December 22 and 24.

Christmas Music Together (held by Deborah Conquest) workshops – is a place where kids under the age of 6 can sing and dance to all the most famous Christmas songs (some in English, some in Italian) with a lot of joy. Prices 8€ per child (4€ for sisters and brothers) max 12 children per class on Wednesday December 12  h.17.00 and Saturday January 5 at 10.00 in the Methodist Church (via de’ Benci 9 in the city center) and on Saturday 15th December at 11.00 at BabyPanda (via Baracca, 1 in Novoli Florence). And an invitation to the Christmas Concert to benefit the non-profit cultural association Music Together – the Director, Deborah Conquest, and friends will sing Puccini, Mozart and Christmas favourites with some little musicians joining for the Grand Finale! A buffet snack will follow on Saturday December 22 after the workshop.

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