14 countries you can visit without stepping foot outside Florence’s city walls.
Everyone loves a good Christmas present from abroad; they’re exotic and exciting, and hint at the unsaid “Look at all the effort I went through to bring you this extraordinary gift from so far away.” If, this holiday season, you’ve found yourself without the time or money for an around the globe shopping spree, you can thank Florence, Italy for arranging for the world to meet you there. Grazie, Firenze!
The annual German-style Christmas market in Florence’s Piazza di Santa Croce (from November 26th – December 23rd in 2013) is home to 40 stalls from 14 countries. While the food is mostly from Germany and Austria, you can shop certified, authentic goods from Tuscany to Thailand.
The StudentsVille staff has personally visited every stall and found most interesting offerings from each country. Here is our photo guide of what to eat, drink and buy from each country at the Florence Christmas market, 2012. Enjoy!
Christmas ornaments: Hand painted glass balls with glittery winter scenes (€6-12)
Vin Brulé: Hot, mulled red wine spiced with cloves, orange and cinnamon (€2.5 a cup). Try to stifle your screams of joy when you discover you can buy the mix at the spice stand and enjoy it again at home (€5).
Maialino al latte: Meat carved from a whole roasted “suckling pig.” Yes, that’s a baby pig being fed from it’s mother’s milk (hence the word “latte” in the name). If you can get past that description and actually seeing it on the spit, you’ll find that it’s extremely delicious. Maybe it’s the German beer-basting (5€ a sandwich).
Candles: Unique handmade shapes like knots and flowers (€4.50-5.50)
Wine Bottle Holders: Handmade from scrap metal in theform of stereotypical characters, including a cowboy, a devil and rock singer (€39)
Haribo candy: A self-service explosion of licorice and gummy sweets in every color of the rainbow (€1.99/100g).
Lavender: Take home a satchel picked from the famously photographed billowing purple hills of Provence (€2-5).
Handmade soaps: Jasmine pink, mint green, apricot orange; a color and scent for everyone (€2).
Earring and rings: Bold new pieces made out of vintage Parisian Bakelite jewelry from the 1970s. Browse finished collections or choose a chunky shape from one of the overflowing boxes. Mounting takes just two minutes (€6-10).
Kurtoskalacs: Hollow, cyndrilical pastries baked on a revolving spit and rolled in your choice of chocolate, vanilla or hazelnut sugar (€4).
Sheepswool slippers: Who wouldn’t like to walk around on a warm cloud of softness on cold winter nights at home? (€15-20)
Cookies: Mix and match from endless crates of apple crumbles, coconut balls and chocolate biscuits (2.50€ per 100g/€9 to fill a tin).
China: It’s a fact that all those cookies will taste even better dunked in an authentic English cup and saucer (€4-35).
Mirabel Mozartkugel: Small, round dark chocolates filled with nougat and a pistachio marzipan center. They were invented in Salzburg, Mozart’s hometown, and are more commonly known as “Mozart balls,” or the more loosely translated, “Mozart’s balls.” (€0.60/piece)
Brezlen: Pretzels the size of dinner plates in a range of sweet and salty flavors (€3.30)
Strudel: How can fat, fresh pastries stuffed with fillings like berries, poppyseeds and apples be any heavenlier? Say yes to hot vanilla cream poured on top and you’ll find out (€3).
Bud vases: heart-shaped in black, white and red (5€).
Musical instruments: There’s a big selection, but our favorites are easily the little wooden frogs and pigs that make loud, frighteningly realistic croaks/grunts when you rub a stick over their backs. Their strange charm is sure to crack a smile from even the most difficult to buy for (€5-14).
Products made by monks: Everything at this stall is produced and blessed at the Saint Elisabetta monastery. A great way to give more than you receive this holiday; sales and donations go to the monks who dedicate their time volunteering with disabled children.
Paper star lights: This strikingly beautiful stall is one of our favorites. Each ornate light is sold folded in a flat box, so you can take home as many as you want in your suitcase (€9-20).
Chianti Burgers: This stand sells flame-grilled hamburgers made from high-quality Chianina beef, the same breed of Italian cow as the famous “Florentine steak.” The “superiore” burger, topped with a Chianti red wine sauce, will have you remembering you’re in Italy again (€6).
Matrioscha: wooden dolls placed one inside the other in decreasing size. In addition to exquisite hand painted traditional versions, we found some with the image of Silvio Berlusconi (if one of him in real life isn’t already enough). (€15-35)
Incense holders: another favorite. These clever creations are shaped like cottages and old-fashioned wood stoves. The incense is hidden inside and its smoke escapes through their little chimmneys. Pretty much impossible not to like (€12-17).
Oven mitt: in the shape of everyone’s favorite dark beer, the legendary Guinness (€10).
Rings: shell starbursts collected during the creator’s travels (€8-10)
What’s your favorite thing to eat, drink or buy at the Florence Christmas market?