Few cities in the world offer as many places to see as Florence. Undoubtedly, because of its history and the art hidden in its streets, it is one of those destinations that you have to visit at least once in your life, no matter when you travel.
Its stupendous cathedral, the magnificent Ponte Vecchio, its gastronomy and museums are enough to spend a few days in Florence without stopping to walk. In March, moreover, the weather begins to improve, but there has not yet been a massive arrival of tourists. In this month, which marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring, the city celebrates this change with various festivals and activities.
1. Try a zeppole on St. Giuseppe's Day
Like the rest of Italy, Florence celebrates San Giuseppe's Day (also Father's Day) on March 19. The most typical thing to do if you are in the city is to try the zeppole, an omnipresent sweet on that day.
The zeppole recipe was born in Naples, but today it has spread throughout Italy and is associated with celebrations such as Carnival and St. Giuseppe's Day. It is a ring of fried dough filled with pastry cream. It can also be baked and served with honey, cinnamon and vanilla.
Although this sweet is the most traditional of that day, food plays a very important role in honoring all fathers. In fact, it is said that the celebration of this day began in Sicily, in the Middle Ages, when the citizens begged San Giuseppe to end the plague plaguing the city in exchange for commemorating this day by leaving large amounts of food on his altar.
That is why if you go to the church of San Giuseppe in Florence you can see how some Florentines leave on the altar all kinds of food to be distributed among the needy.
Another typical tradition of this day is for parents to receive a gift from their children. If you have gone to Florence with children it can be a good opportunity to entertain them for a while looking for something to give.
2. Bid farewell to the Florentine year on March 25
To enjoy the festivities to welcome the new year, you don't have to go to Florence in December. On March 25, the day of the Annunciation, the city celebrates the so-called Florentine New Year's Eve with various festivities and parades that I recommend you to attend.
The history of this feast comes from the time when there was no unified civil calendar. Florence, for example, celebrated the turn of the year coinciding with the religious feast of the Annunciation of Mary, on March 25, which also marked the arrival of spring.
In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII approved the Gregorian calendar and demanded that all nations adopt it, with January 1 as the first day of the year. Leon X, one of the Florentine popes of the Medici family, later insisted that this be done to favor trade.
Florence ignored this mandate for a long time and continued to celebrate New Year's Day in March. It wasn't until 1750 that it was forced to change its calendar, something that is recalled in a marble inscription that you can still find in the piazza della Signoria, which you can see if you head to see the best paintings in the Uffizi Gallery.
Despite the forced change of dates, Florence did not give up its tradition. Today, a large fair is held in Piazza della Santissima Annunziata and a historical parade runs through the streets between the Palazzo Vecchio and the Basilica della Santissima Annunziata.
3. St. Patrick's Day: a bit of Ireland in Florence
Although not an Italian holiday, Florence celebrates St. Patrick' s Day in a very prominent way. If you are in town around March 17, don't hesitate to wear green and join in the events taking place in the city.
For 3 days in Florence there are parties, special events and concerts where you can't miss the Irish food and beer. One of the most interesting events is the Irish Festival at the Tuscany Hall Theater, where you can attend Celtic music and dance performances.
As with any St. Patrick's Day celebration worthy of the name, the center of the party is in the Irish pubs. Florence is home to nearly two dozen of them, though some are more authentic than others.
Which Irish pub to go to for St. Patrick's Day?
My recommendation is to go for The Fiddler's Elbow, The Florence Irish Pub
or Finnegan's if you want to feel like you are spending a few hours in Dublin during your stay in Florence and, of course, taste a good Guinness.
4 . Don't hold back at the Chocolate Fair
We already know that excesses are not good, especially when it comes to sweets. However, if your stay in Florence coincides with the Chocolate Fair all you can do is enjoy this delicacy.
Although it has no fixed dates, the fair is usually held in the first days of March. During the fair you can see real master chocolatiers making their products, as well as taste the different varieties they offer in the stalls that are placed in the Piazza Santa Croce, where many guided tours of Florence usually pass.
5. Visit the best museums before the crowds arrive
The weather in Florence during the month of March begins to warm up, although it can still be quite cold. In addition, although there will always be tourists, you can say that it is the last month in which you will not find large crowds. Both reasons make these dates the perfect time to visit the best museums in the city.
Not only will you escape the low temperatures outside, but you can admire the best works of the Accademia Gallery, the interior of the Pitti Palace or hire without problems a guided tour of the Uffizi Gallery in a quieter way and without being pushed to see the art they hide.
In addition, although it is not known if the initiative will remain in force in the coming years, the state museums established some time ago the so-called museum week, a few days in which you could enter the museums for free.
6. Enjoy the best Italian food in Fuori di Taste
March is also the month when Florence's most important gastronomic event takes place: Fuori di Taste, organized by Pitti Taste at Stazione Leopolda. Although part of the facilities are intended for professionals, the general public can also come to taste and learn about the best culinary developments.
At this fair you will find dishes from all over the Italian peninsula. If you compare them with those shown in the various gastronomic tours of Florence, you will see the differences that exist in each region and that its wealth in this area goes beyond pasta and pizza.
7. The Scoppio del carro, one of the most curious traditions in Italy
If you are lucky and Easter Sunday falls in March you will be able to witness one of the most curious traditions in Italy: the Scoppio del Carro or Explosion of the Cart. Try to arrive early to the square in front of the cathedral to have a good spot from which to watch it happen.
This event has a very ancient history, dating back to the first crusade undertaken by European Christians to try to conquer Jerusalem.
In the year 1099, the crusaders achieved their goal and, as a celebration, the Florentine Pazzino de'Pazzi climbed the walls to place a white and crimson flag. As a gift for this gesture he received three stones from the Holy Sepulchre.
When Pazzi returned to Florence he placed the relics in his palace, but later they were moved to the church of the Holy Apostles, where they can still be seen. From then on, on Easter Sunday a fire was lit with the stones in front of the cathedral and young people came to the site with torches.
The current celebration begins around 10 am in the Church of the Holy Apostles. There a candle is lit using the Pazzi stones and a procession to the cathedral begins.
At the same time, an ox-drawn carriage leaves Porta al Prato square with the same destination. The carriage is accompanied by 150 soldiers, musicians and representatives of the historical calcium.
Once the carriage reaches the door of the cathedral, it is joined by an iron cable to a column in the center of the choir of the temple. Through this cable will go the Colombina, a kind of rocket that sets fire to the chariot. Right after, a great fireworks show begins.
8. Celebrate the arrival of spring in the fantastic gardens of Florence
As March progresses and spring approaches, the weather in Florence gradually gets warmer. This is noticeable in some parts of the city that are not usually visited by tourists who go for a few days, such as its fabulous gardens. If you have time I recommend you go to discover the wonders hidden inside.
Although it is not yet in full bloom, March is a great month for these walks. The days are not too cold, without the oppressive heat of summer having yet made its appearance. Florentines themselves begin to fill the parks and sometimes some cultural activities are held in them.
- Boboli Gardens: located in Piazza Pitti, this garden is part of the history of the Medici and, therefore, of Florence. They can be accessed from the Pitti palace itself and is one of the only ones in the city where an entrance fee is required. Its surface is not flat and from the highest parts you will have beautiful views of the city. Walking along its paths you will find statues, caves, fountains and beautiful vegetation.
- Villa il Ventaglio Park: located on one of the hills in the northeastern part of Florence, this garden is one of the least visited by tourists. Built in the 16th century, it was conceived to resemble English gardens, with a pond, lawns, a wood and paths ascending to the top of the hill.
- Le Cascine Park: considered the most important green area in a city that does not have too many, Le Cascine stretches along one of the banks of the Arno River, north of the historic center. It was originally intended to serve as a hunting ground for the Medici family. Inside you can see a velodrome, an amphitheater, kiosks where you can buy drinks, fountains and even some small Renaissance palaces.
- Rose Garden: this is possibly the best known of Florence's gardens. It is located very close to Piazzale Michelangelo and, like that square, offers unbeatable views of the city. As its name suggests, the main attraction of the park are its roses, although it also houses many more varieties of plants. To get there I advise you to enter from Monte Alle Croci street and walk through the garden towards the viewpoint of Michelangelo.
9. Come to San Gimignano to experience the festivities of Santa Fina
Taking an excursion from Florence is something you can consider if you are going to be in the city for several days. The offer is quite wide, whether you want to hire an organized tour or if you prefer to move on your own. One of the best excursions from the city that you can do in March is to San Gimignano, especially if you make it coincide with the festivities of Santa Fina, its patron saint.
The big day of that feast is March 12, when the town's 14 medieval towers are adorned with white violets in honor of Santa Fina. In addition to the religious significance, the celebration is also a welcome to the resurgence of life in spring, when the fields and vineyards produce their fruits again.
Various stalls are set up in the town squares selling handicrafts and food, in addition to the fantastic wine of the Vernaccia appellation of origin.
As if the attraction of the festival were not enough, San Gimignano is considered one of the most beautiful villages in all of Italy and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
How to get there from Florence
- Organized excursion: without a doubt, a tour is the best way to get from Florence to San Gimignano. Excursions often visit other interesting villages in the area.
- Bus: although it is not complicated, the bus will require you to change buses. To begin with, you will have to go to the Busitalia SITA Nord station, next to the Santa Maria Novella train station. I recommend you check the timetables, but they usually leave every 30 minutes in the direction of Poggibonsi. Here you will have to take another bus that leaves you five minutes from the old town of San Gimignano.
- Car: if you have a car, the route is quite easy and you will reach the town in about an hour.
10. Dante's places by taking advantage of his day
Italy has declared March 25 with the National Day of Dante Aligheri, one of the most recognized literary figures in the country and around the world. If you find yourself in the city, I suggest you take a short tour of several of the places associated with this great writer. After all, Florence was his city of birth and where he lived until he had to go into exile in 1302.
The choice of this date is not accidental, since Dante experts claim that it is the day on which the famous journey of his most important work, The Divine Comedy, begins. For the tour I suggest you can walk or take advantage of one of the tourist buses in Florence.
- Basilica Santa Maria Novella: Dante attended the Studium, at that time one of the most important centers of theology and philosophy studies on the continent. In the chapel of the Spaniards you can see a portrait of the poet.
- Bargello Museum: in Dante's time it was a building dedicated to administration. It was in its halls that the poet was sentenced to exile.
- Church of the Holy Apostles: according to some scholars, the atmosphere of this temple inspired Dante's vision of Limbo.
- Palazzo Vecchio: in the Palazzo Vecchio, which Dante could not see completely built, is the writer's funerary mask.
- Badia Fiorentina: this beautiful building is a fundamental part of the poet's life. According to legend, it was here that he met his beloved Beatrice, who became his muse.
- Dantesque quarter: characterized by its narrow streets and tower houses, the quarter is worth a visit at any time. Although it is not proven, many claim that Dante resided in the area and, in fact, the House of Dante, which houses a museum about the poet, was erected there in the 19th century. In the neighborhood were also placed 33 of the so-called Dantesque tombstones in order not to forget the link of Dante with the area and to remember the characters of his work.
- Church of Santa Margherita Cerchi: it houses the tomb of Beatrice.
- Piazza del Duomo: among the many things to see in Piazza del Du omo is the Baptistery of St. John, the place where the poet was baptized and which is named in his canticle of the Inferno. The poet was a regular at another building in the area, the cathedral of Santa Maria dei Fiore.
- Abbey of San Miniato al Monte: crossing the Ponte alle Grazie you reach the steep staircase of the Via Crucis on the way to the abbey. Dante compared the ascent to the Mountain of Purgatory in the Divine Comedy.
Weather in Florence in March
The weather in Florence is beginning to recover from the winter cold, although it is not yet mild. Temperatures are cool, with an average high of 16°C and a low of 5°C.
As for rainfall, March is a rather unstable month. Although it is not the most rainy period of the year, there can be occasional heavy showers, especially at night.
Is March a good month to visit Florence?
Although there are opinions for all tastes, I personally believe that this is one of the best months to visit the city. For starters, it is no longer as cold as it is in January and February and, in addition, the daylight hours begin to lengthen as the month progresses.
However, the city still experiences a certain tranquility regarding the influx of tourists. Unlike the high season, you will be able to enter its museums, cathedrals and churches with a certain calmness, something impossible in summer.