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Hot summers when the city is crammed with tourists; cooler winters when the rain can swell the Arno: Florence is an all-year-round destination. Here are some of the city's seasonal highlights.

Vintage clothes For a long time, image-conscious Italians wouldn't be seen dead in second-hand clothes. But recently they have started to catch up with the rest of the world when it comes to coveting the nearly new and Florence is host to the biggest used clothes fair in Italy. It's held twice yearly in February and July (Stazione Leopolda; +39 055 246 6198).

Christmas in Florence Not only is the city wonderfully deserted at this time of year, but the lights that adorn every shop window give the place an almost magical feeling. You can buy everything from amber to reindeer skins at the Christmas market (Mercato di natale) in the Piazza Santa Croce from the beginning of December. Go ice-skating in the Piazza della Liberta or make for the Piazza della Republicca, home to Florence's enormous Christmas tree sparkling with 16,000 lights. On Christmas day, High Mass at the Duomo is an unforgettable experience.

Scoppio del Carro, Easter Sunday Exploding the cart, or "scoppio del carro," at Easter is one of the oldest and most important Florentine traditions. Decorated white oxen drag an elaborate cart stuffed full of fireworks from the Porta al Prato to the Piazza del Duomo. A dove-shaped rocket in the Duomo is lit and shoots along a wire to the cart where it ignites the rest of the fireworks: impressive pyrotechnics ensue. Tradition has it that if the first rocket flies straight, it will be a lucky year for Florentines.

Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, April to June The May Music Festival is a series of classical music concerts, recitals, and operas and ballet held in venues across the city. It is internationally acclaimed and tickets are hot property, so check the Web site for scheduling and book in advance (www.maggiofiorentino.com ) Read full article »

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