Beyond the Gates
Fiesole, Carmignano, Vinci: ancient history, superb wines, and the genius of Leonardo.
Florence is a city which merits much more than a fleeting visit, and tourists could easily spend days, if not weeks, exploring just the historic center.
Nevertheless, for those who find themselves with a day or two to spare, it's well worth making the trip into the countryside surrounding the Tuscan capital.
The Medici villas, on the outskirts of Florence
From Florence, you need to travel only a few kilometers before coming across any number of splendid villas built by the city's all-mighty Medici family.
Whilst the villa closest to the city is that of Careggi, Villa La Petraia and Villa di Castello are also within easy reach of Florence. The Villa di Artimino (often referred to as Fernanda) and the Villa di Poggio a Caiano are on the road to Carmignano.
Constructed between the 15th and 18th centuries, the villas functioned as country palaces, recreational resorts and administrative centers, dominating the rural estates where the great dynasty's agricultural businesses were carried out.
The majority of these properties are not only masterpieces of renaissance and baroque architecture, but also of landscape design: with splendid gardens in which the noble families might choose to pass the time of day
Roman baths and Della Robbia terracotta, in Fiesole
Another of the Medici villas, Villa di Belcanto is located in the beautiful town of Fiesole. Just 8 kilometers from Florence, situated on hills from where it dominates the entire valley, Fiesole was the historic rival of the City of the Lily, and its origins are, in fact, much older than those of the Tuscan capital.
A tour of the town's Archaeological Zone gives visitors the chance to stroll around the remains of the Etruscan temple and the extremely well-preserved Roman theatre and baths
Sculptures and paintings of the Tuscan School (13th to 15th centuries) are on display at the Bandini Museum, which houses the historian and philologist, Angelo Maria Bandini's collection of paintings and sculptures. There are also a number of important religious edifices, including the Cathedral of San Romolo, constructed between the 11th and 14th century.
The cathedral houses significant artworks such as the statue of San Romolo in glazed terracotta attributed to Giovanni Della Robbia which is positioned over the central western entrance to the church.
Churches and castles, in Chianti
On their way to Vinci, travelers should make time for a quick stop at Carmignano, and visit the Church of San Michele where they can see an artwork considered to be one of the masterpieces of Italian mannerism: Pontormo's impressive Visitation (1537).
Carmignano is situated right in the heart of Chianti and wine lovers will not want to miss out on a tour of the town's Regional Wine Museum (the ticket includes tastings)
For all those wishing to get an idea of the genius of Leonardo da Vinci, a trip to Vinci, his birth town, is an obligatory port of call. Housed within the walls of the Conti Guidi Castle in Vinci is the Leonardiano Museum. The museum conserves a fascinating collection of the great artist and scientist's works, including instruments and machines all of which were invented by the Tuscan genius. The medieval center of Vinci is also well worth a visit.
Not far from Vinci, in Anchiano, visitors can see the house where Leonardo was born.
Hotels in the area
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Greve in Chianti
Radda in Chianti
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Montefiridolfi, San Casciano Val di Pesa
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