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Discover Florence’s surroundings on a trip just out of town to soak up some beautiful green countryside, historic villages and magnificent art

Cover: Certosa del Galluzzo/figcaption>

The area right around Florence offers a host of destinations that are easy to reach where you can discover natural parks, delightful old villages and treasure troves of art and architecture.

Fiesole is perched on the hill northeast of Florence, has origins dating back to the Etruscans and holds major Roman-era archeological finds. A lovely walk from its square with a Romanesque cathedral takes you to an enchanting Franciscan monastery that affords a spectacular view of Florence and the valley below.

View of Florence and the valley from Fiesole and Roman Theatre of Fiesole

To the southwest of Florence we find the magnificent Certosa del Galluzzo, a fourteenth-century Cistercian monastery; its monastery and picture gallery are open to the public, featuring sixteenth- and seventeenth-century works by the likes of Pontormo, Cigoli, Ligozzi and Empoli).

Anyone who loves to stroll through gardens shouldn’t miss out on a tour of the Medici villas scattered throughout the hills around Florence. The most spectacular tour may be of Villa di Pratolino on Via Bolognese north of Florence. In the sixteenth century, Francesco de’ Medici brought in the greatest architects and sculptors of his time to work on this villa, such as Buontalenti, Ammannati and Giambologna (the artist behind its grand Appennine Colossus statue).

Colossus statue in Villa di Pratolino and Franciscan monastery in Fiesole

Tuscan Appennine

In the direction of Sesto Fiorentino is Villa della Petraia, featuring an elegant Italian-style terraced garden. Inside the villa, you can visit the rooms (with their original furnishings) lived in by the Countess Rosa Vercellana, mistress of King Vittorio Emanuele of Savoy, King of Italy.

The Villa di Castello also affords an opportunity for a delightful walk through its fragrant citrus grove and magnificent Medici-era grotto of animals.

Villa di Castello