I adore finding things to do off the beaten path in Florence, don’t you?
In beautiful Fiesole, (a small town of Etruscan origins above Florence) the Fiesole Tourist Board is offering what they call “Hikes between Nature and Culture” which are free, guided hikes in the Fiesole hills during the spring and fall.
Some are not actually hikes, but rather, visits to churches, convents and villas of note.
Thirteen years ago when I lived in Settignano (a village smaller than Fiesole in the nearby hills) I tromped around the surrounding woods and meadows and up the mountains, seeking trails and losing my way. I had not been back to those hills since that time so I grabbed the opportunity to join one of these excursions offered by the Fiesole Tourist Board.
I live in Lucca, so in order to meet in Fiesole’s piazza at 9:00am that Saturday, I trained to Florence the evening prior and got a bus up to San Domenico (half way up the hill to Fiesole) where I stayed in a monks’ convent, at a very convenient price.
Around the corner I found the charming Piatti e Fagotti where I had the best meal since my move to Italy six weeks prior.
The location was originally an alimentari (small grocery store) and in fact, the little entrance room contains a counter where one can buy typical products of the region along with panini to take away. The convivial dining room has close-together tables and menus written on black boards.
The wide glass door on the wall facing the street was open to the fresh night air, making it easy for the waiter to nip out to serve the three tables tucked into a pinch of space at the street’s edge.
When I saw fiori fritti on the menu I had to go for it– I realized I’d not had fried zucchini flowers since that other life time ago in Settignano. In fact, the last time had been on a hike out of Settignano, at a trattoria further up the mountain, a few hills away from where I was sitting.
I guess I now have a thing with fiori fritti in the Fiesole hills.
So good with a beer!
A marvelous piatto of Sedani (a type of tubular pasta with a thin score, like the one on celery) with eggplant and squid was next. An intriguing combination, with pleasing silky textures.
I watched couples with children at two different tables, noting that it was nearing 11:00pm, but bedtime didn’t matter. It was a warm Friday night at the end of May and the locals were enjoying their food and wine and lingering in that way Italians do so well.
I tell the waiter, “You guys are having more fun than we do, in Anglo Saxon cultures.”
In the morning I had this view from the monastery window.
The hike I joined was called Tra Villa e Colloniche (between villas and farmhouses). There were at least 40 people participating– all Italians– and many reacted with interested when they realized that I’m American.
I chattered with different people the whole time, walked through courtyards of ancient farmhouses, saw villas hidden along mule paths, and at a little locked chapel the guide produced a key and took us in to see a manger scene on the scale of those in Napoli– it took up the entire chapel.
By that afternoon I was on a train back to Lucca. It had been a perfect overnight in the Florentine hills.
Now that the full summer heat is upon us here in Tuscany, the excursions have concluded but they’ll start up again in the fall.
Here is a list of options for September and October:
10 settembre – Il sacro e l’arte (Religious art)
16 settembre – Fondazione e Museo Primo Conti (Primo Conti Foundation and museum)
17 settembre – Via vecchia fiesolana: storia e arte (history and art on the Via Vecchia Fiesolana: )
23 settembre – Su e giù per la valle dell’Arno (Up and down the Arno valley)
24 settembre – Il Parco di Montececeri e le sue cave (Montececeri Park and quarries)
30 settembre – Santuario del Crocifisso di Fontelucente (Sanctuary of the Crucifix of Fontelucente)
1 ottobre – Sulle tracce degli Etruschi (In the footsteps of the Etruscans)
7 ottobre – Fondazione Giovanni Michelucci (Giovanni Michelucci Foundation)
14 ottobre – Chiesa e Convento di San Francesco (Church and Convent of San Francesco)
15 ottobre – L’anello del Girone (The Girone Loop Trail)
21 ottobre – Chiesa e Convento di San Domenico (Church and Convent of San Domenico)
28 ottobre – Villa Peyron
For booking call the Fiesole Tourist Board