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Beyond the Gates

Fiesole, Carmignano, Vinci: ancient history, superb wines, and the genius of Leonardo.

Beyond the Gates

Hidden treasures tucked away in country churches and small civic museums, villas built as the recreational resorts and sumptuous rural palaces of the Medici dynasty: just some of the surprises which await the visitor who ventures beyond the walls of Florence and travels into the countryside which surrounds the Tuscan capital.

Heading west of Florence, after just a few kilometers, travelers find themselves in the heart of Chianti. The Regional Wine Museum, in the pretty little town of Carmignano, is the perfect place in which to learn how the wines of one of Italy's most famous wine producing regions are made and even enjoy a glass or two of Bacchus' favorite tipple. Whilst in Carmignano, art lovers should be sure to visit the Church of San Michele, in which a splendid work by Jacopo Carrucci, better known as Pontormo, takes pride of place. Painted in 1537, Pontormo's Visitation is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of Italian mannerism.

Not far from Carmignano lie not one, but two, of the magnificent villas built in the countryside surrounding Florence by the Medici family: Villa Artiminio (also known as the Fernanda) and Villa di Poggio a Caiano. Like all of the Medici's country residences, these rural palaces, built between the 15th and 18th centuries, occupied strategic positions from where the dynasty's immense agricultural estates could be administered whilst members of the family relaxed or entertained their illustrious guests.

Not far from here, in the small town of Vinci, the great artist and scientist Leonardo da Vinci was born. Today the town's Conti Guidi Castle provides the impressive venue for the Leonardiano Museum, which houses an important collection of Leonardo's inventions, including his famous parachute. Those wishing to see the little stone house where the genius was born, will need to travel to the nearby rural district of Anchiano.

In the same area, any number of stunning works of art can be seen. The Badia di San Salvatore a Settimo is an important monastic complex, the abbey comprises the Church of Saints Salvatore and Lorenzo, the presbytery of which is adorned with frescoes painted by Domenico Ghirlandaio in the late 15th century. At San Donnino (a district of Campi Bisenzio), in the Church of Sant'Andrea a Brozzi there are not only frescoes by Ghirlandaio but also a fascinating Museum of Sacred Art containing a number of important works dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries.

Traveling back towards Florence, we come across yet more Medici Villas. Of these, the closest to the Tuscan capital are Villa di Careggi, Villa la Petraia and Villa di Castello. Villa di Belcanto is located next to the hill top town of Fiesole. The origins of Fiesole, situated just eight kilometers away from Florence, are much older than those of city which was its historic rival, as testified by the well preserved remains of an Etruscan temple and Roman theatre and baths in the town's Archaeological Zone. Both Fiesole's Archaeological Museum and the Bandini Museum deserve a visit, the first for its collection of ancient archaeological findings, the second to view works produced by artists of the Tuscan School in the 14th and 15th century.

Itineraries

Hotels in the area

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Villa La Vedetta

Firenze

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Relais Santa Croce

Firenze

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Villa Poggio ai Merli

Scandicci

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Hotel Astoria

Firenze

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Hotel Londra

Firenze

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Hotel Savoy

Firenze

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Helvetia & Bristol

Firenze

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Hotel Regency

Firenze

From € 306.00

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Florence (all hotels)