“From Poggio al Sole to Fiesole: the most heart-touching countryside in the world”
Poggio al Sole - Fiesole (one way, return by public bus)
This excursion through country roads and remote trails immersed in greenery links the
Agriturismo Poggio al Sole and Fiesole countryside to the village, with Florence being a constant presence in the background, just a few kilometers away.
If you are eager to figure out the bond between Fiesole, its countryside and Florence, you need to meander through these little remote roads, which seem to disappear into the woods only to reappear a little further on, forming a whole thing with the fields, sometimes delimited by white drystone walls, sometimes sided by cypresses, vineyards, olive tree groves, cherry trees and other fruit trees.
Let yourself being lulled by the ups and downs of these roads, and accept their suggestion to stop by from time to time to enjoy the beauty of the landscape and the many secluded residencies that can be found along the path.
The French historian Fernand Braudel, who was familiar with the Mediterranean landscape, was the first to define the Tuscany hills as the most heart-touching countryside he’d ever seen, and Fiesole countryside, in particular, as “close to the city, rich of villas and villages”.
Here men are both makers and part of the beauty of the territory and of the emotions it is able to arouse.
You can admire this landscape from a distance, or take the chance to meander into it, walking through its rural paths. No matter the perspective from which you observe, it is clear enough that this territory is the result of a wise, accurate and hard work carried out generation after generation, where each stone and plant is not just randomly placed, but it follows specific needs and tastes indeed, combining the ancient rural culture and the opulence of the city nearby.
The innate bond between men, something beyond time and space, is responsible for the emotions arousing from the view of Tuscany landscape, which moves visitors to tears. This happens when reality and beauty deriving from human effort and hard work finally collide.
Distance: 10 km – 6,21 miles (one way loop). Return by public transport, Ataf bus, Route 45, or Autolinee Toscane (please check out the bus schedule at Agriturismo Poggio al Sole before departure)
Elevation grade: 200 m
Difficulty: easy to average (be careful when fording streams during rainy periods).
Estimated time: 4 hours
Suggested time of the year: all year round (during rainy periods there might be a few muddy spots along the way)
Interest: landscape, history
Webpages to know more: http://www.bml.firenze.sbn.it/it/caldine.htm
The initial section of the itinerary concurs with the final part of Itinerary 1, which can be found here in reverse direction.
As we leave Agriturismo Poggio al Sole we get to a crossroad where a rural road stands: Via Torre di Buiano. Turn left on the descending road; pass by the dilapidated rural complex La Palagina until you reach a large plain, with a hay barn and the farmhouse La Villa. A spring and a tank can be found in proximity, where one can hear water gurgling after abundant rainfalls.
In front of you lies the village of Olmo, with the ancient Tower of Olmo, a medieval fortification watching over the via Faentina, the ancient communication road connecting Florence with Mugello and the North of Italy.
Also to be seen, the farmhouse Dell’Olmo and Villa Capacci, an interesting and majestic example of farm which belonged to religious and hospital institutions. From now on always keep the left, crossing pleasant ups and downs, vineyards, olive tree plantations and then oak woods, cypresses and holly woods. First pass by the farm house “Il Palagio”, then two splendid rural structures will come in sight, both of which display the typical dovecot at the centre of the roof.
Try not to make too much noise and you may be able to spot deer and wild pigs. If you are lucky enough, you may also see foxes, which are numerous in this area.
Cross the channel Fosso di Buiani walking along the fence until you reach a larger ascending road which stands in proximity of a cypress tree. By the vineyards of the farm Montereggi, belonging to the Borsini Family, ignore the climbing road and keep going down the descending road, which at one point starts ascending toward to the church of
Sant’Ilario a Montereggi, an ancient parish dating from the IX century.
Now leave Itinerary 1 and take the road on the right (which is initially paved. Go beyond the little graveyard of Montereggi and proceed along a robust drystone wall made from white blocks of local stone, into Via Vecchia delle Molina. A large and bright landscape appears from a distance, with Fiesole hills and Mount Rinaldi in the background. The road here becomes unpaved and steep, leading toward shadowy secluded clefts. By walking through it, it is easy to go back with one’s mind to the time when these paths where crossed by carriages. Some thick holly bushes anticipate the first signs of human presence: a few buildings suspended in an indefinable past, which silently welcome visitors.
Mixed feelings of hesitation and curiosity move the visitor. Here, one can sense the breath of ancient things, and smell the moisture coming from the foliage.
The absence of noise and the silent scenery seem to suggest a sudden, mysterious abandon of this area, a little too fast for the liveliness of this magic corner of the world.
In fact, at least 5 to 9 mills were active in this area between the XV and XIX century, some of which are still recognizable today by their elevated structure. Most of these mills were converted to civil use, though maintaining the original three-storey structure (a basement for wheels and gears, the ground floor for grinders and a processing area, and the upper floor for residential use.
The abundant springs of the Caves of Montereggi supplied the water which powered the large stone disks used to crush the wheat. These mills represented the production centre of the community, a gathering place and a work place at the same time, where the tight bond between the city and the countryside provided an essential contribution to the subsistence of the respective populations.
On the left side a channel can be noticed, which supplied the factories. The water from this and other streams in the surrounding was channeled into the aqueduct built by the Medici family in the XVII century to supply Palazzo Pitti (the family residency in Florence). The aqueduct is still visible downstream.
Proceed along the channel through an ancient path paved with sandstone. By the crossroad with a small tarred road, turn into Via degli Allori (before you do that, it is worthwhile to ascend the few bends which lead to the rural villa “Il Casone”, a sober Renaissance building in typical Medici architecture).
Back in an open, bright landscape. You will find yourself surrounded by olive trees, cypress, chestnut, pear, apple and fig trees, according to the typical promiscuity of Florentine metayage.
Proceed on the white road for about 1 km (0,62 miles), until it turns right in proximity of a building. Now leave the road and proceed on the rural road along the drystone wall, until you reach a bar with turnstiles.
Keep walking in the open field surrounded by olive trees; carry on to the bush until you cross a grassy trail. Turn right into the slightly descending road. Leave a small rural complex behind, cross over Borro Cepparello, and take the short ascending road in the shadow of cypress trees. Some wild horses can be easily seen here. The road takes to a meadow with a farm house and annexed hay barn. Cross the bar through the little gate placed on side, or, if you are curious enough, climb the steps which lead to the courtyard and take a look inside: it’s definitely worth it!
On the march again, follow the trail to the end of via degli Allori until you intersect Via delle Caldine, also called Via si Saletta (a Lungbard name which identifies the little group of buildings with the parish of Santa Margherita clinging to the hill just above you).
This village is mentioned ever since the IX century, and was purposely built with orientation favoring midday sunlight.
Here a steep descent begins, sided by cypress trees and their smell of resin, all the way to the smallholding of San Donato, surrounded by almond trees in bloom. Cross over the channel of Maddalena, which name recalls the Convent of Santa Maria Maddalena delle Caldine, located downstream.
Tradition has it that this fine Renaissance building was built in the XV century according to a design by Michelozzo Cresci, member of one of the most important families of the territory. The house replaced a pre-existing hostel used by travelers during their transit on the ancient Via Faentina.
You will pass through woods of Turkey oak, Sessile oak and hornbeam, reaching the crossroads with Via Viuccia. Keep going a few more meters down to the valley until you cross with Via delle More (another place named after a local tasty fruit: the black currant). Then proceed toward the former stables of the farm Il Leccio, belonging to the smallholding Il Mare”. Be careful when crossing the rural complex and another small annex on your right, and keep the left while descending toward the open countryside. Take the power line poles as reference before taking the trail on your right, in proximity of a drystone wall. The trail leads to the channel Fosso delle Caldine. Once out of the thick vegetation, go straight through uncultivated fields of olive trees until you intersect with a little road, via del Cicaleto, which you need to take in ascending direction crossing the beautiful rural complex of Torrebonsi. As the name suggests, this building is the result of the typical conversion of a medieval tower to agricultural use.
Ignore the first road on the right and take the successive one after about 200 mt, proceed along the wall which marks the borders of the village, and after a steep short descent you will come in sight of the farm house la Scipitana, which you will leave on your right. The decrease in elevation is marked by the appearance of holly oaks, brooms and butcher’s brooms.
As you walk, the shape of Fiesole starts looming in the horizon, with the two hills and the curious bell tower in the middle, and what a great discovery it is for your weary legs!
Fiesole is easily to be forgotten, and this is possibly its true value.
Overshadowed as it is by the majestic beauty of Florence and the neighboring countryside, Fiesole seems to have no claims though, accepting its role as “guardian” of such beauty and synthesizing the deep harmony between man and nature.
There is another 2.5 km (1,55 miles) of pleasant ups and downs before getting to the village, but you can take some time to look around in Via del Fondaccio or Via di Mugnone (both on your right side with relative street sign),where you will find rural buildings with a preserved taste for ancient things, decorated hay barns and aristocratic palaces testifying the presence of the powerful families of the city.
Florence is now close, but there is still time to take Via del Bargellino toward Fiesole. Once there, you can visit the ancient Etruscan tombs of the IV century B.C., half hidden behind a shop centre. The sudden change in the color of artifacts is immediately visible: sandstone replace the alberese stone, while blue and leaden colors are used instead of white. Stonemasonry is a prized craft in this area: it was the stonemasons who helped Filippo Brunelleschi choose the stone for the construction of Florence Dome.
Again, a bond between the city and the countryside, but this is another story…
Once you reach the main square in Fiesole, Piazza Mino, you can go back to Agriturismo Poggio al Sole in about 10 minutes by means of public transport (Ataf bus n. 45 or Sita going to Monteloro), which provide several connections throughout the day:
Itinerary and pictures by Giovanni Crescioli: www.FiesoleBike.it