There are many unique facets to Florence that you won't find in the run-of-the-mill guide book. Though the city itself is a world-renowned bastion of art, architecture, history and culture, the surrounding region and countryside has a great deal to offer as well. In considering a unique trip outside the city proper, look to Fiesole.
First stop, take the number 7 bus from Piazza San Marco to the hill town of Fiesole. Fiesole is famous for its views of Florence from many of its scenic vistas. The town was founded by the Etruscans some time in the 9th or 8th century (that's BC!), though no one is entirely sure. The first record of the town is dated 283 BC, when Fiesole was known as Faesulae. This record makes mention of a Roman conquest, which of course aligns with what we know generally of Roman and Etruscan history.
After many years of war and devastation, in 1010 Fiesole was claimed by the Florentines, though it wasn't until 1125 that Florence completed its conquest of the area. From this period on, the rich merchant class and noble families started to build wealthy and extravagant houses in the gorgeous hills around Florence. Fiesole continued to be a popular spot for summer homes of the wealthy right up to the modern era–Frank Lloyd Wright, Gertrude Stein, and Alice B. Toklas are examples of notable one-time residents.
Piazza da Mino, Fiesole — Photo courtesy of Katie Greenaway
Fiesole is a walkable city where you can find a handful of places to eat, or just sit and admire the views. Arguably the greatest view is from Piazza da Mino. Walk up the steep road of Via di San Francesco. At the top you can sit on a bench and enjoy the view of majestic Florence. It is amazing how small Florence looks from this vantage point. A perfect time to come to this very spot is at sunset with a bottle of wine, ideally, a special someone.
View from San Francesco of Florence — Photo courtesy of Katie Greenaway
From Fiesole you can take to bus down to the city below, San Domenico. Stop by San Domenico Pizzeria just off the bus for a slide of pizza and glass of wine. Then, to walk off your pizza and wine, take the number 7 bus towards Fiesole and get off at 3 stop called Regresso 01. Walk south and find the street Via Benedetto da Maiano. On Via Benedetto da Maiano is the Fattoria di Maiano. It is a large villa that offers airy rooms and luxurious apartments as lodging. They also offer tours of the property and nearby farmland. The tour includes a walk through the olive groves as well as a visit with farm animals like donkeys, ducks, ostriches, goats and cows. Clearly, this is an ideal tour for children. You can also visit a large, magnificient lake called “Laghetto delle Colonne” which was carved out by an ancient quart of “pietra serena” or grey stone.
There's also a delightful restaurant on Via Cave di Maiano. Follow Via Benedetto di Maiano until you see a sign for Trattoria Le Cave di Maiano . At the end of this street is a quaint restaurant that serves authentic Tuscan fare.
Fattoria di Maiano — Photo courtesy of My Beautiful Adventures