This week we took a day hike near Florence along the Stonemasons and Leonardo Trail—part of the Renaissance Ring (Anello del Rinascimento). The Renaissance Ring is a trail that circles Firenze. It wanders through the countryside– in natural areas, past points of historical interest, along the Old Florence Road, and among art. It’s not really what I would call a “hike,” but more of a trek or walkabout.
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We walked a small 2.5 km loop starting and ending in Fiesole. This little town uphill from Firenze has long been a getaway for royal and powerful families. Just like us. Wandering around Firenze is interesting enough in itself, but we wanted to learn more about the stonemasons and Leonardo da Vinci, as well as cover some terrain on foot.
The trail left from the Piazza Mino da Fiesole just past the bus stop. (If you are looking at the statue, go up and to the right.) We walked along narrow streets lined with mustard, peach, and beige houses, past a public garden, and to a panoramic lookout over Firenze. This is an active road, so watch for cars!
Panoramic Views, Stonemasons, and Leonardo da Vinci
This day hike near Florence, like other parts of the Renaissance Ring, keeps the Duomo as its central viewpoint. It was pretty cool seeing the whole city from above and it gave us a better perspective of where we had been the last week and a half. Since the buildings are so tall and streets so narrow in Firenze, it’s hard to get your bearings down there.
The trail soon left the streets and entered a more natural area. We had several more views of the city while climbing through cypress, olive, and oak trees to Mount Ceceri.
We kept seeing signs along the way pointing to “cavas.” I imagined the limestone-like rock (pietra serena) was riddled with caves. It made sense since caves are often found in limestone and its metamorphosed cousin, marble. When we stopped for lunch just below Piazzale Leonardo da Vinci on Mount Ceceri, I found a sign explaining that the area is filled with quarries, not caves. Should have used my translator.
For my geo-phile friends: “Pietra serena is a gray sandstone used extensively in Renaissance Florence for architectural details. It is also known as Macigno stone. The material obtained at Fiesole is considered the best.” So says, Wikipedia. “Examples of its use in Florence include the interior pilasters, entablatures, and other decorative elements of Brunelleschi’s Pazzi Chapel and Michelangelo’s Medici Chapel.”
The other really cool thing about this area, besides another breathtaking view of Firenze, is that it is the area where Leonardo da Vinci had an olive grove and did his human-powered flying experiments. We could imagine how in 1505, Leonardo strapped wings to the back of his poor volunteer. The assistant then leapt off the hill. He suffered a few broken bones, but was ultimately ok.
As unschool-homeschool-worldschool-students-of-life, we are always trying to get up close to history. Firenze and the surrounding area is proving to be an excellent place to do this. No surprise!
From Monte Ceceri we walked up to the Piazzale Leonardo da Vinci, an uninspiring, flat area covered in gravel. Best to have your lunch at the picnic table below. There is a small monument and a great view.
Then it was more trail time, with old, stone walls marking one side of the trail. We passed a few olive groves and were back on the winding streets to Fiesole.
The bus ride down the hill was pretty fun and a little faster than I would have driven, as well as a great way to see more.
Plan Your Own Trip
What: A 2.5 km day hike near Florence along the Stonemasons and Leonardo Trail—part of the Renaissance Ring (Anello del Rinascimento)—starting and ending in Fiesole.
Why: Take a walk, learn about history, take panoramic photos
Where: Fiesole, Italy
How: Make it super easy and stop at the Tourist Center on Via Cavour. They will give you maps, tell you how to get to the bus stop, and answer any other questions you may have. Specifically, we found the Anello del Rinascimento Trekking Map and Fiesole: Mappa del Territorio useful. They were both free.
Getting There: We took the bus, which was quite easy and inexpensive. Bus tickets can be purchased for €1.20/person each way. Buy tickets at any tobacco shop. Take the #7 bus from outside the Giardino dei Semplici (Botanic Gardens) on Via G. La Pira. Get off at Piazza Mino da Fiesole (not at San Domenicio like we did!). You can buy your tickets for both directions in Firenze or get a ticket back in Fiesole. The tickets are good for 90 minutes f they are stamped. So, if you get off at the wrong stop, just wait for the next bus and continue on.