Normally a quiet little village overlooking the magnificent Tuscan landscape, on this particular day the central piazza of this Tuscan town was filled with tables covered with all sorts of treasures and antiques.
We browsed through the stalls to gaze at the weird and the wonderful, the unique and antique in this charming Tuscan market. Jewels, handbags, handmade linens, old books and comics, medallions, small furnishings and home accessories such as ceramics and other amazing treasures all lay out before us.
Carefully we thumbed through books whose delicate pages were filled with the wisdoms of ages past, from how to repair the machinery of bygone eras, to classic novels which remain much-loved to this day.
We admired the ancient craftsmanship on carefully wood-turned items such as lamp tables, bookshelves, doll houses and miniature display cabinets. And of course, we could not help but be drawn in by the shimmer of ancient jewels, the smooth curves of delicate porcelains and the careful brush strokes of paintings also on display.
The square in which this Tuscan fair is held is the Piazza Mino a Fiesole. In its centre is a large bronze statue of Garibaldi and Vittorio Emanuele II. These two historical figures both played vital roles in the history of Italy and are said to have met in this very piazza on 26th October, 1860. The exact words they exchanged are still the subject of much debate to this day.
Some decades ago, the local council had planned to construct in this piazza. Initial works discovered ancient Roman ruins, some of which were carefully excavated before works began again. But then Etruscan ruins were found, and it was decided to just leave them where they were, carefully cover them up and create a wonderful open piazza atop instead!
Right off the piazza however is an exhibition area in which you can see a sample of the Roman and Etruscan road that traversed Fiesole, and also a well.
After having looked through all the stalls, we wandered up a winding cobbled road to a small lookout area surrounded by the most spectacular views over the surrounding Tuscan landscape.
Nestled below, you can also see the European University Institute, one of the world’s most unique education facilities housed in several unassuming yet historically important buildings including the Badia Fiesolana and Villa Schifanoia.
Walking onwards and upwards and we arrived at the Chiesa di Santa Maria Primerana, a church which dates back to at least 966 that was then added onto in medieval times and beyond. Annexed onto the church are chambers in which Franciscan monks would study, sleep and pray in tiny rooms little more than two meters square, confined conditions intended to provide no distractions to these dedicated religious scholars.
Exiting out from the church, we wandered along a path through a park where we were surprised but delighted to see a truly strange and marvellous sight – a group of Italian teenagers practicing their Parkour moves up and over stone walls, benches and anything solid enough to jump up or bounce off of! Not quite traditional use of the Tuscan landscape, but certainly an interesting thing to see!
As the sun set, we continued our walk up and around the curving streets, our conversation often abruptly but pleasantly interrupted by a breath-taking, thought-stopping view that rendered us speechless for several minutes at a time as we looked out over panoramas that hold a myriad of historic locations, from where Michelangelo learned to honed his marble-carving skills to where Leonardo da Vinci tested his historic flying machine.
‘Happiness is not so much in having as sharing. We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.’*
This is our philosophy here at Artviva, and as such, we dedicate ourselves to sharing the Italian culture, cuisine, art and history we so love.
To learn about food and have fun learning discovering tasty ways to use seasonal Italian ingredients to make delicious, typical dishes before indulging in a delicious meal made by you, we have hands-on cooking classes in Florence and Cooking Classes in a Tuscan Villa.
If you would like immerse yourself in the Tuscan culture out of the kitchen, we have a small-group Best of Tuscany tour visiting Siena, San Gimignano and Monteriggioni too, as well as stopping for lunch and wine tasting at an award-winning wine estate. See the highlights of Tuscany in one spectacular day tour from Florence – Best of Tuscany small-group tour.
Join us to have fun on an exhilarating bike ride from Florence to the Tuscan countryside, whizzing up and down the rolling Tuscan hills that form the stunning Tuscany countryside as you tour to a great Tuscan villa wine estate to visit their wine cellar for a Tuscan wine tasting, and dine at an award-winning Tuscan restaurant. During the warmer months, you may want to add a splash of extra fun to your Tuscany bike tour with our unique Tuscany Bike Ride with a Villa Swim. Should you wish to skip the Tuscan bike riding altogether and head straight pool-side, we have our Wine Tour and Villa Swim with lunch or simply enjoy a Villa Swim and Lunch in Tuscany.
Visit a Tuscan villa on the Taste of Tuscany at the Villa wine tour. Explore historic wine estates before undertaking a wine tasting. Tread through the terrain, enjoying spectacular views of the Tuscan countryside up-close and personal.
Stroll through the Tuscan countryside, join us for a Perfect Morning in Tuscany small-group walking tour. Leaving from Florence’s city centre and heading to the surrounding countryside, this small-group walking tour includes, well, walking in Tuscany, as well as lunch with wine at a stunning Renaissance Villa Estate, accompanied by an expert tour guide.
If you would like to have a private guide accompanying you, we have private tours that cater to your every desire. From Florence (and Tuscany) to Rome, Venice to the Cinque Terre and beyond, we are at your beck and call.
To explore other areas of Italy, can check out our Artviva Walking Tours website to read more about the tours we have to offer in Florence, Rome, Venice, Cinque Terre, Umbria, Naples, Pompeii and more.
* Norman MacEwan