Wonderful hike in the very attractive outskirts of Florence

The Rose Garden. View on Florence trough Folon Art work

A full morning sightseeing tour from Villa le Barone to Piazzale Michelangelo (stunning view  on the Florence roofs, monuments and churches), a pleasant stroll through the Giardino delle Rose or Rose Garden (captivating statues by Jean Michel Folon, a sweet rose garden and a Japanese garden), stop for a “cappuccino” in a bar of the San  Niccolò district, visit a very special jeweler shop, discover the large Bardini gardens … and then decision is up to you … continue your  tour in downtown Florence or return to Chianti and Villa le Barone for a nice dip in the swimming pool, a game of tennis or a nice lunch and nap!

It’s a nice Saturday morning and we decide- after a very nice breakfast- to have a walk in Florence, but not to the centre and its most famous monuments, just to a small district of the city, one named San Niccolò that includes two very special gardens: Il Giardino delle Rose (Rose Garden) and il giardino Bardini (from the name of a rich Florentine antiques dealer and garden enthusiast.
Off we go (see itinerary here below) for a 50’ drive to Florence through Greve, Greti, Passo de’ Pecorai, Ferrone, Galluzzo until we get to the Viale di Colli, a winding  road shaded by old pine trees, holm oaks, lots of greenery and beautiful houses.  We stop and park our car in Piazzale Michelangelo, a large square on a hilltop about a mile away from the centre of Florence (Piazza della Signoria) from where you can admire the stunning panorama of Florence (for details look through the available longviews): the Duomo, the tower of Palazzo Vecchio, the Church of Santa Croce, the bridges on the Arno river and a bit farther away the hills of Fiesole and its beautiful Villas). After getting an eyeful on the panorama below you, it’s time to move on! Do feel  bad about not visiting the San Miniato al Monte church,  a roman art abbey with inlaid white and black marble 300 m on the heights behind you), and – while looking at Florence (North direction), go left (West), exit the Piazzale Michelangelo square going on  a downward  stairs, and then on the right on the road   until you will find on the left a gate(open all days from 9h to 17h) with Giardino delle Rose written on it. Take your time, look at the flowers, dream, admire the several bronze statues donated by Jean Michel Folon, (a Belgian artist from the 20th century), have a peek at the miniature but endearing Japanese garden.  After some time, take the exit at the bottom of the garden, follow Via del Monte alle Croci and then Via San Miniato; you can stop for a cappuccino at Il Rifrullo bar or for a gulp of wine at one of the enoteca’s.  Keep on the same road which is going to turn leftwards and change its name to Via San Niccolò.  At number 115/R of Via San Niccolò (your left) you are going to find the goldsmith shop of Alessandro Dari.   If you wear one of his jewels back home you’ll be the talk of the evening!
Keep going in the same direction as before; Via San Niccolò becomes now Via dei Bardi; careful now, because on the left you are going to find and entrance with a the name of Fondazione Bardini Peyron.  Buy your tickets, get a plan of the gardens and climb uphill either in the woods or- better in my opinion- under the spectacular hydrangeas. By the time you reach the top, you will be happy to relax on a bench with a spectacular view or at the Kaffehaus in front of a drink or a snack. In The Villa Bardini Museum hosts the Pietro Annigoni (famous portrait painter of the 1900’s – Queen Elizabeth and many more) museum and temporary art exhibits that can also attract you.
The time has now come to either go back to Villa le Barone where a nap in the shade after a light snack is quite attractive or- for the brave- a continuation of the hike to the nearby (your ticket should be valid for both) Boboli gardens, Palazzo Pitti and the hustle and bustle of Florence.

Itinerary to Piazzale Michelangelo (Florence)

From Villa le Barone drive to Panzano and take the 222 to Greve.
Keep on 222 and pass a small hamlet called Greti.
At the next fork, take a left towards Passo de’ Pecorai, Ferrone.
Keep on the same main road and pass Il Ferrone.
Keep on the same main road towards Falciani.  At Falciani, do not turn left, but keep going straight in the same direction.
A little bit after Falciani you are going to take a right and climb on the Siena – Florence highway until you get (3-4 miles) to a large roundabout.  Take the 3rd exit (a road called Via Senese) and keep going, you are going to leave on a hilltop on  the left the Cistercian Certosa Abbey (you can visit on a next trip!) and keep straight.
You are going to pass a village called Galluzzo and going to continue straight.  After approximately 4-5 miles you are going to come to a fork. Careful, because you cannot continue straight, but have to turn right on Via del Gelsomino.
You are going to start sighting some old pine trees, you are on the right track!  Keep going straight and the winding road you are in is going to become Viale Evangelista Torricelli, at the next big crossing turn right on Viale Galileo until you are going to find on the left a large square, Piazzale Michelangelo!