Outside the Centre

Siege of Florence, by Vasari

Great Aunt Florence, with her dour complexion and severe, lined face, never was much of a looker from street level, but improves with a bit of distance, from one of her hilltop balconies: the Forte de Belvedere, San Miniato al Monte, Piazzale Michelangelo, Bellosguardo, Fiesole or Settignano. Few cities, in fact, are so well endowed with stunning vistas; and when you look down on Florence’s palaces and towers, her loping bridges and red tile roofs and famous churches, Brunelleschi’s incomparable dome seems even more remarkable, hovering like a benediction over the city.

Down below, the newer sections of the city are irredeemably dull. Much of Florence’s traffic problem is channelled through its ring of avenues, or viali, laid out in the 1860s by Giuseppe Poggi to replace the demolished walls. On and along them are scattered points of interest, including the old city gates; the distances involved and danger of carbon monoxide poisoning on the viali make the idea of walking insane.

A bit further afield, the outskirts of the city have long lured the Florentines out of their streets of history into some of Tuscany’s loveliest countryside. Lofty Fiesole, Florence’s grandmother, and a set of Medici villas are all easily reached by public transport.

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