Once home to Boccaccio, Michelangelo and Gabriele D’Annunzio, Florence’s hilltop neighbourhood Settignano is a gem with some of the most beautiful views overlooking the city.
During the Renaissance, thanks to its proximity to the quarries of pietra serena stone, it was the birthplace of numerous sculptors, from Desiderio da Settignano and the Rossellino brothers to Ammannati (whose famous “Biancone” stands guard over piazza della Signoria). Their tracks through the valley and hills of Fiesole have been preserved on the via degli scalpellini, a dirt track that makes a nice and easy introductory walk towards the Oratorio della Vanella (which houses a young Botticelli fresco). Swing a right towards via Desiderio da Settignano, where there’s a playground, and that will take you back to via San Romano, the main street.
With its pretty villas and breezy, cypress and olive tree-studded hills, Settignano also attracted a stream of expatriates in the nineteenth century. Mark Twain lived here for many months and described it as “affording the most charming view to be found on this planet, and with it the most dreamlike and enchanting sunsets to be found in any planet or even in any solar system”.