The Mugello area is northwest of Florence, about 35 minutes away by car. It’s a historic land: the Medici family originated here. This season, though, visitors are more drawn in by the cuisine and cool summer breeze. Green and family-friendly, the Mugello offers well-equipped areas for picnics, outdoor activities or simply relaxing in a woodsy setting. Here are four unmissable places if you want to escape the heat of Florence and enjoy a day in the countryside.
Bilancino Lake: where the fun begins
One of the largest man-made lakes in Italy, the Bilancino was built in 1995 to help prevent any future Arno flooding after the heavy destruction Florence and surrounding areas suffered in 1966. It’s close to the A1 highway exit in Barberino di Mugello, about a 30-minute drive from central Florence. Most of the coast is grassy or rocky, and the heart of the area is the Bahia beach club, where you can rent umbrellas, chairs and other items.
A bar and restaurant stay open during the day; when the sun goes down, this area turns into a lively nightclub with concerts and cocktails.
Coming on Saturday or Sunday? I recommend reserving an umbrella and chair by calling Bahia Cafe in advance (tel. 338/3927974).
Badia di Moscheta: sacred shade
The Badia di Moscheta complex is part of a cool valley surrounded by the National Park of Giogo-Casaglia, in the municipality of Firenzuola. Founded by the Benedictine order, the complex dates back to the eleventh century. The space is still as tranquil and traditional as you’d expect, but these days it’s a popular mountain cabin with stables and a restaurant.
Badia di Moscheta’s restaurant is renowned for its fresh, homemade tagliatelle and tortelli, as well as its delicious Florentine steak—which, like true traditionalists, the staff refuses to serve any way but rare. The area around the complex has picnic areas and expansive shady fields. You’ll also find starting points for several trails, which can make for both leisurely strolls or hardcore summer hikes. Website
Marrani pool: a refreshing dip in Ronta
There are plenty of pools in the Mugello, but Marrani is my top pick. You’ll find it in Ronta, a small town near Borgo San Lorenzo: from Florence, it’s easy to reach by train.
Part of the hotel of the same name, the Marrani pool is regularly open to the public. Sun umbrellas and chairs are included with admission (7 euro for a full day, from 9am to 7pm; arrive after 4pm for a reduced rate of 4 euro). Tip: umbrellas are “while supplies last,” so arrive early on the weekends if you want yours guaranteed! Website
Prato all’Albero: low temperatures in the Alto Mugello
Prato all’Albero—literally translated as “field at the tree”—is a spacious picnic area tucked inside the old fir woods at the base of Passo della Sambuca, in the town of Palazzuolo sul Senio. This shady, peaceful area is very popular because you can always count on finding cooler temperatures and a bit of summer breeze. Like the Badia di Moscheta, it’s also the jumping-off point for numerous hiking trails in the Natural Reserve of Giogo Casaglia. More info