What I saw on a Sunday walk in the hills outside of Florence

Last Sunday was beautiful; it was sunny, not too hot, and I found myself deep within the hills outside of Fiesole.  I love these random wanderings and the things I see.

It’s hunting season now and wild boar is a usual casualty.  Florentines love dining on these cinghiale, and I saw this advertisement in an osteria making good use of the hunt.

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The colors of fall on the trees are just beginning to reveal themselves in these lovely hills,  but pyracantha is almost shining, it is so bright. Very pretty!

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Edible crops are alive and well in the hills near Fiesole, and I never, ever tire of seeing pomegranate trees bearing fruit.

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The olive harvest this year looks to be very good and I encountered many trees heavily laden with these green fruit.

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There are olive orchards all through these hills, but there are also fig trees, plum trees and, as below, plenty of apple trees.

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I loved looking at this particular apple tree and I will admit that I was sorely tempted to climb the ladder that was already in place to access the apples high up.  I contained myself and didn’t do it!

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The views and vistas on all sides of me were attractive and beckoning.  Another day I’ll climb other of these hills.

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In the village of Fiesole itself I smiled when I saw this sign.  “Whoever takes a dog on a walk is responsible for the dog’s comportment.”  Hear hear!

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Villa Peyron, Fiesole

Oh, Villa Peyron!  How lovely you are, sitting in your pretty setting high above Florence!

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Situated in a beautiful position up in the hills around Fiesole, one can view both Florence and Castel di Poggio from the Villa.

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The Villa Peyron is a large complex, with buildings, formal gardens, and the surrounding olive groves. The villa is located in the woods named Il Bosco di Fonte Lucente, named after a spring above the villa

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The spring is said to supply the water necessary to work the many fountains in the garden and park, although I will say that the fountains weren’t working when I was there recently. Even without the fountains, the gardens are beautiful.

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It is likely that the villa itself was built on top of Etruscan ruins, traces of which can be seen in the underground chambers and in the immediate surroundings; there are, for example, antique stones in the walls found in the forests around the villa.

The garden is built on three terraces that slope southwards and has a wooded parterre parallel to the villa.

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What we see today bears nothing harking back to the Etruscans, but of course the villa has been subjected to a series of renovations and transformations over many centuries.

In the late 19th century, the Florentine architect, Ugo Giovannozzi (1876-1957), gave the villa its current appearance, working for Peyron family members who envisioned a very grand villa.

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There’s a lot of statuary placed throughout the villa grounds; these sculptures come from the Venetian villas of the Brenta. These prestigious works were installed to take the place of those which were destroyed during World War II.

 

 

In fact, a plaque is installed on a building near the entrance to the villa grounds, which speaks to the horrors of war.  During WWII, the villa was requisitioned by the high German command. Later it was occupied by the Allies who also installed a military hospital there. (I can’t help thinking of the film, The English Patient.)

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You might say that some of the minor horrors of war were even clearly imprinted on this villa. When Paolo Peyron returned to his home after the war, it was a very bittersweet homecoming: all the objects that  Peyron had tried to save by hiding them in a room in the farmhouse were destroyed and scattered in the garden. Paintings and gilded frames were mockingly attached to olive trees; furniture was smashed; rare books, incunabula and prints of Piranesi, inherited from his father’s library, lay on the ground in the open, irremediably spoiled by the rain.

And now I will stop talking and simply place the photos of this beautiful locale on my post.  Enjoy!

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This gorgeous villa, open for visits, lies just beyond Fiesole.  It’s an easy trip by Ataf bus (#7) from Florence to Fiesole, and catch a connecting bus #47.  The #47 is unreliable (it has only 3 runs on Sundays, for example, and they are all in the morning).  But you can do what I did, and take a taxi to the Villa from Fiesole.

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La vendemmia: the grape harvest

It’s that time again!  Grape harvest all over the vineyards in Italia!

(And the news is excellent coming from France too:) https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/french-champagne-makers-record-harvest-quality-grapes-vintage-wine-a8507911.html

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The word “vendemmia” comes from the Latin words “vinum” (wine) and “demere” (take away).
In the past, grapes were picked either directly by hand or with the help of small knifes or scissors. The grapes were put in baskets, made of wicker or wood, and later they were moved into larger wood containers “tini” or vats, which were used for the crushing.
As most Americans will remember, Lucille Ball excelled at stomping grapes when she visited Italy on I Love Lucy.
Indeed, the crushing was done using the feet of the workers or with some special wooden sticks called “ammostatori,”  shaped like baseball bats.
The ammostatori were often used in small containers, while for larger and taller vats, ladders were used by workers, descending from the top.

In the common imagination the idea of feet crushing is well rooted, a ritual still done by some wine estate just because it keeps a sort of ancient fascination.

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(Foto proveniente dall’archivio privato della famiglia Colombini. -1945, Neutro Martini, guardiacaccia della Fattoria dei Barbi, con un bigonzo di uva in spalla durante la vendemmia nella vigna dei podernovi.)

— at Museo Della Comunità Di Montalcino E Del Brunello.

Personally, I’ve spent some time recently in the rows of grape vines heavy with pendant grapes. What a treat to be in Chianti at the time of la vendemmia!
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Villa la Quiete, Firenze

I recently visited, on a lovely parcel of land just outside of beautiful Firenze, a once-magnificent villa known as Villa la Quiete. Located upon the Castello hill, at the foot of the Monte Morello, this villa is considered to be among the most important settings of its kind.  It takes its name from a fresco by Giovanni da San Giovanni entitled, La Quiete, which dominates the winds (see below).

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The Medici family particularly loved this area and owned some of its most beautiful residences, including the Villa di Careggi, Villa di Castello, and the Villa della Petraia. You can locate Villa la Quiete on these 2 Google Earth slides below and, in the last one, also locate the 3 Medici villas just mentioned.

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This parcel of land has lots of history, naturally.  In 1438 it was given by the Florentine Republic to the condottiere Niccola da Tolentino, for his military services. In 1453 the Medici acquired the land, and later Cosimo I passed it to the commander of the Order of Santo Stefano.

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In 1627 the property was again acquired by a Medici, this time by Cristina di Lorena.  She had the palazzo rebuilt, and had a suspended passage constructed (a small variant of the Vasari Corridor), connecting the villa to a nearby Camaldolese monastery.  Cristina also commissioned the painting of la quiete che pacifica i venti, by Giovanni da San Giovanni in 1632.

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Cristina’s name even appears in another fresco, by Giovanni da San Giovani. in which curious anagram masquerading as a hymn inscribed on a scroll supported by putti in flight.

The villa has, thereafter, been known as Villa la Quiete.

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The complex was bequeathed to Cristina’s grandson, the Grand Duke Ferdinando II. Later on, in 1650, the villa was sold to Eleonora Ramirez de Montalvo, who dedicated it as a country retreat for a congregation she founded, the Montalves.  At that time the villa was called Istituto della Quiete.

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After Eleonora’s death, her friend the Grand Duchess Vittoria della Rovere administered the Institute, and sponsored the construction of the Montalve church, completed in 1688.

Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici, the last descendant of the Medici family, resided in the villa between 1720 and 1730 and she furnished it with objects from the Palazzo Vecchio and Palazzo Pitti.

Anna Maria had the villa renovated and redecorated and she installed a beautiful grand garden, bringing water to it by a pipe to the nearby Fonte delle Lepricine.

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The director of this new, vast garden was the botanist Sebastiano Rapi, who just happened to be the person in charge of the Giardino Boboli.  Rapi, with the support of Anna Maria, brought the best botanical and fruit species from the various Medici villas.

Even today, the specimen magnolia trees they selected still grow in a courtyard connecting the garden to the palazzo.

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The garden today remains one of the rare examples of an 18th-century garden, with no changes in the plantings, other than refreshing them.  You can see the layout of the formal, rectangular gardens, lined with pots of lemon trees, in the Google slide:

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The secular order of Montalve, dedicated to the education of girls of good family, only had to abandon their church of San Jacopo di Ripoli in 1886, and they brought their numerous furnishings and works of art with them to the Villa la Quiete.

It was only in 1937 that the order became religious. The villa complex remained for a long time the seat of the education institute, ending only in 1992. The last pupil graduated in 2001.

In February 1992 the villa, together with the entire real estate of the Conservatory of the Montalve alla Quiete, passed University of Florence. A small part of the villa has been used by the University for the Center for Culture for Foreigners and Polo offices. 

It is possible to visit the villa, as I did, only by appointment and in the months of July and August on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. To arrange a visit, contact the Ufficio Servizi Didattico Divulgativi, Sistema Museale D’Ateneo, tel 055-2756444 or by email to edumsn@unifi.it.
In a few days I will be writing a post about the artworks located in the villa.

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