For my first free weekend in Florence, I spent an early afternoon hiking up Monte Ceceri with my study abroad program. These hills are 414 meters (1,358.27 feet) above sea level and overlook the charming town of Fiesole. This mountain has been exploited as a huge open-air stope since the 14th century. It has ancient quarries of local grey stone (“pietra serena”) and local granite (“pietra forte”). The materials extracted from this mountain were used to build some of the most important palaces and monuments in Florence including the columns of the Basilica of San Lorenzo and Madonna by Donatello.
The hike was more intense than anticipated. The steep, rocky, and winding paths were a moment of realization that perhaps I should be exposed to this physical exertion more often. As we hiked higher and higher, I remember looking down and praying I didn’t slip. The cliffs looked straight down; I was suffering from serious vertigo. But I kept my eyes forward, pursued the journey, and ignored the burning sensation in my quads.
The picture below does not capture the hike in any capacity:
On the opposite side of one of the quarries we passed was the mountain’s most popular location for rock climbing (@Desch). The picture below includes descriptions and pictures of the quarry and the rock climbing face:
Finally, we reached the top of Mount Ceceri. Another famous name linked to this mountain was Leonardo da Vinci. Da Vinci had one of his servants attempt to fly from its summit with the first flying machine he invented in 1506. This was one of the earliest experiments in human flight. The flight lasted about one thousand meters, but ended with a crash in the town of Fiesole. Today, the name of the road where the crash occurred is “Largo Leonardo da Vinci.”
After exploring Pizzale Leonardo at the top of Mount Ceceri, we made our way down the other side; a relaxing stroll compared to the hike up. From here, we had a beautiful view of green, rolling hills and villas surrounded by olive trees and farm animals. The fresh, crisp air was a refreshing break from the busy city life. As my lungs filled with mountain air, I felt them thank me and beg for more.
As we continued our walk, an older Italian man spotted us (it’s hard to miss a group of 50), and invited us in to explore his property. Ivy climbed the old, beautiful home. The vibrant orange villa made a beautiful focal point. The man was so proud of and happy to show us the property he inherited as a fourth generation. The land was filled with dozens of acres of olive trees, a beautiful view overlooking Fiesole, semi-frozen ponds, wilted vines and plants that I imagine blossom beautifully in the spring, and some furry friends, too.
After we said our thank you’s and goodbyes, we continued our trip with a walk through the town of Fiesole. This quaint town was filled with so much character, and lacked the hustle and bustle of tourists that we’re already accustomed to in Florence.
Finally, after several hours of hiking and site seeing, we made it to Pizzeria San Domenico. My table and I waited patiently as we were the last to get our pizza — it’s not a quick process in the kitchen to make 50+ pizzas for one group. Some serious #hanger was brewing when all of a sudden, poof. Surrounded by pizza. Yes, I finished my entire pie. Yes, in under 10 minutes. Did I have room for dessert? YES. Oh, happy day.
Ciao for now!