A family vacation to Florence, Italy, tops most of our bucket lists. After all, the capital city of Tuscany lives and breathes its history every day through architecture, food, music and art, on display in the smallest of cobbled streets and on the grandest piazza. And who can resist walking through a living museum that reminds us that Florence was the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, and is still one of the world’s most beautiful cities?
But let’s be honest … in the summertime, it’s hot! How hot? Hot enough one day (104 degrees) to send me heading for the cooler green hills above the city. My escape: Fattoria di Maiano, a 15th-century hamlet converted into family-friendly apartments, plus a small guesthouse, near the ancient village of Fiesole. This all-organic working farm is a welcome respite from the heat and hustle of Florence.
Set on a 670-acre estate speckled with olive trees, farm animals, botanical gardens and a gorgeous pool, Fattoria di Maiano offers families a pied-a-terre in the heart of the hills, just 5 kilometers from Florence. As the road rises out of the city, the landscape changes from urban to rural almost instantly, with sprawling views over the green and gold terrain. With easy access to the city and surrounding countryside, it really offers the best of both worlds.
The appeal of hanging your vacation hat at Fattoria di Maiano is the selection of 12 apartments, developed from the former cloisters and convent that once reigned here. Accommodations range from small, one-bedroom gems that sleep two to four people, to the Apartamento Convento, which sleeps up to 11 people in multiple bedrooms — perfect for a family reunion or multigenerational trip. Each apartment has private bedrooms and baths, small but fully equipped kitchens, dining tables, and sitting rooms (some with patios) giving Mom and Dad a place to relax after the kids have gone to bed.
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The decor leans more traditional than modern, with wooden beams, terra-cotta tiles, stone columns and floral curtains that look as if a nonna had hung them herself. About 100 meters down the road is a small guesthouse with eight simply decorated rooms and suites. I stayed here in a Junior Suite, which was spacious enough (with excellent air conditioning, I must add). It included a living area with twin bed and a separate area, though not private, with a very comfortable king-size bed. The bathroom was modern, with only a shower.
There are no views to speak of from this guesthouse, nor is there Internet access in the building. Breakfast is served downstairs, though, so there’s need to schlep to the restaurant for morning joe.
Each apartment is equipped with a kitchen, which takes the pressure off of eating out every day. But when in Tuscany, it’s always nice to tuck into the local flavors. Dining at Fattoria de Maiano is limited, but what’s available is delicious. There is only one restaurant, Lo Spaccio, open for lunch and dinner every day except Mondays. The menu offers fresh pasta, risotto, beef carpaccio, local cheese, salads, wonderful meat dishes and more. Dining is indoors or out. Book early, as the restaurant is open to the public as well as guests, and ask for a table on the back terrace where the views are best. Lo Spaccio also has a deli where you can order sandwiches and pick up cold drinks for the pool.
There are a few restaurants within walking distance of Fattoria di Maiano that are worth the trek, including Le Cave di Maiano, which has a gorgeous outdoor terrace and is also open for lunch.
The main draws for families looking into a stay at Fattoria di Maiano are its space to spread out, its location near Florence and the variety of onsite activities that are fun for all ages. For those who want a break from Florence museums and crowds but still need to fill the day with some family fun, then Fattoria di Maiano is the spot. It’s a working farm and guests are free to wander the paths of the vast estate to check out the olive trees, ducks, ostriches, goats, donkeys and cows.
There is a small children’s playground onsite, and the pool has shaded lounge chairs and amazing views over the hills. The one oddity about the pool area is that there is no bathroom. The closest one is either back in your apartment or at the restaurant. The onsite botanical gardens are also open to the public, with paths to walk, animals to see and a tea house where families can stop for a break.
Fattoria di Maiano offers guided tours that will appeal to older kids too, such as the night hiking tour complete with headlamps and sounds of wildlife coming from the darkened landscape. Day and night jeep “safaris” are a great way to explore the estate. These are by reservation only, for an extra fee.
Florence is just a 10- to 15-minute drive down the hill from Fattoria di Maiano. Arrange a taxi if you don’t wish to drive. Once in the city, walking is the way to explore. Museums such as the Galleria dell’Accademia, home to Michelangelo’s David, and the Uffizi Gallery, where important works by Leonardo da Vinci, Giotto, Botticelli, and Michelangelo hang, are musts (note: the Uffizi is best for older children).The Boboli Gardens and their 16th-century sculptures make for a great morning stroll. Public squares such as Piazza della Signoria and Piazza Santo Spirito buzz with locals and tourists sipping coffee on outdoor terraces. There’s a gelato shop every two feet (or so it feels), with a kaleidoscope of creamy colors and flavors for a sweet cool-down.
Fiesole, about a mile from Fattoria di Maiano, is a small Etruscan village containing oodles of history. The main square, Piazza Mino, hosts an antiques market on the first Sunday of each month, and there are a few small bars and cafes to grab a snack or drink. Check out the Etruscan-Roman archaeological area, which has remains of Roman baths and a Roman amphitheater, as well as remnants of massive Etruscan walls that once kept enemies at bay. The Museo Bandini, across the street from the archaeological area, is home to a lovely collection of Florentine paintings.
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Editor’s Note: Kimberley received a media package to review Fattoria di Maiano for families. As always, our opinions are our own. Photos by Kimberley Lovato except where noted.
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