It is nowhere to be found on the Florence map, but if you ask Florentines where the Viale dei Colli is, they will answer without hesitation.
We are talking about the boulevards leading to Piazzale Michelangelo: Viale Michelangelo, Viale Galilei, Viale Nicolò Machiavelli, all of them connecting Porta Romana to the Ponte San Niccolò, with a long panoramic walk on the hill south of Florence.
The Viale dei Colli was born at the time when Florence became the capital in the Regno d'Italia (1865) and was the work of Giuseppe Poggi, who at that time redesigned the look of Florence, partially erasing the medieval appearance of the city to make way for large tree-lined boulevards, squares and palaces according to the style of the era.
The location quickly became one of the favourite residential areas for the upper bourgeoisie; The houses were built so as not to block the view, because Poggi had imagined the boulevard as a long romantic walk, where one can stop and admire the panorama of the city and then reach the most spectacular terrace: Piazzale Michelangelo.
The route starts from Piazza di Porta Romana (or from Piazza Ferrucci, at the other end of the Viale dei Colli). As the name says, this was the gateway to 14th century Florence for those who came from the south. In the middle of the square, one of the contemporary artworks in town: the Dietrofront sculpture by Michelangelo Pistoletto.
Walking up the Viale Machiavelli you skirt the Pagliere di Boboli, a straw storehouse annexed to the Scuderie Reali, both works were made during the Firenze Capitale time.
The first stop is at the Giardino del Bobolino or, as the Florentines say, i' Bobolino; the magnificent and towering cedar tree at the centre of the garden is an unmissable location for wedding pictures.
Let's go back on the path and walk along Villa Cora, now a luxury hotel (among its guests even Lady Diana), and in the past one of the most exclusive gathering places for the city elite.
Just up ahead, after the plaza dedicated to Galileo Galilei, you can make a detour walking down one of the most picturesque streets in Florence: Via San Leonardo. Right at the intersection with Viale Galilei a plaque commemorates what was once the Florentine home of Pëtr Il'ic Cajkovskij, while in the small church along the way, San Leonardo in Arcetri, you can see the San Pier Scheraggio pulpit from which, it is believed, even Dante Alighieri spoke. Via San Leonardo leads to the Forte di Belvedere, to walk back into town you can stroll down Costa San Giorgio, where even Galileo Galilei lived or Via di Belvedere, flanked by a long stretch of 14th-century walls, one of the few left in Florence.
But let's go back on the Viale Galilei because now the Brunelleschi Dome is peeking out and indeed we have arrived at the Monte alle Croci ramps and up to the right you can see the Romanesque facade of the Basilica di San Miniato al Monte (here a stop for the visit of the church is essential).
In front of us the view widens and we can enjoy our reward for the walk: we are now at Piazzale Michelangelo. Trying not to be overcome with Stendhal syndrome, we stroll around the square while admiring the spectacle of Florence at our feet and then we are ready to walk down the hill.
By the way, every year from April 25 to May 20 the Giardino dell'Iris welcomes visitors in a blaze of scents and colours: one more reason to go to Piazzale Michelangelo.
On the way down towards Ponte San Niccolò you can gaze upon the hills of Fiesole and the Tuscan countryside, with the typical vegetation of the area, among cypresses, olive trees and pines.
The walk ends in Piazza Ferrucci; reaching the Arno in front of us, we see the Ponte Vecchio to the left, just a few hundred metres ahead.