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Off the beaten path: what to see in the towns in the Florentine hills

While you are on holiday in Florence, why not make the most of the Tuscan region that surrounds the city? Tuscany offers beautiful countryside, quaint villages and imposing castles so what to see near Florence is never going to be a problem. The city of Florence is surrounded by the Fiorentine hills, an area of narrow country roads, winding mountain drives and thick pine forests. As you start your journey into the hills, be sure to look back at the breath-taking view of Florence below. Then continue on your way, exploring historic towns, searching out artisan crafts and tucking into hearty local lunches. 

As you meander through the hills, you will come across several small towns near Florence, such as Scandicci, Lastra a Signa and Montelupo Fiorentino. They all have historic medieval centres and still showcase the importance the Renaissance played in this part of the world. This Tuscan region has been an important centre of traditional ceramics since the 16th-century, ceramics that focus on the use of terracotta for floor tiles and cooking pots. Even today, this area has dozens of small craft producers so you're bound to find the perfect souvenirs of your Tuscan holiday.

Also involved in the production of terracotta is the town of Certosa di Galluzzo. History lovers will find plenty to enjoy here: old ceramics kilns and a famous Carthusian monastery, the Galluzzo Charterhouse. This religious commune was founded in the early 14th-century by Niccolò Acciaioli. The geology of the surrounding hills led to caves been dug for the extraction of building stone while the abundance of running water in the area led to thriving laundry businesses. These catered to the elite of Florence and were traditionally run by women who also produced distinctive straw plaits and braids.

On a grander scale is the town of Fiesole with its impressive Roman theatre and baths and the ruins of old Etruscan walls. Take a moment to enjoy the views from this town, which nestles high in the Fiorentine hills. And, of course, any excursions around Florence should be planned to take in a tour of a local vineyard. This, after all, is Chianti country! Many local producers are delighted to offer you tours of their vineyards and let you taste their excellent wines. Be sure to visit Greve in Chianti and Radda in Chianti, two towns that are known for their remarkable reds.