Summer in Tuscany is particularly hot, but fortunately, there are places where you’re sure to find a bit of cool air even on the worst days. One of these places is the Mugello, an area north-east of Florence known for its nature, making it perfect for a family outing, a romantic getaway or an adventure with friends.
Some call it the “Florence’s sea” because this lake is easily reachable from the city, just 30 minutes by car down the A1 or the more panoramic state roads, like via Faentina SR 302 or via Bolognese SR 65. Bilancino is a large artificial reservoir, the largest in Europe, that was created to resolve Florence’s flooding problem; today, it’s a favourite place for escaping the heat of the city and going for a swim.
The lake is flanked by a beautiful panoramic road that leads from the dam in Cafaggiolo to the highway, passing by some of area’s top beaches along the way. The free beaches are easily recognizable because, in addition to being marked, there are always parking lots next to them. They are generally not equipped, but you can sunbathe and go for a swim. If you prefer equipped beaches, head to the Bahia resort in Nebbiaia, where you can rent umbrellas and beach chairs for the day; the resort also has a playground for children, a bar and a restaurant/pizzeria with a view of the lake. In the evening, the resort is a popular place with the younger crowds, who come here for an aperitivo or to listen to live music.
An enchanting place on the border with Emilia Romagna, it can be reached easily by car after crossing the Giogo Pass, 882 metres above sea level. Here, in the heart of the Tuscan-Romagnolo Apennines, the Vallombrosian Moscheta Abbey was founded by San Giovanni Gualberto around the year 1000, and is today home to the Museum of the Apennine Landscape.
This religious building is an oasis of peace and nature thanks to the crystal-clear, cold waters of the nearby stream, the dense, shaded forest and the centuries-old chestnut groves where you can go for a walk. The area is perfect for families with young children, and trails with varying levels of difficulty start from the abbey. Exploring the trails, you can come across deer and, if you’re lucky, perhaps traces left by wolves. The abbey also boasts a typical Tuscan restaurant, well-known for its homemade pasta and tortelli and its bistecca alla fiorentina. There are even stables, so you can organize a guided night-time excursion on horseback.
For those who enjoy cold, crystal-clear water, the Lamone River, with its pools and waterfalls, is certainly a must, and fortunately, it can be reached either by car or train from Florence. The Lamone starts near the Colla di Casaglia Pass nearly 1,000 metres above sea level, rushing undisturbed through forests in the Upper Mugello, near Marradi, before flowing into the Adriatic Sea
Around the town of Crespino del Lamone, also known as the “town of good water and fountains” and home to a train station, there are a few famous waterholes, which are easily recognizable thanks to the cars parked along the road nearby. One of the easiest to reach is the Valbura waterfall, located near the old furnaces in Valbura, on state road SR 302, or via Faentina. If you go on a Saturday or Sunday, don’t miss the special of the day at the Circolino di Crespino, managed by the town’s few inhabitants and very active in promoting local and seasonal specialties.