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Florence in a hot-air balloon (ph. Dario Garofalo)

text Teresa Favi
photo Dario Garofalo

June 13, 2022

Florence in a hot-air balloon

Discover the city and hills of Tuscany from an unprecedented perspective

One of the most thrilling and least-known experiences on offer in Florence is to take off from the city centre in a balloon and fly over Brunelleschi’s Dome and Giotto’s Campanile, almost touching these timelessly beautiful monuments.

A hot-air balloon ride is one of the most thrilling experiences you can have in Florencehe Florence Cathedral surmounted by Brunellschi’s majestic dome

From this height, as the enormous balloon rises, you can see - in the distance but quite distinctly - the red brick silhouette with a facade of white and green marble of the Basilica of Santa Croce and, further away in the opposite direction, kissed by the early sun, the building that houses Michelangelo’s Medici Chapels (recognisable as a  square-shaped pietra forte construction edged in white marble, with a red dome divided into eight wedges), not far from the Duomo. It’s impossible to describe how it feels to fly above the Arno, and only now do you realise that the slow, peaceful river that slips beneath the Ponte Vecchio resembles a long sleeping serpent that cuts the historic centre in two.

The Oltrarno district surrounded by the hills of florencePiazzale Michelangelo

As the pilot heads south and Florence becomes ever-smaller, like a great round slab of nougat, the green of cypresses and olives takes over the outermost edges of the city. Now you can clearly see the military geometry in the layout of Fort Belvedere (the Medici fortress that stands on a buttress above the Boboli Gardens), Piazzale Michelangelo - Florence’s most famous panoramic balcony - and you’re excited to spot the other great holy guardian of Florence, the ancient Basilica of San Miniato, surrounded by the first and most beautiful hills of Tuscany.

On board a hot air balloon you can admire the most fabulous views from an unparalleled perspective and experience  an unforgettable thrill of freedom.

The balloon seen from the inside, during flight

Flights for groups, couples or solo travellers, free in the sky with your heart pounding and your gaze lost in the Tuscany countryside all around. We flew from Florence with Vastano Mongolfiere, who were our hosts for this spectacular adventure departing from the field below the Tower of San Niccolò beside the Arno - the alternative take-off site is the gorgeous Gherardesca Garden at the Four Seasons Hotel Firenze.

The preparation of the hot-air balloon at dawnThe meadow of grass that laps the banks of the Arno in front of the Torre di San Niccolò

Leaving Florence, you fly to the start of the magnificent hills with their rows of Chianti vines and, depending on the wind direction, you might even spot the spires of Siena Cathedral or the countless towers of San Gimignano. And you see Tuscany in all its glory: sunny slopes covered in olive groves, woven with vineyards and dotted with ancient patrician villas and peaceful farms, surrounding towns and villages embroidered with towers, domes and city walls; with all its gracefulness, seemingly concealing a touch of rigour in the purity of its design, as if nature were more disposed to art here than elsewhere. A landscape of inestimable value and extraordinary elegance, where everything is human in size. The journey brings together the roots of the harmonious physical and mental magnitude of this land and the original value of its unique culture and lifestyle. We’re delighted to recount the experience, whether it reaches well-informed Tuscan travellers or those who live in distant parts of the world and wish to know the area and some of its landscapes; either way, we believe our report will be useful and welcome, presenting a view of Florence and part of Tuscany that’s seldom seen, and whose alluring present is nourished by a thousand yesterdays.

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