July is a very special month in our house: we celebrate our little Bear’s birthday!
We had expected Matti to be born some day around the end of June 2010: scans, calendars and unlikely sentimental calculations (‘he’ll be born the day Rome celebrates its patron Saint/he’ll be born while Italy plays in final of the soccer world cup!’) all told us we would first hold him sometimes at the end of June, but he took his time and finally joined us as a wonderful and much loved July baby.
His birthday is a reason for great celebration in the house, but it often poses a conundrum: how can we make his day really special if we are already on vacation and far away from his friends? I guess in these cases it comes handy to have a travel blogging mum: finding out special things to do anywhere in the world is what I do best and soon the plan was in place. We would spend the day at a farm near Florence, with the grandparents and grand auntie joining us from Rome.
Maiano: a kid-friendly restaurant and farmhouse near Florence
Fattoria di Maiano is a beautiful farmhouse, restaurant and event venue in Fiesole, just above Florence. It is a place I discovered on the web and it seemed perfect for us because it ticked pretty much every item I needed to make the day a success:
- beautiful country location
- excellent restaurant
- family friendly atmosphere
- petting farm
- swimming pool
- only 10 minutes by taxi from Florence city, so perfect even for visitors without a car
The farm promised to be a piece of Tuscan heaven and indeed, despite visiting during an unbearably hot summer day, we had a lovely time.
Maiano: The estate
We got to Fattoria di Maiano in what felt like the hottest hour of the hottest day of the year. Florence was experiencing a heatwave and the relentless sun was making our eyes water and our skin burn. The shady terrace of the estate, with its inviting fans, appeared in front of us like a welcome vision of solace.
Maiano is a beautiful Italian farmhouse or ‘borgo’, an architectural complex dating back to the 1400s and details of this long history are everywhere: cloisters, balustrades and a tower overlooking the beautiful surrounding countryside are the most eye-catching, but every corner, every flower box, every stone staircase framed by climbing plans keeps alive the charm of this once busy country dwelling.
On entering, the first space you encounter is an old cloister. Part of Maiano was originally a nunnery and the cloister is a tranquil shaded space overlooked by what used to be the nuns rooms and convent halls.
Nowadays the old cells have been refurbished to host beautiful and charming apartments and the cloister is the only part accessible by nonguests.
The main house is surrounded by a terrace overlooking the beautiful Tuscan hills and this is where Maiano’s restaurant is located. We had booked a table for 7 and we were given one with a fantastic panoramic view.
The day, with its scorching heat, made the air conditioned inside of the restaurant very appealing to us, but the view was hard to resist: straight in line with the gentle breeze created by the electric fan, we had a lovely meal washed down by chilled water for the kids and equally chilled, delicious white wine from the estate.
Food and ingredients
Maiano is an organic farm and all the ingredients they use are local. As soon as we took our seats, we were served Tuscan bread and local oil (the farmhouse produces it and bottles are available to purchase) and soon we started our birthday lunch.
The kids had children options (pasta and tortellini) and us adults tasted a variety of local specialities including one of my favourite things in the word: panzanella. This is a speciality of the local, ‘poor’ cuisine made with bread, fresh tomatoes, and onions and it comes to life thanks to the quality of the fresh ingredients.
Sophistication can be great in cooking but I believe the best plates of all are the ones that let good quality, fresh ingredient shine through. The elegant presentation from Maiano’s chef turned simple dishes in beautiful creations.
The farmhouse grounds
After lunch, we decided to tackle the heat and head down towards the farm grounds, where we hoped to see the local animals. Goats, sheep, and chickens were all high on my kid’s list but soon we saw in the distance something that stole the show: an ostrich!
Maiano’s farm is big and despite our best intentions, the over 40-degree temperatures defeated us and we were only able to walk through part of it. What we did see, anyway, did not disappoint: within a few minute walk down one of the main farm paths, behind the swimming pool, you can reach one of the estate’s most impressive features, the romantic garden, and the pond.
This little lake lies in what used to be a quarry and is a very special place, romantic and very dramatic at the same time. An imposing grey rock formation overlooks its calm waters and elaborate towers, of the same stone of the raw surrounding environment, frame it with elegant and imposing charm. Beside the lake, a small tea house offers a quiet place to rest and catch tour breath.
Had we not been melting under the Tuscan sun, from here we could have accessed the grounds of the farm: talking to people who were more organised than us and therefore got there at a more sensible hour (early in the morning) we heard all about what we had missed.
Maiano is not just a working farm, but one that hosts workshops specifically for kids who are invited to learn and try first hand the life on the farm.
It would have been a great experience and one we have already pencilled in for our next visit: because yes, we will come back!
[box] Practical info:
Location: just 10 by car from Florence (less if, like us, you are staying in the area called Le Cure)
Facilities: restaurant, shops, rooms and apartments, swimming pool (for residing guests only), didactic farm, olive oil press.
Perfect for: excellent if you are looking to stay near Florence but still withing easy reach from the city. Perfect for families with kids and couple, both as accommodation in Tuscany and as a location for a day trip from Florence. [/box]
This review is unsolicited and unbiased and I received no compensation or incentive for it.