Viale Machiavelli is one of the Viali dei Colli (Avenues of the Hills), the scenic Florence boulevards that cross the hills surrounding the discrict of Oltrarno.
These avenues connect Ponte San Niccolò with Porta Romana, crossing stunning sights, including amazing Liberty villas, the famous church of San Miniato, gardens, meadows, and panoramic spots, such as the Piazzale Michelangelo.
With its wide S-curves that serpentine through lushly wooded landscapes of hedges and deciduous trees,
(Dan Brown, Inferno)
Viale Machiavelli is 1.8 km long and connects Piazzale Galileo with Porta Romana, where two marble lions mark access to the avenue.
These avenues were designed in 1865 by Italian architect Giuseppe Poggi to prepare Florence for its new function as capital of the Kingdom of Italy.
Florence was, in fact, the Italian capital from 1865 to 1871.
Poggi decided to build the bypass avenues following the route of torn down medieval walls that once surrounded the old town.
He planned to extend the avenues on the hill of San Miniato with the Viali dei Colli, from San Niccolò to Porta Romana, adorned along their route with the aforementioned panoramic terrace of Piazzale Michelangelo.
The original project aimed to continue the boulevard through the hills of San Gaggio, Bellosguardo, and Monte Oliveto to the Cascine area.
The boulevards were interrupted instead in Porta Romana.
The purpose was to encourage housing development of the hills, according to the architectural canon of the “garden city,” as well as to connect the city center with the hills, of which Poggi saw the entertaining potential appreciated by the bourgeois.
The Viale dei Colli had to represent the backbone of a new “hill district” consisting of small villas for the upper bourgeois class, designed according to strict rules in order to safeguard the panorama, prevent abuse, and ensure the decorum of this high-quality area.
Summarizing, Poggi had three objectives: first, he wanted to expand Florence, connecting the old town to suburban areas in an elegant and controlled way; second, he wanted to make possible a new view of Florence from the hills, monumental and impressive, like in a postcard; finally, he wanted to create in the hills both a residential area and an urban park in line with new demands of entertainment typical of the second half of the nineteenth century.
Poggi’s idea of a public park was affected by theories of the time based on the need to provide space for the health and physical well-being of citizens and also from knowledge of contemporary experience in France and especially in England, where pleasure gardens were intended to provide entertainment for the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie, serving also as a backdrop to host theatrical events and games.
Although Poggi’s objectives were not fully achieved, Viale Niccolò Machiavelli and other Florentine three-lined avenues on the hills are still wonderful places to explore.
In Dan Brown’s Inferno Robert Langdon and Sienna Brooks ride a Trike on Viale Machiavelli in the direction of Porta Romana.
Pictures by Joseph Maestri (Piazzale Michelangelo) and Google Map