Florence—architectural empress, city of beauty, city of love. Florence—city of body jams, packed piazzas, and tourist traps. The hoards of keen tourists can be exhausting and if you’re like me, you just want a little patch of peace from time to time to re-sharpen your explorer senses.
Enter Fiesole, a charming village on Florence’s doorstep.
How Fiesole Came to Be
A former walled city founded by the Etruscan civilization in the 7th century BC, the city of Fiesole is best known as a Roman colony and military nemesis of its neighbor Florence.
Its altitude above the hills and strategic location for surveying the region’s rivers made it a prized jewel for conquerors, namely the Romans who eventually made Fiesole a colony in 90 BC. In the early Middle Ages, Fiesole was more powerful that Florence, and the two cities fought several wars. Over time, Florence won the city over, which led the rich residents of Renaissance Florence to build their villas in Fiesole.
How to Get There
For the brave wishing to save, there are trails leading downhill back to Florence. The tourist office just off Fiesole’s main square (Piazza Mino) where the bus drops you off will be able to give you more information about walking trails and things going on.
What To Do in Fiesole
One good reason for visiting Fiesole is to take in its awesome view of Florence. Its altitude of almost 1,000 feet will allow you to peer over Florence from either of Fiesole’s two peaks: the S. Francesco or the S. Apollinare. I recommend enjoying a picnic just below the San Francesco Monastery to take in Florence’s panorama. Pass by the Coop supermarket just off Piazza Mino for picnic supplies instead of sipping an overpriced soda at one of the cafés lining the piazza.
Be sure check out Fiesole’s Roman theatre, which hosts outdoor plays, films and concerts in the summer evenings. Access to the Roman theatre and adjoining archeological site will cost you around €6, which isn’t too expensive for the city’s main attractions.
Other attractions include the Cattedrale di San Romolo (the town’s Duomo), the Museo Bandini (whose collection includes pieces by Michelangelo) and the Museo Missionario Francescano Fiesole (below the San Francesco Monestary), where you’ll find more Etruscan and Roman archeological treasures.
Did you Know?
Herman Hesse, the Nobel Prize winning author of “Siddhartha” and “Steppenwolf” often spent time in Fiesole, as he felt inspired by both the Fiesolan countryside and its residents.