In Florence, you are constantly surrounded by beautiful Renaissance buildings, narrow streets, and busy shops. However, for those wanting a change of pace from the bustle of the touristic city, or those interested in another aspect of history, Fiesole is the perfect little village to take a day trip to. I recently visited this ancient Etruscan/Roman settlement just outside of Florence.
Fiesole is just about a 25 minute transit from the center of Florence. Take Bus 7 from the bus stop “La Pura,” next to Piazza San Marco. The bus will end right in the main square of the small Fiesole. Depending on the time and day, you might find a small market with locals selling jewelry, hand crafts, olive oil, and more from little tents.
After looking around the tents and enjoying the open air, head to the Archaeological Area and Archaeological Museum. You can buy a combined ticket for these areas (student price €6). In the Archaeological Area, you can explore the ruins of an old Roman theater, bath house, and temple. It is mostly just the foundations of the buildings that are left, but the surrounding views are green, tranquil, and expansive. Take a quiet stroll around the ruins, then head to the Archaeological Museum. Inside you will find artifacts that had been found throughout the area during constructions and excavations, with informational cards explaining how each artifact fits within the timeline of the region. There is everything from Roman and Etruscan statues, architectural components, figurines, burial artifacts, and pottery. In addition, there is a large collection of Greek pottery and relics that were donated to the museum. The thing that interested me the most was the ancient skeletons found in the area, with a diagnosis of the health problems and afflictions that could be deciphered just from studying the bones. They even had costumes on display to show how people of that period would have dressed.
Both areas are pretty small, but the museum was actually pretty well done. I really got a sense of how ancient the Fiesole area actually is, and how many different cultures have left their mark on the development of todays’s society.
If you have more time, you can also head to the Bandini Museum, which is right across the street from the archaeological area. The Bandini has more modern items on display, and by modern I mean Florentine paintings from the 12th to 14th centuries, such as Bernardo Daddi, Taddeo Gaddi, and Lorenzo Monaco. It also contains several terracotta works by the Della Robbia family. I couldn’t go in the museum because I arrived too close to the closing time, but you can buy a combined ticket to the Bandini, Archaeological Area, and Archaeological Museum all for €8 (student price).
Next head to the Cathedral of St. Romulus, which is a modest church, but contains several beautiful tryptichs and a candlelit statue of St. Mary. After the church, walk up the hill from the square to the monastery of San Francesco. There, you can explore the church, grounds of the convent, and even go inside 15th century cells where monks used to live. Just outside the convent are some beautiful forested grounds with winding paths that provides a beautiful nature stroll. You can also walk up to the ancient Etruscan Walls, featuring huge stone blocks that once protected the city from attackers.
Once done exploring, head a little bit back down the hill for a stunning panoramic view of Florence and its surroundings. The view here is even higher than from Piazzale Michelangelo, and the Duomo looks like a little figurine above the tiny squares of houses below. I sat on a stone-wall lookout and watched the red-orange sunset there, looking down at my city and truly gaining a different perspective of Florence and the history that it holds.