The Città di Fiesole is self-described as il cielo supra Firenze, ”the sky above Florence”, and if you have the opportunity to visit the ancient Etruscan city that sits atop Sickle-Moon Hill, you will certainly appreciate why.
From Piazza San Marco in Florence, you can catch the ATAF Florence City Bus #7 to Fiesole. Running about every half hour, the short bus ride (about 20 minutes) is an easy way to escape the throngs of tourists in Florence and spend a pleasant day here.
Although the 8 km trip can also be accomplished by car or taxi, the bus ride is effortless and hassle-free. Riding with locals and a few other day trippers through the outskirts of Florence and along the gently winding (and uphill!) road is enjoyable. There is also a sightseeing double-decker bus that goes to Fiesole from Florence and, although Fiesole can also be reached by bicycle or on foot, that is only advisable for the very hardy!
Climbing up the Fiesolan hills, you will pass gated and walled Renaissance villas, San Domenico (the monastery where Fra’ Angelico first took his vows and did much of his work), and you may even catch occasional glimpses of the panoramic views of Florence below. You can also start to appreciate why Fiesole has been a popular sanctuary for centuries, including for the Medici family; the cool mountain breezes provide a welcome escape from the rigors and heat of city living below.
The bus stop is conveniently located in town center, Piazzale Mino da Fiesole. As in so many town centers in Italy, there is a statue of Victor Emmanuel II gallantly posed on horseback. Sprinkled around the perimeter are inviting cafès, trattorias and shops. This is the logical point to begin your explorations and Fiesole is quite easy to explore on foot. Armed with a map (available at the tourist center) you can choose one of several walking itineraries, all of which conveniently begin and end in Piazza Mino.
Following the route along Via delle Mura Etrusche, will take you uphill (and I do mean up…) until you reach a vantage point with a breathtaking view of Florence. After you catch your breath (literally!), take in the dazzling vista of the valley below, including the Duomo and rooftops of Florence. Depending on your timeframe and energy, you can continue on and follow this route around the entire circumference of the city or head back. In either case you will end up back at Piazza Mino.
Fiesole has Etruscan roots dating back to the 8th-9th century BC and can even claim to be older than Florence. Over the centuries, with its hilltop location, as well as being situated along major traveled routes and its proximity to the Arno, it has experienced a long history of being settled, conquered and restored.
Around the 1st century BC, the Romans arrived and characteristically constructed baths and an amphitheater which we can visit today. Built into natural rock, the amphitheater has been restored over the years and is still used for special events. Pausing to enjoy the view of the lush green rolling hills, it’s easy to understand why the Romans chose this location for their relaxation and entertainment.
There’s a small cafè at the entrance and your ticket also includes admission to the small but quite interesting Civic Archeological Museum which is also on the archeological site (be sure to see the interesting exhibit about the Lombards including a reconstruction of a Lombard tomb).
Fiesole is small enough that you can easily explore its sites at a comfortable pace. Since many of the sites (e.g., museums and cathedrals) have limited visiting days/hours, you may want to check their schedules to avoid being disappointed. For example, if visiting the privately owned Medici Villa is on your list (as it was on mine), only the gardens can be visited and only by appointment on weekdays. Other villas are open on a rotating schedule.
In any case, you will certainly want to consider having a leisurely lunch or dinner on the Piazza while enjoying the stunning view of Florence before heading back. Since it’s downhill, perhaps you’ll consider a leisurely walk back to Florence? Or, you can catch the same bus (#7) that dropped you off and be back in Florence in time for an aperitivo or a gelato!
Other points of interest include: The Bandini Museum, Renaissance Villas and Gardens, San Romolo Cathedral in Piazza Mino, San Francesco church and convent.
Visit www.fiesoleforyou.it for Tourist Information