One of the things you should budget for your time is to sit and sup overlooking the plains of Florence.
I can tell you I eyed off with envy the people in the Blu Bar at the Ristorante Aurora on the Piazza Mino da Fiesole.
The lovely garden atmosphere and the expansive vista was oooooh so tempting. Alas, time did not allow but I can tell you those that were there didn't look too stressed.
Fiesole was more important than Florence in ancient times, and the ruins are well-preserved. There's a theatre, baths and a Roman temple enclosing an earlier (prehistoric) Etruscan one. The site is very pleasant, with a superb view over the valley beneath.
Very well-presented, with lots of Etruscan/Roman artefacts as well as other things. Your admission pays for the museum and the ruins, so you might as well visit both. There's a cafe and toilets on site.
Fiesole is a quaint little town perched on the hills just outside of Florence. We went on a weekend and there was a wonderful little street market where local goods were being sold. Had some great bread and other goodies and tried locally produced wines etc. Also got a bottle of fantastic olive oil and some other great food stuffs to bring back to Japan with me.
The market was small and very local. i don't know if it runs every weekend, but it's well-worth looking into if you are going to be in Florence on a weekend.
Erected around a basilica shape floor plan, the San Romolo Cathedral was commissioned by Bishop Jacopo il Bavaro in 1028 and later enlarged during the 13th century.
The date (1206) inscribed on the belltower indicates its antiquity. It is dedicated to the bishop and the martyr Romolo, founder of the Fiesole church.
!878 saw the church undergo a restoration and makeover while archeological work in the crypt in 1990 brought to light the continuity of life here from the Hellenistic period through to the 14th century.
This is the view from adjacent to the museum and overlooks, in addition to the rolling hills, the Roman ruins.
The neo-classical facade of the Museo Archeologico di Fiesole is in keeping with the rest of the area.
Your all-encompassing ticket also allows you entry to the Bandini Museum. In the promo it states, "The Bandini Museum is distinguished by a strong presence of Florentine and Tuscan artists of the 13th and 14th centuries, the so-called Italian Primitives. No less important are offerings by masters of the 15th century." By the time you have viewed the two smallish rooms comprising the entire exhibition, you may well come out feeling somewhat less enthusiastic than the writing in the brochure.
The archaeological museum in Fiesole includes an indoor and an outdoor section. Inside the museum, it's possible to see several objects that were found in and around Fiesole, some of them dating back to prehistoric times, but for the most part the different objects reflect the history of the town, which was founded around the 9th century B.C. Fiesole's past is revealed to visitors through a succession of Etruscan, Roman and Lombard artefacts.
The most interesting part of the museum, however, is the one described as the archeological zone. In this outdoor area, visitors are free to explore ruins from the three most important periods that have marked the history of Fiesole up until the Middle Ages. The Roman period is well represented by the Roman theatre that can sit about 3,000 people, the remnants of an old road, and the ruins of a temple, an altar and Roman baths, all dating back to the 1st and 2nd century A.D. In the same area it's also possible to see the ruins of an Etruscan temple and altar, possibly dating back to the 4th century B.C. Finally, in the same area as the Roman baths, we find the remnants of a 7th century Lombard necropolis (many of the funerary objects found in this necropolis are on display inside the museum).
And last but not least, although it's not technically part of the museum, it's still worth mentioning the amazing view of the hilly countryside, especially from the top of the Roman theatre. At 10 Euros, admission is not exactly cheap, but given everything there is to see, I thought it was worth it.
The Cathedral of Fiesole dates back to 1028, although it was extensively restored during the 17th century. Dedicated to St. Romulus, the patron saint and first bishop of Fiesole, the cathedral houses the remains of the Christian martyr in its crypt. Although it's not as lavishly decorated as some of the churches in Florence, Fiesole's Romanesque cathedral is still home to some interesting works of art, including some by local painters. For example, Nicodemo Ferrucci (born in Fiesole in 1574) painted the "Stories of St. Romulus" fresco that decorates the cathedral's dome above the main altar. Some of Mino da Fiesole's early works can also be found in the cathedral. The campanile, which dominates the main piazza, was completed in 1213.
Admission is free.
It might be surprising at first to see such a big piazza at the heart of a small town like Fiesole, but when we think about the fact that Fiesole is much older than Florence and that it once was as big and powerful as the capital of Tuscany, it all starts making more sense. As it often is the case, Piazza Mino (named after the Italian sculptor Mino da Fiesole) now stands where the Roman forum used to be. At its centre there is a nice bronze statue of Victor Emmanuel II and Giuseppe Garibaldi called "Incontro di Teano" (or "The Handshake of Teano"), which commemorates the famous meeting of the two men in October 1860, when Garibaldi greeted his new king and thus contributed to the restitution of monarchy in Italy. On top of the charming cafes and restaurants located all around the piazza, it's also possible to see Fiesole's City Hall and the lovely church of Santa Maria Primerana, which probably dates back to the 9th century (admission is free).
From Piazza Mino, if you walk past the duomo you'll reach Via di San Francesco, a little street that goes up a fairly steep hill. It's time to put on those walking shoes because the view at the top of the street is simply amazing! You'll eventually see a little park on your left that offers many different vantage point of views. It's also a very romantic spot - we even saw a couple getting their wedding pictures taken there (how the bride managed to get up there in her high heels I'll never understand, it must be some sort of special Italian skill!).
Once you reach the top of Via di San Francesco, you'll see the Sant'Alessandro Basilica. Although there is no official record mentioning when this church was built, it's estimated that Sant'Alessandro dates back to the 6th century. During recent restoration works, Etruscan, Roman and Lombard relics were found around the church and there is some evidence showing that the pillars inside the church are in fact columns taken from an ancient Roman temple.
If you keep going up the hill past Sant'Alessandro, you'll reach the little church of San Francesco. The church and its monastery were built at the beginning of the 10th century. There is now a small museum in the cloisters that presents different articles the Franciscan monks brought back to Fiesole from their different missions around the world. It's also possible to visit the monks' tiny rooms in the monastery. Once you're done, you can get back to Piazza Mino by walking through the monastery's charming little park.
You can walk along this tall, impressive stone wall built by the Etruscans without charge. You'll pass a parking area for your car & there's a bench to sit on under sturdy old trees. Or you can pay a fee & see it from inside the sight. There's the roman amphitheater here, too & a museum.
The striking thing, or things, about the piazza are the monument where Garibaldi and Vittorio Emmanuelle II meet, symbolizing the unification of Italy. Well, all parts except the sud Tirol which they grabbed in WWI.
The other thing is the old coats of arms from the various families and cities that have lorded over this hillside town down the centuries.
It's odd, but when you try to get information about any VIttorio Emmanuelle statues there is a distinct lack of interest and forthcoming information from the majority of Italians. I did ascertain in Rome that it has to do with representing the fascist side of things.
But I did like the small piazza!
This is a very interesting building, not very large when compared to nearby churches in Florence, but full of dark corners and unexpected sculptures and paintings that are yours to discover. See separate travelogue.
Fiesole is very pretty, with lots of very well-kept-up houses and gardens.
And there are lots of lovely views as well, over Florence and the surrounding hills.
From the main square you can follow the brown-signed 'Via Panoramico' and then just wander at will. As my friend kept pointing out when I was flagging from the heat, dehydration and lack of toilet facilities 'You can't get lost!'.
It is a lovely place, and by exploring outside its centre you'll get away from most of the visitors who tend to stay in and around the main square and Archaeological Museum.