Florence is great and you could spend years here and still not run out of great things to do in what is arguably Italy’s most charming city. But on a visit to the capital city of the Tuscan region, it is definitely worth spending a little time in the glorious surrounding Tuscan countryside.
The charming hilltop town of Fiesole is one lovely little area to visit at any time of the year. It’s nice just to go for a stroll, walk around the winding streets and see what ancient wonders you will find, what charming little stores you will stumble across and the locals you will meet along the way.
Just next to Florence, Fiesole has some lovely restaurants with sweeping views too.
Believed to have been founded around 8-900 years B.C., it was established by the Etruscans, conquered several times including by the Romans and the Byzantines. Finally Fiesole was free for several centuries until Florence took over and the rich families of Fiesole were sent to live in Florence.
The Florentines, being a clever folk, decided that Fiesole would be a great place for a weekend retreat and set up holiday residence in the area ? including the Medici family with their Villa Medici in Fiesole.
This villa was planned to be the site of the famous Pazzi consipiracy on April 25, 1478. Lorenzo and his brother Giuliano were to be poisoned at a banquet. However due to illness, Giuliano was not able to attend the feast that was being held to honour Raffaele Riario Sasoni’s appointment as cardinal, and the attack was postponed until the day after, in the Duomo of Florence. Giuliano was killed in this attack, whilst Lorenzo survived only because his loyal friend, Francesco Nori, took the fatal blow directed at Lorenzo.
Leonardo da Vinci spent much time in Fiesole testing his flying machine, whilst Michelangelo learnt his carving trade on the hillside stone works.
Fiesole is so charming, it has been mentioned several times in literature, including in Boccaccio’s ‘Decameron’ and his poem, ‘Ninfale fiesolano’.
Robert Browning, who moved to Florence during the Victorian era to elope with fellow poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, mentioned Fiesole in his poem ‘Andrea Del Sarto’, in which he refers to “sober pleasant Fiesole”.
Barrett Browning was also inspired by the area, in her poem, ‘Aurora Leigh’, an epic work recounting in verse the life story of Aurora, daughter of a Florentine mother and English father:
I found a house, at Florence, on the hill
Of Bellosguardo. ‘Tis a tower that keeps
A post of double-observation o’er
The valley of Arno (holding as a hand
The outspread city) straight toward Fiesole
And Mount Morello and the setting sun,?
The Vallombrosan mountains to the right,
Which sunrise fills as full as crystal cups
Wine-filled, and red to the brim because it’s red.
If you’re not so much into poetry, then perhaps you would prefer the delicious pastries and sweet treats in the local bakery. These are so good that we have made bus trips from Florence to Fiesole just to buy some of the crunchy nutty goodness that is on offer at the Bar Pasticceria Alcedo, on Via Cramsci, 29 – Fiesole (Tel. 0039 055 59349). Buy a few tasty treats, pull up a park bench and enjoy some Tuscan sun as you watch the world go by (albeit at a delightedly slow pace) in this charming area of Tuscany.
The central piazza has a pizzeria where you can buy a savory slice of heaven and be charmed by the restaurant owner. Have a coffee in the local coffee store, or even a drink in the local pub. There are some stores too, and of course, no Italian town, no matter how small, is complete without a church! There are remains of a Roman amphitheatre, ancient city walls and some charming gardens that contribute to the quaintness of Fiesole.
If you’re looking to burn off the carbs that are deliciously near on unavoidable in Italy, you can also hike up from Florence, enjoying the steep ups and rapid downs on the curvaceous roads and bumpy country trails.
From Florence, you can catch the bus number 7 or taxi up from the historical centre of Florence (for a cost of around 20 Euro each way).
The terrace restaurant at Hotel Villa San Michele is famous, very upmarket and expensive but has amazing views so good for a very special occasion.
Hotel Villa Aurora has a restaurant with a lovely terrace but not such great views so best visited if you prefer the view of just the company you’re with! Or at least the great food. The terrace is lovely, shaded and quiet with pretty vines growing over it.
You can also have a walk and check out the other restaurants as you go up the hill to visit the pretty monastery and funny little museum in it. Be careful about checking the opening times.
You may also want to check if there is a performance on for the summer festival in the ancient roman amphitheatre.
You can also get up and close and personal with Tuscany, where the makers of the Mona Lisa and David worked and played, see where Leonardo da Vinci tested his historic flying machine and the shaded hillside stone works where Michelangelo learned his craft on our Perfect Morning in Tuscany tour. Leaving from Florence’s city centre and heading to the surrounding countryside, this small-group walking tour includes, well, walking in Tuscany, as well as lunch with wine at a stunning Renaissance Villa Estate, accompanied by an expert tour guide.
If you would like to immerse yourself in the Tuscan wine country, including wine tasting and lunch in a stunning Tuscan villa estate, we have a small-group Best of Tuscany tour visiting Siena, San Gimignano and Monteriggioni. See the highlights of Tuscany in one spectacular day tour from Florence ? the Best of Tuscany.
Have fun learning about the amazing history of Florence and the characters that made it so on our small-group Original Florence Walk tour.
Our Florence Walk is part of the Florence in One Glorious Day discounted Florence tour package including the skip-the line Uffizi Gallery Tour and skip-the-line Academia visit, The Original David Tour.
Visit www.italy.artviva.com for more information, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.