lunedì 12 aprile 2010
Fiesole, a perfect day off Florence
If you're beginning to feel overwhelmed by Florence's churches and museums, or simply want to get away from the crowds for a while, take a break and visit Fiesole, the town perched on the hill just north of Florence. Getting there is easy, a short ride on the number 7 bus, and it can easily be explored in a morning.
Fiesole was once Florence's big brother, but now it's a sleepy hill-town visited by tourists. Ironically, their main reason for coming here is not to see Fiesole itself, but to admire the view over Florence. Fiesole's history goes back into the mists of time. As Faesulae, it was an important Etruscan town, commanding the Arno valley from its defensive heights. The Romans encouraged a new settlement, Florentia, on the plain by the river, to drain importance from Fiesole, and gradually Florence became the more important of the two towns. After various spats, the Florentines destroyed Fiesole in the 12th century, since when it has enjoyed quiet, insignificant independence. The local artist Fra Angelico lived and worked in the monastery of San Domenico before descending to San Marco in Florence. Its peace and fresher air made Fiesole a popular resort for rich Florentines who wanted to escape the heat, smells and crowds of the city, and many fine villas were built on the slopes around the town.
Here are the main sights and attractions:
* Piazza Mino - Fiesole's large main square was named after the sculptor Mino da Fiesole. It's ringed with cafes, restaurants, and shops. On one side is the pretty 14th century Palazzo Pretorio, the town hall, with coats-of-arms displayed on its facade.
* Cathedral - Cattedrale di San Romolo dates from the 11th century but has been modified several times. It has its original 13th century bell tower that can be seen from a long distance. Inside the cathedral are works by Mino da Fiesole and frescoes. The nearby Museo Bandini, Via Dupre 1, houses sacred works from the 14th and 15th centuries.
* Archaeological Area or Zona Archeologica - Fiesole's Archaeology park includes a partially restored 1st century BC Roman amphitheater, baths, and an Etruscan temple. There are Roman, Longobard, and Etruscan ruins and a museum with prehistoric, Etruscan, Roman, and Medieval artifacts. The entrance is on Via dei Partigiani, open at 9:30 and closed Tuesdays except in summer.
* Etruscan Walls - The Etruscans settled in Fiesole about 2000 BC, building the city of Faesulae, the most important city of the region before Roman times. They left their typcial huge Etruscan walls, which can be seen several places, the best being below the archaeological park on Via delle Mure Etrusche. There are a remains of two Etruscan tombs outside the Etruscan walls.
* Convento di San Francesco - The uphill walk is worth it for views of Fiesole, the hills, and sometimes even Florence. Take Via di San Francesco, the steep pedestrian-only street west of the Duomo. There's a Gothic church with Renaissance paintings and 14th century wooden choir stalls, built on the site of the ancient acropolis. On exhibit in the museum are local archaeological finds and a display relating to the friars missionary work in China and Egypt. Currently it's free (donations appreciated) and open daily. Below the convent is a large park.
* Sant' Allesandro Church, below San Francesco, was built in the 4th century over a pagan temple incorporating Roman materials into the building.
* San Domenico di Fiesole - San Domenico monastery can be reached by walking down the road (or taking the bus) toward Florence. Fra Angelico first entered the monastic world here and the 15th century church holds his Madonna with Angels and Saints and the chapterhouse also has Fra Angelico frescoes. Nearby is the Badia Fiesolana, Fiesole's ancient cathedral built in 1028, with its original Romanesque facade.
* Monte Ceceri - The quarries at Monte Ceceri outside Fiesole produce the famous Tuscan gray stone. There's also a nature park and a pillar with an inscription about Leonardo da Vinci's flight experiments.
The bus number 7 gets you from and to the train station Santa Maria Novella, exactly a couple of minutes walking from where Hotel Mario's is. It's fantastic that from where we are you can reach every nice place in or around the city. We just love to see your happy face when we indicate the distances you need to take to go to the Uffizi or to the Accademia or to the San Lorenzo Market. Visit Florence, stay at Hotel Mario's. www.hotelmarios.com firstname.lastname@example.org