An Afternoon in Fiesole

An afternoon in Fiesole is all you really need if you are looking recuperate from the noise and crowded streets of Florence below.  An afternoon is all it takes to catch the bus, take in the sights, enjoy a coffee or a meal and return to the city.  Just one afternoon, provided it’s a clear one.


Take the number 7 bus from Santa Maria Novella Station.  The capolinea is located right beside the building, opposite the vespa parking lot from the main bus traffic area.  Get your ticket before you get on board, of course.  Just a regular bus ticket, one of the 70-minute variety, and then don’t get off the bus (no matter how many Fiesole signs you read) until the driver has shut off the engine. 


When you disembark, you might be pleasantly surprised to hear birds singing and to see vegetation.  You might be understandably bewildered that, until 1125, the place (then a Roman place) rivalled Florence in terms of wealth and power.  The change in atmosphere is astonishing after just a twenty minute ride.  Past the patio area of Blue Bar, you'll notice a lovely panorama of the countryside below, one of many offered by this hilltop town.


You'll find neither grand architecture nor great shopping here, just a sizeable church, a couple of cafès, a bakery or two and a noteworthy statue in an otherwise nondescript piazza.  If the guidebooks mention anything at all about this little town (technically) within the town, it’s the view, and, truly, the view and the relative tranquillity are reasons enough to venture up “the hill behind Florence.”  For the best of these, turn your back to the noteworthy statue in the otherwise nondescript piazza (for the directionally inclined, this means facing northish) and follow the steep, rosebush-lined road you see before you.  As you round the first bend, you will surely be daunted, but take heart.  It isn't long before your path levels off and you find yourself in a charming little park.  Provided the afternoon you have chosen is a clear one, you'll be taken aback by the sight of Florence sprawling across the valley below. 


Should you elect to climb higher, San Francesco Monastery (constructed in the 13th century) awaits at Fiesole's pinnacle.  The carvings and the chapels, not to mention another vista, are worth the added effort at an entrance cost of niente.


A few steps in another direction from where the bus sets down an archaeological museum and a restaurant overlook an excavation of Roman and Etruscan ruins.  Unless you have a passion for Etruria, however, a gander at the temples and the still functioning amphitheatre are not worth the ticket price of 10 euro, especially when you consider that a ticket to Pompeii costs 11 euro and access to Palatine Hill, the Ancient Forum and the Colosseum costs 12 euro.  If you do, in fact, have a passion for Etruria, be aware that the museum and the grounds close at 4 p.m. (at least during the off season).  No one volunteers this information when you purchase tickets at 2:30.


If you’d rather forgo the ancient, choose a table al fresco.  You’ll have little trouble finding one.  Enjoy a caffeinated beverage or a glass of wine and a few deep breaths of clean air.  Don’t bother looking at your watch, as the buses depart for Florence every 10 to 20 minutes.  Tell yourself you’ll just catch the next one, and take your time.  Upon your return, you’ll find the city streets just as crowded and noisy as you left them, as though you’d never left at all.

Theresa Schroeder

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