‘This hill takes a lot out of you.’ I thought walking briskly up the steep, main drag of Fiesole, Via Antonio Gramsci. This town is taken for granted sitting high above the valley that is Florence, Tuscany. You can see the grand bell tower from many different views throughout the city, although no one seems to know about it. Unless you take the sightseeing double decker bus, no one will venture to the tippy top of this grand and noble dwelling. Instead of the boring tour bus, hop on the #7 city bus and stride through the town of San Domenico, and up the winding strada (street),Via Angelico. Just as the street describes leading up to it, it is an Angel sitting amongst the stars. The #7 will drop you right in front of a newsstand and an Irish pub, J.J. Hill. As an ancient, mystical town welcomes you.
There are many trinkets to enjoy in this city above the valley. A neighborhood bakery sells freshly baked cookies, pastries, and pizzas everyday. A fruit stand has an array of delicious fresh from the garden fruits and vegetables. Many little shops selling baby clothes, swimsuits, and designer sunglasses along Via Antonio Gramsci have very friendly staff. Fiesole can be a great stroll for an afternoon of window shopping as well as a great workout.
If you arrive early enough in the day, I suggest a walk through the hills behind the main square. To travel to this secluded place, walk to the right of Piazza Mino that veers right even more when you pass the piazza. The street is called Via Guiseppe Verdi. Along this street you will have gorgeous views of Florence, as if you were a bird flying high. Follow this road, having views of Florence on your right and elegant houses lining your left, until you see an elementary school on your left with houses aligning the street heading down, then up into the hills. You are there when this tabernacle of the Virgin Mary appears at the entrance. It looks like this: Walk a bit through the forest up and up through carefully marked path, enjoy the solitude and beautiful sights of Tuscany at it’s finest.
After the brisk walk through the ancient Etruscan hills, come back the way you came and have a delicious lunch of pizza and pasta at Pizzeria Etrusca. Located closest to the Cathedral on the corner of Piazza Mino. There is a great outdoor café during the summer months and if it is a bit chilly the upstairs eatery is very cozy.
After a full lunch, why not venture to the Roman Forum and Theater right behind the pizzeria, enjoy the enchanting views of the neighboring villages from ancient ruins. From there I suggest making another trek up the hill of Via San Francesco for a great afternoon gaze of Florence. Up further, there is a quaint church called San Francesco with a monastery. Another jewel of this fantastic town. In the evening in Fiesole, there is a place you can’t miss. The cemetery of Fiesole is a spectacle in itself. The artificial lights on each grave lights up, more reason to go and sit in the silence of the flickering lights. It is located on Via del Cimiterio, right behind the Cathedral.
Fiesole is much cooler, quieter, and all around calmer than the busy city center of Florence. If this sounds like the perfect place for you I recommend the Hotel Villa Bonelli. I studied, lived there and have been staying with this staff for over 6 years now. I hope I have convinced you to partake in a ride on the #7 bus to a hidden secret.
Picture of Fiesole, Florence, courtesy of Hotel Villa Bonelli