Guide to visit Fiesole
Located less than 5 kilometers from Florence, Fiesole is on the top of a hill about 300 meters high in an extraordinary landscape, immersed in the greenery of olive trees and woods. The city absolutely deserves to be visited both for its extraordinary artistic and archaeological heritage and for the fantastic view it offers over Florence and the surrounding hills.
What to see in Fiesole
Here are the main things to see in Fiesole:
- Convent of San Domenico
- Badia Fiesolana
- Villa Medici in Fiesole
- Cathedral of San Romolo
- Museo Bandini
- Archaeological Area
- Archaeological Museum
- Church and Convent of San Francesco
Along the slope that leads from Florence to Fiesole, I recommend you stop at the small town of San Domenico. Here you have to visit the convent and the church of San Domenico, located right along the road, and the Badia Fiesolana which is located along a side street a short distance from the Dominican complex.
Church and convent of San Domenico
The convent and the church of San Domenico were built between 1406 and 1435; subsequently, the complex underwent some modifications during the XVII century when the bell tower and the porch in front of the church were built. The convent was a training center for young friars as the Beato Angelico who, in 1425, created a Madonna with the Child and the saints Thomas Aquinas, Barnabas, Dominic and Peter martyr which is the most important work among those preserved in the church of San Domenico. Other works include the Baptism of Christ by Lorenzo di Credi, the Adoration of the Magi by Giovanni Antonio Sogliani and the wooden Crucifix by Antonio da Sangallo il Vecchio.
The Abbey of San Bartolomeo, better known as Badia Fiesolana, has a very ancient origin since its foundation dates back to 1025. For the uninitiated, badia is a contraction of abbazia (abbey); here in fact for several centuries there has been a monastery whose buildings today house the European University Institute. The Romanesque church of the 11th century, was enlarged and transformed into the current forms between 1456 and 1467 although the works were never completed and the facade remained unfinished; still today it can be seen that only the original part is covered by the typical white and green marbles while the newer part is devoid of decoration. The interior of the church is in pure Renaissance style with a large central nave and a Latin cross plan.
Villa Medici in Fiesole
The Villa Medici in Fiesole is the last stop I recommend before arriving in Fiesole. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013, the Medici Villa of Fiesole was built in the mid-fifteenth century by the architect Michelozzo. The villa is a typical example of a fifteenth-century palace and has a beautiful garden on three levels that offers a spectacular view of Florence and the surrounding hills. Today you can only visit the garden by booking in advance through the official website of the villa.
The heart of Fiesole is undoubtedly its main square, entitled Mino da Fiesole, where you can admire some of the main monuments such as the Palazzo Vescovile, the Cathedral of San Romolo, the Palazzo Pretorio and the Church of Santa Maria Primerana.
Cathedral of San Romolo
Episcopal seat since ancient times, according to tradition since the first century after Christ given the first bishop would have been San Romolo, Fiesole had its cathedral in the Badia Fiesolana until 1028. In that year the bishop Jacopo il Bavaro decided to transfer the Duomo inside the city to the current position.
The Cathedral of San Romolo dates back to the first half of the 11th century but over the centuries has undergone several renovations, the last of which dates back to the years between 1878 and 1883, which have changed its appearance several times. The interior, of clear Romanesque layout, preserves some notable works such as the triptych at the high altar attributed to Bicci di Lorenzo, the frescoes by Perugino or the funerary monument of Leonardo Salutati made by Mino da Fiesole. I also suggest you go down the stairs that lead to the crypt of the church, where you can admire an interesting thirteenth-century Madonna Enthroned with Child.
To reach the next two stages of the itinerary in Fiesole, there is no need to go far: both the entrance to the Museo Bandini and the Archaeological Area are located just behind the Duomo. The Museo Bandini is a very valid art collection that collects works from the Tuscan school dated between the 13th and 16th centuries. In the four rooms that make up the museum, you can admire the works of Taddeo and Agnolo Gaddi, Bernardo Daddi, Neri di Bicci, Giovanni Della Robbia and many others.
Now cross the road to reach the Archaeological Area of Fiesole. The first excavations in the site date back to the early nineteenth century when the first remains from the Roman period began to emerge. The excavation campaigns have brought to light the Roman theater, of which the steps, an Etruscan-Roman temple, the Roman baths have been well preserved, of which one can recognize the various environments such as the frigidarium, the tepidarium and the calidarium, and a part of the ancient Etruscan walls that can be seen from the road that runs along the archaeological area.
Museo Civico Archeologico di Fiesole
Located within the Archaeological Area of Fiesole, the Museo Civico Archeologico exhibits the main findings from the Fiesole area as well as the artifacts that make up some private collections that have been donated to the museum. Among these are the Albites Collection and the Costantini Collection composed of numerous ceramics from ancient Etruria, Greece and Magna Graecia. Overall, the exhibits in the museum cover a very wide time span: it goes from protohistory to the Lombard era; in Fiesole have in fact been found some tombs of the Lombard age, whose kits are preserved in the museum.
Church and Convent di San Francesco
Here we are at the last leg of the Fiesolano tour: the Church and the Convent of San Francesco. To reach the complex you have to go back to Piazza Mino da Fiesole and take the climb along Via San Francesco. Although not particularly long, this climb can be quite challenging for those who are less fit. Once you reach the top, however, you will be amply rewarded for the effort made: from here, in fact, especially on the clearest days, you can enjoy one of the most beautiful views ever of the city of Florence!
The Franciscan complex of Fiesole is a charming place: here we find a small but beautiful Gothic church full of works of art and a convent that develops around three cloisters; all immersed in the green of the trees that contribute to creating a pleasant and relaxing environment.