Nestled in the vibrant Tuscan hills surrounding Florence is the snug, beautiful town of Fiesole. A summer vacation destination of literary legends like Gertrude Stein and a prominent, romantic setting in the classic novel A Room with a View by E.M. Forster, Fiesole is a charming daytrip option that is walkable from Florence and that has incredible views of the Italian countryside.
5) Tuscan villas
Edging the town are several historic villas, including a 15th-century Medici home, La Villa Medicea a Fiesole—you can visit the terrace gardens by booking a tour ahead of time—and the renaissance-built Villa Schifanoia, which is part of the European University Institute (and possibly not open to the public). There are also a number of other villas in the surrounding area that now function as hotels, event centers, and wedding venues.
4) Convento di San Francesco
This small, elegant, and historic monastery established at the end of the 14th century is free to the public and consists of a convent and church. The views, as expected, are stunning. Be sure to stop in at the gift shop and try the handmade chocolate that’s sold there.
To the southwestern side of the town, the Convent of San Domenico with its chapel and garden is also available to visit.
3) The Italian landscape
When we decided to visit Fiesole, we just looked up walking directions on Google Maps and started on our way. The climb is a bit steep—it’s uphill pretty much all the way once you get out of central Florence—but the views are totally worth it. There are half a dozen overlooks and places to stop and admire the countryside along the way. In addition to the views, the walk itself is really lovely, with picturesque roads and vine-covered walls.
Once you reach the top of the hill, you are in Fiesole. Cute restaurants line the couple of main streets in the town—we immediately stopped for gelato. A few people had set out tables along the sidewalk to sell their handmade jewelry and other souvenirs. The outskirts of the town have quiet paths and more views of the hilly landscape dotted with the white houses and tan roofs of distant towns.
2) Archaeological museum
My travel buddy and I wandered through Fiesole’s Civic Archaeological Museum, which exhibits room after room of artifacts from all periods of the region’s history, from Etruscan to Roman to Lombard. I was struck by the art, tools, pottery, and other remnants of the thousands of lives that had been lived out in the hills of Tuscany centuries before.
Entrance to the museum, along with access to the neighboring Roman ruins and audio tour, cost €6 with our student IDs (€10 regularly).
1) Teatro Romano
The highlight of Fiesole was, for me, the ruins of a Roman amphitheater that are built into a hillside just beyond the center of town. The views are tremendous, and the variety of stone structures and ruins are perfect for climbing and exploring.
At one end of the amphitheater grounds stand the beautiful arched remains of Etrurian walls, another fragment of the town’s rich and varied history.
What are your favorite parts of the Tuscan region?