A great day trip from Florence is to head toward the town of Fiesole, located on a hilltop offering a very scenic view of Florence as well as just being just a 20 minute bus ride from Florence's center. The best view is along the climb up to the monastery of San Francesco at the crest of the higher hill on which Fiesole sits on.This small town presiding over the Arno River and Florence has a long history of hosting famous artists and inventors since early on: Mino da Fiesole, Leonardo da Vinci, followed by figures like Frank Lloyd Wright and Alberto Einstein. Even today, after 69 years, Fiesole continues to be on the leading edge of cultural events with its summer calendar EstateFiesolana.
The Archeological Museum and Area
Aside from heading to Fiesole for the view over Florence, make it a point to visit Fiesole's Etruscan-Roman Archeological area. While the Etruscan settlement likely dates back to the 9th-8th century BC, the first record of it in history is when it was conquered by the Romans in the 2nd century BC. The Romans must have wanted that prime hilltop location - easy to see any enemies approaching as well as being dry land away from the marshes that surrounded the Arno river.
Via Portigiani, 1 - Fiesole
Open: 9,30am- 7pm (summer) and 9.30am-5pm (winter). Closed on Tuesdays only during the winter.
Inside the Archeological area you'll find the remains of Roman baths and the Roman theater, while in the Civic Museum you'll see many artifacts from both the Roman as well as Etruscan period.
Within the museum, you'll find the Antiquarian Costantini, a special collection of over 150 pieces of ceramics from ancient Greece and Etruria.
After visiting the outdoor area and museum, head down the street that runs behind the area to see remnants of the massive, ancient Etruscan walls that have managed to survive through all these centuries.
The Bandini Museum
Via Dupré, 1 - Fiesole
Open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays - in March, 10am-6pm, in April 10-7pm
Call 055.596.1293 ahead of time if you want to find out hours outside of this period.
If you have time to stay in Fiesole for an all day trip, we suggest visiting the Museo Bandini across the street from the archeological area. Entry to the museum is already covered in your ticket to the Archeological area and museum. This is the home of some very beautiful Florentine paintings from the 12th-14th centuries and several Della Robbia terracotta works of art. The collection includes works by Bernardo Daddi, Taddeo Gaddi, Nardo di Cione and Lorenzo Monaco.
After your visit to Fiesole's museums, head back toward the main square and visit the cathedral of Fiesole containing the shrine to St. Romulus, which according to legend was the first Bishop of Fiesole.
Then head up the hill from the square to reach the monastery of San Francesco located at the very crest of the hill. It will be a tough climb but worth the view you'll have over Florence.
There are several small bars as well as trattoria on the main square in Fiesole that offer the chance for delicious quick, fast meals or more relaxed peaceful enjoyment of local dishes. A few restaurants are located on the street heading up to the monastery that offer great views over Florence - these are definitely offer the special setting for a romantic, special meal.
Fiesole's main square, Piazza Mino, is the setting for an antiques market every first Sunday of the month. It is also the setting for recurring markets, so it is always likely you'll find one going on when you visit.
How to get there
Easiest way to get to Fiesole is to take ATAF bus #7 from either the SMN train station or San Marco Square in Florence. Buses run about every 20 minutes and drop you off right in the main square in Fiesole. Take the same bus to head back down into Florence.
The double-decker, open top red Florence Sightseeing bus also makes its way to Fiesole.
If you're feeling like a hike, you can also walk to Fiesole. Via Vecchia Fiesolana from San Domenico is quite steep but it does give you the chance to see all of the beautiful Renaissance villas in the hillside and catch glimpses of Florence as you head up.