Fiesole has always been a favourite destination for anyone who wants to discover a classic yet authentic corner of Tuscany. The view over Florence from this hilltown is truly unforgettable.
Aristocratic, set apart, Fiesole is a rather secretive city. Its beautiful Renaissance villas are surrounded by cypress-lined lanes, gardens and a significant archaeological area, which testifies to a city old enough to have been flourishing when Florence had not yet appeared on the map. The best way to discover Fiesole, in fact, is to start with one of the most important remnants of its remote past: the beautiful Roman theatre at its centre, which is still used to stage a sophisticated concert season, the Estate Fiesolana (Fiesolean summer).
In Fiesole you can admire the Duomo di San Romolo, the town's Romanesque cathedral, easily recognisable by its distinctive bell tower; the Palazzo Vescovile (the Bishop's Palace), built in the eleventh century and rebuilt in the seventeenth; and the old church of Santa Maria Primerana, which was erected on Etruscan foundations before being expanded in the Medieval period. Heading towards the top of the hill, you will come across the basilica of Sant'Alessandro, and the church, monastery and Missionary Museum of San Francesco.
The beautiful surrounding greenery makes Fiesole the perfect starting point for strolls in the countryside: towards Monte Ceceri or Caldine, for example.
Don't miss the Civic Archaeological Museum, which chronicles the history of the town and its territory; the Bandini Museum, which contains the collection belonging to Canon Angelo Maria Bardini; and the Chapel of San Jacopo, which is home to a number of frescos, paintings, crucifixes and other liturgical goldwork.
The Convent of San Francesco is located in the district of the same name, at the entrance to Fiesole. Known also by the diminutive "Conventino" on account of its humble size, it contains artworks of immense value, even a few by Fra Angelico, who painted the church's main altarpiece.
Lovers of trekking and nature can venture up Monte Ceceri: apart from walking on some of the most beautiful tracks in the area, you will discover a place magical enough to have captivated authors such as Gertrude Stein and Hermann Hesse. It even inspired Leonardo Da Vinci, who came hereto study the flight of birds: observation work that proved indispensable when it came to designing his great flying machine.
Every summer since 1962 Fiesole has put on L'Estate Fiesolana, the festival that brings the great stars of music, drama and international art to its Roman theatre.
The Fiesole Masters of Cinema Award takes place against the same backdrop, an event which draws celebrated directors and actors each year. Finally, those who love Italian literature cannot miss the Fiesole Under-40 Narrative Award, an initiative aimed at promoting new writers.
High-quality extra virgin olive oil is produced on the Fiesolean hills. This crucial ingredient can be found enriching many traditional local recipes, such as ribollita, pappa al pomodoro, and the simple bruschetta.
Don't forget to try a glass of Chianti Colli Fiorentino DOCG, a full-bodied wine that was favoured even by the Medici family. It goes especially well with game and other meaty dishes.