From Florence to Fiesole, Between Nature and Art

Fiesole is one of the favorite destinations and in this period it is even more preferred thanks to the refreshing breeze there. Follow our suggestions.


Summer is the best moment to visit new cities and Countries. In fact, during this period of the year, the sun, perfumes and the sharp light, the long days and the marvelous sunsets, seem to form a hymn to life and nature. Nonetheless, sometimes, this atmosphere of peace can be darkened by what can be very high temperatures.


These invite us to discover places that are sheltered from the sun or towards the hillside. The Florentines are quite acquainted with this type of scenario, and from their traditions and customs, here come some of the precious advice on how to enjoy the holiday and find places in which one can “feel the coolness”. It is said that in Florence there is both the “solleone” (high sun) and the coolness, two exact opposites that the Florentine dictionary uses to describe this season. So, one could hear people on the street saying “Ora si va a prendere il fresco…” (Now, we go somewhere where it is cool…).


Sounds good, but where?

The City is wedged in amongst hills in a valley where the Arno River flows, towards the East the Collina di Piazzale (Piazzale Hill) and the Pian dei Giullari (Jesters’ Plain), on the other side, towards the South, Fiesole, Settignano and down towards the Valdarno. These are some of the ideal locations, especially in the late afternoon, to have a break from the hot temperatures. Fiesole is a pearl that dominates Florence. Its Roman origins are manifested by the beautiful amphitheater, where, during the summer are presented various performances and theatrical shows.


Already from Via San Domenico (San Domenico Street), the road starts to climb and the view becomes more charming. The road leads directly to Piazza Mino da Fiesole (Mino from Fiesole’s Square), the town’s central square. At this point, it is your choice whether you want to reach San Francesco’s Church and Convent (Saint Francis’s Church and Convent), on the higher hill. The path is on a slope, which is worth it thanks to the unmatchable view of the City. If you find yourself there during sunset, you will be able to witness that red color so dear to the Tuscan Macchiaioli painters.


San Francesco’s Church deserves a visit, and you must keep in mind its opening hours. The Church was built in Gothic style and has a single nave and towards the outside, there is San Francesco’s Convent. The latter was built where there once was the Etruscan Agorà and later the Roman one. Inside the convent, you will find the Museo Etnografico Missionario (Missionary Ethnographic Museum), which has interesting and peculiar objects, especially connected to the Japanese world. You can also visit the dormitory cells, where Bernardino da Siena (Bernard of Siena) stayed in 1418. He was the Church’s famous preacher and reformer. He had the role of conservative father.


Going down, towards the Belvedere, one can relax and find some coolness. The air becomes less hot, and after sunset, a light breeze blows from time to time, coming from the Appennini Tosco-Romagnoli (Tuscan-Romagna Appennine Mountains). From this sort of observatory, you can see the beautiful parks adorning the villas on the hills below. Many of them have fascinating histories, such as Villa Medici that was bought by the eccentric Lady Oxford in the XVIII Century, or towards Settignano, Villa I Tatti, where the famous connoisseur Bernard Berenson lived. The great aristocratic British families moved here and Fiesole and Florence were the chosen locations for their perfect residences both for the pleasant nature and for the antiquity of the villas that recalled a glorious Renaissance past.


Many painters stayed in Fiesole. One can think of Maurice Denis, an important member of the French Nabis movement –Nabis in Hebrew means prophet-. Denis and his family stayed here from 1892 to 1893 and later in 1908. Many painters were inspired by his work, for example the painter Elizabeth Chaplin, who was inspired by the purity and the 1400’s lines so dear to the French painter.


Later on, in the 1900’s

the futuristic painter Primo Conti and the architect Giovanni Michelucci stayed here. They designed Santa Maria Novella train Station in Florence, with the rationalistic conception typical of the 30’s. Fiesole has, thus, inspired painters and writers.


One cannot forget to mention Gabriele D’Annunzio, who stayed at the Villa La Capponcina towards Settignano hill. Here he lived his love story with the most famous actress of the time, Eleonora Duse. The area still seems to breathe that tormented and decadent love that the two lovers experienced on this romantic hill. D’Annunzio left various written testimonies and a particularly evocative poem called “La Sera FIesolana” (Fiesole’s Evening). It is in these verses that we can find that sentiment that ties so strongly nature and human feelings. An evening spent in this unique and enchanting place allows one to find restoration and taste that beauty that has enchanted artists so much.


Gabriele D’Annunzio and Eleonora Duse

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