Thursday, May 29, 2014

Ancient Ruins in Fiesole, Italy

Roman amphitheatre overlooking Tuscan hills
Scheduled to stay in Florence for four days on our recent trip to Italy, an afternoon day trip was planned to Fiesole (I heard it pronounced fee-ah-soh-lay).  Taking the city bus to Fiesole was quite easy.  After a steep climb out of Florence, we were deposited near the piazza in the center of the small town after about 20 minutes.  Greeting us at the piazza was a statue honoring the meeting of Garibaldi and Victor Emmanuel II.
Garibaldi and Victor Emmanuel meeting
Fiesole tower and piazza
Why visit Fiesole?  First, it is only about 6km from Florence so would make an easy day trip to escape the throngs of tourists overrunning Florence.  Second, Fiesole contains Etruscan and Roman ruins including a well preserved Roman amphitheatre.  Third, views of the Arno Valley should be stunning.
View of Florence from Fiesole
Google map of Fiesole ruins
Entrance to ruins and museum
Roman amphitheatre 
Roman amphitheatre with tower in background 
Roman baths
Roman baths
Altar both Etruscan and Roman
A brief, ancient history of Fiesole:
Evidence suggests that the two heights have been occupied since the Bronze Age.  Etruscan occupation continued from about the 8th century BC.  With the Etruscans came Greek culture including political affiliation to the city state, pottery, and urban development.  Language was distinct from the surrounding Latin and Italic languages.  A massive wall was built to protect the city from Gaulic raids and to protect Arno Valley trade routes.  Remnants of the Etruscan walls are present today.
Etruscan wall
Militarily and politically, Fiesole likely allied with Rome against Hannibal in 217 BC but was later destroyed by the Romans in 90 BC. In 80 BC. a Roman colony was established.  In 405 AD, Fiesole was the site of a battle between the Goths and Romans under Stilicone.  This was to be the last major victory for the Roman Empire.  After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Langobards (Lombards or "Long Beards") settled into Fiesole in the 6th-7th centuries AD.  Archaeological excavations have uncovered a Lombard cemetery and artifacts, many of which are on display in the museum.  As Florence's influence grew, that of Fiesole faded and was destroyed by the Florentines in 1010 AD.


The most surprising find in the little museum was the vast collection of Etruscan pottery contained, therein.  A small sampling of the pieces are below:
Etruscan pottery
Etruscan pottery
Etruscan pottery
Etruscan pottery
Etruscan pottery
If you find yourself in Florence with half a day at your leisure and interest in ancient ruins, I recommend daytripping to Fiesole.

14 comments:

  1. I've been there a long time ago...too long when I see these very nice pics!

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    1. Phil, it would make a very nice place for a summer home.

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  2. Replies
    1. In fact, my wife enjoyed Fiesole more than she imagined. Having followed me on battlefield walks in the past, she thought she might be getting into more of the same. She loved the views and suggested we go back and a rent a place for a month.

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  3. Spectacular! A gem I'd not heard of.

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    1. The views of Florence from the heights of Fiesole are spectacular indeed! This trip, we learned that we both really like the artwork on Etruscan pottery.

      I recommend adding Fiesole to your agenda on your next trip to Florence. Well worth the time.

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  4. That for sure looks interesting!

    Christopher

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  5. Fiesole looks delightful.Staying there rather than in Florence is a stroke of genius - you're within coo-ee of all the art and architecture but can escape the throngs and actually get some sleep at night!

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    1. Never underestimate the number of people in Florence by day. The masses approach the unbelievable. Luckily, almost all of the tour groups depart in the late afternoon.

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  6. T\he pottery is impressive!

    OTOH, the Romans certainly built to last.

    Florence and Sienna are definitely on my "to visit someday list", so I'll have to remember Fiesole as well, when I eventually make it to Tuscany!

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    1. Pottery is impressive. My wife and I think we might like to have a piece or two in the library.

      Fiesole is definitely worth a half-day trip from Florence if you tire of the renaissance.

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  7. Thanks for taking the time to share your write up of the site! It is very nice and the pictures are great. I'm going to give students a tour there this summer,so getting a look at your pictures has helped me prep.

    I'd like to note that the images of pottery above are all Greek pottery, except the second to last picture of the vessel with the two mouths and central handle. Etruscan's were avid collectors of Ancient Greek pottery, most often imported from Athens and Corinth. Since they were prone to putting the pottery in their graves - where the pots could be relatively well protected so long as the graves weren't looted- ancient Etruria is one of prime places to find Greek Pots.

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    Replies
    1. Very pleased you found the travelogue helpful. Appreciate the correction on the origination of the pottery. We plan on a return trip to Florence on September.

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