Today we hiked through town and across the Arno river to Piazzale Michelangelo high in the hillside with an amazing view of Florence. On the way we stopped at my favorite Florence church, Santa Croce (Holy Cross) which I will post about separately.
We had hiked up those stairs to the top 10 years ago and the boys still painfully remember it! The usual tourists and locals were admiring the view. There is a copy of “David” up there but few pay much attention to it as the view is spectacular.
Back then, we couldn’t afford to take all five of us to a sit-down cappuccino bar but today Mei Li and I did, although at a more set back shop rather than the front and center extravagant and twice as expensive place. I had my cream filled croissant with cappuccino and she tried the cherry gelato. Did I say it was awesome? And far cheaper than Starbucks or Caribou back home.
Though an amazing city, Florence is a relative newcomer in the area. After the walk back and a rest stop at the apartment, we took a city bus about 5 miles up to a Hutchinson-sized town, Fiesole, that predates Florence. Historians say fiesole was probably founded in the 9th-8th century BC, not long after the time of David. It was an important town, shown by the remains of its ancient walls.
In 283 BC this town, known as Faesulae, was conquered by Rome. Fiesole in 406 was the scene of the Roman victory over the ‘barbarian’ Vandal and Suebi hordes from the north more by depriving them of food sources than in battles. During another war against the ‘barbarian’ Goths in 536-53, the town was several times besieged. In 539 Justinus, the Byzantine general, captured it and tore down its fortress.
Under Roman rule, Fiesole had a famous school of “augurs,” and every year twelve young men were sent here from Rome to study the ‘art’ of divination. Rome typically drew heavily on the Etruscans for priests and augurs.
In the early Middle Ages, Fiesole was more powerful than Florence down in the valley below, and there were many wars between them. In 1010 and 1025 Fiesole was overtaken by Florence, and its leading families were forced to move to Florence.
Christianity was introduced to Fiesole by St. Romulus, a disciple of St. Peter. The fact that the ancient cathedral (now the Abbazia Fiesolana) stands outside the city is a evidence that the Christian origins of Fiesole date from the period of the persecution of the Church by Rome. The earliest mention of a Bishop of Fiesole is in the late 5th century and early 6th century.
Local tradition says Christianity was brought to Fiesole in the second century by Romulus, said to be a disciple of Peter. Romulus was apparently martyred by Domitian along with four companions: Carissimus, Dulcissimus, Marchis(i)anus, and Crescentius. In any case, the original duomo stood outside the city walls, suggesting that Christianity started here during persecution of the Church by Rome.