Even away from the classical itineraries Florence continues to dazzle and delight.
Fiesole, which is very close to the city but has a personality all its own, is in a splendid panoramic position on the hill which overlooks Florence.
Fiesole, unlike Florence, was founded by the Etruscans, and still today has many Etruscan and Roman remains in its large archaeological area. The Romanic cathedral of San Romolo, with its tower-shaped belfry, is of great historic importance, the Bishop’s Palace, founded in the 11th century and rebuilt in the 17th, and the ancient church of Santa Maria Primerana, built on Etruscan remains, are also of great interest. One classical walk is the one that leads towards the old necropolis where we also find the Basilica of Sant’Alessandro, which is now used for exhibitions, and the Church, Convent and Missionary Museum of San Francesco. Fiesole’s beautiful natural surroundings make it an ideal place for taking walks either up to Monte Ceceri or the Caldine.
There is a charterhouse just south of the old centre, and not far from the town of Galluzzo. This 14th-century Charterhouse, in severe fortress style, is still the seat of the Cistercian Order. During the visit you can see the convent’s monumental rooms and the Art Gallery in which there are many old art works.
Don’t miss a visit to the Medici Villas - Villa La Petraia and Villa di Castello - which are between Florence and Sesto Fiorentino. Villa La Petraia is dominated by a large tower and set in an Italian terraced garden. At the back of the villa it is possible to visit a large romantic park which was added in the 19th century. After the Medicis the villa fell into the hands of the Savoys during the days when Florence was the capital.
A pleasant walks takes us to the gate of the Villa di Castello which has a beautiful Italian garden with fruit trees and rare plants. It is worth visiting this garden also for the Animal Grotto which is a Medieval wonder with many fountains. Today this striking villa is the seat of the prestigious Accademia della Crusca.