Exploring the Tuscan Hill Town of Fiesole
Nestled in the gentle curve between two mountains high above Florence, Italy, you’ll find Fiesole. Favored by aristocrats and wealthy Florentines for its summer breezes and stunning views, it lies across the Arno River and less than thirty minutes northeast of Florence. I think it’s the best place to see the sunset over Florence.
The ancient Tuscan hill town with Etruscan-Roman beginnings offers opportunities to explore the remains of Roman baths, a Roman amphitheater, and the grassy hill on which Leonardo da Vinci experimented with flight. For centuries, this picturesque village has inspired great literature and renaissance art.
Fiesole was a serendipitous break from Florence’s bustling city landscape for me and my friend Mary, both itinerant shutter-bugs. We found it to be an ideal place to explore while capturing a beautiful sunset over Florence. Read on to find out what you should know before you go.
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Preparing for Your Trip to Fiesole
Before you start your adventure, make sure you have your camera fully charged and with plenty of space because you’ll want to take loads of photos to capture this amazing experience. To make sure you get the perfect shot, be sure to bush up on your skills with these sunset photography tips, too!
You’ll also want to wear comfortable shoes to explore the area. And, depending on the season, bring an extra layer because Feisole is about 5 miles (8 km) above Florence. That can make it breezy and cooler, especially as the sun sets.
It’s also smart to bring a water bottle since you’ll be doing some walking.
How to Get to Fiesole Italy
While the ATAF Florence city bus #7 will take you to Fiesole, we took a taxi from the Piazza Santa Croce in Florence for a reasonable fare. As we left the city behind and ascended into the mountains, the landscape changed before our eyes.
Our driver dropped us off at the Piazzale Mino da Fiesole and pointed us toward the best place to see the sunset over Florence. He showed us the bus stop for our return trip later that evening on Bus #7, which run close to every half hour until just before midnight.
We arrived in the late afternoon and the sun sets early over Florence in February at 6 pm CET. That left us time to fit in a quick self-guided exploration.
What to See in Fiesole
The Piazzale Mino da Fiesole is the hub of the town. It’s a modest piazza with statues including a bronze of Vittorio Emanuele II and Garibaldi on horseback alongside modern, provocative art installation.
At the far end of the square between the town hall and Church of Santa Maria Primerana, we peered through display windows showcasing preserved footprints in the sand, perhaps those of the Etruscan-Romans who lived and walked in this square centuries ago.
The Romanesque bell tower (11th Century) of the San Romolo Cathedral towers over the square.
Quaint, interesting shops flank the piazza on either side, oddly bisected by the slanted foundations and rising sidewalk. To the right, we found a small shop with books and stationery. Further down the road, we passed a small grocer with vibrant lemons, artichokes, and cured meats.
San Francesco Monastery
We followed the taxi driver’s general directions up the ancient winding road toward the lookout. (Did I mention Via San Francesco was a steep climb?)
Thankful to have reached the top of the cobblestone street, the discovery of the Chapel of the Convento di San Francesco (Monastery of Saint Francis) rewarded us. I peered with disappointment through the window of the chapel’s locked door. Then, I discovered an open door to the side which led up a dark, winding stairway. Of course, I had to follow.
Doors to either side of the cramped hallway revealed tiny rooms I can only describe as “cells.” Inside each was a lovely writing desk by a window overlooking the landscape below. I decided that if this were a prison, it was just perfect for me! Imagine the seclusion and time to explore your thoughts without distraction? Turns out these were the original quarters of monks; they prayed and wrote here just above the chapel.
Lost in my own contemplations, I realized the light was fading fast. I hurried back to find Mary so we could catch the sunset we came to see.
The Best Sunset Over Florence in Fiesole Italy
At the base of the monastery, we found the peaceful, terraced garden that overlooks Florence. Mary and I snapped a few glowing photos as we surveyed the well-manicured gardens and found more sculptures during the “golden hour” before sunset.
Other than a young couple and the ever-present but elusive cats of Italy, we had a private view of the sunset. It was as breathtaking as we had hoped!
We were thoroughly happy to have accomplished the day’s mission, but had worked up an appetite! So, we dined on Tuscan comfort food in a small trattoria off the piazza before making the trip back to our flat in Florence.
(We had hoped to do more exploring after dinner, but–take note–as of this writing, both the Roman theater (1st century BC) and remains of Roman baths (AD 1st Century) close at 7 pm.)
After scrutinizing the bus schedule and engaging in broken conversation with the locals, we boarded Bus #7 home. (Travel Tip: Bring exact change for the bus, and note that once you step outside Florence, few locals speak English.)
While many recommend Piazzale Michaelangelo as the best place to see the sunset over Florence, I suggest instead going a little further up into the hills to Fiesole. Mary and I found it to be a perfect way to spend the afternoon filled with panoramic Tuscan views and, in my opinion, the best sunset over Florence.
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29 thoughts on “The Best Place to See the Sunset Over Florence [Fiesole Italy]”
Enjoyed every bit of your blog. Really looking forward to reading more.
Thanks for the kind words, Rose!
Like!! Great article post. Really, thank you! Really Cool.
Glad you like it!
I love the views of Tuscany, especially in the fall. The sunsets are magical. I had not heard about the San Francisco monastery but it sounds fascinating. I always love visiting monasteries for the peace and calm in the environment. Like you, I would have totally gone into the dark hallway out of curiosity. The cells (or monk chambers) sounds perfect for hiding and writing endlessly.
Overall it seems like a lovely day with your friend, Mary.
You’ve captured my sentiments perfectly, Jyoti. There truly is something peaceful in an environment such as this. Mary and I had a great time, together. Love my girlfriend trips!
I miss Italy. Your article brought back a great few years we spent there. I loved that you explored the hidden door on the church and found little offices where monks use to live. That is so cool. I’ll have to keep this in mind if we ever make it back to that area.
I miss Italy, too! We were only there for a short while, so I imagine having spent a few years in Italy would leave an even greater longing to return. I hope you get back soon!
I missed Tuscan countryside during my Florence visit due to a lack of time. I never knew about this ancient Tuscan hill town with the Etruscan-Roman remains of Roman baths, a Roman amphitheater, and the grassy hill on which Leonardo da Vinci experimented with flight. As this historic town with beautiful landscape is famous for literature and art, then I would surely visit it next time. Thanks for sharing!
I hope you do! I know you will find these things very interesting!
I’ve been to Florence a handful of times and, believe it or not, two of my trips were for weddings! One wedding took place on the hillside near Plaza Michaelangelo and the sunset was over the Duomo in the near distance. I have to say – it was pretty amazing. But the other wedding was actually in the hillside town of Fiesole and I got to watch the sunset high above Florence a few nights in a row. But what made it extra special was that the night of the wedding was also my 30th birthday! I can remember just sitting on the stone wall overlooking the city below, making sure I remember that moment forever and how lucky I was to be there.
What wonderful memories, Laura. I loved hearing them! I’m so glad Feisole made your 30th birthday so memorable. And what an amazing place for a destination wedding. Florence is one of those places I could go to a hundred times and never be disappointed–I could honestly watch one Fiesole sunset after another on that wall.
This is perfect for my travel plans, because I would love to go back to Florence and also spend some time in the hills. Fiesole sounds ideal! And just a bus ride from Florence. My daughter and I spent an afternoon in Florence and saw the David and the river, but that was not nearly long enough to explore this magnificent area!
Yes, this would be a perfect excursion to a hilltown for your next trip. Close to Florence and easy to get to! (I could also spend days and days in Florence…)
The sunset in Florence sounds amazing! I haven’t been to Florence since I was a grade-schooler. I’d love to go back!
It would be worth the trip back. Being such an old city, it would be interesting to know if it’s changed a lot since your visit or is largely the same!
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