Off Piazza Mino, the ancient high-point of the Etruscan and Roman town is now occupied by the tiny 14th-century church and monastery of San Francesco ★ (Via San Francesco 13; tel. 055/59-175; free admission; Tues–Sun 9:30am–noon and 2:30–5pm [6pm in summer]). At the end of a small nave hung with devotional works—Piero di Cosimo and Cenni di Francesco are both represented—is a fine “Crucifixion and Saints” altarpiece by Neri di Bicci. Off the cloisters, a quirky little ethnographic museum is stuffed with objects picked up by Franciscan missionaries, including an Egyptian mummy and Chinese jade and ceramics. Entrance to the church’s painted, vaulted crypt is through the museum. To reach San Francesco, you will climb a sharp hill—pause close to the top, where a little balcony provides perhaps the best view of Florence, and the wine hills of the Chianti beyond.
Terraced into a hill with views over the olive groves and forests north of Florence, Fiesole’s romantically overgrown archaeological area (enter at Via Portigiani 1) is scattered with sections of columns, broken friezes, and other remnants of the ancient world. Beyond the Roman Theater ★★ (which seated 1,500 in its day), three rebuilt arches mark the remains of 1st-century-a.d. baths. Near the arches, a cement balcony over the far edge of the archaeological park gives a good view of the best remaining stretch of Fiesole’s 4th-century-b.c. Etruscan walls. At the other end of the park from the baths, the floor and steps of a 1st-century-b.c. Roman Temple were built on top of a 4th-century-b.c. Etruscan one dedicated to Minerva. To the left are oblong Lombard tombs from the 7th century a.d., when this part of Fiesole was a necropolis. The archaeological area is open year-round: April to September, daily 9am to 7pm; March and October, daily 10am to 6pm; and November to February Tuesday through Sunday, 10am to 3pm.
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