Thursday, June 16, 2011


To date we have had three days of classes! (Sorry that I'm a bit behind! It's partially from exhaustion and partially from the internet or lack thereof).

The first day of classes (Monday) we went to Fiesole, which is a hilltop town overlooking Firenze with a famous panoramic view of the city's landscape - the Duomo towering over all the rest of the city. Leon Battista Alberti famously said that the Duomo above the sky is large enough to cover- with its shadow- all the people of Tuscany. 

Unfortunately it was a hazy day :(

Fun Fact #1: It is said that that the Duomo is the symbol of the Florentine civilization. And I can certainly understand why. It is a conspicuous architectural marvel.

Evidence: The shadow and symbol of the Duomo is certainly felt within Florence. I have seen its cupola peeking out from all the corners of the city. 

Hiking up to Fiesole's panoramic vista point of Florence.

From Fiesole we were able to see how the city spreads East and West along the Arno, which is why the sun set beautifully in the center of the Ponte alla Carraia when we took pictures at dusk.

Interestingly enough, the city has been beautifully preserved because in the last 200-300 hundred years the city did not allow the building of new housing developments in the wilderness close by. Though hazy, if you look at the picture above, in the distance you can see forests around the city.

Fun fact # 2: Fiesole predates Florentia, the ancient Roman city which lies beneath the streets and buildings of Firenze (Florence). It was a major Etruscan city, whose people were conquered by Rome and whose culture was absorbed into Roman traditions.

In Fiesole, we had our first on-site lecture from our Italian Professor Marco, who took us on a tour of Fiesole and explained its history. He is insightful, funny and full of anecdotes. He is a giant man, or perhaps has a giant personality. Impressions. Eyebrows and a prominent nose. Very expressive face. Typical Italian communication style, with frequent impassioned hand gestures. There is an anecdote we were told that to shut up an Italian all you have to do is bind their hands! :)

Fun Fact #3: A Duomo is a church constructed for a bishop and although, Fiesole is just a stone's throw away from Florence (well a stone traveling 30 minutes on a city bus), the village has always sought autonomy and considered itself important, particularly because it can make the claim that Florence is merely Roman, while it is Etruscan!

This is an image of the central Piazza in Fiesole, where the bus from Florence dropped us off. In the background you can see the Loggia (town hall) and the statue of the first King of Italy and the famous general Garibaldi shaking hands. A romantic story in Italian history, this meeting happened between the two leaders when the king was preparing to head off Garibaldi, but rather than attack, Garibaldi rode out alone and shook the hand of the king in acknowledgement of his right to rule Italy.

Detail of the statue in the courtyard. This moment in history is extremely important to Italians who view the honorable Garibaldi as a people's hero. Incidentally, he is the general who freed the people of Sicily and southern Italy from occupation.

View from the Loggia towards the Duomo and its tower. If you look closely behind the statue you can see the medieval road we climbed  to the vista point.

The Loggia (Town Hall)

Detail of the walls of the Loggia. 

Fun Fact #3: I asked why there were crests all over the outside of this building and was told a very interesting tidbit of trivia. Apparently there was so much corruption and nepotism within Italian society, that cities had to hire sheriffs and judges from other parts of Italy who could resolve conflicts and mete out justice objectively. It made me think of Renaissance mafia. The families plotting to make alliances and bring low their enemies.

Another view of the statue. In the back you can see the cafes lining the central street.

View of the statue and the tower of the Duomo of Fiesole in the background

The Cafes

Some colorful tables and chairs. Wish we had more time to sit for an espresso.

After going into the Duomo, in which an organist was practicing and we were attempting to hear Marco lecture (picture trying to catch every word of a man who speaks with Italian music as the organists pounds away), we went to the Archaeological Museum of Fiesole.

Ruins of the Ampitheater

The steps of the ampitheater where concerts are held in the summertime. I think we'll try to go!

Marco telling us more about the history of the area and its settlements ( Etruscan, Roman, Lombard)
I love the expression on his face!

The park of the museum with its ruins is quite beautiful. I particularly liked the greenery. The trees and fresh air. The little details, like the wild red poppies that grew in crevices among the ruins and grass. 

These little red flowers grew sporadically among the grounds.

Moss covered Roman walls

Remnants of the Roman city.


Passageway to the theater

Remnants of the Roman Temple

Details of the temple


After visiting the park we went to the museum. I am sad that we didn't have more time there. The curator or guide there, was kind enough to point out some really cool objects and their significance/meaning. Asking where we were from, he took us to see a little oil lamp that was "American no?"

Can you see the Etruscan image that inspired, millenia later, our Statue of Liberty?

Lombard soldier/general's tomb.

The Lombards were the barbarians who invaded Italy after the fall of the Romans and took over the area. In the bottom right hand corner you can see a blue glass chalice. According to the curator/guide this was an incredibly rare find. The fact that the chalice is such a fine blue and all in one piece is very rare and special. The museum guide explained that the building and much of Fiesole rests on the ruins of the Lombard city and very little of it has been excavated. This Lombard soldier/king, was found in this exact spot, just as he is shown here.

When we got back to Florence, we went to have lunch at the yummy cafe we stopped at, our fist day in Florence. I ordered a barley salad that had corn, tomatoes, basil, etc. It was delicious.

Insalata di Farro! Delicious!

Love and hugs to all my friend and family. More coming soon, if the internet cooperates!

1 comment:

  1. I'm imagining with all the espressos you're having you won't be able to sleep when you get back!!

    What kind of texture does the barely salad have? Looks like beans to me..and you know how I feel about beans.