Thursday, June 16, 2016

A Room with a View

The only problem with views is that you must climb a steep hill to see them.

Florence as seen from Fiesole.
But such is the power of a view that a number of famous folks have made the trip to Fiesole, a town roughly five miles northeast of Florence. At one time or another, Gertrude Stein and Alice B Toklas,  Frank Lloyd Wright, and even Debi Mazar, cooking channel star, lived here. Robert Browning, whose former home is just around the corner from my flat here in Florence, mentioned Fiesole in his poem "Andrea Del Sarto."

But you probably know it best because of a romantic British movie. A Room with a View, the James Ivory film based on E.M. Forster's novel, was shot here although the setting is supposedly in Florence. You'll remember this film features Lucy Honeychurch finally overthrowing her Edwardian era repressive background to marry the free-spirited George Emerson, the man who insisted Lucy and her chaperone have his "room with a view" when all of them first met while on holiday in Italy.

I suppose my friends from class and I might have considered hiking to the town last Saturday, but, luckily for Jenny, Keith and me, there is a bus we could take to climb the hairpin turns up the hill to Fiesole.

The ampitheater has a modern stage with huge speakers, but the ancient seating remains for the audience.
We discovered Roman ruins where 3,000 people still regularly  attend concerts in the ampitheater. We marveled over the shared baths with both hot and cold plunge pools, along with the communal bathroom where everyone chatted as they did their "business."

The remains of the Roman temple.
We toured the museum associated with the ruins and also the Bandini Museum. It was here that Keith explained the evolution of Jesus' facial expression during the crucifixion.

I wondered aloud why Jesus looked so nonchalant on the cross, as though he was slightly surprised but not unduly alarmed to find himself nailed to this apparatus. Keith explained that it took St. Francis of Assisi to change painters' approaches. Francis wanted Jesus' face to express the anguish he surely felt so that the common man could identify with his pain.

It was also Keith who explained, over our lunch in a sidewalk cafe, why Tuscan bread was so tasteless. Because salt was so heavily taxed during the Middle Ages, bakers made bread without it, and that tradition has continued to this day in Tuscany and Umbria. I've heard, too, that bland bread is needed to soak up all the rich sauces that accompany Tuscan food. Whichever theory is correct, I am just grateful that olive oil and balsamic vinegar are standbys on every table here to help make the bread more palatable.

After Keith climbed an impossibly steep little hill to get some photos while Jenny and I ate Sicilian gelato (supposedly the best--it was delicious), we all agreed that Fiesole was well worth the trip. And we were quite grateful to settle into a comfortable bus for the trip back down the mountain.

Practicalities -
Bus number 7 leaves from the Santa Maria Novella train station or San Marcos Piazza every twenty minutes or so. You can buy tickets in advance from any Tabachi store or from a machine at the bus stop.

Do not forget to insert your ticket into the yellow "stamper" you will find a couple seat rows behind the driver. If you are caught without a stamp, you are heavily fined.


1 comment:

  1. I love this place with the wonderful views ! Remember having a wonderful lunch here overlooking the city.