Like many travelers to Italy, a visit to Florence was on my must-do list from the beginning. There is much to see in this incredible city. Who can resist the lure of Michelangelo’s David, or the intrigue of the Duomo. For a unique shopping experience, spend a weekend afternoon on the Ponte Vecchio. The words “Ponte Vecchio” mean “old bridge.” This is no exaggeration – the Ponte Vecchio was built in the 14th Century! The crafts vendors who line the bridge sell some magnificent items. In some cases, the prices are even reasonable!
When I think of Florence, I think of Fiesole. When you’ve had your fill of churches, museums and street vendors, Fiesole allows you to escape to higher ground. It stands majestically on a hill north of Florence. From a distance, it almost appears to be magical. You can reach Fiesole by the Number 7 bus. Historians believe that this was an Etruscan city founded in the 9th Century BC. It was known as a training center for the Augurs, who were priests trained in the art of divination. They foretold the future by interpreting the movements of birds.
While there is much to see in Fiesole, my most vivid memories are of the Villa Medici, which dates back to the Renaissance. It’s interesting to note that while most villas of that period were built for agricultural purposes, the Villa Medici was the exception to the rule. In contrast, as an intellectual center, it was involved in the farming of ideas, not crops. Villa Medici also has one of the best-kept gardens in Italy. Gardens, cathedrals and villas aside – like Montmartre in Paris, there is something intrinsically intriguing about standing at the top of one city and looking down at another. It invites a distinct sense of perspective.