Etruscan Tomb in Fiesole, Italy

Etruscan Tomb in Fiesole, Tuscany, Italy near Florence

Etruscan Tomb in Fiesole, Italy

The Etruscans were an ancient civilisation in central Italy from the 7th century BC until the Romans conquered the powerful civilisation, assimilating it into their ever-growing Roman Empire at the end the 4th century BC. Even today, the Etruscan influence cannot be denied; Eturia’s ancient heartland even lent it’s name to the modern region of Tuscany. In its heyday, Etruria reached as far north as the Po River valley, past Rome along the coast to modern-day Naples (in the Campania region). A merchant community, the Etruscans grew rich and powerful on trade with the northern Celtic communities as well as the ancient Greeks, who influenced much of their culture. Etruscans had a vivid pantheon of gods and used their wealth to fill their tombs – which is where much of our understanding of their culture, history, art and architecture comes from. The village of Fiesole, some 10km from Florence, is both a tranquil escape from the bustle of Florence as well as a time capsule to the ancient Etruscans and Romans. Here, find crumbling Etruscan walls, what remains of the Roman baths built later on, and a Roman amphitheater still used today for summer events. Nearby, there’s even the green hilltop where Leonardo da Vinci once experimented with flight! Once a powerful rival to Florence, Fiesole was founded as an Etruscan town in the 8th century BC until the Romans finally conquered and destroyed it, building their own Roman town on Fiesole’s roots. In the 1500s during the magnificent Italian renaissance, Florentine nobles moved out of Florence and built their splendid villas much like movie stars do today in glamorous SoCal towns. Fiesole’s beauty also inspired writers and artists such as Oscar Wilde and EM Forster, making cameos in their work.


Pro tip: Take bus #7 from San Marco Piazza to Fiesole. Or, splurge on the hop-on-hop-off bus to see even more of Florence and its region. 


Amazing Places to Visit in Italy

 

 

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Sforza Castle, Milan, Italy

milan

Sforza Castle, Milan, Italy

So perhaps Milan is not the most beautiful of all the Italian cities. But you know what? It’s certainly one of the nicest. It doesn’t have Rome’s dirtiness, it doesn’t have Venice’s massive influx of tourists or Florence’s intensely long lines, and it has plentiful amenities that all those cute little Italian 2,000-person paradises don’t have. Milan is a decent-sized city that is, unfortunately, rather ignored. It shouldn’t be. Milan is a lovely place.  Here, for example, is Sforza Castle, a 15th century fortification built by the Duke of Milan, Francesco Sforza, on the remains of a 14th construction. When Italy was finally unified in the 19th century, it was transferred from military to cultural usage, now housing several of the city’s museums. Artists such as Leonardo da Vinci (who frescoed several rooms along with Bernardio Zenale and Bernadino Butinone) and Bramante, who added frescoes in the Sala del Tesoro, have contributed to Sforza. After obtaining the castle, the city turned its grounds into a park, hence these two bikers. Italians, as do most Europeans, love to get around town on two wheels as opposed to four – perhaps accounting for their overall general state of healthiness!