The Archaeological area of Fiesole, near Florence, includes Etruscan and Roman remains.
There are three main Etruscan features still visible:
- The Etruscan Temple. It is situated on the northern side of the site and it dates back to the fourth century AD.
The Etruscan temple was built on earth foundations overlaid with stone. From its surviving outer walls, archaeologists have been able to reconstruct its original layout. It was a rectangular building with a single central cella and two side chambers separated from the cella by columns. The cella was reached by a series of steps which led down to the altar. Both the altar and position of steps were altered in the Roman period.
- The City Walls. The walls date back to the fourth century AD and were built to strengthen Fiesole’s defences against the Gallic incursions. They are 2.5 kms long and were also partially rebuilt by the Romans.
- The Etruscan Tombs. Also known as the Via Bargellino tombs, these tombs are situated outside the ancient city walls. Six tombs were discovered dating to the third century BC. Each tomb was built from large, uncemented blocks of stone. Each of them was rectangular with interior space maximised by the construction of platforms for cremated remains.
Parallel piped cremation urns with flat lids, a second century stone urn with a small illustrated box and an egg shaped urn of terracotta with a conical lid dating to the first century BC were found in the tombs. Grave goods have included terracotta unguent containers and bronze personal instruments.
The Etruscan settlement in Fiesole was conquered by the Romans in 90BC. The town was taken by Marcus Portius Cato's troops after a lengthy siege using a nearby campsite as a base that later on became the city of Florence.
The conquest of Fiesole was destructive and many of the Etruscan buildings burnt to the ground. Archaeologists have discovered that after a period of abandonment, the Etruscan walls and one of the temples were rebuilt along Roman lines. The site was then completely occupied and became a Roman town.
Nowadays you can find both Roman Baths and a very well preserved Roman Theatre.
- The Roman Baths
The Roman baths have been diffusely restored. Little decorative material has been recovered, apart from some bronze sheets of epigrams and the marble base of a statue of Hercules recovered from the tepidarium.
The baths were divided into an internal and external area. The interior bathhouse followed the typical Roman pattern:a caldarium with an opus signimum floor and with 3 small pools; the tepidarium, heated by one furnace; the oldest room, the frigidarium, divided into three areas, with a semi circular plunge pool to the left.
- The Roman Theatre
Built into the natural rocks of one of the town’s hills, the Roman theatre has been extensively restored and still remains one of the best preserved buildings in Fiesole. It was built shortly after the reoccupation of the site in the first century BC and was situated along the Cardo, one of the Roman town’s main streets that led to the forum.
The best seats in the house, situated near the orchestra and tribunalia arcades were reached by a series of vaulted passages that ran under the cavea or rows of seats. Several flights of stairs that ran up through the cavea could be used for seating elsewhere. Each stairway consisted of three flights of ten steps. The original rightside staircase of the theatre are still visible today.
Only the foundations of the frons scenae or stage area remained. These are sufficient to show the three doors, actors used to access the stage. The most interesting area of the backstage is a semi circular room that would have been used to operate the mechanism that opened the theatre’s curtain.
The theatre was redecorated in the third century AD. Only a few fragments of the ornamentation of the multicoloured orchestra mosaics remains as well as marble reliefs of mythical scenes and deities, preserved in the site’s museum.
For further information:
Web site: www.fiesolemusei.it/eng/home.asp
Tel.: +39 055-5961276 - 284