Paradise is just 15 minutes from Florence and I couldn’t wait to show it to my son on our recent visit to Italy. We’d spent the first few days visiting the Duomo, the Ufizzi art gallery, the Pontevecchio and a variety of churches. To put it mildly we were feeling a bit overwhelmed and needed a respite from other tourists and some open air.
A short ride on the number 7 bus took us from Florence to Fiesole, a magical town perched on the hills north of the city. I had been there before and wasn’t at all surprised to watch the awe spread over my son’s face as we entered the Piazza Mino. It is the town center and the views from all sides are magnificent.
However, it was the steep walk up the Via San Francesco that I wanted to share with him. It leads to the Abbey of San Francesco, begun in 1330 by a group of hermits, and taken over by the Franciscan’s, who expanded it in 1407. You can see by the pictures that it is a simple country monastery and it seemed much easier to picture St. Francis in this setting than in the ornate churches of Florence or Assisi.
Unfortunately the main church was closed to visitors but we could view the frescoes on the atria walls. They depict the duties of the brothers to provide shelter, food, comfort and clothing to the sick, burial to the dead and prayer for all.
We were able to visit the monk’s cells upstairs however and I can’t imagine how they existed through the winter months. Each cell had a stone bench for a bed, a rustic table and candles for light. A window in each cell was open to the elements. We spent a delightful few hours there and on our way back down the steep road we started to pass an outdoor restaurant when a waiter caught my eye. A couple had just vacated his table and I indicated that we’d love to have their table if it was free. He motioned us in and it turned into a highlight of our trip.
We couldn’t have had better seating if we’d reserved months in advance. The food and the service was super and you can see by this picture that the view was outstanding.
It was the perfect respite that we needed mid-way in our two weeks of jam packed Umbrian and Tuscan sights.