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Here is a shot from the top of the Roman theater.  To the left are the Temple ruins.
On the first trip that the group took together, we took a bus out of Florence to the mountain village of Fiesole.   Fiesole (FEE-ez-oh-lay) has been inhabited since the early Etruscan civilization settled on the land in 1st century BC.  As the Commune of Florence developed in the valley below it, the peoples of the two groups had significant conflagrations over control of the territory.
Stepping off of the bus into the town square area, we went on foot to continue the trek to the top of the mountain.  The path was a well-traveled cobblestone road with a very high grade.  The perpendicular walkway made it hard to go quickly and many stopped to catch their breath.  At the top of the hill though, was a stone wall that revealed an absolutely beautiful view of the entire city of Florence.  At this point, after many "Ooh's and Aah's" and photographs, Prof. Megan Holmes, Ph.D. in Renaissance Art History, introduced us to the basic geography of the city.  Standing on a boulder, she pointed out the most famous of the landmarks and summarized some of the Florentine battles.   We then continued up the hill. 

The first church (of many) that we visited was a small chapel at the Monastery of S. Francisco.  We were able to walk through the individual "cells" of the monks who lived there in the 15th century.  It truly was an amazing experience to see the way they lived.  I tried to imagine the monks, covered only by a thin layer of wool, barefoot, sleeping on the simple wooden board in the dead of winter (the temperature of 3C also made it a little easier).  The chapel was very simple, but the beautiful views of the surrounding mountains made it easy to understand why they were there.

We "scaled" back down the mountain and visited the Etruscan ruins.   Standing there in the cold air under the warm sun, it felt unrealistic to think that the views I saw were akin to what the location looked like in 50BC.  We visited the baths area and the Roman theater carved into the mountain.  The sight was simply spectacular!

There were some, however, who did not find the trip that spectacular and persisted to complain about the waste of this marvelous day.  These people clearly showed who they were and did not make a great first impression.  The chill of the wind on top of that mountain made me realize that I truly was here and I cherished that day truly as one of the most memorable of my life.


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