Fiesole where it is and where it was. For a Geography of slowness.
“[…]An almost immobile history, that of man in his relations with the environment: a history of slow unfolding and slow transformations, often made up of insistent returns, of incessantly restarted cycles. I did not want to neglect that history, almost outside of time, in contact with inanimate things, nor to be satisfied, in this regard, with the traditional geographical introductions to history, unnecessarily placed at the beginning of so many books, with their mining landscapes, their agricultural work and their flowers quickly put on display, and which are then no longer mentioned, as if the flowers did not return every spring, the flocks did not stop in their movements, the ships did not have to navigate on a real sea, which changes with the seasons.”
(Fernand Braudel, Mediterranean Civilizations and Empires in the Age of Philip II)
If we look at a map and locate Fiesole, what we notice at first glance is how close it is to Florence. And it is so close to it that, as if Florence were the sun and Fiesole one of the stars, as it got closer and closer, it ended up getting burned. Florence is too beautiful a city… and seen from up here, it’s crazy. Artists, poets, photographers, tourists, passers-by, all have felt, experienced, the enchantment.
It may have lasted only a moment, or be renewed every time you see it, or perhaps at certain times of the day, of the season, of life. In any case, once you have seen Florence from Fiesole, that image, that sky suspended over the city and the hills that surround it, will remain with you forever.
Boccaccio, partly out of necessity and partly because he had lived near here and knew these places well, chose Fiesole as the “stage” of the Decameron. In order to return to life, save oneself and defeat death with words and love, the magic of these places was needed.
Then, the Medici family built one of their villas on these hills, looking towards the city, and the modern idea of Landscape, a dialogue between man and nature, was born.
Finally, Leonardo da Vinci, the Genius, the visionary, dreamed of making mankind fly from here, filling the universe with wonder.
Since then, Fiesole, the “handmaiden” of Florence, became the symbol of beauty, harmony and the beautiful Tuscan landscape.
And in the collective imagination and taste, this idea of Fiesole has come down to us: Fiesole that looks at Florence and Florence that looks at Fiesole…
It’s true, it’s been a while since we raised our heads! Because, in reality, Fiesole began to disappear from Florence about 150 years ago, thanks to the Poggi and the Savoys. Since then you have to go to Piazzale Michelangelo to see it!
New neighborhoods were built, Florence was physically closer and closer but in reality Fiesole was getting farther away, it was disappearing, and finally the 20th century arrived: cars, the abandonment of the countryside, some building changes, mass tourism, internet, virtual reality. In the end, only the myth of Fiesole remained, created about 500 years ago, because Fiesole no longer had a reason to exist!
Then one day this world, which compared to the time of our Greats had become enormous but you could travel it in a few hours, suddenly stopped. And it was then that it was possible to take a leap back thousands of years, almost outside of time, where flowers return every spring, flocks stop moving, ships sail on a real sea, which changes with the seasons.
Before Leonardo, before Boccaccio, before… Florence. Yes, because you couldn’t even go to Florence in those days!
That was the moment to pick up a map, look around, get oriented, search for ancient and
old points of view, and try to get back on the road.
Like a blessing, it is perhaps time to be born again. Now or never.