The long history of Fiesole is constantly visible to tourists walking around the city, with a number of interesting archaeological sites dating back over 2000 years: the Etruscan walls (which still partially enclose the city), Etruscan tombs on Via del Bargellino and the extraordinary Fonte Sotterra are some the more notable examples of local historical importance.

The Etruscan Walls

Fiesole was built on top of a hill, as were the majority of Etruscan cities, probably during the IV century BC. Strong city walls were a valid defence against enemies until 1125, when Florence was successful in conquering Fiesole and ordered the partial destruction of the walls.Etruscan Walls

Although successive alterations to the walls are not clear, a new city plan carried out during the I century BC is known to have absorbed the old walls inside solider structures.
The surrounding walls were approximately 2.5 km long, reaching from the hill of San Francesco to the area known as Borgunto, very close to the stone caves of Montececeri, which provided part of the building materials for the wall.

Nowadays it is possible to observe the most awe-inspiring remains of the city walls on Via delle Mura Etrusche (literally: the road of the Etruscan walls), outside the archaeological Area, and on Via Mari, on the eastern side of Fiesole. A large part of the ruins are no longer visible because they are located inside areas belonging to private gardens.
Few details are available about the ancient gateways to the city, with the exception of one threshold on the northern side, still unmistakable thanks to the remains of part of a parallel wall joined to the main structure by a perpendicular wall.

The Etruscan tombs – Via del Bargellino

Etruscan tombs - Via del Bargellino

Following via Matteotti, in the direction of Borgunto (on the eastern side of Fiesole), tourists unexpectedly find two Etruscan tombs, overlooked by via del Bargellino and hidden among the modern buildings. These tombs dated back to the IV century BC were part of an Etruscan necropolis, that extended across the city walls.
These two chamber tombs have a quadrangular shape and dry stone walls.

Stone urns and wares are unearthed inside the two graves: the grave goods (small bronze objects and wares) are now displayed in the archaeological museum.

Fonte SotterraFonte Sotterra

Walking up to Montececeri, on the eastern hill, you enter the old village of Borgunto, which was home to the stone-cutters; typical alleys and glimpses over the city and nature are all around.
In the square of San Bernardino is the access to the Fonte Sotterra, an artificial cave dug on a natural fault, that assures clear water.
At the entrance, some steps bring you down to a dark hall (approximately 10.5m x 32.5m) with a constant temperature of 13°C. These special features enabled local families to draw water and to keep fruit and vegetables cool.

To improve its use, Fonte Sotterra has been modified many times. The most important change came about in 1855 (when, to avoid epidemics, a gate closed the entrance and people drew water with a pump) and in 1944 (when the cavern became an air-raid shelter with an emergency exit).

In 19th century, Fonte Sotterra was considered an Etruscan building, but it is very hard to date it; the cavern remained in use until recently, after the second world war.

Nowadays, for safety reasons, is possible to visit Fonte Sotterra only during special openings organized by Municipality of Fiesole.