The Archaeological Area, delimited North by the etruscan walls, contains a temple, the Roman Theatre and the Baths. A Longobard cemetery was also discovered in the sacred area near the etruscan-roman temple.

Roman Theatre

roman theatreThe Roman Theatre was built between the 1st century BC and 1st century AD and its ruins had been visible for a long time. In the Middle Age people have called the place "Buca delle Fate" (Fairies' Cave) and an ancient legend tells that Fiesole's Fairies, symbol of an ancient and happy period, have hidden themselves in some dark underground holes not to see the Florentines destroying the city after its conquest in 1125.

The prussian baron Von Shellersheim dug into the area of the Theatre and discovered two rich grave goods near the ruins of the theatre itself, but there are no certain proves about that. The systematic excavations started in 1870 and finished between 1882 and 1900; meanwhile the left tiers (cavea) were rebuilt for public use.

The building had a huge half-round cavea, created directly in the rock of the hill; four vomitoria (passages) allowed the entrance in a covered gallery (crypta), that unfortunately doesn't exist no more.

Cavea was divided in four zones by narrow stairs in order to let people find their seat more easily. In the space below it, there was the orchestra and a space where theatrical performances took place; a wall with a recess (pulpitum) delimited frontally the stage (proscenium). Behind it there was the scaena frons (an architectural stage design), whose foundations and marble decorations are still visible in the Museum. Thanks to these decorations is possible to say that the Theatre was used until the 3rd century AD.

Thermal Baths

roman bathsThe roman Thermal Baths were built, like the theatre, in the 1st century B.C. in the eastern part of the Archaeological Area.

They were discovered between 1882 and 1900 and hurriedly restored before the end of archaeological excavations.

West there was the entrance (today are visible some steps), from which Romans came in a monumental arcade, that enclosed the building North and South. Inside the arcade there was an opening space with tanks and an area for gymnastics.

From North to South, inside the covered area there were the typical roman thermal baths spaces:

  • Frigidarium: pool with cold water characterized by a half-round tank (covered by marbles in ancient times). In front of it there were three arches (the ones you can see now have been rebuilt afterwards); crossing them Romans entered in a space for meetings and conversations. In there was found the base of baby Hercules' sculpture, which is now preserved inside the Archaeological Museum.
  • Tepidarium: lukewarm space between Frigidarium and Calidarium.
  • Calidarium: the pool with hottest water. It was warmed up by two ovens situated in the next room; at present ovens are visible and partially rebuilt, so it is possible to understand how they worked: the warm air came from under the floor (higher than the other rooms because of some little tile pillars) and spread out of the walls through perforated bricks (tubuli), that formed a sort of simple pipe. In southern side, there is still the labrum, the pool for taking a bath after sweating.

As the theatre, Roman thermal baths were early rebuilt during the 3rd century AD and, during the next century, they were abandoned and used like a cemetery.


templeIn 1872 ruins of a monumental staircase, that seemed to be part of a roman building, was discovered in the western side of the archaeological area; in 1923, after the total excavation of the staircase and the pedestal, archaeologists understood that the building was a roman temple (4th century BC). New excavations between 1952 and 1965 also brought to light the etruscan temple (6th century BC).

We know few things about the ancient etruscan temple because the only evidences found by archaeologists are part of the architectural decoration: nowadays inside the Museum it's possible to see the carved polychrome shingles (maybe shaped like a Gorgon) that were upon the extremities of the roof. The earlier etruscan temple was 1probably destroyed and, at the beginning of the 4th century BC, another hellenistic temple, whose elevation is now still partially preserved, was built over it: a staircase (visible beyond the roman one) led to a little colonnade (pronao) in front of the sacred room reserved to the god's worship (naos). Beside it there were two storages and down the staircase it's still present an altar. Part of a votive ditch has been found into the naos, the central red painted room; archaeologists have found votive bronzes and coins; a little bronze owl suggests the temple was dedicated to Minerva. During the 1st century BC the building was destroyed by fire, probably after the roman conquest of the city in 90 BC.

Afterwards the Etruscan temple's ruins were included in the new and bigger roman temple; it had, like the earlier building, an altar in front of the staircase. In southern side was built a colonnade for pilgrims' rest. The temple has been used until the 3rd century AD, when the altar and the staircase were buried to build the new road between temple and thermal baths.

Longobard necropolis

longobard necropolisWhen Longobards arrived in Fiesole at the end of the 6th century AD the ancient sacred area of the city became a burial ground zone; between 1910 and 1912, in fact, a lot of male and female graves were discovered there. Inside them, there were grave goods, composed of iron, glass, bronze and baked clay objects. Other Longobard tombs were recently dug in the centre of Fiesole, behind the City Hall. Inside the archaeological museum is possible to see the grave goods and three recreated Longobard tombs.