Since the 14th century the city has always been considered a getaway for the upper class of Florence and up to this day Fiesole remains noted for its very expensive residential properties. The city is generally considered to be the wealthiest and most affluent suburb of Florence. In 2016 the city had the highest median family income in the whole of Tuscany.
Fiesole (EtruscanViesul, Vi?l, Vipsul) was probably founded in the 9th-8th century BC, as it was an important member of the Etruscan confederacy, as may be seen from the remains of its ancient walls.
The first recorded mention of the town dates to 283 BC, when the town, then known as Faesulae, was conquered by the Romans. In antiquity it was the seat of a famous school of augurs, and every year twelve young men were sent thither from Rome to study the art of divination. Sulla colonized it with veterans, who afterwards, under the leadership of Gaius Mallius, supported the cause of Catilina.
A 14th-century depiction from the Nuova Cronica showing the sacking of Fiesole in 1010
It was an independent town for several centuries in the early Middle Ages, no less powerful than Florence in the valley below, and many wars arose between them; in 1010 and 1025 Fiesole was sacked by the Florentines, before it was conquered by Florence in 1125, and its leading families obliged to take up their residence in Florence. Dante reflects this rivalry in his Divine Comedy by referring to "the beasts of Fiesole." (Inferno XV.73).
By the 14th century, rich Florentines had countryside villas in Fiesole, and one of them is the setting of the frame narrative of the Decameron. Boccaccio's poem Il Ninfale fiesolano is a mythological account of the origins of the community. Robert Browning mentions "sober pleasant Fiesole" several times in his poem, "Andrea Del Sarto".
The Badia or ancient cathedral of St. Romulus, built in 1028 by Bishop Jacopo Bavaro with materials taken from several older edifices, at the foot of the hill on which Fiesole stands, supposed to cover the site of the martyrdom of St. Romulus; it contains notable sculptures by Mino da Fiesole. The old cathedral became a Benedictine abbey, which passed into the hands of the Canons Regular of the Lateran. It once possessed a valuable library, long since dispersed. The abbey was closed in 1778.
The little Church of Santa Maria Primerana in the cathedral square, where the same saint was warned by Our Lady of his approaching death. Built in 996 and further expanded in medieval times, has maintained the Gothic presbytery from that period. It received a new façade in the late 16th century, with graffito decoration by Ludovico Buti. The interior, on a single hall, has a 13th-century panel portraying Madonna with Child. In the transept are two marble bas-reliefs by Francesco da Sangallo, and a terracotta from Andrea della Robbia's workshop.
^Gaius Mallius was a colonist of Fiesole who, according to Sallust (Bellum Catilinae 24.2), was the first to raise an army and take the field against Rome. His nomen is often confused with the more common Manlius.
^Radagaisus was executed 23 August 406 (Herwig Wolfram, Thomas J. Dunlap, tr., History of the Goths, 1988:169); Paulinus of Nola attributed the victory of Stilicho over Radagaisus's Ostrogoths near Fiesole, to the protection of Felix, Peter, Paul and other saints.
^Dante in Love, A.N. Wilson, p. 71 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 2011)