When the time came to leave the Oltrarno, my home for over six years, I was torn. The small medieval appartamento had started to feel too small and showering above the toilet seat (a detail that hadn’t much bothered me in my no-fuss twenties) had gone from quirky to quacky. I loved being in the quartiere, from giggly nightcaps at my favorite bar to strolling among the Sunday market stands and conversing with the artsy habitués of piazza Santo Spirito. I was at a crossroads: a scavenger hunt among the more central neighborhoods or time to step out of my comfort zone and into the edge of the city. Gavinana, Peretola, Novoli, Sorgane, Bagno a Ripoli, Sesto Fiorentino, Castello, Rifredi, Isolotto, Campo di Marte, Le Cure, Careggi: from basements to top floors, flight after flight of stairs I longingly scouted apartments and districts, finally stumbling upon a cozy flat in the district of San Jacopino.
Photos by Michelle Davis
Considered the last stronghold of the historical center, San Jacopino is a sort of middle earth, standing on the border between Quartiere 1 and Novoli. Its epicenter is the namesake piazza San Jacopino, where mayor Dario Nardella recently unveiled the three-meter-tall bronze statue Fiorenza by Tuscan artist Giampaolo Talani (also the hand behind the beautiful fresco Partenze in the main concourse of Santa Maria Novella train station), a tribute to Florence and Florentine women. The square’s buildings give off a feeling of fascist austerity, as most of them were built in the 1930s, while history actually sees it as the setting of one of the most important face-offs between the partisans and the Nazi army in August 1944.
As I shake off my “Oltrarnostalgia” and grow more acquainted with my new surroundings, the realization dawns that this part of Florence is successfully creating its own identity. Here, squares become potential vectors for multicultural integration, and teamwork among local realities is key.