It’s a proven fact that city dwellers who frequent parks, gardens and green spaces are happier and enjoy greater life satisfaction. Citizens exposed to nature perform better in terms of memory and concentration tasks.
Green spaces have a positive effect not only on the individual but on the community: parklands in urban areas act as lungs for the city, generating breezes that repel and disperse pollutants as well as lowering the average temperature and being the least polluted places. At times, Florence can feel like a furnace, but there are parks and urban gardens that offer respite from the heat, while also being centres for sustainable community projects.
Orti Dipinti (borgo Pinti 76, www.ortidipinti.it) is a community garden that belongs to nobody as the work is conducted by everybody. An ex-athletics ground that has a hub of urban ecological gardening, the project communicates how gardening practises can be applied and remain relevant to everyday life. The website features an online library that contains their own publications on indoor plants, wall gardens, and uses and reuses of tyres, to name a few, as well as an online store that sells the space’s sustainably made produce. Get involved by visiting during opening hours, volunteering, attending classes and workshops, and becoming a member. Guided visits are available for schools.
The third oldest botanical gardens in the world, the Giardino dei Semplici (via P.A. Micheli, 3 – theflr.net/ortobotanico) dates to 1545, when Cosimo I de’ Medici rented the land from the adjacent San Domenico in Cafaggio monastery. Extending across 23,000 square metres and divided into 21 plots and 29 flowerbeds, the pleasant gardens provide specimens for the university. There’s also an educational side to the space as local primary and infant schools learn to prepare the ground, growing the likes of cumin, parsley and potatoes. A composting project is managed in partnership with the Quadrifoglio waste disposal company and the Amici della Terra environmentalist group.
The city administration’s “every family should have access to a garden” policy has resulted in the relatively new urban allotment phenomenon, known as orti sociali.
Following Mayor Dario Nardella’s re-election, it was announced that new areas would be added to the 800-plus established plots, which include the garden of Palazzo Vegni (via di San Niccolò), locations along via del Guarlone and in via del Mezzetta, in the Rusciano park, by the former Lupi di Toscana barracks, in the Mantignano park and Isole Nuove Argingrosso, and at Le Piagge. No rent will be applied to these 50 square metre spaces; all you have to do is tend to the land. The plots are assigned to people who don’t own a garden or any land, and who live in the neighbourhood. These social gardens are managed directly by the respective local administrations, which will have their own rules about the tools and fertilisers that can be used.