For over 40 years, Maria Chiara Pozzana has been a passionate force who has helped to preserve and curate some of the most important gardens and green spaces in Florence and in many parts of Europe. Whether as an architect, professor, historian, published author or restorer of landscape garden architecture, Pozzana has dedicated her life to crafting beauty within the intricacies of nature. From Dusseldorf to St. Petersburg, Turin and Versailles, she has consulted upon the preservation and restoration of important major parks. She recently completed one of her most important projects, having spent a decade on the recent restorations of the Bardini Gardens.
Maria Chiara’s expertise has now turned toward her newest project, Firenze Greenway, which she founded and for which she acts as president. The cultural association encourages people to go out into the green places of Florence, away from the crowds of the city centre, to bring them a semi-urban and rural experience. Site-specific itineraries that combine historical aspects of Florence within its ecological urban infrastructure have been devised for cyclists and pedestrians. Detailed maps are available that set out about 20 kilometers of various routes, divided into several itineraries that include a cross-section of UNESCO sites. The main itinerary comprises the viale dei Colli, originally conceived by Giuseppe Poggi as an English garden on an urban scale. Another route from Porta Romana to piazza Poggi provides yet another great walk exploring the nature and art of the Florentine hills, while allowing for beautiful views of the city and the surrounding landscape. Greenway Firenze traverses the cultural history of the past, while also delivering something for today’s lifestyle needs.
What prompted you to set up the Firenze Greenway Association?
I established Firenze Greenway in December 2020 after being awarded with a prize from Tuscany’s Osservatorio Regionale del Paesaggio. Greenways are a new way of seeing the city’s history, landscape, nature and architecture, all in one experience. In Europe and in Italy, greenways have developed over the last 20 years with specific aspects, particularly those connected to UNESCO sites, such as our Firenze Greenway. It offers a vision of our future city, a place where art merges with nature and where life for citizens and visitors is better and more harmonious thanks to a newfound balance between built elements and rural and urban parks.
What inspired you to dedicate your life to the creation of beauty through landscape architecture?
The design of open spaces, especially public ones, has a very high social and ethical value: we work for others to improve life in cities and to make them healthier and more liveable. Art and nature have always been my main interests in my studies of history of art, natural sciences, fine arts and my degree in architecture. In the 1980s, my profession led me towards aspects of garden and landscape design, themes that combine beauty with scientific and naturalistic aspects in the creation and invention of space. Firenze Greenway is certainly one of the most significant public projects for Florence. The potential is great: we need to make a design effort to project the greenway into the future and see it as an exceptional urban green infrastructure that connects historic and natural sites in a single vision of the city, both past and future.
Historically, architectural landscape design seems to be an important part of European identity. Can you tell us more about this and what it means for people today? How is Greenway Firenze making this connection?
Landscape and gardens are a strong element of identity for European citizens. For example, the architectural typology of the villa, with its surrounding gardens and landscape, distinguishes one European culture from another, from Portugal to Lithuania, from west to east and from south to north. This European model of lifestyle and civilization is also found as a unifying element in European literature and art. Greenway Firenze can represent the uniqueness of Florence, in particular the presence of nature in the vicinity of the city, and moreover the importance of its historical heritage of gardens and parks. It is a cross-section of the most important landscapes that embody cultural identity and value. On our routes, there is an aspect that often includes a range of important villas and religious buildings, such as San Miniato al Monte, which compliments the second aspect of agricultural landscapes characterized by olive groves, vineyards, wooded areas, rows of cypresses, and all the elements that make our landscape immediately recognizable. Pedestrians who walk the Firenze Greenway experience a deeper cultural knowledge and identification of the space; they can find the underpinning values of the European landscape within these routes.
Tell us about any future itineraries.
The three main itineraries are developed along existing roads and routes, such as the viale dei Colli, the Baroque road leading to Poggio Imperiale and medieval routes such as the Erta Canina. However, these itineraries can be improved and extended, such as by recovering some of the side paths to the viale dei Colli. We are actively studying a new itinerary that crosses the agricultural landscape that will highlight certain farms connected to this greenway and their current productivity. This new treasure trove will also encourage the circular economy with its designated points of sale of zero km products, such as oil, vegetables, cereals and wine.
Visit www.firenzegreenway.com to join the association and to take part in their initiatives. Maps of the routes have been published in Italian and English, and can be found at the city’s Info Points.