Text by Nicole Marie D’Alessio, photographs by Jon Stone, NYU Florence students
La Pietra is holding a dialogue entitled “Community Gardens and Public Health” during the month of April, in which Giacomo Salizzoni, architect and manager of the Borgo Pinti Community Garden, among others, will speak about the benefits of community gardens. A community garden is usually a plot of land gardened collaboratively by a group of people, and they can foster cooperation, communication and collective problem-solving through working with the land.
In the 17th century, the garden was part of the Salviati estate on Borgo Pinti. It was the first garden in Tuscany to feature jasmine (jasminun grandiflorum). Since the Florentines loved to mix scented flowers with tobacco in order to give it a special fragrance, the garden was praised for its unique scent throughout history. The garden was eventually given to the City of Florence and remains a green oasis amidst the bustling city center. It was renamed Giardini del Borgo, and is now adjacent to the Cooperative Barberi, a school which welcomes disabled children. Salizzoni transformed a portion of the garden, which was a previously private athletic field, into a community garden that is now open to the public. “Community gardens beautify a neighborhood and help to bring neighbors closer together,” the Community Garden website explains.
The Community Garden is now located in the center of Florence at Borgo Pinti 76. According to TM News, the volunteer work of “disabled people, American students, and ordinary citizens allowed the formerly private garden to become a public non-profit space,” which seeks to introduce gardening to those who have never done it before, strengthen community bonds, reuse organic waste. Salizzoni says that the space is “so much more than a vegetable garden.” In fact, everyone involved in the community garden has learned to work together, combining their various skills to create a cooperating community where the experience is fulfilling to all those involved. The products which are cultivated go to those who participate in the harvest and are also made as donations. They often host all-naturally grown dinners in order to foster community.
An interesting project already under way and awaiting sponsorship is “The Tree of Energy,” a wooden structure of bamboo, designed with the help of “Bambuesto”—a association of artists dedicated to creating with only bamboo culms—and according to Il Fatto Quotidano, it will have a series of solar panels that will serve to feed 6 different sources: a webcam, a system of LED lighting, a wireless repeater, a sound system, a charging point for mobile phones and an Arduino board, a sort of electronic brain which can monitor the state of health of the plants through the level of moisture and soil fertility.
This project shows that the Community Garden on Borgo Pinti, which seeks to improve a sense of community in relation to gardening, also seeks to harmonize technology with nature, two seemingly conflicting facets of human life. More information about the Community Garden project can be found on their Facebook page.
On Friday March 28th, interested NYU Florence students will be visiting the Community Gardens together with Giacomo Salizzoni in order to experience it for themselves.