‘Manifattura Tabacchi’: a Summer Social Hub

The entrance to the Manifattura Tabacchi

Manifattura Tabacchi, originally a tobacco factory constructed in the 1930s, is now a thriving urban center containing a contemporary art laboratory, a hotel, a brewery, a theater, residences, and more. The regeneration of the site, underway since 2016, has updated the space into a cultural hub of Florence, or a “center outside the center.” Manifattura Tabacchi is located at Via Cascine 35, near Cascine Park, and is easily accessible from the city center via bus 17C.

Manifattura Tabacchi is a great place to spend a summer’s evening thanks to free admission, numerous activities, and several food and beverage options. Each night after 8 pm in the outdoor space between the Giardino della Ciminiera and the Piazza dell’Orologio, the public can enjoy music, art exhibitions, outdoor films, and Arno 3D skate plaza. There are traditional food and drink options at Bulli & Balene bistro and Soul Kitchen as well as several food trucks including Nura, Italy’s first Indian food truck, and Il Necciaio, the first street vendor in Florence to serve gluten-free food.

Not a Museum (NAM), Manifattura’s platform dedicated equally to contemporary art, science, and nature, is an essential part of the space’s mission to celebrate “the creative energy of fashion, art and design.” NAM serves as a home for videos, films, radio, and art performances, publications, and distribution. The space is currently running its second edition of “Superblast,” a competition that will award a three-month residency to six multidisciplinary artists whose work centers on themes such as “the ephemeral city,” “the third landscape,” and “dreams.”

Also on display until September 7 is a collection of contemporary urban surfaces: “Squares. Phenomenologies of the Unexpected” (Piazze. Fenomenologie dell’inatteso). Manifattura Tabacchi’s website describes the square as “the most classic of urban archetypes” that however still embodies “the ground on which new forms of collective living can grow.”

Manifattura Tabacchi also has a variety of spaces open to the public through their “Makers” program, dedicated to contemporary artisans. The program celebrates all types of art and creation, from ceramics to hairstyling and fashion design. The spaces open to the public include ateliers, laboratories, an event space/club, and a craft beer tasting space. In the outdoor courtyard, there is also a stage, a biodynamic vegetable garden, and a children’s garden.

The history of Manifattura Tabacchi is as rich as its current program of events. The factory was constructed over a staggered period in the 1930s by the construction company of the renowned architect and engineer Pier Luigi Nervi. Known for other major architectural feats such as the Small Sports Palace (Palazzetto dello Sport) in Rome, the Pirelli Tower in Milan, and several buildings in Florence, Nervi’s use of reinforced concrete and inventive construction techniques allowed him to create impressively thin concrete structures. It is fitting that a space now dedicated to innovative contemporary works traces back to one of the most inventive architects in Italian history.

For the current schedule, visit the website.