Pandemic Prompts a ‘Florence of the Future’

A view of Florence from Villa Bardini, above the garden of the same name

The newspaper la Repubblica (Firenze) has initiated a conversation regarding the future of Florence, inviting readers to submit their own ideas about how to make the city more environmentally friendly, accessible, and safe during and after the coronavirus emergency. As Italy has transitioned from Phase 2 to Phase 3 of the emergency, the newspaper has shifted its focus to gathering perspectives from Florentines about which areas and buildings should be reopened now that the city has been out of lockdown for over a month.

While some neighborhoods return to a new normal, there are still shuttered cinemas and local shops, and less voices and laughter swirling through the once animated piazzas. In the more updated column, many refer to parts of the city which remain asleep––and some sections which may never awake. The editorial staff at La Repubblica are asking their readers to vote for which places should be reopened. This will include libraries, theaters, centers for the elder, volunteer associations, companies, shops, historic areas, construction sites, and cycle paths.  Ugo Arrighetti believes it is just as important to highlight Florence’s artistic heritage by opening artisan workshops in both the city center and peripheral areas.  Agreeing with Arrighetti, Repubblica Firenze reported the probable closing of the Ippogrifo etching workshop which has employed family artisans for decades.

Many proposals from the initial column revolve around how to make Florence a greener city, which remains a concern over a month later. Simone Ruth Thaler explains e-bikes have become more popular during Covid-19. She would like Florence to install stations around the multiplicity where people can store and charge their bike. Andrea Ziffer insists the eco-vans reactivate as currently Florentines are forced to throw certain waste (oil, mobile phones, and light bulbs) in the general garbage bins. She argues that if the separate collection was needed before Covid, it seems to be even more essential after the pandemic. For Barbara Ponticelli, the Arno is of most concern as the river bed, especially near Ponte Vespucci, must be cleaned up as significant build up of sand limits waterflow. Antonietta Fumarulo, on the other hand, feels restarting the renovation in Piazza Vittoria is more important as the area remains in disrepair with unusable sidewalks and garbage cans piling up in the square. 

Carlo Tognozzi Moreni and Simone Ruth Thaler suggest developing bike routes around the city e-bike charging stations, respectively. Neither will be possible with the reopening of all Florentine parks. A padlock remains on the entrance to the Montagnola gardens. Beatrice Giuliani, a grandmother, wonders why the gardens of Campo di Marte in viale Manfredo Fanti have reopened, but Montagnola has not. Similarly, Franca Lucia Fernandes asks for “Le scuderie” in the park of the Scuola d’Arte of Porta Romana to be reopened as it is the only green area in the neighborhood where children and dogs can gather. Claudio Gaggioli asks for the reopening of the garden in via Fontana.

Others discuss creating spaces for entertainment and art. Francesca De Grazia wonders if it would be possible to restrict the lungarno to just allow pedestrians on the weekends––similar to the Canal Saint-Martin in Paris––so they may enjoy the open air while social distancing. Antonella Pinto also suggests that certain streets could be closed off at night to allow for more outdoor seating at restaurants and bars, helping sit more people given the social distancing regulations.

In addition, Mattia Mela proposes that the city reopen arenas to host concerts, performances, political debates, and the like all while abiding by health regulations. Although sports have been postponed and gyms remain closed, Cristina Ciocirlan believes building small outdoor gyms, and not just in parks, will help people to return to a normal routine. With museums slowly beginning to reopen, Marco Turini wants to start “suspended art” where anyone can post their artwork on boards around the city.  

Perhaps most important, were suggestions discussing how to improve accessibility in Florence during and after Covid-19. Manuel Tocchini Morotti, from Lucca, is deaf and able to interact best with others through lip-reading. He asks that the city distribute transparent masks so that deaf people in Florence can benefit. Mariarita Casarosa proposes a sectioned off sidewalk, similar in function to a treadmill, in order to ensure elderly people can walk safely in the lungarno area (the streets along the Arno River). Andrea Calamini insists the weeds in the Soffiano area are removed, as the place had become an urban wilderness during lockdown. 

These are just a select few of many suggestions. If you have an idea for how to modernize the city of Florence or an opinion on what should be prioritized to reopen, please write your comment on the Magenta Florence Facebook page send an email to with “Back to the Future” (Ritorno al Futuro) as the subject line. Magenta would like to extend this conversation on our platform as well and ask our readers for their ideas on what aspects of Florence should be prioritized as the city continues in Phase 3 of post-lockdown.    (elizabeth berry)