Nidiaci Community Garden

Short Summary

Nidiaci Community Garden is much more than just a garden: it is a neighborhood gathering spot, playground, parents' support group, soccer camp, place for music lessons and green oasis in the busy city center of Florence, Italy. In a city where every square meter is potentially valuable on the real estate market, the Nidiaci Garden impressively demonstrates that city spaces can be successfully used and managed by the community.

Website address:

Location: Florence, Italy

Nidiaci behind Carmine church in Florence. source


In 1920, the American Red Cross gave funds "to an Entity" which "should deal with popular instruction and education, with special attention to children." The sum was invested in the purchase of this garden and buildings around it. These origins were largely forgotten until the founding legal documents were rediscovered by neighborhood residents.

Even though the urban plot that comprises the garden area was formally public property, it was neglected by city authorities for years. Part of land fell into the hands of real estate speculators, who tried to turn adjacent buildings into flats and the garden into a parking lot. This development led to many demonstrations and petitions by neighborhood residents.

In 2011, Matteo Renzi, then Mayor of Florence, stated that saving the area was for him an "absolute and irrevocable priority." But one year later, the roofed area was closed down and the children were driven out. The families of the neighborhood of San Frediano got together and finally obtained the keys to the part of the garden still in public hands.

It is a major achievement in an area of Florence that attracts millions of tourists each year to restaurants and nightlife, and that is pressured by intense gentrification. The area is clogged with traffic-infested roads and encircled by a wasteland of motorways, factories, an airport and an incinerator.

In a short 2016 history of the Nidiaci as a commons in an urban context, resident Miguel Martinez wrote:

"By keeping social ties and community solidarity alive in one of Europe's most symbolic historic districts, we are an element of resistance to this design of things."
One of the residents involved in the garden's stewardship how it reflects the neighborhood itself, giving it a special character:
"[F]amilies taking their children to a garden are naturally a representative cross-section of the population: this means we provide a strong element of social integration in an area where 40% of the children come from families born abroad, while at the same time we keep strong ties with the 'traditional' community of craftspeople, small shopkeepers and the uniquely Florentine 'calcio storico.'”

A typical Garden activity. source


Nidiaci Community Garden is not managed by city agencies, but by the parents of the neighborhood. Neighborhood residents set up a registered association to make a legal body entitled to sign a four year "convention" with the municipality in order to manage the area, a convention that was renewed in 2017.

Most decisions are made consensually through a neighborhood committee, which in turn interacts with the city government as needed. Any community member can be part of these deliberations.

The Nidiaci Garden has physical walls and a gate, and the legal right to turn out trouble makers, something not all gardens/parks have. The basic distinction is "people we know/have relationships with" vs. "unknown people." The distinction is not based on ethnic or religious background.

The Convention signed with the City of Florence states that the garden is open to ALL children and those accompanying them, and to those carrying out activities at the garden. This minimizes the possibility of discrimination, while at the same time allowing the community to expel "troublemakers."

Peer governance in Nidiaci Community Garden involves total independence from both majority and opposition politicians, whom are treated in the same polite manner:

“The authorities know they have nothing to fear from us, but at the same time everything to lose if they go against us, because of the very broad support we enjoy.”
One resident says:
"We have decided to do everything legally and generally avoid confrontation with the authorities, while occasionally showing we can mobilize and protest."


While much of the area is used as a playground, an important feature of the "garden" is that neighborhood residents themselves can decide how the space should be used. Some of those activities include:
  • Hosting the only self-managed football school in town
  • English lessons
  • Violin lessons
  • Open exchanges of children's clothes for free by parents, to avoid waste
  • Managing a small community garden
  • Monitoring pollution and traffic using equipment provided by the National Research Council
  • Singing lessons from an opera singer
  • Space to organize birthday parties for children, in an area where parents typically have to pay considerable sums to rent space for parties


Activities are free or, when costs must be paid, co-financed by voluntary contributions.

See Also

  • Other commons categories that are related to this one's, or specific similar examples