A new year and new projects – Florence

Florence CathedralA new year has begun and we are still in the midst of Covid19, slowly mulling our way through. On a positive note vaccinations have started, most of our medical staff have been vaccinated and a large number of residents in aged care as a priority. It will be a long process.

Florence has been relatively lucky although the English and Brazilian variants have also appeared recently and we now face additional restrictions as we downgrade into an ‘Orange’ region.  From Monday restaurants and museums will close, more limitations on shopping and restrictions on moving outside Council areas. Already the Piazzas seem unbelievably quiet.Florence Palazzo Vecchio

But this is not to be a post about Covid 19, as I am sure you are all dealing with it in various ways in your own countries and hopefully seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.

It has been a time for new project approvals which I thought may be of interest. In Florence approval has been given for the redevelopment of the St Orsola Convent – an enormous complex in a derelict state as long as I have been here! Centrally located behind the Food Market it has had a chequered existence since its foundation as a Convent in 1326, to Monastery, Tobacco Factory in the 1800’s, to Finance Police barracks in the 1980’s when the final destruction to the original architectural feature was done.St Orsola Complex

The Complex is to be developed by a French group Artea and to house a mix of activities and uses – ‘a higher education school, convention center and co-working space, museum / event space housing the grave of Mona Lisa, urban garden that can accommodate permaculture workshops, Artist workshops, café-library, Shops and craft workshops, guest house, fitness and well-being area, and toy library.’Project design Sant'Orsola

The curiosities of its past include the possible grave of the Mona Lisa – Lisa Gheradini considered to be Da Vinci’s model and buried in the convent in 1542. (See my earlier post of 2013)

The second curiosity being the production of the famous Florentine cigar – ‘i Toscani’ which happened by accident in St Orsola when a downpour in August 1815, drenched a large batch of Kentucky tobacco in the convent now a Tobacco Factory. The accident risked turning into a disaster but management decided to produce cigars with the wet tobacco to sell at cost to locals. What no one took into account was that the fermentation initiated by contact with water gave the cigars an unmistakable taste making them famous and  sought after. Production continued in St Orsola until around 1945 when the factory moved to the outskirts of Florence. And here again those buildings are now being used for artistic/cultural events.

The second project is the new bike path between Florence and Prato ( a major city to the North of Florence) The tweet below by the Florence mayor – Dario Nardella indicates “a path of 12km illuminated with recycled asphalt. We will have 600 tons of Co2 less per year. The only time in Italy that two cities of this size have been connected. The work will start within the year, and finish in 2022″Bike Path project Florence-Prato

The project is considered to be a super cycle path of high-capacity, a long-distance cycling infrastructure of European standard, and the first in Italy. The track is to be 4 meters wide equipped with Led lighting and sensors to increase light intensity when people pass and video cameras in strategic points. The project is to also redevelopment  the green areas crossed and shade the runway….. in line with the Green mobility and the EU Green New Deal.

Great to see both projects approved and ready to go, at a time when there has been little to look forward to. Now all we need is to get Covid19 under control and we can fill our Piazzas in Florence again!San Lorenzo church

 

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