The Bartlett-Nidiaci is an area consisting of buildings and an enclosed garden, in the San Frediano district in Florence’s Oltrarno, right behind the Carmine church where the Renaissance began.
The Oltrarno, though under heavy assault by real estate speculation and the tourism industry, is still the last part of the old town of Florence which has not yet been turned into a Disneyland of the Renaissance, and is inhabited by a spirited and lively community of people.
The area currently called Bartlett-Nidiaci is the heart of this community. It was established in the nineteenth century by the renowned sculptor Emilio Santarelli, and in 1915 the town government rented it to make a public kindergarten.
In 1920, Edward Otis Bartlett, commissioner of the American Red Cross mission in Italy, used ARC funds to buy the whole area and turn it into a community center for the chilren of the impoverished San Frediano district.
Implementation was placed in the hands of artist and furniture designer Carlo Matteo Girard and of the lawyer Umberto Nidiaci.
In 1923 the area was entirely opened to the children of San Frediano, but in ways which we are still trying to determine, Umberto Nidiaci’s heirs seem to have gradually taken over ownership of all the buildings, while most of the garden became undisputed public property.
In 2012, a real estate company which had bought the private part began building luxury apartments, the children – for the first time in 90 years – were no longer allowed in.
After continuous protests, local families established an association (Associazione Amici del Nidiaci in Oltrarno Onlus) which in 2013 signed an agreement with the town government: on a totally voluntary basis, the association currently keeps the garden open in the afternoons.
The association became a key actor in the community life of San Frediano, bringing people of very different backgrounds together, making the incredibly rich history of the district known to its inhabitants and working together with others to defend the community in hard times.
The garden has no roof over it and we are all unpaid volunteers, so we generally open only when weather and light allows us (from March to November), and may sometimes be closed during the summer holidays.
We also keep another small but roofed space open on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays – the Stanzina dei Bambini at the corner between Piazza Tasso and Via del Leone.
If you want to come and visit us, you can make sure first by sending an e-mail or by calling us:
tel. (+39) 349 157 52 38