Tag Archives: Gardens

Free Violin Lessons for Children


On Tuesday, October 14, at 5 in the afternoon, Colorado-born violist Wendy Yates will start holding free violin lessons for kids in the Oltrarno.

If the weather is ok, the lessons will be held at the Bartlett-Nidiaci garden in Via d’Ardiglione, nestling behind the Carmine church; in case of rain, at the Ludoteca in Via Maffia 25 (ring the bell to have the gate opened).

The lessons will be held every Tuesday.

These lessons are some of the many initiatives the parents of the Oltrarno district are organizing around the garden, donated in 1920 together with its neighboring buildings to the people of the district by Edward Otis Bartlett, commissioner of the American Red Cross.

The garden is kept open for children on a volunteer base by our Association – membership cards for 2015 are already available and cost 10 Euros!

We are also looking for volunteer English teachers for the children, Kirsten who did a great job this spring has some difficulty coming now.

It’s a good way of getting into the real life of this city!

Miguel Martinez

Associazione Amici del Nidiaci in Oltrarno Onlus
tel. 349.1575238

Related articles: Giardino Nidiaci Oltrarno Area

Kimberly Vanzi

March 24, 2014

Giardino Nidiaci Oltrarno Area   by Miguel Martinez

We are parents living in the Oltrarno, of very mixed origins, who work together to keep  the only garden for children in the district open.  A garden facing the normally unseen side of the Carmine church, and which, we have recently discovered, was given to the children of our district by the American Red Cross nearly a century ago. Which means we have a very special relationship with families from the USA.

5-nidiaci-arcobalenoUnless it rains or is too cold, we open after school hours (5 p.m.) Monday through Friday, in Via D’Ardiglione, a tiny bending street in San Frediano: in case of doubt, you can call 349-1575238 first.

Oltrarno is the last surviving neighborhood of the center of Florence still populated by mixed social classes and not yet completely overwhelmed by pubcrawling, banks and fashion shops; and San Frediano is the name of the district or  region clustering around the church of Santa Maria del Carmine, where in a sense the Renaissance began.

It’s easy to forget that Florence is people, not just monuments and shop windows, until you have children.  Yet, it was the people living in San Frediano, who largely built the better-known parts of the city.

The only place in the area where children can play on the sidewalks which are so narrow that just one cat at a time can fit – the second has to sit in the street.

However, right behind the apse of Santa Maria del Carmine, there lies an enclosed area. Invisible from the outside, is a large garden, overlooked by buildings dating back to the nineteenth century.


This is what local residents call “Il Nidiaci”.  It’s where all the children of the area, generation after generation, used to play and grew up.  The eighty-year old hat maker who sells her wares in the market at Santo Spirito told us she went to kindergarten and later met her fiancé there.

Everybody thought that this precious oasis in a desert of stone had been opened to the children by a generous lawyer, named Umberto Nidiaci, in 1923. However, there was always something elusive and garbled about the matter. Though our kids played in the whole area, only part of the garden was actually public property.  The buildings and about one-third of the garden was private.

Just last spring, we made an exciting discovery in the Florence Notarial Archive and under a wonderful and completely forgotten fourteenth century fresco.  A bored employee handed us an old bound folder, where we found a document showing that the Nidiaci was really a gift from the American Red Cross to the people of San Frediano.

We discovered that the American Red Cross involvement in Italy in WWI had been enormous. Though today it is only remembered thanks to Ernest Hemingway and John Dos Passos. Throughout the country, the ARC had set up initiatives to help refugees, widows, orphans and the families of Italian children. It was in this context that the New England patrician, Edward Otis Bartlett Jr of Providence, Rhode Island, commissioner of the American Red Cross, decided to make a major gift to the children of the city where the ARC had its Italian base.

In 1920, Colonel Bartlett appointed businessman Carlo-Matteo Girard and lawyer Umberto Nidiaci to sell goods belonging to the American Red Cross. They devolved the income “to an Entity which, in the district of San Frediano of this city, should deal with popular instruction and education, with special attention to children”. The sum was invested in the purchase of the garden which would later be called “Il Nidiaci” and all the buildings around it. Umberto Nidiaci was simply the lawyer appointed to carry out the task, on an equal footing with Girard whose name later silently disappeared from the record.3-opening-nidiaci-feast

Going through dusty archives, we discovered how the property had been let slip into the hands of the Nidiaci family (a similar fate was apparently shared by many other ARC initiatives around the country), and in 2008, the last Nidiaci sold the property to a building company with the unlikely name of Amore e Psiche Holding, which we soon discovered wanted to turn the buildings into luxury apartments, and the garden into a parking lot.

In 2011, 1.400 people of our small district signed a petition asking the town government to save the Nidiaci. Mayor Matteo Renzi promptly responded, announcing that saving the Nidiaci was an “absolute and irrevocable priority” for the town government.

One year later, the ludoteca in the area was closed down and the new owners started work in earnest, refurbishing the buildings and using their part of the garden as a construction site. The only sign of interest on  the part of the local government was when they granted permission to the company’s trucks to drive through the garden.

4-halloweenSome families have been living in San Frediano for centuries, others have come recently from places as various as the UK, Naples, Moldavia, Nigeria and Japan.  They were parents seeing each other every day in front of school and their differences became irrelevant.  These parents decided to take matters firmly in hand. They set up an association which pressured the town government into giving them the keys of the public part of the garden, with a four-year commitment on their part to keep the garden open for children,volunteering their time.

The outdoor play equipment had been mostly ripped up and carted off, the day before we opened the garden water was cut off too, and we had no roof over our heads. On Halloween, we had a wonderful party, because the place is safe and walled off, but there was no electricity, so the girls dressed up as black witches were able to play hide and seek for the first time in their lives in real darkness.6-wendy-yates-violin

Everybody did their part to keep the garden running.  There were carpenters and architects, restaurant owners, cleaning women, bricklayers and harpists. But one person that gave a very important contribution, was an American, Wendy Yates, a professional violist, born in Colorado, mother of two girls. She was married to an Italian, but she had always felt out of place.  That was until she started teaching violin for free to the kids of San Frediano at the Nidiaci. Then she suddenly ceased being the expat mom, and became a key figure for all the area.

7-irene-manconi-dragoTo pressure the town administration into finally doing something, in January we organized a march through San Frediano.  A seamstress born in Sardinia made a beautiful banner with the Green Dragon, the medieval symbol of San Frediano.  Duccio, a lively eighty-year old bronze craftsman who as a boy had saved the tools of his shop in Via de’ Serragli from the Nazis, made the metal work on the flagstaff.

San Frediano is Bianco means that all the historic residents here support the “Bianchi di Santo Spirito” in the Florentine “Calcio Storico”. The Bianchi for the first time in history decided to take part in a public demonstration for their district. The families of San Frediano marched through the streets, led by two very active seven-year olds.  They are Samuele whose family comes from Sardinia, and Abduh, whose family comes from Senegal. Abduh’s mother won the competition we made at the garden for the best cake, and we are still arguing about it.  She actually cooked a kind of salty fried rolls that made everybody forget the sweet stuff.


By the way, would anybody be interested in helping out with unpaid English lessons for the kids at the Nidiaci?



email: giardinonidiaci@gmail.com

tel.: 349-1575238 (we answer in English, too)

Can you guess what park this is in Firenze?


This park is great with a nature trail and a few other trails for your little one.


Plus a huge grassy area for running around and getting out some of their energy.

There are wonderful children wooden carved playing sets 


park 2

The name is Il Boschetto with many entrances to get into the park. The park entrance changes with the seasons, but opens all the time at 8 am and right now in winter months closes at 5pm  Other times during the different seasons look here: hours

You can get in at Via di Soffiano


Via Pisana Polimoda entrance

Via Monte Oliveto

(this is way at the top and is very steep hill so use another one if you have a stroller )


View of Florence from the top entrance at via Monte Oliveto

Related Articles on the Park:

Park Pettini, Our Local Streets and Mayor Renzi

The park that we so love and have used many times for our outdoor events has been being slowly brought down to it’s bare minimum.  As you can see here by these past posts:

Raccolta firme per l’Area Pettini Burresi

Mamme per Firenze

Our very own Events Administrator, Jill Romanelli has been trying hard to save the parks in our city. She even wrote to the Major in the Florentine:

Matteo Renzi answers a reader’s query about improving Florence’s parks

We need to get on board and fight for our children’s playground not the touristic parks like the rose garden, iris garden, Boboli etc Parks that children have play grounds with apparatuses so they can learn and develop their skills.  When he mentions 

park or garden no more than 10 minutes away 

I hope he is not counting the dog parks, most of them are not fit for children running around or rolling in the grass. 

I am not happy with his response to her question or even other serious questions in the past.  I had mentioned  the light issues and street issues in a past letter as well:

Write the Mayor  dated June 7th 2012 

My main question was this and I wrote on behalf of the Network:

Consider just one example where lights are needed: Where via Giovanni Della Casa merges onto via Pisana and then onto via Aleardi, there is one light on the connection of viale Ludovico Ariosto. Cars and motorcycles race down those streets to the light on that corner, yet many children have to cross via Pisana and Aleardi in those areas (in front of the Esselunga, to piazza Pier Vettori, Monte Oliveto) to go to and from the schools at Gramsci, Petrarca and other schools. Moreover, the pedestrian call button at that light has been nonfunctioning for almost a year. There is no light on via Felice Cavallotti, where just crossing from one side to the other is a big problem during rush-hour traffic. Parents complain that the area is very dangerous for their children. I myself have almost been hit by cars passing the lone motorist who obeys the rules and has yielded to the pedestrian in the cross walk. What can be done about these dangerous areas, especially for our children going and coming from school?

Since his response of great concern, nothing has changed in the area I mentioned where a few schools are located and many children go to these schools.  The cars still have access to zoom down the street to come to a stop suddenly if the light so happens to change by the 20 minute timer it has on it.  The button still does not work.  

Here is project David that received 25 million for the streets.  Anyone else see any wonderful changes because of this project?

Progetto David, dalle multe 25 milioni per la sicurezza stradale

Truthfully I feel that our concerns for safety of the children and the welfare of families is completely ignored but there is a money hungry desire to bring tourist into the city. 

What are your concerns and how do you feel?