Just past the archways of Piazza Liberta, there’s an area of Florence called the Parterre.
The first time I visited what now is my backyard, it was for paperwork. The little circle of buildings is tucked away behind rusted fences and under the shade of trees that droop over the pink walls. The pavement in the enclosed parking lot was potholed and cracking. The cement steps eroding away. The buildings encompass a small cement amphitheater – a few rows of seats lined the circumference. Weeds grew up through the cracks. All of the windows of the buildings were dingy with layers of what seemed like years of dust. As we stepped through one of the doors into the government office, I could barely believe there were people actually working inside of the place. It was like inside the Parterre time had stopped a few decades ago, but no one really realized it. The printer on the woman’s desk screeched across the paper with a sound I swear I hadn’t heard since the 90s. The only interesting thing about the place at that point was that Rami told me they flooded the amphitheater in the winter for a skating rink, but we never even made it there before they stopped the event years ago.
Since moving right across the street, the Parterre has become more of an interest to me. The entire area is built on top of a parking garage. The ventilation grates litter the back patch of grass – breathing out the car exhaust from below. The only perk with that is there’s a vending machine that’s open 24 hours in the stairwell and is great for emergency snack needs after hours. Other than that, the place is home to our fruit and veggie truck in the mornings. In the afternoons and evenings, it has been normally full of dusty office workers and the homeless. I learned through Facebook from local neighbors what the Parterre used to be. A long time ago it was just the area immediately outside the walls of Florence. Then as the walls fell, they turned it into a beautiful garden. Lenten festivals used to be held there spreading as far as the Mugnone stream and a church by our street. People posted pictures and I researched more. Huge fairs were held here. The photos make me want a time machine. Why do I get a parking garage and not a beautiful park?! Florence is supposed to preserve the pretty things!
Apparently, in the 1950’s, the Parterre was falling apart, and it wasn’t until the late 1980’s that the parking garage was built for (of course) a soccer game. The current buildings were apparently built for creative spaces for concerts etc, but it wasn’t until this year that I saw anything close to that. PS. Don’t quote me too much on my history on here. My research is fleeting and often mentally translated – sometimes poorly.
Today was a different day in the Parterre. This past winter they finally started a bit of restoration, and this weekend it was added to the hot-spots for summer, with an outdoor bar, pizza oven, and other food vendors. There was a DJ last night and there’s an upcoming Beatles Cover Band playing there and I am pumped. They even set up a skateboard ramp in the back. Today there were at least ten or so kids flying back and forth. We grabbed beers and a plate of fried calamari and let the breeze of the open area lessen the ridiculous heat we’re getting (95F today) All of a sudden, with a few coats of paint and some plywood, the place is looking much more alive and much less a ghost town, and I am so much happier to be right across the street.