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posted Oct 1, 2012, 8:01 AM by Plural CentroStudiEuropeo

The city of Florence leads the Mediterranean network of historical city markets

Interview with Dario Nardella, Vice Mayor of Florence

By Giacomo Guerrini

 Giovanni is an old man; thin and strong, brown eyes, more than fifty years passed selling seventeen different kinds of cheese, since he was twelve years old, when his father Marcello and his aunt Margherita bought a little space in the city market of S. Ambrogio, Florence, Italy. Other strange fellows, as the cross eyed Lapo- 51 years old- and Mario, ex sailorman, are running as every morning to prepare the stage for the market opening. Since many centuries the loud voices of sellers are sounding throughout the medieval streets of the city of Florence, cradle of renaissance arts and Tuscan flavors. Here the food is an element of identity, a little piece of history grouping people round a rich table where soups, steaks, dairy recipes and fish plates are served to people from everywhere.  In the 1960’s the Mayor Giorgio La Pira opened the sessions of Mediterranean Dialogues, with participants from twelve States of Europe, Asia and Africa organizing a large welcome dinner with hundreds of international recipes, as a symbol of bound of peace and solidarity based on food. Forty years later, in December 2011, the young front man Mayor Matteo Renzi hosted in Florence the World meeting of UGCL (United Cities of Local Governments) while the Municipality of Florence was promoting the Marakanda project, the Network of Mediterranean City Markets, under the framework of European Med Basin Program: the city is targeting its international position on the Mediterranean area, leading a consortium of ten partners from Lebanon, Egypt, Greece, Cyprus, Italy and Spain. The Italian journalist Giacomo Guerrini spoke for us with the Florence’s Vice Mayor Dario Nardella, responsible of city market planning, about Marakanda project and the perspectives of the city markets.

Mr. Nardella, this project is called Marakanda ( in Greek language  the word  refers to the ancient  Persian city of Samarkand, which had central position on the Silk Road between China and the West, destination of travelers and merchants, Ed.) and it’s supported by European Union to enhance Historical Mediterranean markets. What is the added value for the city of Florence in the leading of this proposal?

Florence is the lead partner of this European project, which is funded by ENPI (European Neighboring and Partnership Instrument) Med Basin Program for the 2012- 2015 period. We were awarded of this prestigious European grant of one million and a half o Euros, leading a consortium composed by several cities as Genoa, Barcelona, Xanthi, Limassol, Beirut and Cairo. I was in Barcelona in the beginning of June 2012 to create contracts of cooperation and relationships with their local authorities but also with business associations in order to promote innovative services for historical markets. Finding a common model to foster positive behaviors related to Mediterranean diet, as the acknowledgement of an international labeling for agro food products, but also improving the attractiveness of city markets and services are the main purposes of this initiative.

There is a boundary among these city markets. Of course we are talking about different Countries, but there is something, for example between the network of markets born around the Barcelona’s boqueira and the historical market system of Florence, composed by San Lorenzo, Porcellino (little Pig, curious name derived by the still existing medieval statue positioned in the square, Ed.) and S. Ambrogio marketplaces, which represents a common element to investigate and to exploit.

 You are mentioning an evident linkage between the Mercat de San Josef de la Boqueria and San Lorenzo, above all.  Of course there is a connection about the property traditions and identity of these markets; the same identities that have evolved and transformed during the time but in a certain way they are the mirror of the city where they grown up.  Therefore the typical and the quality of our products could be the core of a common agreement that we want to promote jointly with these other markets in order to join and improve an important work in International trades. I think about the integrated promotion of these markets in Mediterranean area could represent a major attraction for  American, Japanese and Asian  visitors to create a new model to attract   tourism of a certain level. Our common problem is without doubts the large and ruthless competition which is the cause of deterioration and problems to protect structures, because these market sometimes working in ancient structures. The objective of the Marakanda  project is also to put in common the critical points and to share solutions in order to learn  models born to other experiences with the aim to use these resources which the European Union give us.

What is the timetable of Marakanda initiative?

The project has already started. This year the project will be dedicated to build the axes of intervention and to make appropriate benchmarking of local and international partner areas. An exchange of good practices, mainly developed through study visits and staff exchanges will be realized to improve the reciprocal knowledge and upgrade our planning instruments, in particular about city planning. The duration of the project is three years; at the end of this period, for what concerns Florence, we firstly aim to obtain innovative services with a single web site for Florence’s markets.  Different services, as online shopping and tourist promotion, will be offered, free of charge thanks to European contribution. Secondly, we will also carry out some interventions of regeneration on focused areas of markets, making them more attractive but also respecting the bounds about cultural heritage due the historical nature of sites. Finally, we will improve some key services for the sellers, for example the waste management in the market places in order to allow a better system of storage and better welcome service for visitors.