|History of the "Cascine", the Park where today the Faculty of Agriculture, the offices of Scientific and Technological pole end the departments and laboratories are located. |
Le Cascine is a strip of land that along one side runs the river Arno and, on the other side, its tributary Mugnone.
It was the second Medicean generation that exploited this island at that time separated from the town by the so called Sardinia, an area where infected animal carcasses were thrown.
Alessandro de' Medici who was often nicknamed il mulo(the mule) or il moro (black man), became Duke of Florence in 1532. He decided to rennoved and use this stretch of land to raise and breed milking cows. It seemes that Alessandro created the first Pine tree boulevard, but it was is successor Cosimo "the Young", second Duke of Florence and first Grand-duke of Tuscany, who turned Le Cascineinto a shadowy park, planting Oak and Ilex groves, Mple and Elm trees.
By then Cosimo considered the land to be his own private property and so he handed it down to this successors the park's use and revenue. Towards the end of the Seventeenth Century, the final descendent of the Medici family, teh "sad" Gian Gastone once wrote from Bohenia:"Sonn it will begin to snow and mark the start this extremely cold hobby of sleighing. How I much prefer a carriage ride at Le Cascine in Springtime."
We can see that the park was already used in that epoch as a promenade for Florentines. Parties and firework displays also took place ther. Today interesting pictorial documents depicting such scenes can be seen in the museum Firenze com'era.
After the death of Gian Gastone and the extinction of the Medici dynasty, the new rulers of Florence, the Asburgo-Lorena donated Le Cascine to the State Department of Possessions and the park became open to the public. In 1787, Pietro Leopoldo of Lorena ordered the architect Giuseppe Manetti to replace the park's old farm with a new building, with arcades decorated by medallions of bull heads. That building became a well frequented villa for the grand-ducal court.
The park was gradually enriched with new boulevards and small neo-classical monuments: refreshment stands for the park's gardeners, shaped like miniature temples; iceboxes, shaped like pyramids; fountains with masks. The most famous fountain in the park is the Fonte di Narciso, so called because of the verses beneath it refering to the myth of the handsome Narcissus: "ETERNAL MONUMENT OF THIS PLACE
GREAT PITY DISPLAIED FOR NARCISSUS
WHO GAZING AT HIS REFLECTION IN THE WATER
DIED, CONSUMED BY PASSIONATE LOVE."
In the Nineteenth century, at this very same pyramidal fountain, Shelly wrote the famous Ode to the West Wind, as a memorial tablet at the base of the fountain reminds us:
AT THIS FOUNTAIN
NAMED NARCISSUS, THE POET SHELLY
IN AUTUMN 1819 WROTE
ODE TO THE WEST WIND
For the whole of the Nineteenth Century Le Cascine park witnessed processions of carriages for the sunset promenade.
The most famous happening was on the Ascension day when the town population filled the grasses of Le Cascine in celebretion of the "cricket", which was a pagan ritual invented to suppress crickets as they were regarded as a danger to crops.
History of the main building of Faculty
In the Piazzale delle Cascine, the place where today the Faculty of Agriculture, the offices of Scientific and Technological pole end the departments and laboratories are, there were several buildings that in the past were used to serve the State property.
No consideration for order or symmetry was paid to the original construction of these buildings. Pietro Leopoldo regarded them as "without harmony" in accordance with the rest of the park and soon urged to make some changes.
The Grand-duke decided to hire Giuseppe Manetti who started to lay the first foundations for a new project April, 1786. The Grand-duke was so pleased with the results that he decided to retain first floor of the new building as Court use and not for its originally planned rural use. The opening celebretions for the new Palace took place in July 1791 in recognition of the crowing of the new Grand-duke Ferdinando III.
In the days when Florence was the Capital of Italy, the Municipality thought that the Cascine Square should have a Caffè Restaurant. And so, in 1868, the catering company "Doney" was assigned responsible.
In 1906, during the last remaining years of the "Doney", some first floor rooms were given to a women's society who founded the first "Agricultural School for Women". The school remained there until the new building in via delle Cascine was ready.
For a short time the building became the new Istituto Coloniale Italiano (now Overseas Agronomic Institute).
In 1912, the Municipality gave permission to the Forestry Institute of Vallombrosa to transfer its offices to the main building and the two lateral barns. The Institute opened in 1914.
New buildings were then designed and constructed in a modest and sober style conforming to the existing architecture by Convenola Renai. The barns were transformed into study rooms and laboratories, thus taking away the elegance that they once had. In 1924 the Istituto Superiore Forestale Nazionale was transformed into the Regio Istituto Superiore Agrario e Forestale today known as of the University of Florence.