Fanning out from the piazza Sant’Ambrogio are five streets, all of them were originally of a similar type – artisan row housing – although nineteenth-century rennovations have given the area quite a different feel. Tax census records for the area, as well as rent books for the principal neighbourhood landlord– the convent of Sant’Ambrogio – confirm that housing was all of a similar type without any major variations in value.

This seems to match quite well with the view we get from Bonsignori’s map, which shows via dei Pilastri in spectacular detail. What we can see here is recogniseable as terrace housing, with a standardised form showing two doors to each housing unit, two upper floors and narrow garden allotments behind each house. Such an arrangement – sometimes know as casolaria – were common outside the centre, and were favoured by developers such as religious insitutions. The serried row arrangment had the benefit of eliminating chiassi, the narrow alleyways between properties that all too often became filthy deposits of raw sewage. Nevertheless, as public health reports show, pits below cellars or in the garden were not a particular improvement.

The Bonsignori map seems to show a predominance of doors, and not many shops other than a few essentials – tavern, bakery, grocery – at the street corners.  The “ecology of the street” that Giovanni describes is based on documentary evidence, which shows the presence of some trades active on street level, as well as artisan houses, and convents at either end of the street at Sant’Ambrogio and Santa Maria Maddalena.

Fabrizio Nevola


To cite this essay, we suggest:
Fabrizio Nevola, ‘Street ecology’ published online 2013, in ‘Hidden Florence’, The University of Exeter,

Further reading:

Maria L. Bianchi and Maria L. Grossi, ‘Botteghe, economia e spazio urbano’, in Arti fiorentine. La grande storia dell’artigianato, vol. II, a cura di Franco Franceschi e Gloria Fossi (Florence: Giunti, 1999), 26-63

Charles Burroughs, ‘Spaces of Arbitration and the Organisation of Space in Late Medieval Italian Cities’ in Medieval Practices of Space, eds. B. Hanawalt and M. Kobialka (Minneapolis: University of Minesota, 2000), 64-100