In Florence this week, mostly on vacation, but also to see if an early stadium by Nervi & Nebbiosi (his contracting partner before Bartoli) still existed. I have a very, very patient travel partner.
It’s there, and still in use. Giglio Rosso is a long-time athletic club in Florence (named for the Red lily that’s the city’s symbol) that was run during the 1920s by Luigi Ridolfi, a local aristocrat, war hero, and Mussolini supporter. In 1926 he hired the then-young firm to design and construct a small athletics field and grandstand across the Arno from the city center for the club and its small football team.
It’s nothing groundbreaking–a few terraces built into the side of a small hill and gently curved to help with sight lines. It attracted little attention, but Ridolfi was clearly impressed; while this stadium was under construction he struck a deal to combine Giglio Rosso with another local football team to form Fiorentina, a team that was soon competitive in Italy’s top division. The newly combined team drew huge crowds, leading Ridolfi to propose a massive new stadium for Florence that was eventually designed and built for the Campo Marzio in the city’s northeast. Nervi and Nebbiosi were hired for the first phase, after which Nervi changed partners. The second phase was built by Nervi and Bartoli, and the international attention drawn by its helical staircases put the newly reorganized firm squarely at the forefront of concrete construction in Italy and throughout the world.
There’s a slightly uncomfortable undercurrent in all of this. The money for both stadiums came in part from Mussolini’s CONI, a national Olympic committee that was charged with using sports to advance the fascist cause of making Italy a more virile culture. The new stadium was named for Giovanni Berta, a fascist supporter who had allegedly been murdered by a communist mob in 1921. Complicated beginnings.
The original stadium is still the home of Giglio Rosso, which is now a fully amateur athletics club. It’s a good walk from the center, but along the way you hit Piazza Michelangelo and San Mineato al Monte. If you’ve had enough of 1920s concrete you do get this as a reward…