The Palermo garden: from the Botanical Garden to the social garden of Danisinni

Simone Ridi

Stories by the “Creative Curious Travellers 2018” about the city of Palermo. A project by CCT-SeeCity. Thanks to: CLAC | @Igers.Palermo | MINIMUM | PUSH. | SeeCily Tourism Services – InfoPoint Palermo | USE-IT Palermo | ALAB | SAM! | Pasticceria Cappello | Caffè Letterario Teatro Garibaldi | Good Company Sicily | AddiopizzoAddiopizzo TravelVisit Palermo | Wonderful Italy.

Text: Stefania Rinaldi | Photos: Simone Ridi

PALERMO It was easy to identify the idea that last summer brought us to the Sicilian capital (and Italian Capital of Culture 2018). The reality is even clearer, which convinced us to ignore it as soon as we arrived in the city.

We started with the intention of observing the territory through the mirror of a contemporary story, stimulated by the extraordinary presence of the artists invited for the Manifesta 12 Biennale entitled ‘The planetary garden | cultivate coexistence’. In fact in 1997 the French botanist Gilles Clément tells the world using the term planetary garden, of which the highest task of the gardener is entrusted to the whole humanity. “The planet fits perfectly into the definitions of garden: we are in fact in a common closed space” where we are all unwillingly invited to coexistence and obligatory sharing of all that is necessary for our survival.

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The streets, the architecture, the gardens, the story of the cultural heritage and the personal stories of the citizens have conquered our senses from the first moment, pushing us to walk – everywhere on foot – in the streets alleys and winding lanes, more and more inside the neighbourhoods, without ever feeling any need to leave the city center. A continuous surprise, a strong desire to re-appropriation of space creates a spontaneous grounding that often responds to the urgency of the absence of private space and to the idea inherent in each of us to replace the care of the common good when it remains empty, residual, forgotten.

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An infinite imagined garden, a place of beauty and multiculture in its human flowering, in its traces of epochs that overlap and stratify, all visible in a single building, all legitimised to exist beyond the imposed rules.

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A geography of planes and new routes, a continuous movement that fixes its points in the walls pulled up to close a courtyard or delimit a view and that outlines the identity in the temporary altars that close the streets for the feast of Santa Rosalia, as well as in the internal transformation of the buildings for the scenic construction linked to the feast of the Madonna for the brotherhoods.

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The Botanical Garden

At the edge of the historic center, we find the Botanical Garden, founded in 1779 as a laboratory in which to cultivate, study, experiment, mix different plant species. Inside, Leone Contini presents the Foreign Farmers project, inspired by the often hybrid genealogy of Sicilian plants and plants. The artist builds a pergola in the space of the former colonial garden, once dedicated to the experiments of acclimatization of species coming from the colonies, which led to a natural process of mixing and adaptation over the years to the creation of hybrids that today have become peculiar and identifying with the inland cultivation of the territory. The cucuzza, the typical summer squash in Sicilian domestic cuisine, is cultivated in sharing with the Bengali, Sri Lankan, Filipino, Turkish and Chinese similars, recalling its origins, thus creating a fruitful cohabitation. I ask Leone a small gift, so I bring home the wonderful red seeds of the bitter gourd, next year we will have its fruits in our urban garden.

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The social garden of Danisinni

Just outside Porta Nuova, a few steps along via Colonna Rotta and an expanse of cultivated fields between palaces that are more or less decadent, instead open the gaze to an extraordinary reality, a single road that acts as an entrance and exit leads us to Danisinni, neighbourhood in the heart of Palermo, seven hectares, two thousand inhabitants, a place that borders the central tourist area of ​​the city but from which it does not benefit. We are in fact in a neighbourhood where the essential is lacking, without any commercial activity, forced inside the new cement fortifications that are the tower blocks of the first suburbs. We are welcomed by the members of the Confraternity of the Parish of Sant’Agnese and its Franciscan pastor. Fra Mauro warmly shakes our hand and accompanies us to the back of the small church. He tells us that in 2015 the land surrounding the neighbourhood was taken away from degradation to become an educational farm and a social garden returned to the community, a place of open socialisation. Here animals are bred in freedom, vegetables are cultivated, the university creates permaculture experiments, the Academy of Fine Arts and some street artists invade the neighbourhood with the signs of the contemporary. Among the projects recently realised and in progress: Rambla Papireto (urban and social art events) and Chapitô Circ’All (space dedicated to circus and performative arts) and DanisinniLab (cultural and artistic incubator and laboratory for social inclusion and neighbourhood recovery). To us, it remains the memory of the sweet taste of the tomato picked from the plant and the gaze fixed on the beauty created by the re-appropriation of the place, indicating a possible rebirth thanks to the strong will of the community.

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THANK YOU from the heart to Wonderful Italy & Visit Palermo (in particular to Maurizio Giambalvo) for having organised the “Danisinni tour, the social rebirth” experience and thus making us discover and know a really wonderful place and really wonderful people! The Palermo we love and admire. #SeeCity & Love, CCTeam & #CCTravellers2018

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