From Via del Cocomero (watermelon) to the Horto (vegetable garden) dei Semplici

The first street on the left from Piazza del Duomo (today via Ricasoli) was called “Via del Cocomero” until 1847.

The strange name, which for the Florentines indicates what throughout Italy is called “Watermelon”, is due to the large crops of watermelon and pumpkins that were from the cathedral to the field where there is now Piazza San Marco, from there began the “Horto de ‘Semplici”.

On sultry summer evenings the watermelons were left to cool in large wooden vats filled with cold water and then cut into large slices and sold to the citizens. Thus it was natural to call that street “via del Cocomero” and the theater that arose there was also called with the same name: the Teatro del Cocomero (today Teatro Niccolini).

At the end of the long Via del Cocomero, we arrived at the convent of the Dominican nuns who ceded their land to the Medici, located in the “Cafaggio” area, and there – in 1545 – the Horto Botanico of Florence was born, the first in Europe to the cultivation and harvesting of “simple” vegetables for therapeutic purposes.

Cultivations of all kinds, therefore, from watermelon to aromatic and medicinal herbs, from greens to vegetables, were made on the outskirts of the city and sold directly in the city markets. Today we would say “zero kilometer” and perfect for a healthy summer diet.