Piazza de' Nerli is one of the most characteristic and beloved places in Florence’s Oltrarno district. It was designed in 1875 to house San Frediano’s indoor market, until 1915 when it was taken down. In 1881, it was given its current name, associated with the de’ Nerli gardens which once surrounded the area.
The de’ Nerli family was one of the great Florentine consular families and played a central role in the turmoil between the Guelfi and Ghibellini families, siding mainly with the former. The de’ Nerli's were also mentioned by Dante in his Divine Comedy, Paradise Canto XV: "and Nerli’s lord I saw, and the Del Vecchio’s / with unlined skins contented, and their dames / with spindle and with thread".
The construction of the market coincided with a slow but progressive transformation of the town's historical centre, when the wealthier families moved further out into the bourgeois outskirts, and the less wealthy moved into the Santa Croce and San Frediano areas, raising the majority of buildings and expanding into courtyards and other open spaces.
The renovation of the Palace in Piazza de’ Nerli, where the Oltrarno 1881 Apartments is now located, dates back to this period and you can still make it out from the shape and presence of internal courtyards, though these are partially covered and only accessible from the houses. The architectural elements of the Palace mirror the residential buildings of that period, both as regards the main façade overlooking the square, and the internal structure. The facade, for example, is marked by stringcourse and sill brand made of stone to simulate classical style frames, while the ground floor is characterised by grand arches which mark the six entrances, a traditional feature of buildings in 19th century Florence.