Recently, when I was in the Salone dei Cinquecento in Palazzo Vecchio for TEDx Florence, I realized that it had been nearly 1,000 days since my last visit to this marvellous place. I also realized that the theme of the conference, Innovation and Optimism, perfectly reflected my own thoughts about the elements that make up Florence's ‘new' Renaissance, perhaps better defined-to cite Roberto Benigni at the European Parliament-as a ‘resurrection.' We just need to start acknowledging what is happening.
In July 2009, along with nearly 300 fellow Florentines eager to share ideas on the future of our city, I attended the first Barcamp held at Palazzo Vecchio. Our discussion of new trends, technologies and different ways to promote Florence's important cultural heritage resulted in a critical mass of people who started thinking that something could change, and that they could make a difference. Italy was experiencing the first waves of the financial crisis coming across the Atlantic, so our outlook on the future was not exactly rosy; despite this, people were eager to propose solutions at the local level. And despite the economic crisis worsening over the next two-and-a-half years, things did start to change for the better in Florence.
New communities beyond Italy's traditional ones (school, church, trade associations, scouts, etc) started to emerge. I am personally involved in one of these, the business networking association ToscanaIN, where I have met not only forward-thinking people, but also new ideas and great vitality. Girls Geek Dinners Toscana, modeled on a project born in California, is another such group; it is for young women interested in technology, and their meetings are fun and inspiring (I say this from personal experience, having managed to sneak in to one of them). These new communities complement the traditional ones, providing the sort of cross-pollination of ideas that fosters change.
New venues in the city have made it possible for the initial 300 people who gathered in Palazzo Vecchio in 2009 not only to continue meeting but also to grow their numbers. Le Murate, the location for the 2010 Barcamp, has been a regular stage for conferences, concerts and other arts performances during 2011.