Thoughts on Florence’s latest ‘Situation’

Aimee Bateas
May 5, 2011

Spray tans, fist-pumping and blowouts are not typically associated with Florence or its inhabitants. And if you thought the MTV TRL Awards in Santa Croce was contradiction enough, brace yourselves. As you may already know, throughout May and June, the American reality show Jersey Shore will converge on Florence to shoot its fourth season. The infamous cast mates (seemingly named after comic-book mafiosos), Nicole ‘Snooki' Polizzi, Jenni ‘Jwoww,' DJ Pauly D, Mike ‘The Situation,' Vinny, Deena, Ronnie and Sammi ‘Sweetheart' are due to arrive May 9 to shoot here for 45 days.


The MTV reality show, which follows these thirsty youngsters who live together, punch each other (but sometimes love each other) and party, has been widely criticized in America for negatively stereotyping Italian-Americans and glorifying those reckless activities that only the daring young can get away with, namely excessive drinking, partying, and simply behaving stupidly. Not surprisingly, Florence is panicking about their imminent arrival. In a town that has been fighting against foreign students' propensity towards ‘getting wasted and partying' (see ‘Florence: All fun and drinks?' in TF 123), it is no secret that Florence is weary of the very behavior that Jersey Shore glorifies and wary of the public ruckus that these 'Guidos' and 'Guidettes' will likely make. So, the arrival of this pop culture phenomenon is ironic.


While Florence mayor Matteo Renzi gave permission for the crew to film here he did give the crew a set of grounds rules. Along with not shooting scenes in any historic buildings in Florence, he handed down the following ‘commandments':


- Florence shall not be portrayed as a drinking town.- The show cannot tape in local nightclubs, bars or any place that promotes the consumption of alcohol.- The cast cannot be filmed drinking in public.- The show should be filmed in a manner that promotes Italy (not Americans visiting Italy) and feature its culture and traditional food.- The cast must interact with authentic Italians in authentic cultural settings.


When TF asked MTV for a comment about the mayor's rules, we received the following: ‘We're excited to confirm that season four of Jersey Shore will film in Florence and thank the city for the opportunity to shoot in one of the most beautiful locations in the world.'


The official blog, however, gives another response to Renzi's rules: ‘So basically, the cast will chill 24/7 in their appartamento, making brief scavenger hunts on the outside to purchase booze and lure home some non-grenadal booty. Or they'll just break all the rules. The latter seems pretty likely, and having spent some time in Florence during the college years, we've prepared an addendum to the mayor's list in hopes the cast will take heed. There are lots of manly men in Italy, and it will be an unfortunate situation if "The Situation" and his fam say/do/wear the wrong thing (which is, again, pretty likely).' (‘Grenades' are ugly girls; go to to read the rules they've set for themselves while filming in Italy.)


So, will MTV obey Renzi's rules? I suspect that Snooki and friends will be hosting a lot of house parties, in what will presumably be their giant Florentine villa. As a fellow young Italian-American, I do not approve of the stereotype that Jersey Shore promotes. However, at the same time, I think the mayor's rules are slightly ridiculous. I have a feeling that MTV is going to be very creative in interpreting the rules, which may actually make ‘the situation' (no pun intended) worse.


Nearly every American university, local and foreign student had something to say on the matter. Here's the word on the street.


Debora Spini, Academic Internship Program Coordinator, Syracuse University in Florence: The reality show Jersey Shore coming to Florence would be just the opposite, a non-reality show. It would reinforce the already existing stereotypes about young American students drinking and partying in foreign cities, such as Florence. It is important to understand that the excessive drinking is not the reality of American universities in town. These students are the people who are drawing and creating art, volunteering in Italian schools and cleaning the city of Florence. It would be frustrating if all of these fantastic experiences would be lost by the presence of Jersey Shore. It is true that some American students cannot handle Florentine nightlife, but this is a minority. It is important that Florence also defends its image as a city of art and culture.


A Pistoia native: Locals think that the show will destroy the good name of Florence, changing Florence from an art city to a drinking city. Personally, I do not agree with them. I know it seems strange, but I am in favor of their arrival. What they will be doing, maybe without thinking of it, is providing publicity to the city of Florence. Publicity is always good. The cast will also bring a lot of money to the city. Teenagers and young people in Florence will be going out a lot more to see them and so they will be going to pubs and clubs and will be willing to pay. I also think that clubs may charge more if Jersey Shore cast mates are present because they are kind of ‘celebrities.' People will also come from other cities to see them.


Sam Wechsler, a graduate student in Florence, originally from Rochester, New York: Having witnessed first hand the behavior of these American college students, I can say it is not that much different from that of the Jersey Shore's cast. One merely needs to walk through Santa Croce after 11pm to bear witness to these events. At a time in America when roughly 20 percent of citizens are attending college, of which less than one percent are studying abroad, and of that less than once percent, 60 percent are women, I feel it is time that others, including the cast of Jersey Shore, perhaps be allowed to take in the culture of Florence for an experience that may change their lives. I'm reminded of a quote by Henry Miller, in which he reflected, ‘One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.'



Aimee Bateas, is originally from West Hartford, CT and graduated from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA in May 2010. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations. She is currently pursuing her master's degree in European Union Policy Studies in Florence through James Madison University.


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