Guardian spotlights integration efforts in Sesto Fiorentino

International media attention on Il Cenacolo initiatives

Editorial Staff
January 31, 2018 - 12:50

Florentine suburb Sesto Fiorentino is in the international spotlight after an article titled “How migrants won the friendship of wary Florentines” was published in the online and print editions of The Observer, the Sunday sister publication to British daily Guardian.


Written by Umbria-based journalist Angela Giuffrida, the January 21 article details an integration project sponsored by Il Cenacolo cooperative, a member of Co&So, and its impact on local social life and perception of migrants. The cooperative manages the “Il Gerlino” migrant center, housed in a converted former hotel in the city center and the subject of controversy and petitions when it was announced last June that 50 asylum seekers would be moving in.

Giuffrida’s article highlighted the current political capitalization on the migrant crisis ahead of Italy’s general elections in March, alluding to how it may have exacerbated anti-immigrant sentiment locally. In response, the cooperative put its residents—mainly hailing from Mali, Senegal, Bangladesh, and Pakistan—to work in piazza Vittorio Veneto, a square whose shifting face was the primary source of many complaints. Teaming up with retirees from southern Italy, the Il Gerlino residents worked to rid the square of copious amounts of cigarette butts. But the cleanup project has evolved into a weekly social meetup on the square, eventually getting business owners involved: Giuffrida cites bar owner Marco Piombanti’s efforts to assist the new arrivals with crafting their CVs and preparing for job interviews.

Il Cenacolo president Matteo Conti said of the article, “It demonstrates that the work Il Cenacolo is doing in the area, and particularly in Sesto Fiorentino, in collaboration with the local administration, is proceeding in the right direction, obtaining effective and important results worthy of international media attention {…} Thinking of how to welcome people in a way that isn’t connected to our territory is unimaginable. This, as we can see, generates fear and suspicion. The model that we’ve developed in Sesto Fiorentino is based precisely on this idea of building important connections with other social groups so that social cohesion is assured and our guests can continue their journey of integration and adaptation in a satisfying way.”

Mayor of Sesto Fiorentino Lorenzo Falchi added, “All of our gratitude goes to the Cooperativa Il Cenacolo for making this defeat of suspicion and cultural barriers possible, transforming a conflict into a fruitful opportunity for dialogue.”

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