Utopia Italy in Tuscany

First edition of inter-city “festival for courageous dreamers”

Editorial Staff
February 28, 2018 - 15:43

Article updated March 24, 2018

A new inter-city festival celebrating the power of ideas and past visionaries in building the future will take place across Pisa, Lucca, Florence and Livorno from March 29 to April 10, with many key events concentrated between April 4 to 8.


“Utopia Italy” is the brainchild of American transplant Shimon Shemtov, director of Pisa-based school New York English Academy, and is sponsored in part by the Tuscan Region and the City of Pisa, with additional support from the City of Florence and other partners. With the aim of exploring diverse models in building a better world, each edition of the festival will focus on an idea or figure from a different culture or nation.


The first edition will focus on the example set by civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with the theme “Emulating MLK.” Chosen in part to mark the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination (in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968), the theme aims to encourage reflection on King’s ideals of peace, love and tolerance.


This edition’s tagline of “What is your dream? What will you do for it?” is a call to action inspired by King’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Nehemiah H. Brown

Founder of the Florence Gospel Choir

Christmas is the busiest time of year for choirs, and none more so than the Florence Gospel Choir, the first of its kind in Italy. It was co-founded more than 15

The approximately 30 events running throughout the festival will be divided into three main subsections: Reflection (lectures, workshops, readings of King’s writings), Celebration (film screenings, jazz and gospel concerts, performances, literary events) and Innovation (discussions, brainstorming sessions, and competitions, including one offering a round-trip ticket to New York City as its grand prize). Before the main program begins, jazz group Sun Ra Arkestra will give a preliminary launch concert at Pisa’s Teatro Verdi (9.15pm, March 29; tickets are available via Boxol and in BoxOffice Toscana locations).

First in the Florence lineup is an April 4 concert by Florence Gospel Choir, directed by Rev. Nehemiah H. Brown (8pm, April 4, at Chiesa Evangelica Battista, borgo Ognissanti 4). Titled "If we are to go forward," the concert will include songs from the choir and other musical guests paired with Eusebio De Cristofaro's recitation of some of Dr. King's most memorable words.

A substantial portion of the events have been organized with children and families in mind, with many concentrated in Pisa: Palazzo Blu will host "I Have a Dream!", a free-admission artistic workshop (April 4), along with a participatory dream-themed exhibition (April 4 to 30). School age children can take part in a discussion of the 1965 voting rights marches in Alabama as depicted in Ava DuVernay's 2014 film Selma, after a screening at Cinema Arsenale (10am, April 7).  In Florence, mixed media artist Justin Randolph Thompson will lead a free children's workshop at Le Murate based on "Mountaintops," Dr. King's final speech (4pm, April 7), in collaboration with Black History Month Florence and Mus.e Firenze. Book by calling 0552768224 or 0552768558.

Keeping the spirit of the festival in motion a month after the main events conclude, a "grand finale" is set to take place in Florence’s piazza della Signoria on May 6: “dreamers” large and small are invited to launch balloons into the air as a symbolic profession of their own visions and goals, as well as a collective commitment to a brighter and more colorful future.

At publication of this article, the full program in each participating city is still being defined; calendar updates are continually being posted on the Facebook event

Utopia Italy: an inter-city festival for courageous dreamers

March 29-April 10, 2018
Various venues in Pisa, Lucca, Florence and Livorno

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