The beauty beneath

Alyssa Cadue
May 29, 2008

Underneath the sottopassaggio in Piazza delle Cure is an art exhibit unlike any other in Florence. The admission is free, the hours of operation are up to the visitors, the curator is self-appointed and, best of all, there are no lines. Ten years ago, local residents would suggest that you take the long way around the passage. This space was occupied by the homeless and the general environment was not exactly welcoming. That was before Salvatore moved in.


Salvatore, the guardian of sottopassaggio delle Cure, has taken charge and restored the safety and beauty into the tunnels. He works on his own schedule, but generally you can find him at his post in the main hallway of the sottopassagio. The accommodations are simple: a little chair and table where he sits and talks to visitors.


However, the impressive part of the renovation is written on the walls-literally. From top to bottom, left to right, local graffiti artists create murals on a daily basis. The sottopassagio is one of the few locations in Florence that permits graffiti, but artists need permission from Salvatore before they begin to spray-paint. Then he designates their space and maintains order while the artists go to work. Upon the layers and layers of paint are the remnants of different expressions, in words and pictures. Some of the images are cartoon-like while others are abstract.


As the lone member of the sottopassaggio arts council, Salvatore allows more than the visual arts to have a presence in the walkway. Local musicians must speak with him prior to playing, and if chosen, receive the same respect as do the graffiti artists. 


Depending on the time of day, you might catch a glimpse of an artist at work. To watch these individuals wield a spray can is worth the trip to Piazza delle Cure. Marco Fallani, professor of fine arts at Syracuse University in Florence, takes his classes to the sottopassaggio during the semester. ‘I like how something that's subversive in other cities can make its way into Florence', said Fallani. Many of his students want to see where large collections of graffiti exist, particularly those who are interested in creating their own.


In a place where Renaissance art dominates above ground, it is important to remember the other masterpieces that occupy Florence. They may be off the beaten path, but their presence adds to the cultural diversity of the city and should be equally celebrated.



Take the Ataf no.3 bus from Santa Maria Novella Station to Piazza delle Cure.



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