Florentines have always been thought of as chiuso: closed off, resistant
to change. As the centuries passed, from inside their beautiful city
Florentines would watch with skepticism as the world outside their medieval
walls changed. They observed and discriminated, accepting some changes that
would improve their lives and rejecting others as fads. As an American expat
living in Florence for many years, I have come to respect the Florentines’
right to selective change and to realize that not all change is for the best.
However, have the Florentines become so overworked, underpaid and burdened by
the encroaching economic crisis that they have lost their objectivity to
discriminate, to accept change for the better?
Increasing numbers of Florentines have sold their historic apartments to
foreigners and moved outside the city, where they have found more affordable
mortgages. Theirs is now becoming a car culture: driving to supermarkets,
health clubs and shopping malls, using their paychecks to support chain stores.
Are the family-owned cafes, restaurants, corner bars and specialty shops, as a
result, going out of business? Will international corporations take over and
will we lose the very things we love about Florence?
In piazza Duomo, we now have a Ben & Jerry’s; in Piazza Repubblica a
Hard Rock Café. Perhaps there is room for everything, but why then is it so
hard to fill Florence’s piazzas with their traditional creativity? Life beyond
Tourism, an organization based on sustainable tourism values and not consumer
services, states that tourism should provide tourists the opportunity to get to
know the spirit of a place, its cultural diversity, and historical legacy. Is
the heart and soul of Florence being lost as Florence marches on into a dubious
future? I pose the question to all Florentines, for this is our city and our future.
Take time to ponder the consequences of each action.
At the recent TEDx event held in the Salone dei Cinquecento in Palazzo
Vecchio, motivating speakers addressed the theme of innovation and optimism.
They asserted that the primary ingredient in defining the future is to see the
new in technology, science, art, culture and the like. All of the speakers said
that the future must be met with optimism and creative solutions to our
problems, especially the economic ones.
In that spirit, I offer two suggestions to spark the flame of creative
innovation in us all; may it help bring the heart and soul of Florence into the
1. Keep the piazzas at the heart
of the city. People flock to Italy for its beautiful open-air art, for the
buildings, statues and fountains as well as for the people inhabiting the
piazzas. Like a movie set, each piazza has a life of its own, with people
eating and drinking, and street performers from all over the world; some have
open-air markets of food and artistic wares, in others, music fills the air.
These are just a few things that keep our city alive.
2 Encourage culture and creativity today. We
need more international creative activities here in Florence, for example funds
for filming on location and financial support for local filmmakers and actors
who can participate in re-enactments of historical events. Other cities around
the world make such investments to preserve local heritage and teach,
especially the young, about shared history. Florence should do the same.
I believe in Florence. I believe in its people and I think we can all
move into a beautiful, creative and prosperous future once we answer a very
important question: how? Let TF know what you think; write to firstname.lastname@example.org.