The Stibbert Museum is located in a small, quiet park located off via Bolognese. When three New York University (NYU) students were given the opportunity to volunteer for a day at the museum and gardens, they readily accepted. It was during the annual Un bacione a Firenze initiative, held September 24, 2011, a day on which the local administration organizes community clean-ups in the city.
Not only was it their first experience volunteering with Florence’s Angeli del Bello (?Angels of Beauty’) at the Stibbert, but they met mayor Matteo Renzi and even got their picture taken with him. (Taylor recalls: ?I felt like I just met a celebrity!’)
The three students, Mariana, Taylor and Becky, instantly fell in love with the park and decided to volunteer as much as they could during their semester in Florence. Active in community service at home (respectively, Wisconsin, Texas and New York), they felt that one day wasn’t enough to give back to the city, and that they should continue their service during their extended stay in Florence. As nature lovers, working with Angeli del Bello at the Stibbert was the perfect volunteer opportunity for them. At least twice a month for the duration of their semester abroad, they went to the Stibbert to pick up trash or rake leaves. Not only did they help with the gardens, but they also got to interact with native Florentines and practice their Italian.
The Angeli del Bello is a group of community-conscious Florentines who perform community clean-ups throughout the city. One of the best-organized volunteer groups in the city, the ?angels’ at Stibbert, led by Enrico Buonincontri, are restoring the Stibbert museum’s beautiful gardens. (There are more groups in Florence; find out how to be an Angel of Beauty at www.angelidelbello.org.)
All three students found that working with Florentines was a special opportunity. They found the locals to be kind and always willing to help them with any problems that they had. Mariana said the volunteers she met at the Stibbert were some of the nicest and most generous people she has met in her life. While working in the garden, their conversations ranged from American television to Italian food and places to travel.
All three said that their experience volunteering at the Stibbert, allowed them to experience a different side of Florence that most study abroad students do not normally get to enjoy. The girls’ advice: every student should get involved in the Florence community while he or she is here.
Mariana and Taylor, both from small towns in the United States, spent their first year abroad as freshmen in Florence in Fall 2011. They were roommates at Villa Natalia at NYU’s La Pietra, and became best friends.