Written by Jorge, High School/Pre-College Student Correspondent for CET Florence: Italian Food, Art, and Society, Summer 2019
Now that my time abroad is nearing an end, it’s time I took a step back and evaluated my interactions with both the locals whom I never met, and those people in my class who I spend the most time with. It was a different kind of feeling that I know someone must have at least a little longer than average stay time in Florence to experience. That was that of being invited in by a Florentine person, not just to make a profit of your popular tourist spending, but for your company and for an opportunity to genuinely explain who they are. In Fondazione il bisonte per lo Studio dell’Arte Grafica, it is a small shop but also a workshop for actual street artists to go in and work.
Originally the assignment we were given by our pre college course was to interview locals and gather information for a presentation of this certain area, and that we did with a man named Marco. Upon meeting marco, my group was immediately welcomed inside to buy some of the art that was on sale, but we then asked if he would be willing to do an interview for us, which he instantly agreed with. The first question we asked was why he was working there. He then answered that he wasn’t a worker, but that he was friends with the shop owner and volunteered to watch over while she was on vacation because he simply loved art so much.
From asking that question I learned of one of many types of relationships that people can have in the community and why they’re so important. We then went to ask what his opinion was on tourists where he said four words I had never heard an Italian say which were “tourists are a gift”. In a small break between our interview I asked him the price of a bag belonging to an artist and he gave me the most honest answer that, my choice was a weak one, that he personally disliked that specific artist, and to look again, going on to show me the “better” artworks.
He then went on to explain about how when we visit places like this shop, and Florence it’s like we’re seedlings looking for information to grow, and when we discover more about the city we can become as big as a tree. I think this interaction is one I will hold on to for the rest of my life as when we talked there was the circulation of mutualism happening, and I had never felt more inserted into a culture before, showing that the acceptance of such a small invitation can make all the difference in your trip.