The city of Florence is both beautiful and active. The once prosperous renaissance city is not only historic literally, but it has the character of being historic. The essence of the city itself speaks to you as you walk down the busy cobblestone streets. A strong presence resides in the walls of each monument, building and local. You can see it in their faces, the appreciation for the city on which they live. These people do not take for granted the magnificence that they live within. This is the lesson I learned while carrying out my orientation walk as guided by Slimbach.
The city structure itself is rather unorganized in comparison to a modern American city. There are no blocks, no avenues or streets; just roads that intersect and turn at will. Pop-up cabanas and kiosks litter the sidewalks as street performers and selfie-stick sellers do whatever they can for a quick euro. Tourists pack out every square inch of the city, until I make it to the outskirts for groceries or the gym. Walking is a perfect mode of transport in order to take in and understand the culture we are now a part of. As Slimbach describes, “Space changes utterly when we experience it on foot” (182). The hectic nature of this system is overwhelming at first but by the time I took my walk I was generally accustomed to such a city. I realized that this is way of life in Florence. Tourism is a major economic force for this city, without it I believe the economy would be in shambles. Luckily, a city with such a long history of greatness, will maintain such prominence any way it must.
It took me a while to understand the social customs in Italy. The locals are generally not too fond of Americans, especially if we don’t follow a standard custom. Simple tasks as handing a grocery item to the person rather than moving out of the way to let them get it themselves is considered rude and empathetic. Once I had a basic understanding of greetings in Italian I was able to manage small interactions to ease the apprehensions of locals. In addition to social cues, the public display of affection in Italy is much more open on the streets. Aggressive affection between a couple on a bench is not uncommon, as this is generally a sign of love. My walk overall taught me a lot about Italian life, and made me not only realize, but also understand the reasons behind certain differences that I am not used to.
My travelogue was An Italian Journey by James Earnest Shaw. The story follows a mans travels throughout the beautiful land of Tuscany. He describes the roots of his fascination starting with a childhood crush whom he had heard described by his father as “Italian” (Shaw, 9). Then he is introduced to the wonders of Italian food, and from these minor interactions with the culture and people, he spiraled into an obsession with the nation and lands of wine. His travels throughout the olive groves gave me an outside perspective on the country in which I currently reside. I have a greater appreciation for the natural beauty as well as the historical beauty that not only Florence, but Italy holds.
The photo I chose I an image of the Piazza near the city center, that displays a replica of the Statue of David. In this photo, there is a busy street of tourists while a car attempts to maneuver through the square. I believe this best describes my walk because it is what I experience daily, a mixture of both tourists and residence.