Monday, November 22, 2010

The Writing's on the Wall

When most people think of Italy the first things that usually come to mind are probably history, art, culture, food, wine, fashion, beautiful countryside and the crystal clear blue waters of the Mediterranean sea. Or maybe you think of sitting in a cafe sipping a glass of chianti with a gorgeous Italian whispering sweet nothings (that you don't understand a word of) in your ear. While this is all very true, (yes, including the whisperings of sweet nothings) one thing that you probably don't think about is graffiti. Yes that's right, it's everywhere.

I know, not quite what you expect to see when you come here, and for some of you it may be a bit disappointing. I get many a shocked reaction form tourists that are visiting Italy for the first time.  In fact I am asked ALL THE TIME, "so whats with all the graffiti around here?, its so horrible, why do people do that?" While yes they are right, it is horrible especially when its on the side of a historical building or the first thing you see as you approach a new city by train, I have never, in all of my years working with tourists been able to understand why they think I have the answer to that question. I don't know!! I imagine its the same reason why people graffiti anywhere in the world. A form of artistic expression? A rebellious act against authority? I really don't know what's with all the graffiti! So please stop asking!  But maybe we should think of it as part of the culture and something that the Italians have been doing for centuries and that they are simply continuing with tradition, its new contemporary form.....
As it turns out, it is in fact, the Italians who invented the idea of graffiti, or writing or decorating the outsides of buildings,  however it was originally known as sgraffiti, which means to be scratched into the surface.  (of course they did, what didn't the Italians invent? Ok so yeah it was used in ancient Greece too, but the Renaissance artisans, they perfected it.) It was a technique that was widely used here in Florence during the 16th century to decorate the facades of buildings. If you keep your eyes open you can see this throughout the city. It really is quite beautiful. Unfortunately this style of graffiti is no longer the preferred method of young street artists today.
photo courtesy of Stefano Gusmeroli
photo courtesy of Roma Antica
So try not to be too disappointed when you see this. Not all Italians are well behaved and respectful, you still have the same rebellious kids here that you do everywhere else in the world. And while most Italians do see the incredible beauty and historical significance of a 500 year old church and the importance of showing their pride in keeping their city clean, there will always be those who don't care and Florence is no exception. Oh and be careful not to step in the dog poop as your looking at all the graffiti on the walls. :-)
I hope I didn't spoil your spotless image of all things Italian, it is still in my opinion one of the most beautiful place I have ever seen. Graffiti and all.
this is actually a site that the city decided to dedicate to the graffiti artists. I love the idea and think this looks great, too bad there are not more spaces like this for them to work!


  1. Great photos Sara! There really is some cool graffiti in the city.

  2. Thanks C, I think so too! Going on a photo shoot today, lots of inspirations around here.


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