Since I have moved (eight years ago now) to the Renzian backwaters beyond Pontassieve (about 19km outside Florence) I do realise that I can gain at least a little perspective of what it is like to be a tourist lobbed into Piazza del Duomo at speed. And I note that for me, being a frustrated tourist in Florence is becoming a reoccurring theme …
Whilst culturally and linguistically a mess (I only partially identify with each of my “home” cultures, #LonVsFlo) I have been able to gain better insight into being “another damn tourist” both in the eyes of other tourists (I will explain) and for the tourist industry in its widest sense (including Rom beggars, north African traders, Trenitalia staff, Ataf employees and countless nameless others – you know who you are).
Part of my job (the way I see it) as a Social Media Community Manager for many Florentine businesses involved in the tourist industry is using the various channels available to me to help grow and educate current and future Florentine temporary residents (yes, Roberta Milano gave me this great term a couple of years ago, and I have been exploiting it silly at every opportunity). I realise I am somewhat self-awarding myself the role of God of What Is Good For Florence, but I am right. I know I am.
How intensely irritating and unrealistic is it to have tourists complaining about the tourists? In Florence. In answering tripadvisor reviews on behalf of clients how can I not fling on my mantle of self-appointed role of Bringer of Peace, Wisdom and Cultural Awareness and Curiosity for Florence? So I do.
Anyway. So I went to Florence on this day for some quick work (3 appointments with clients), quick lunch (a girl has to eat) and shopping (is it possible to walk past the Accessorize store without buying something?) I am 5’9″, I am fair, I have no dress sense, I walk really fast, I talk quietly on my cell phone, I say “sorry” when people bump into me. I am obviously not Italian. So despite being a temporary resident, for over twenty years, I get taken for “another damn tourist”. Enlightening.
I started crossing the road on that horrific junction which is Via Panzani meets Via dei Cerretani crossed with Via dei Banchi meets Via dei Rondinelli, all at obtuse and acute angles, not a right angle in sight (no Romans urban planners here). I had a green. That means I can go. A taxi gunned it out of nowhere and leaned on his horn as he crossed a red at speed. I was the last pedestrian to block his way. I slowed and I waved (British irony in a single understated gesture). And was greeted with a “*ç!!**@@?#!xx##@!”. I understood perfectly. I really really hope that the twenty or thirty temporary residents around me didn’t. I really really hope so.
Onwards and upwards Jenkins. Don’t let it get to you.
Those ridiculously suave and groomed “grabbers” on Piazza della Repubblica have been annoying me for some time. The ones who hang around outside Le Giubbe Rosse and the Ristorante Pesce Rosso? All oiled and flirty. Well this fantastic (not irony this time, just flat-out sarcasm) idea has caught on in Florence. Around the San Lorenzo area the usual kitchen staff were having their furtive fag outside the kitchen door, but 2m further along in this space-challenged city the waiters/owners were hanging around well-outside the restaurant confines stepping into the path of passing possibly-hungry-people and inviting them, both with language and near-physical restraint to at least view the menu. But worse was to come. Tourists who have been in Florence for at least 24 hours have picked up that special Flo-jive, which means side-stepping your hassler (of whichever kind, there are lots to choose from) maintaining speed and avoiding eye contact. Those who have been here less than 24 hours either slow down (deadly move) or look their persector in the eye (actual suicide). There are two possible results from this moment of contact:
1. Engagement. Exchange. Conversation. And the victim is reeled in. Restaurant 1 – Tourist 0 – Florence 0
2. Irritation. Heated-discussion. The savvy tourist moves on followed by scarcely disguised highly vocal abuse. Restaurant 0 – Tourist 1 – Florence #thinkBrazilWorldCup2014.
Laws don’t work
This is Italy. We know that laws don’t work. They exist either to be broken or for a major loop-hole to be discovered.
Let’s have a code of conduct. Let’s suggest how tourist operators should behave. I should run the show.
Training for everyone, including Ataf and Trenitalia employees et al, and if you don’t do it right, you get to come back for more training. Second-time around training is held in a small room with no ventilation and no air-con, in July. Believe me, you will get it before Third Training.