Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Trying to be a Florentine

It is sometimes a strange thing living in Florence. In fact the word for foreigner in Italian is straniero, which literally means stranger. And a stranger is exactly how foreigners are treated here. Florentines have a reputation for staying distinctly separate from the 7 million strangers who come to their beautiful city every year. Sometimes though, we foreigners do not make enough of an effort to break through that wall. I joke that not much has changed here in 500 years, yet I often choose to watch the news in English on the internet instead of the local Italian version. I still struggle to express myself in the Italian language. I teach in English, there is a large number of English speaking expat artists here and even the Italians want to speak English with you. It makes it very easy to be comfortable not speaking Italian. I was on my way to becoming like my Italian grandmother who lived in Canada for 50 years and never learned more than a few words of English.
But I had an excuse. Really. I had been preparing to leave Florence for South America and so I felt no need to study Italian. Instead I was focusing my attention on Spanish. When that move fell through I decided I to get the most out of my life in Florence.

What I did was join the "Bandierai degli Uffizi". These are "The Flagwavers of the Uffizi". This is the official flagwaving group of the city of Florence. The "Bandierai degli Uffizi" are integrally connected to the history of Florence. The group carries the flags which represented the pricipal Magistracies and legal offices of the powerful 16th century Florentine Republic. We perform at major events in Florence and throughout Italy, the E.U.and the world.(Check out the website:http://www.bandieraidegliuffizi.it)

I have been practicing for almost a year and am finally good enough to perform in the events. One of the most important is the Easter celebration and that was where I made my debut a couple of weeks ago (That's me in the photo above). You can watch it on You Tube.
Kudos if you can see me.

I feel quite proud to be able to represent Florence in an official way. These flagwavers are a really great group of guys among which I have made some genuine friends. Although my accent is constantly made fun of I have managed to immerse myself in Italian. Not really though because these fellas speak the Florentine dialect, and with their soft 'c' and slang even my dictionary is of no help. None-the-less after 7 years I am starting to know a new part of this city. And it just makes it more beautiful.

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