Probably one of the first things that tourists notice in the city of Florence – after they’ve soaked in all of the beautiful Renaissance palazzos, artworks and elegant piazzas – is the graffiti.
In the modern era, graffiti and other forms of urban blight are things that Florentines seem to have learned to accept yet to the foreigners’ eyes they are inconceivable – we just can’t get past the all the ugly amidst the sheer beauty of the city!
Graffiti ranges from simple words or “tags” to more elaborate wall paintings. You’ll find many forms of graffiti in Florentine streets: tags and scenes that are spray painted on walls, churches and storefronts with stencils or freehand.
Although the act of scribbling on walls dates back to ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, making it an inherent part of human civilization, most of the scribbles in Florence seem useless – they are not aesthetically pleasing nor do they make any kind of political statement.
This is why, a few years ago, the City of Florence set up a special association called the Angels of Beauty to help clean up the graffiti and there forms of blight and raise awareness on the issue. Groups of citizens meet once or twice a month in community clean-ups: they remove stickers, clean spray paint, tend to public gardens and more to beautify the city. There is even a group of LdM students that participates each semester!
It’s important to note, however, that not all of the graffiti in Florence is necessarily an eyesore. You may have come across a really nice example of street art in the historic centre and may even consider it a work of art for its beauty.
Indeed, not all graffiti artists in Florence are vandals and there are a few who can be considered true artists.
You can easily find their works in the periphery of the city – far from the Uffizi!
The areas in the outskirts of Florence, such as Le Cure, the Franchi Stadium, Alberetta Park, and the underground railway passing at Rovezzano, all host large walls singled out as ‘graffiti appropriate sites’ just waiting to be scrawled upon.
So, take a walk one day to these areas in the suburbs and see what Florence’s modern graffiti artists are spraying about – you may even like most of it!