Sometimes ugly things are beautiful.

I’m living in Florence now. I lived in Florence three years ago as well, but I was out on the edges of town before. Now I am in ‘il centro’ and the rivers and rivers of tourist (amongst whom I do count myself) run by my door at all hours of the day. But I am lucky to live where I do, which is very close to this:

LBA’s Santa Maria Novella and its lovely, if barren and concrete-heavy piazza

And Florence is full of indisputably lovely things. The museums and churches abound with ridiculous numbers of masterpieces the entire world recognizes. And while I can appreciate the beautiful things this and other Italian cities hold, often when I wander around I am captivated by the less lovely things. I have in the past made photo collections of old Fiat 500s and even graffiti (or when feeling charitable, ‘street art.’ For an excellent look at Rome’s street art/art scene see: http://romephotoblog.com/). While a lot of it is tagging, which is less appealing, sometimes there are truly beautiful and fascinating images adorning doors or even dumpsters:

by my grocery store
on the way to the library I research at.

I’ve read guidebooks and blogs which have talked about how horrible and ugly the graffiti is– how it ruins the beauty of Italian cities. But that attitude fails to take into account how the graffiti is part of the city fabric. It signals the mildly deviant creativity of youth, demonstrating that there are actual young Italians living actual lives that might not have anything to do with feeding/housing/entertaining tourists. Americans especially (and I count myself, at times, among them) tend not to see beyond the Italy constructed for tourists, that constructed to serve the transient visitor. What is easy to forget is that there are thousands of people actually living in these cities. People who might imagine that doors and dumpsters make for interesting canvases. But thinking about actual lives lived in vacation spots reminds visitors of the problems and stresses of home and forces them to realize that not all of Italy, and in fact very little of it, is that terribly clichéd notion of “la dolce vita.” As I begin my sojourn in Italy, I try to balance and be conscious of the line between tourist and resident, vacation and life. Luckily though there are supremely beautiful things to look at while I do so:

the dumpster sits in the piazza in front of this building. totally ugly, right?
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