Place as Text: ‘The Spaces of Florence, Italy’

FLORENCE, Italy – The 20 or so multimedia elements of “The Spaces of Florence” digital magazine, produced by a team of 11 student journalists from Berry College, seek to read the public spaces and places of Florence as texts in an effort to understand at least part of what makes the Florentines and their postcard-perfect city tick.

The Spaces of Florence Team, front row, from left, Sarah Storey, John Catton, Brooke Cobb, Jessica Hayhurst, Hannah Clark and Haley Edmondson. Back row, from left, Bailey Albertson, Ashley Foreman, Shannon Bostic, Sean Martinelli and Meridith Beretta.

How any city’s residents utilize public space can say much about them and the society of which they are a part. Spending a month in Florence, or Firenze, Berry’s international multimedia journalists saw firsthand how important and vital public spaces, such as Italian society’s bedrock piazzas, are to Florentines, who use those piazzas for everything from meeting a friend to re-enacting a medieval full-contact form of soccer known as calcio storico.

“You see the same basic elements all over Italy,” said Mario Pittalis, an architect responsible for two new projects in Florence, including a wholly restored Piazza del Carmine.  “You see a piazza with the church, with the main palazzo (or house) of the wealthiest family, and all around [the piazza] the people who make the neighborhood go. You see that repeated over and over in Florence, even elsewhere in Italy.”

Florence also features dazzling, world-renowned sacred spaces, led by the Brunelleschi-designed Duomo, green spaces, cafés and trattorias, gelaterias, and the piazza-on-a river known as Ponte Vecchio.

The foundation of Florence as a village or city dates to Roman times, and this is evidenced by remnants of the old city wall and its entry gates. In order to better defend itself, Florence sits at the confluence of two rivers that seem more like streams, the Arno and the Mugnone. Somewhat rectangular, the city is organized around its main churches and piazzas, including Piazza della Repubblica, Piazza Signoria, Piazza Santa Croce, and Piazza della Duomo. Today home to nearly 400,000 as part of a metro area of 1.5 million, Florence somehow remains a city the 14th century poet Dante Alighieri would be able to easily navigate today. But it is also one that has to meet the challenges of 21st-century commerce and living, including the tides of tourists that wash in and out each and every day.

The international multimedia journalism project would not have been possible without the invaluable help of several people in Florence who were very generous with their time and expertise. Berry College, its Department of Communication, and the faculty and students of “The Spaces of Florence” thank Lilia Lamas and Daniela Grosso of ACCENT Florence, Michele Gaeta and the New Bahia Café, Mario Pittalis, everyone at Caffe Ricchio, Tomas Jelineke and all of our many sources for the stories.

Project Florence student journalists:

Participant List

‘Spaces of Florence’ multimedia elements:

Florence’s Le Murate: Historically closed space transforms into a cultural, social hub

Greater Florence to get its first mosque

Florence suburb embracing diversity, accepting immigrants

Outreach to immigrants in Florence

In Florence’s places of worship, the sacred and the profane often compete

Florence’s Jewish community struggles in the face of tourism

The (Re)Birth of a Piazza: Florence’s Piazza del Carmine at the nexus of past and future

The Fighters of Florence: Calcio Storico a ‘sport’ that celebrate city’s long history

The Stones of Florence: How a Medieval City Remembers and Forgets

Florence as a Stage

Piazza del Carmine

Calcio Storico

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