back to home  
Home Blog Profiles Press Contact Archive Photogallery Students
The Acton Collection, Villa La Pietra  
La Pietra Dialogues On the World On-Line
Immigrant Florence
Negin Hadaghian, NYU Florence student
La Pietra Dialogues
May 30, 2009

Over 128 different flavors of gelato. Breathing in the magnificent scent of wisteria while overlooking the tops of traditional Florentine homes. Sneaking a camera into the Accademia to take a forbidden picture in front of arguably the most famous man in the world: the David. Making a relatively reluctant attempt at climbing the stairs of the Duomo. Running along the Arno at sunset. Botticelli, I Medici, vespas, piazzas, palazzos, Michaelangelo, the most divine, mouthwatering pizza in the world.

From the outset of my Italian excursion, I was determined to capture and experience every aspect of the glorious, artful, romantic Italy that I had learned about in Renaissance and European history classes and fantasized about after watching movies like “Under the Tuscan Sun” on repeat right before my departure. Upon my arrival in Italy, these views were by no means shattered, but were reinforced, by selectively looking at the bits and pieces of the Italy that I had expected, rather than learning from the aspects of Italy that are often purposefully overlooked.

Almost any night of the week, whether it was on my way to the grocery store as I walked down via de Pucci, or on a much needed gelato break as I cut across Piazza Duomo, I came to expect that I would have at least seven bouquets of flowers shoved in my face, entreating me to purchase a rose for an obscenely expensive price. Every time the Florentine skies decided to open and there was a violent downpour as I treked up via Bolognese, I came to expect there would be at least ten people hoping that I turned the corner without an umbrella. When I left my apartment in the morning, I was no longer surprised to see hundreds of bootleg copies of famous paintings lined up on the ground next to tripods and toy cars itching to be sold.

The illegal market of goods that is so prominent in Italy, and Europe in general, is something that did not phase me in the least upon my arrival in Italy. I saw these black market sellers, the overwhelming majority of whom are African immigrants, attempting to make money in any way they could, and instead of allowing them to teach me something about society and politics, I continued to crane my neck up to look at the top of the Duomo for the eight-hundredth time, and continued to ignore the fact that they played any role whatsoever in shaping the Italy I was so lucky to live in.

While Italian culture is so deeply rooted in history, ancestry, and tradition, the fabric of Italian society is undeniably changing through the recent wave of immigration to the country. The change in the social landscape is overlooked by most, primarily because it is not the “Italy” that visitors expect to see. It is because of this inevitable overlooking that the eye-opening First Transatlantic Dialogue on Migration held at Villa la Pietra in Spring 2009 was so important.

The participants´ conversation helped us better understand the phenomenon of immigration in Italy, and Europe more widely, and reinforced my belief that to truly understand contemporary Italian culture we must open our eyes and analyze and learn from the people that we interact with in and around the city. This realization – that immigrants change societies, and understanding this change helps us to more deeply appreciate a society – is indispensible and has undeniably introduced a whole new dimension of understanding into my experience abroad.

    share print
twitter linkedin facebook facebook


NYU Florence
NYU Global
NYU Wagner




Villa La Pietra
Via Bolognese, 120
50139 Florence - Italy




Phone +39 055 5007 557
Fax +39 055 5007 576