Story and photo by Christine Kim
Political graffiti on a wall in Florence recalls a history of resistance and features the hammer and sickle, a communist symbol signifying unity between industrial and agricultural workers.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember Italy’s rich history in political dissent among all the touristy clubs and bars aimed at American students. If you are wondering where all the leftists congregate, the first place you can look isn’t far from NYU’s La Pietra campus.
Take a short trip down Via Bolognese and you will quickly notice how the radical graffiti of hammer and sickle, anarchist’s A, and squatter’s symbol get more prominent as you approach the University of Florence’s Dipartimento di Filosofia. Strike up a conversation with students outside and you will find that this group of young Italian philosophers’ understanding of truth is far from America’s mainstream capitalist notions.
You can also head to Florence’s communist libraries for further reading on Italy’s anti-capitalist parties. Even if you are not fluent in Italian, it is fascinating to peruse the titles. Istituto Gramsci Toscano, Via G.P. Orsini 44, near the city center, holds regional records and some private papers of the Italian Communist Party. Fondazione di Studi Storici Filippo Turati is more of a trek, located at Via M. Buonarroti 13, but worth the hike as it is the most important storehouse of Italian socialist records. And while you are on the outskirts of the city, you may want to drop by CPA FiSud, the local squat and counter-cultural space, on Via Villamagna 27a. Check the online calendar for music, films, political presentations and communal dinners.
You can also find underground Italian music at CS Ex-Emerson in Careggi, a neighborhood of Florence. But beware the drafty rooms in the winter and good luck finding cabs that will take you back to the city-center in the early hours of the morning. If you are willing to take the risk for your fix of punk rock or death metal, take the bus to Via di Bellagio, which will drop you off around the corner of the building.
If you are looking for something a little more casual and closer to home, take an after-hours-stroll down to Santa Croce. The piazza is usually teeming with restless Florentine youth on weekends. Also, keep an eye out for flyers about the annual Anarchist Book Fair and the May Day festivities (May 1) in Piazza Santo Spirito, where the young and old from anti-fascist and anti-capitalist groups gather to celebrate their radical history and work toward a better future.