Pictures and text by Francesca Semisa
Walking in the streets of Florence is like going to the theatre: art is everywhere. Stunning landscapes, fascinating buildings, people from all around the world create the same charming atmosphere we see on a stage. And street artists are some of the main actors. We can see them everywhere, painting, acting, and playing music: each of them has a different story to tell. Piazzale degli Uffizi is where most of the artists are. Surrounded by famous museum and streets, they share emotions with the people that pass by. It’s fast: just a few minutes, seconds sometimes. But during that short time, and for the mere price of the passer-by’s attention, they impart something onto those willing to receive it. And these willing people pay them back: sometimes with some coins, sometimes with a smile, sometimes with some nice words. Just a few happy minutes, then everybody carries on their way.
Behind each artist there is an interesting past. To transmit emotions, you have to feel emotions yourself. And every time there is a person feeling emotions, there is a beautiful story to tell. Here are four of them. Their arts are different, the same way their stories are different. But they all have one thing in common: every day they walk to Piazzale degli Uffizi, take their place and start doing what they love the most, making other people’s days a little bit better.
Marco has been working as a living statue for 13 years. Every morning he wakes up and he pulls his cart to the Piazzale degli Uffizi. Even now, after 13 years, this is what makes him feel alive.
He is now able to perfectly control his body. Even staring at him, people can’t notice any movement. His body got used to remain immobile. That’s why the only thing he fears is the wind. “I don’t care about the rain, I don’t care about the cold. Wind is the only thing i can’t control. It moves my clothes, moves my stage. A windy day makes it very hard to give the idea of a statue, and my art loses its sense”.
Marco describes himself as a good artist. Not only because of his experience, but also because he is still able to remain in touch with his feelings.
“This is the only way” he says. “When you lose your passion, when you lose your sensitivity, you have no reason to be here anymore. If this happened, I would leave and I wouldn’t come back. I don’t think it’s going to happen, though”.
“I love what I do because every day I feel connected to the people around me; I feel that I’m giving them emotions. In a theatre, people have to clap their hands when the show ends. Here it’s different: when someone gives me a coin it means that I moved them, somehow. When they clap their hands it’s not because they have to, it’s because they liked me”.
Learning how to stay still for many hours, maintaining a beautiful pose, requires a lot of training. Though this is not the most difficult aspect of the job. It’s very hard to obtain work permits, very hard to be considered actual workers. Even the relationship with the other street artists is not always easy.
Regardless of the weather, we can find him in the Piazzale degli Uffizi every morning, until three o’clock. Then he starts moving again. He tidies up his things, he puts them on the cart and he walks away. His face is still white when he enters the bar around the corner and he disappears into the crowd.
Asso is a Kurdish painter who arrived in Italy in 1975. In the same year he started working in the Piazzale degli Uffizi and he never stopped. Lately he thought about searching another job to help his daughter. She graduated with full marks 3 years ago and she is still unemployed.
“But I can’t leave my job” he says. “This is my life, this is what i am. I will eat less instead, but I can’t stop doing this”.
“One day a friend of mine showed me a drawing his son did. It was the drawing of a horse with many legs. “Look! This is not a horse, this is a millipede! My son is stupid” he said.
“Your son is more clever than you” I replied. “ When a horse runs fast your son can see many legs. And he drew all of them”.
An artist has to keep looking at the world with the eyes of a kid, even when he grows up. This is the only way to see all its beauty”.
Tommaso is an actor, everyday he is in the Piazzale degli Uffizi performing Cupid.
He started with this character 12 years ago, almost as a joke, but he fell in love with it and now he couldn’t stop.
What he does became part of him. Looking at his face, people can find the same expressions he has while he’s acting. “Often I keep moving my eyebrows even when I go back home, when I’m alone” he says. “Cupid became part of me”. And, when someone asks him where he comes from, he always answers: “I come from the sky, can’t you see it?”.
Tadeusz is a well known musician, he is famous all around the world. For many years, he played his guitar in the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.
But a few years ago he made a big choice: he decided to start playing in the streets. “Music should be for everyone, not only for the ones who can afford a ticket” he says.
Every day his incredible music seduces the passers, who stop talking, sit down around him and listen to these sweet, fascinating melodies.