While this past Saturday night cities across Europe from Paris to Rome welcomed “Museum Night,” a few weeks ago I was able to enjoy a similar event, Notte Bianca, in Florence – as it conveniently coincided with my trip to Cinque Terre. Throughout the evening, many of the city’s museums were open to the public for free, accompanied by literally dozens of outdoor performances and art installations across the city.
When I arrived midday, already preparations could be seen everywhere: stages being built, lighting set up, a large zeppelin-like balloon being blown up in Piazza Santa Croce. In Piazza della Repubblica, two large paintings had already been started by Glasgow-based art studio De:strukt, and artists continued their work live in the piazza with spray paint until the piece was finished, late at night.
My first stop of the evening was the small museum “Casa di Dante” which tells a bit about the famous Florentine writer’s life and the society in Florence at the time, but admittedly it wasn’t the most interesting – although I did learn that Florence used to have a skyline filled with dozens of “skyscrapers” of the day, as all the most powerful families built their houses as towers (but then seemingly destroyed eachothers’ in endless bickering and power struggles).
Next I went to the nearby Gucci Museum in Piazza della Signoria, which was much more enjoyable and also included a great view over the square, where there was a big installation of swings and ringing bells – filled with kids in the early evening and then older, drunker people as the night progressed.
After sunset, as the streets got fuller, louder and more festive, I made my way down il Borgo dei Greci, where people spilled out of all the restaurants and bars into the street, to Santa Croce again, which was now home to these huge decorated balloon animals (what do you call them exactly?)
I passed back by the murals in progress on my way to the other side of the river, to see how they were coming along…
And voila! Finished at the end of the night:
I have to say my favorite stop during Notte Bianca was the last, in the tiny nearby Piazza della Passera, where two 50s-style jazz bands took turns filling the street with a lively, fun atmosphere and familiar old-school tunes. A hole in the wall caffe/bar overflowed with people ordering cocktails and wine in little plastic cups (my server seemed relieved I asked for “una birra piccola” though, somethingshe could easily and quickly provide me with, unlike everyone else packed like sardines waiting for mojitos…) The music was great and everyone I met and talked to was – a little surprisingly to me – from Florence or the surrounding towns, which is nice because I often wonder if residents of a city like this ever get to take it back from all the visitors. I guess the tourist world of Florence has its bedtime, and after that it is for the Florentines again on special nights like this.