Sep 12, 2015

Cosmopolitan Cultural and Aesthetic Experiences: The Grand Tour Narrative in the 21st Century

Differences, Inequalities and the Sociological Imagination
12th Conference of the European Sociological Association
Prague, Czech Republic, 25–28 August 2015

Cosmopolitan Cultural and Aesthetic Experiences 
The Grand Tour Narrative in the 21st Century 
Pierluca Birindelli 
People all over the world cling fondly to the Florentine myth that spells Renaissance and all its legacy. Visitors’ expectations and their encounter with the edifying reality appear to be guided largely by the aesthetic appreciation of art. This leaves out of count many other cultural, social, political and philosophical aspects, and their contemporary ramifications, which could transform the epithet of “Cradle of the Renaissance” into “Museum of the Renaissance”. In this paper I wish to explore various current myths that lead foreigners to choose to visit/live in Florence for a while or forever. Is it possible to discern any shared, collective representations of Florence (and Tuscany)? Do they differ from other typical “Made in Italy” images? If so, how do such myths fit into the contemporary everyday life of the city? Can we arrive at a set of typical (or archetypical) biographical motives leading foreigners to Florence and distinguish certain identity traits? Is it possible to observe signs of a Cosmopolitan Spirit? And if so, can we identify a pathway from the aesthetic quest for the “authentic” Italian life to cultural encounters with Italians in the flesh? I hypothesize that one of the leading motifs of foreigners’ experiences is a romantic, and to a lesser degree, intellectual approach towards “Florence without Florentines”. The outlanders’ romantic coup d'oeil may induce a deceptive vision of Italian life and social reality. If so, there is nothing new “Under the Tuscan Sun”: the Grand Tour archetype and narrative is alive and kicking.

Keywords: Culture, Cosmopolitan, Narrative, Florence, Grand Tour 
Research Network: Global, Transnational and Cosmopolitan Sociology