US Visitors Met with Ambivalence by Florentines – Student Experiences It Firsthand


Florentine views towards American visitors is often a juxtaposition of incredulity, admiration, and frustration — as one American exchange student discovered to her cost. Stacia Datskovska, student of journalism and international relations at NYU, shared her experience in a viral op-ed for Insider, titled “I’m an NYU student who studied abroad in Florence. I hated every aspect of my semester abroad”.

In the piece, Datskovska painted an unflattering portrait of American students she encountered, claiming they simply sought out tourist attractions and indulged in “exhausting forms of escapism”. The article even documents her “verbal confrontations” with Florentines, triggered by her choice of outfit — a contentious issue, with many Florentines seeing this as a form of disrespect to local culture.

Not surprisingly, the piece attracted a surge of criticism. On top of mocking her viewpoint, Twitter users speculated that the article was penned, either in earnest or as an ironic joke. Others even pointed out a possible conspiracy theory: rising rents in Florence could be a ploy to deter any potential American arrivals.

A more balanced perspective of the relationship between Americans and Florentines can be seen through the insights of Sara Bimbi, a digital marketing account manager that lives in the city. She acknowledges the difficulties that high Americans traffic can bring as rising demand for housing — and higher prices for groceries and restaurants — can be out of step with the meager wages of locals. Bimbi adds that American students are often seen bar-hopping in the city centre, a behaviour that many Florentines interpret as inconsiderate.

Yet, the idea of entertainment rather than escapism is not necessarily unwelcome. Riccardo Svelto, a Florentine photographer, argues that American students simply enjoy Italian culture with the same amazement you may have upon finding a new toy. American novelist and long-time resident of Tuscany, Edmund White, added an interesting take on Italian politeness as compared to US standards. Eventually, it might be that these cultural differences and the difficulties of growing up into an adult stirred up a sense of homesickness in Datskovska — one that finds resonance in the words of Ilka Gleibs, associate professor in behavioural psychology at the London School of Economics.

It is inescapable that the presence of thousands of American students captivates and sometimes poses challenges to Florentine life. With the Association of American College and University Programs in Italy counting more than 35,000 students all over the country — of which more than half flock to Florence — the debate around this ambivalent relationship is far from over.