Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Interview with Vincenzo Damiano, Bar Caffeteria Damiano, Via del Parione, 46r



1. Vincenzo, tell us a little bit about yourself ...

My name is Vincenzo Damiano. I'm 47 years old. My starsign is Sagittarius, I'm a bartender, I do it (my work) with love and hope that everyone who comes here feels at home ... and then if you want to know ... I'm married with two beautiful kids ... Andrea and Maria Claudia.

2. Tell us about your Bar Caffetteria Damiano

This bar was created in 2003. It had already been working so much with the students because in front of the bar was a faculty called Faculty of Education that worked with bargirls aged 17 to 18 years.

3. What did you do (and where) before opening the Bar Caffetteria Damiano?

Before starting the bar I went to school. I studied surveying. I came to Florence and I loved the city. And that's when I started working as a bartender. Since then I can not do without this work; it’s like a drug for me. I can not live without this work.

4. What prompted you to start your own business?

The fact is that I love being with people. I love people; the beautiful ones, ugly ones, fat ones, sad ones, and I try in my small way of being able to put everyone at ease in front of me. After almost 25 years in this field of work, one also becomes a bit of a psychologist.

5. Describe a typical day for you

My typical day ... I get up at 7:30am, I come here to the bar ... it's like playing the fool, I get busy, the game, I am the people, laugh, joke ... and then work at the same time. I especially like when I see people who are a bit sad - I try to cheer them up a bit.

6. What is the best thing about working for yourself?

The fact that no one can say anything ... I do not take orders from anyone, but only for myself. This can be a risk though. In practice if you work for someone else and you lose a customer, you won’t lose your job. Whereas when you work for yourself and lose customers, your business may gradually fail.

7. How has business changed since you started?

This is a good question, this activity is now suffering because of the dramatic falls in circulation in this activity as you feel the crisis in all sectors and throughout the world ... but after 25 years of this work I can still enjoy myself because I sincerely make sure I'm really enjoying this job.

8. What is your favourite thing about Florence?

I like the globalism and tourism in Florence; you can talk with somebody from Russia one day, somebody from China another day, somebody from India, America or England another day. Florence is multiethnic: you can meet people from all over the world here.

9. What is your least favourite thing about Florence?

Hypocrisy. In general I do not like hypocrisy, not only in Florence but throughout the world.

10. What advice would you give to young people (who are hoping to start their own business)?

To believe with all their strength so it will have a high power. I wanted to have my own business and with many sacrifices I made it. I think that nothing is impossible; you can live your dreams if you work hard, though you may have to sacrifice a lot.

11. If someone is visiting Florence for a day, what would you recommend they do / see?

One day in Florence is not enough; Florence is such a unique city. But at least visit the Uffizi.

Athens and Florence: the Foundational Relation of Western Culture

Piazza della Signoria shines in the sun of June. The severe solidity of Palazzo Vecchio, the graceful and spacious arches of the Loggia de' Lanzi, the crowd of classical and Renaissance statues staring at the passersby with their eloquently silent gaze- all this conjures up a sense of harmony, lightness and luminosity as one could find only on the Acropolis, when the summer sun and its reflections on the Aegean immerse the Parthenon and the temple of Poseidon in a bath of light. Florence as the new Athens: the proofs of this equation are under the very eyes of the one who looks at the city on the Arno through that idea of beauty first incarnated on Greek soil. One would have no difficulty thinking that Plato would have found himself at ease under the porch of the Uffizi or strolling along the benches of the Arno: he would have admired here that same sense of equilibrium and profoundly discrete beauty that nourished his soul in his native Attica, where he spent his days walking out and about with Socrates through the Stoá Poekíle and the Agorá. We know for sure that his alleged reincarnation -if we want to agree with Cardinal Bessarion- enjoyed Florence very much. Georgios Gemistós, called the Plethon, lived here for four years during the period of the Council of Ferrara and Florenze (1437-39), teaching at the Studium on the differences between Aristotle and Plato and reintroducing to the West the texts of the latter. He was among those Greek scholars and prelates who came as the delegation from the fading Byzantine Empire to discuss the re-unification of the Eastern and Western churches. When he arrived, the power of the Medici had just begun and Florence was not yet very far from the violence and austerity of its Middle Ages. The city was not yet adorned with statues purposefully remindful of Classical Antiquity and the dome of Brunelleschi had still to gentrify the fierce skyline formed by the multitude of spear-like towers. Born in Greece and raised on the texts of divine Plato, Plethon is among those, who bringing Platonism back to the West contributed immensely to giving Umanesimo its form. Benozzo Gozzoli represented him in the center of his fresco in the Cappella de' Magi: the philosopher stands side by side to the artist, as if the latter wanted to underline a spiritual offspring from the former. Plethon stands out from the middle of the crowd for his intense look and his penetrating eyes that provoke the observer. He was indeed a father-like figure to many geniuses who populated that period: Ficino, Pico della Mirandola, Poliziano, Lorenzo il Magnifico, Botticelli, Piero della Francesca, Michelangelo all fed and debated (sometimes harshly) on the rediscovered words of Plato and Plotinus, Proclus and Damascius opened up to them by Plethon: from this fermentation the idea of homo copula mundi finally came out as an unshakable cornerstone, on which Europe and the Western world founded its astonishing development. Maybe there is no more powerful symbol of this new spirit and its view on man and the world than Michelangelo's David: a miracle of beauty, balance and nobility incarnated in the decisive and strong gaze of a young boy, who stands in front of Palazzo Vecchio as an image of the daring attitude of this new Athens that is Florence. Constantinople was then agonizing, the whole of Greece was already under foreign yoke: yet, in its ultimate struggle the Greek world gave us its most delicate and fruitful flower. Without Greece there would have been no Renaissance, no Michelangelo, no Ficino, no Botticelli. Maybe, it is worth keeping this in mind, in this period in which Greece seems again caught in an agonizing struggle.