Monday, 23 May 2011


There was an attractive 30-ish gypsy woman “working” on the train I took from Firenze to Lucca. I was on the phone when she insistently demanded my attention.When I asked her in my broken Italian why she was begging instead of working she responded with words that did not quite sound like a blessing. Nor was it Italian.

Florence is full with working foreigners: Senegalese sell sunglasses, umbrellas and handbags. North Africans sell “art” in the streets, Palestinians are said to be working in the Pizzerie. Thousands of Chinese run an entire economy that is apparently invisible to the Italian authorities. And then there are Gypsies, lots of them everywhere. Their line is begging. Some say that they also steal. According to my Italian teacher, they get free accommodation from the city.

The regular one sitting next to my supermarket sometimes leaves her begging bowl and sits across the street to chat with her co-workers. Every now and then she goes into the supermarket to change the coins that she has collected into € notes.

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