There are a plethora of street performers in Florence. There is the wind guy. He specializes in looking as if he is being blown by wind (it looks cooler than it sounds). There is pirate/flag guy. I really never figured out what he was supposed to be but he looked amazing posing precariously on the side of the Arno.There is the Charlie Chaplin guy. He has been in Florence for years and always does the same act, something that only really works in tourist cities like Florence and New York. I still get a kick out of watching him if only to see what unsuspecting tourists he pulls from the crowd and how he manages to communicate to them what to do. One night in particular that I remember watching his act the crowd was apparently not living up to his standards and he told them (in Italian) that he wanted them to piss off. It was very out of character because otherwise he seems like a very nice guy.
These lovely gents were all fixtures of the city. They lived there, worked there, slept there, and other things that I choose not think about too. I used to watch Charlie Chaplin drink his beer and put on his makeup at the same time at the bar by my house. He would put on his little moustache while helping the guy who dressed up like cupid and stood by the Uffizi giving out kisses and pictures for Euro. However, the best performers I ever saw in Florence were only there for two nights, two hilarious and glorious nights. I stumbled upon them by chance. I was walking back from Santo Spirito and had, atypically, chosen to take the Ponte Vecchio home. As I crossed to the other side of the river there was a hold up and right as I was cursing my chosen route I saw two men dressed like the strangest clowns I have ever seen standing right in the middle of traffic! They were just standing there waiting for cars to drive down the street. When they did they would try to engage with them in a variety of ways. It was totally insane, dangerous, and hilarious. They would try and jump on them, or pretend to be hit, or try to get in while they drove by. In my favorite act they mimed that little baby ducks (or something) were crossing the street and when the car was finally allowed to go they pretended one had been tragically hit, mimed a funeral, and cried on the hood of the poor unsuspecting car that had murdered it. No moving vehicle was safe as they even jumped on bikers riding by! Some people were furious but others enjoyed the change of pace. I stood and watched them for what felt like an hour before they left and I had to go home. The next night I decided I would go out again to try and find them. I brought a friend and walked all over Florence until I finally found them over by Palazzo Strozzi. I took as many pictures as I could and even got some film. I was expecting a repeat show (as with Charlie Chaplin) but instead it was completely new. They didn’t repeat one skit. Each car met with a new and equally hilarious fate.
The next day walking around the Mercato Centrale I saw them AGAIN! Only this time dressed in civilian’s clothing. I went running up to them to tell them how much I loved them only to find that there was a bit of a language barrier (they were from Brazil). I did my best in broken Spanish/Italian to tell them how much I loved their act but it was a bit of a failed effort. I think they got it but I also think they were slightly creeped out. These things happen.
Anyway. This video captures by far the best thing I saw them do. It would have been funny rehearsed but the fact that it was completely spontaneous makes it even better. Note that the second “clown” just laughs at the ridiculousness of the situation. Also amazing is that these guys don’t “talk” to each other. They make these amazing squeaking noises and that seems to be all the communication they need. I mean…how did they know what they were going to do?! I still amazes me. Ok, context. In this scene they have stopped a little mini FIAT (after first making fun of how ridiculously small it is), one of the clowns has pulled out the passenger, gotten in and well…you’ll see.