There has been news in Florence swirling around a YouTube video from a Norwegian vlogger named Harald Baldr. On the 24th, Harald posted a video he had shot from right in front of the Duomo. It shows the men on the street that sell knockoff posters (they lay them out on the cobblestones) that had apparently been harassing another tourist for money after he had stepped on one of the posters. It’s absolutely illegal what they’re doing, and as this video does show, the police aren’t doing much about it. Every so often, you’ll see a few officers walk or drive through the center and anyone selling illegal posters, selfie-sticks, fake leather purses, sunglasses, etc, will quickly wrap up their display and walk/run in the other direction depending on the speed of the cops. It’s like sheep herding, honestly. Eventually, the sheep make it back to the good grass if the sheepdogs are lazy and wander off. That’s the extent of it – it continues in this pattern in an endless circuit. If I go through the center, I can even tell you where the men will be. They’re an ever-present existence in the center.
So with the throngs of tourists growing thicker by the year, it appears that now if passerby are too busy staring at the Duomo step on the posters displayed on the ground, ruin them, and so the guy selling them wants money because now he can’t sell it with a footprint of Florence dirt. In the video, Harald gets bothered by this, confronts the men, thinks he’s going to make an incredibly intense video with the police racing through the city, and it flattens completely when the Carabinieri hears the men ran away already and so barely gets out of the car and tells him to go make a denuncia (like filing a report).
Yes, there’s an issue with many things in the city center and beyond and the police/government absolutely do not do enough to fix these things. But that’s not what I’m focusing on here. I want to focus on what Harald is doing to Florence (disclaimer: I haven’t watched his other videos on other places he’s visited, yet). I didn’t like the way he punched back at the men on the street, regardless if we didn’t see the extent of the first physical contact. So I started watching his other videos and saw people recognizing him on the streets as this travel blogger, and then I saw him interacting with this city.
In the About Me section on his Youtube, he simply writes “Northman with a penchant for history, politics, and travel,” but in his videos of this city, there isn’t any history, he doesn’t even know the name of the churches or the markets he passes. He stops to eat at a porchetta shop on a corner that was a jewelry store up until a few years ago, then wanders away talking to the camera and so the kid behind the counter proceeds to serve other people until Harald makes it back and askes how long it’s going to be. He sticks his camera in other people’s faces without warning, and most back away or completely ignore him. Later, he takes you to the “best” cake in town – and while the little cafe around the corner from the Ponte Vecchio (he did know the name of that – props) does have a beautiful terrace, the cheesecake and beer combo threw me completely over the edge.
In another video, he’s at the first Fiorentina game of the season, outside by the food trucks. He wanders around asking randomly to people in line – in English, what everything is. People begrudgingly turn to him and answer, “salsiccia…sausage.” Thankfully kids with better English help point him in the right direction. He goes to buy a purple T-shirt to fit in and points up at the one that says Ciao Capitano and asks how much, says he’ll take one. “Funny, funny one to have, I think,” he says. No. Not funny. If he had simply had the slightest interest in understanding the Fiorentina, or the culture of it, especially after he (almost) bought the shirt, and then edited the video before posting it, he could have just googled “Ciao Capitano Fiorentina” and he would’ve found out that Ciao Capitano was a shirt made for Davide Astori, the 31-year-old beloved captain of the team that had tragically passed away.
I’m all for exploring and showing people the world through a camera as you discover it yourself, but I see this type of traveling as looking in on the world instead of living through it. I always tell everyone – study a bit. All of the information is there now – right on the internet. Learn a little Italian, if you’re a vlogger and find out something you don’t know, research it before you post it! Isn’t the whole point spreading cool information to viewers?
Maybe I didn’t watch enough of his videos, maybe there’s another side of Harald I didn’t see – (I’ve heard he’s done great fundraisers and given out money but I’m focusing on Florence), but from what I did, this isn’t how showing the world to people should be. A porchetta shop, a scam, a soccer game, a random cafe for a dessert. This isn’t helping people understand who Florentine’s are, there’s no talk of history, no asking people politely to be interviewed, no previous research, no content that makes anyone understand anything real. People put up a front when met with a camera, and Harald didn’t even begin to break the surface.
I’m not saying I or anyone have this international thing it all figured out, but I do know what happens when you treat people like humans instead of objects at the other end of your camera lens, and it is so incredibly different than the world he portrayed. So that is my biggest problem with this whole thing. I’ll tackle the story about the police in the center another day.