Matteo Renzi shows his Florence: Former Italian PM launches documentary series
BY Maria Chiara Duranti
Former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is one of the creators of a new documentary series about the City of Florence. As he tells Maria Chiara Duranti in this exclusive interview for TVBIZZ Magazine, this project is a dream come true, allowing him to tell the world what makes his city so special – not only the history and culture but also the unknown stories and the future of The Cradle of the Renaissance.
Mr. Renzi, what a surprise! At least for us it was a surprise to find out that you are involved in a major new documentary series showing the beauty of Florence. How was the idea for this project born and what is your role in it?
Before becoming a real project, this idea has always been a dream for me. I was born in Florence, I grew up and I graduated in this beautiful city, also my children were born in Florence. I still live there. It’s my city. I also had the great honor of being the Mayor of this universal city. When the new populist government was formed in Italy, I thought that maybe I could devote some time to realize this dream. My friend Lucio Presta immediately believed in it and set up a team of extraordinary professionals who sacrificed the whole month of August to shoot in the very hot but extraordinary beautiful Florence. I am the author and the writer along with the talented Sergio Rubino and will be a kind of guide who takes our viewers through an incredible journey crossing all the beauties of Florence and putting my own face as a host and testimonial in front of the camera.
Most of our readers are probably not aware that you were the Mayor of Florence between 2009 and 2014. Why did you decide to make a documentary film about the city?
Yes, I was the mayor and I wanted to show to the world my Florence, because everyone knows how beautiful Florence is, but not everyone knows that there are some stories and curiosities that make this city unique in the world. And that maybe they can teach us all something today too.

I guess this will not be just another travel guide about Magnificent Florence… Can you share some of the stories that viewers will hear from you in Firenze?
Tourist guides are already present in abundance. I'm not a guide, I'm not an art historian, I'm not a museum director. I'm just a citizen in love with his city that can tell from a privileged observatory which emotions still inspire Florence today. And, of course, then there will be the curiosity. Like Michelangelo, who quarrels with the Gonfalonier, a sort of Mayor of the time. And we will show the death certificate of Mona Lisa, the modelling woman for Leonardo's Mona Lisa portrait. Also, we’ll be talking about fashion, design, food, and of the fantasy character of Collodi’s romance Pinocchio, football, finance. Florence is all of this. And much more.

The real challenge is to show this city as a beautiful capital of the future, not just of the past. What we show in the documentary is that Florence becomes beautiful when it opens to the world, when it invests in education, when it opens its doors to innovators. The opposite of protectionism, of sovereign of fear. A great message also for today's politics. Florence, city of the future, not only of the past. Laboratory, not just a museum. This is what you need today. And this is what we try to tell in the documentary.

Which is your favorite spot in the city and why? Any personal story related to it?
You can’t ask me this! It would be like asking a father if he has a favorite child. Impossible. I can only tell you that the documentary starts at Palazzo Pitti, in the Boboli Gardens. An enchanted place, one of the best examples of Italian gardens.
What inspired you to become Mayor of Florence? What would you say was the best thing you did for the City while you were at its helm?
Culture! And the most important thing about my term as Mayor was to have doubled the space of public libraries. I talk about it during the episode that speaks of the Laurentian Library, wanted by the Medici. Today the real revolutionary act is to bring children to read. Maybe on an iPad, but reading books not just being on social networks.

Who are the Medici of today? Are there still people who are true Mecenati?
No, they don’t exist anymore today, they are gone. That family was too complicated but brilliant, open-minded, a family that is not built at a table. The new patrons, I believe, that the new Mecenati are the ones who fight for educational poverty. Because the new form of wealth will not be the lack of money, but the lack of culture. And I believe we have to fight.
As one of the most famous Italian politicians you are constantly present on TV, but how does it feel now when you are producing a TV program yourself?
It makes me a strange effect. But it is also true that trying to tell the values and the beauty of Florence in some way is part of my duty as an Italian politician and Senator elected right in the College of Florence. It's like giving back something very much that I received from my people.

You are called Il Rottamatore (The Scrapper) for your ambition to reform Italian politics. Will you have the same approach to this project?
When we talk about Florence we can’t "scrap", we can’t break everything. Let's say that for this project more than "scrap" I would like to admire.

Most of TV nowadays is focused on series, entertainment and reality shows.What is the reason for this in your opinion? Is TV just a tool to escape from the tough reality of life? Can it still inspire people to change and learn more, to become better individuals?
The question does not have an easy answer. Times change, always. And this is the time of TV series and reality shows, we must take note of it. It is difficult to say what is the sociological reason for the affirmation of these genres. But I think that every form of television entertainment can help make us better citizens: the difference is made by the content rather than the containers. And I am, and I remain optimistic about the role of TV in creating a global public opinion.

During your term as PM did you ever try to influence decisions at public broadcaster Rai? Is it true that politicians are most afraid of how TV would present them?
Rai is a large company that belongs to the State and therefore the Government plays an important role in the selection of the ruling class. But in my philosophy a member of the Government must not put his nose in any editorial or casting choice. When I appointed the representatives of the Government in Rai I asked them to do what their manager experience suggested and not to listen to any traditional politicians. And this happened.
What kind of TV programs do you enjoy watching? Can you mention some of your personal favorites (besides Wheel of Fortune)?
I'm an omnivore, I have no preferences. I watch everything from sport to TV series. Obviously, Wheel of Fortune, which I participated in as a contestant, will remain in my heart. And even in my wallet!

If you could run a TV channel for a day what would its schedule look like? 
Now we do not exaggerate. I have just taken steps to become an author and TV host. Let's stop here. Otherwise they will accuse me of wanting to become a producer too. TV host and author may be enough at the moment. At least for now...
Matteo Renzi was born in Florence in January 1975 and grew up in Rignano sull’Arno. After graduating in Law in 1999, he joined the PPI party and later the “Margherita” party. In 2004, he was elected President of the Province of Florence. In June 2009, he was elected Mayor of Florence and in 2013 was voted leader of the Democratic Party. In February 2014, he became the youngest Prime Minister in the history of Italy – a position he resigned from after the negative result in the Constitutional Referendum held in December 2016. In April 2017, he was re-elected as Secretary of the Democratic Party and resigned in March 2018 following the results of the Parliamentary Elections. Matteo Renzi is currently Senator for the Electoral College of Florence, Scandicci, Signa, Lastra a Signa and Impruneta. Together with wife Ester, he is raising a daughter and two sons.
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