The northern Italian city of Bologna is accustomed to firsts - it was the first western city to set up a university course, the first to abolish slavery and now, it has also become one of the first places in the world offering tours guided by homeless people.
The project is called “Gira La Cartolina" (“Flip the postcard”), a name that invites visitors to discover the other side of a city full of beauty.
Daniele, Samanta and Giuseppe are the three protagonists behind this initiative. All were left homeless and without work before becoming tour guides for the project, which received the support of homeless charity Piazza Grande and the local Chamber of Commerce.
Meet tour guides Daniele, Samanta, and Giuseppe
Daniele, a former state employee with a university education, has been living in a container for four years.
Samanta was evicted from her home and now stays in temporary accommodations provided by social services, far away from her children. Her long experience in theatre is a valuable asset when she stands up before tourists and tells them about the history of the city's monuments.
Giuseppe, on the other hand, has spent years crashing a train station and bus stops. Trained as a surveyor, he was once a cook but an unpaid loan changed the course of his life.
'Don't ignore them'
The tour, taking place until August 1st and set to resume in September, starts from Bologna’s Picture gallery of Quadreria.
The gallery itself is a symbolic place for the project.
“It was once the property of the Charity of Ashamed Poor, the charitable institution in Bologna which assisted those gentlemen and citizens who fell in disgrace and misery," Daniele explains.
On the street, Samantha draws the tourists’ attention to the presence of homeless people on the sidewalk: "Do not ignore them," she suggests. "Smile at them, greet them as you would do with anyone else".
Giuseppe, after introducing the history of the landmark Montagnola park, can barely refrain his tears when the group arrives at the train station where he lived as a homeless person.