by Maria Masullo, Italy

Over the weekend we had the opportunity to visit Florence for a different experience: a field trip.

Once in Florence, this caravan of young peace builders headed towards Palazzo della Signoria, better known as Palazzo Vecchio, the seat of the Florence City Council. Built between the end of the thirteenth century and the beginning of the fourteenth century, this palace hosts some of the most sumptuously decorated and furnished halls, such as the Salone dei Cinquecento, which we had the privilege to visit and where a majestic cycle of pictures celebrates the apotheosis of Cosimo de’Medici. Once seated, we were warmly greeted by Cristina Giachi, member of the local government of Florence for the portfolio of University, Research and Youth, and Federico Antich, representative of the Rotary Club of Florence.

After the meeting and guided tour of the City Council was over, we all headed to the popular leather market of Borgo San Lorenzo, eager to try out our newly-acquired negotiating skills that we had received from Prof. Anthony Wanis-St. John, to get some good deals at the market. The whole group split in “sub-groups” and I ended up with two of the participants, a Kashmiri and a Ukrainian, looking forward to bringing home beautiful and stylish Italian leather bags. It was fascinating to witness how our different cultural backgrounds and personalities could influence and shape our negotiation styles. My Kashmiri friend, Shazana, soon engaged in intense bargaining for buying some leather belts, showing her natural talent for negotiating. According to her, this talent was due to the fact that in Kashmir negotiation is a skill you need to develop in order to face the daily challenges of life. She used different tricks for getting the lower price: the “solidarity” card (“we are both Asian, so you can give me a special discount”), the “the more discount I get, the more things I’ll buy from you” card, and so on. On the opposite side of the street Yuliya, from Ukraine, was arguing about the authenticity of the amber of a necklace and unfortunately the seller did not have enough convincing arguments to persuade her to buy it. We then found a huge shop selling all sorts of leather goods, where we would end up spending the most intense two-hours negotiation. It was my turn to get “the best price”. I used the “socialization” strategy, engaging in an interesting conversation with the sellers about their country, Iran, their family, their work and listening emphatically to their problems.

My strategy eventually paid off as we got a huge discount after which we decided to use the money saved to treat ourselves to dinner with some delicious fiorentina steaks in one of the myriad osterie hidden in the narrow cobblestone streets of Florence.

leather market photo courtesy of Shazana Andrabi