The Puppets of Florence

by Rebecca Bricker on November 3, 2012

Today, as the Muppets marched in Washington, D.C. – to tell everyone about the importance of keeping federal funding for public television – I set out with my Italian puppet Russo, here in our neighborhood in Florence, to show support for Russo’s American cousins.

We walked along the Arno River and crossed a bridge where an Italian man named Signor Donnino was painting pretty pictures on rocks he had gathered. Russo and I watched him paint a picture of a famous old bridge called the Ponte Vecchio. Signor Donnino and Russo quickly became friends.






Russo and I marched on to our favorite gelato shop – La Carraia Gelateria – at the other side of the bridge. Russo was so excited that he jumped up on the counter. We got our favorite flavors: mint chocolate chip and chocolate orange. Russo LOVES gelato.

We crossed over another bridge and met a little American girl named Lauren from Houston. She and Russo quickly became friends. I asked her if she’d like to hold him. She eagerly nodded and carefully put her hand inside his fuzzy tummy. Russo giggled. He LOVES to be tickled.

I told Lauren’s mom about the Million Puppet March in Washington and why Big Bird and his friends are worried that shows like Sesame Street might go off the air – or become part of commercial television. Lauren’s mom told me how much Lauren LOVES Mister Rogers. I smiled, remembering all the mornings my son (now 23) and I started our day in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Russo and I said good-bye to Lauren and her mom and promised to keep in touch.

Then Russo and I went to the carousel in Piazza della Repubblica where we met our friend Jean. She brought a puppet friend of hers named Judy, who was made a long time ago for a very little hand. Judy was happy to meet Russo. You guessed it – they quickly became friends.

Jean, Judy, Russo and I marched on to the puppet workshop that I discovered on a side street in Florence several weeks ago. It’s where Russo used to live. He was happy to come live with me and likes to travel with me in my purse, but we enjoy going back to the shop to visit his puppet friends.

Letizia, the puppet maker, was happy to see Russo today. And he was happy to see his chums – Woodpecker (who looks a little bit like Big Bird except that he’s red, not yellow), Pig and Elephant, Pinocchio (a local boy from Florence) and his maker Gepetto, and lots of fairy-tale puppets who remind me of the ones at the castle in Mister Rogers’ Land of Make Believe.

Letizia has been making puppets for 30 years and knows all about the Muppets of Sesame Street. While we watched, she put the finishing touches on a mouse, as she made his eyes, nose, whiskers and furry eyebrows. Mouse sprang to life – hopping across the counter – on Letizia’s hand. The first thing he said was “formaggio!” That means cheese in Italian.

It was all great fun. I could feel Jim Henson, Sesame Street’s Muppet Master, smiling down on us, in that little puppet shop in Florence.

Russo, Woodpecker and Mouse came home with me today. We opened my e-mail box and found a message from Lauren’s mom saying how much they enjoyed meeting Russo. She sent us this photo of Lauren and Russo near Florence’s famous old bridge.



It started as a One Puppet March through Florence today. But by the end of the afternoon, Russo and I had made many new friends in our neighborhood.

I’d like to say thank you – to the Muppets, Jim Henson, Mister Rogers and ALL of the many good folks at PBS – for opening young (and older) hearts and minds to the big world around us. MARCH ON!




p.s. If you’d like to visit Russo’s puppet friends in Florence, stop by the shop:

Letizia Fiorini ~Via del Parione 60R (near Ponte Carraia) ~ tel. 055 216504               

Say ciao to Letizia from Russo and Rebecca. :)



jean November 5, 2012 at 2:04 am

What a wonderful afternoon with all the puppets! Just wondering if Russo got some more gelato?

Rebecca Bricker November 5, 2012 at 6:41 am

He’s begging for more! 😉

muddygloves November 5, 2012 at 11:54 am

Oh! i’d love to meet Russo! and his friends!

If Becky brings Russo to the USA on her next trip, maybe Russo would like to meet Boomer, Hooter and Thunder, puppets who live with me. We could all go to the arboretum and visit with Mother Nature!!

Til then. Stay well!


Rebecca Bricker November 5, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Russo, Woodpecker and Mouse would LOVE to visit the arboretum and play with Boomer, Hooter and Thunder. Do you have a photo of them you could send to us? I’m starting a new page on the site called Russo’s Adventures – and I think it would be nice to post photos of puppets from around the world with stories of their adventures. 😀

Gaya November 6, 2012 at 3:22 pm

something for Anjou and Dani… will go there with Rosso hand in glove so to speak … 😉

Rebecca Bricker November 8, 2012 at 9:17 am

I now have a few puppets in residence here who would love to have a play day with A&D! :)

muddygloves November 6, 2012 at 5:46 pm

Oh! we are so excited! We will have our pictures taken in a day or so. Our team leader seems to be busy dealing with the fury of Mother Nature. We are trying to figure out why she (M.N.) is so grumpy.

muddygloves November 6, 2012 at 5:56 pm

P.S. Our team leader, Queenie, (Queen of the Swamp) has been busy trying to catch a wild duck. Does anyone know how to catch a wild duck? The duck has a fish hook in it’s bill. We are very quiet and the duck comes very close for our cracked corn but skidders away when Queenie is about to reach out and grab it.

What to do? What to do?
b., h.,& t.

Rebecca Bricker November 8, 2012 at 9:14 am

Does anyone have a cute duck puppet who might keep Wild Duck from running away? Please advise Muddy Gloves asap.

muddygloves November 8, 2012 at 11:51 am

We spotted Doodle Duck lurking in the reeds that grow along the banks of the pond. Stay tuned.

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