Articles by: Roberta Cutillo

  • Facts & Stories

    100per100 Italian Academy Comes to New York

    On June 23rd, the I Love Italian Food Association brought their project, the 100per100 Italian Academy, to the Scavolini Soho Gallery in Manhattan.


    This initiative, whose first edition was launched last February in Dubai, is an itinerant masterclass aimed at educating food industry professionals on the secrets of Italian cuisine: its products, techniques, and traditions. 


    This particular event was dedicated to Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PGI and organized in collaboration with the Consortium for the Protection of Balsamic Vinegar of Modena


    Attendees had the chance to learn about the product and its history through a guided sensorial tasting: five stations were set up by the showroom entrance, each equipped with a candle, a sheet of paper, a jar of wood shavings, four bottles containing the ingredients of balsamic vinegar and the final product, and a set of headphones to guide them through each step.


    Throughout the evening, several Balsamic vinegar-friendly products were served, including cheese provided by the renowned Nonno Nanni brand, salumi, and strawberries. There were also some less obvious pairings such as balsamic vinegar gelato by l’Arte del Gelato and even Balsamic vinegar cherry sodas.  


    A new guide was given out, the 100per100 Italian Guide New York, which compiles the authentic Italian restaurants in the city, realized in partnership with Authentico, a simple to use app (you just scan the barcode) for verifying the authenticity of Italian products.


    Behind a sleek Scavolini cooking station, several chefs from the New York Italian Chef Association took turns demonstrating how to prepare dishes using real Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. 


    Chef Silvia Barban from LaRina in Brooklyn started by hand-making and then preparing balsamic vinegar flavored ravioli. Then, chef Massimiliano Eandi from Raviolo and MAV Soho made fusilli with squacquerone cheese and Balsamic vinegar. 


    Later on, Executive Chef of Maiella restaurant and Vice President of the New York Italian Chef Association, Raffaele Solinas, lead a cooking demonstration focused on the use of stracchino, a delicious soft cheese for which Nonno Nanni is most known. 


    Chef Rosanna Di Michele channeled her family’s pizza-making roots to prepare a variety of pizzas using the Valpizza line, with all sorts of creative toppings studied to complement the flavor of Balsamic vinegar. 


    Other top chefs and pizza makers including Cesare Casella, Fabrizio Facchini, Gennaro Pecchia, Odette Fada, Roberto Caporuscio and many others were present at the event, and delicious, mouth-watering food kept flowing throughout the evening. 

  • Life & People

    Saying Goodbye to Naples’ Last ‘Acquaiola’

    Carmela, or Carmelina, the historic waterseller of Naples’ Via dei Tribunali passed away on June 24, 2019. The news was given by the globally renowned pizza-maker Gino Sorbillo, a long-time friend and neighbor, the historic Sorbillo Pizzeria being located right next door to her “banca dell’acqua,” or “water counter.” 


    "Ciao Carmela l’Acquaiola dei Tribunali...R.I.P." Sorbillo tweeted on Monday morning. 


    Well into her 80s, Carmelina was a true institution, she represented an almost extinct yet emblematic figure, that of the “acquaiola.” 


    The term roughly translates to “waterseller,” and refers to men and women who sold water and later other refreshments such as pressed orange or lemon juice on the streets. Though the practice dates back to the Middle Ages, it had mostly died out but persisted in Naples, where it was still quite common as recently as in the 1960s and 70s.


    Initially, acquaioli (sometimes also called “acquafrescai”) used carts and moved around the streets, later on however some began to settle into permanent shops.


    Carmela’s “banca dell’acqua” - literally “water counter” - has occupied its current location at number 30 of Via Dei Tribunali since the late 1800s, surviving wars, earthquakes and even occasional acts of vandalism.  


    That marble countertop, always surrounded by bottles and framed by citrus fruits hanging overhead, is a time machine. Having remained almost identical throughout the ages while everything around it evolved, it stands as a monument to the city’s past - not just its History with a capital “H,” the one of kings, queens, noblemen and heroes - but to its real, human past preserved in popular traditions. 


    Carmela, reportedly Naples’ last true acquaiola, was what kept this particular tradition alive and it’s no wonder that the entire city is sad to see her go. However, the shop is there, still in the hands of her family, who can continue to carry it on.


    Meanwhile, her funeral was held this morning in the famous Church of San Lorenzo Maggiore and her memory will live on, forever immortalized in the image of her small figure standing behind that marble counter.


  • Facts & Stories

    A Deeper Look at Italian Emigration

    As of January 1st, 2018, over 5.1 million Italians are registered in the official registry of Italians residing abroad, the AIRE (Anagrafe degli Italiani Residenti all’Estero.) That’s 8.5% of the country’s total population.

    This is just one of the figures presented in the Migrantes Foundation’s Italians in the World Report, a document which compiles as much data as possible to analyze the state of Italian mobility in an attempt to go beyond simply remarking that Italy is experiencing a “brain drain.”

    In order to do so, the report looks at how many people are leaving Italy and how those numbers evolve over time. Then, it goes on to examine both where they are going and which regions of Italy seem to be losing the most citizens. Finally, it considers various demographic factors to get a sense of who they are.

    By bringing together all this information, we can gain a better, more precise understanding of why people are leaving and of how to appropriately address the issue.


    How many Italians are leaving the country

    Italian mobility increased by 2.7% between 2017 and 2018 and by 64.7% since 2006, raising the number of people listed in the AIRE from 3.1 million to 5.1 million. And these numbers continue to grow: from 2017 to 2018, the Italian community residing abroad increased by 2.7%.

    Where they are moving to

    Europe hosts the largest number of Italian residents: 54.1%, most of them (40.3%) within the European Union, while 40.3% live on the American continent, mostly in the South-Central region (32.4%)

    During the last year, Germany was the favored destination, counting 20.007 residents and beating by far the UK (18.517) and France (12.870) which respectively are in 2nd and 3rd place.

    Which parts of Italy they come from

    49.5% of Italians residing abroad come from the South (1.659.421 from the mainland and 873.615 from the islands), while 34.9% are from the North (901.552 from the North-West and 881.940 from the North-East), and 15.6% from the Center, that’s 797.941 people.

    However, the increase in mobility from 2017 to 1018 was generally stronger in the North, especially in Lombardy (with a variation of +23.591) and Veneto (+17.495).

    And, in fact, in total, the main departure region is Lombardy (21.980), followed by Emilia-Romagna (12.912), Veneto (11.132), Sicily (10.649) and Puglia (8.816).

    It’s important to consider though that bigger metropolitan areas such as Milan, Rome, Genoa, Turin, and Naples are amongst the main places from which Italians are departing because they are the most inhabited areas as well as those that host the most formative facilities such as schools, universities, academies, etc.

    Who they are

    In terms of demographics, it seems that slightly more men (51.9%) than women (48.1%) reside abroad. And 55.3% are single while 37% are married.

    765 thousand are minors (15%) and 6.8% of them are under 10-year-old; 1 million 135 thousand are aged between 18 and 34 (22.2%); 1 million and 197 thousand between 35 and 49 (23.34%); 19.1% are between 50 and 64; and 20.3% are 65 or older.

    This latest set of data is particularly interesting because, while Italians are well-aware of the phenomenon often referred to as “brain drain” - one often hears discussions, both on TV and in the streets, around the fact that many young people have to look beyond national borders to find employment, recognition or opportunity - it appears that this is only one aspect of a much more complex situation.

    In fact, the data reveals that the issue is more complex than that. Though many young people are leaving, (some of them still go abroad driven by passion and dreams and in some cases manage to find success, while others just do so because they feel that there is no other alternative and end up taking jobs far below their qualifications in order to get by) they are not the only ones, in fact they are not even the majority.

    That middle range of adults aged between 35 and 49 and even the ones between 50 and 64, which together make up a whopping 42,44% of those registered in the AIRE, mostly represent the people who have lost their jobs but are still far from retirement. They too are having a hard time finding employment in italy.

    As for the older generations, though many people leave with the intention of coming back to the ‘belpaese’ for their retirement, there are also many people who actually decide to spend their retirement abroad, in places like Morocco, Thailand, Portugal, Spain, where the climate is pleasant and life more affordable.

    Many Italians are aware that people are leaving and have a vague notion about it being related to the lack employment opportunities but they don’t go much beyond that. Though thinking about this issue may be a bit depressing or at least discouraging, it’s important to examine the phenomenon in detail, to truly understand it. First of all because it can help us understand our country better and where the core issues lie, and from there figure out how to address them.

    Part of the solution lies in getting better, more unified and coherent statistics on how many Italians are leaving, who they are, where they are going, and why they are doing so. In fact, not everyone signs up to the AIRE, though the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is focused on ensuring that they do.

    On a similar note, it’s also important to create unified networks of Italians abroad so that they can stay connected to each other, to their homeland, and in some cases even move back, this time with new insight and ideas that could benefit the entire country.


  • Art & Culture

    30 Years of Men’s Fashion Through Pitti Uomo

    Pitti Uomo, the world’s most important menswear event, just concluded its latest edition, which took place, as always, in Florence from June 11-14. This year, during the run of the biannual trade show’s 96th edition, Fondazione Pitti Immagine Discovery inaugurated an exhibition at the Museum of Costume and Fashion in Pitti Palace titled “A Short Novel on Men’s Fashion.”


    Curated by fashion historian Olivier Saillard, it narrates a history of menswear by looking at the designers, outfits, trends and projects presented at the fair throughout the last 30 years and is dedicated to Marco Rivetti, who was the president of Pitti Immagine from 1987 to 1995.


    Though Pitti Uomo actually began in 1972 as a trade fair, it soon evolved into the central  international fashion event it is today and has seen the business and culture of men’s fashion grow and change along with it.


    The world of men’s fashion has changed a great deal since the show welcomed Vivienne Westwood as its first-ever guest designer in 1990 and, as Saillard remarks in an interview with Vogue, at the time, “men’s fashion was very shiny, but still very small [...] Now, in the past 30 years, it has become a big market—not only an economic market, but an aesthetic market, too.”


    The exhibition features 500 garnements from over 100 fashion houses that have presented their lines at Pitti since 1989 and reads like a giant book. Each room represents a chapter in the most significant and iconic menswear currents presented at Pitti and brings together contemporary designs and historical pieces from the museum’s collection, as well as portraits from the Pitti Palace art gallery.


    In fact, Pitti Uomo is not simply a collection of runway shows, it has become a cultural appointment that brings together high-end and emerging designers, trade professionals and fashion enthusiasts. Here, one can admire the best and most daring street style, meet representatives from all sorts of brands, and even learn about the trends that are influencing more than just the way we dress but also the way we live and understand social and cultural concepts such as gender and masculinity.  


    By tracing the history of Pitti Uomo and the clothes presented there, the exhibition therefore also traces the evolution of the Italian and international fashion scene, which is itself often a reflection and even a precursor of broader social and cultural trends.


    The show will run through September 29 but the initiative will then lead to the creation of a permanent menswear collection: the Men’s Fashion Collection of the Fondazione Discovery, which will be donated to the museum.


  • Facts & Stories

    Florence’s Favorite Sandwich Shop Comes to New York

    If you’ve paid a visit to Florence recently, chances are you’ve been to All’Antico Vinaio, or have at least seen the ever-present lines leading up to what is certainly the most famous sandwich - or rather “schiacciata” - shop in the city.


    Its three venues are all located within a few feet of each other on Via Dei Neri, right around the corner from Piazza della Signoria and the Uffizi Gallery. The first and smallest shop was taken over by the Mazzanti family in 1991 and since then they have been serving up their home-made “schiacciate” (deliciously fluffy bread, akin to focaccia) filled with prime Tuscan meats, cheeses, vegetables and spreads accompanied by a glass of wine.  


    Following the shop’s success, the family went on to open two additional sit-down venues on the same street, All’Antico Vinaio Atto II in 2013 and All’Antico Vinaio Atto III in 2015.


    Now, New Yorkers have the chance to take a culinary “trip” to Florence at Joe Bastianich’s Otto Enoteca e Pizzeria, an Italian restaurant located in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, where the famed sandwiches will be served daily from June 13th to July 13th.


    Having been an avid frequenter of All’Antico during the two occasions I lived in Florence, and having already had the chance to sample more than a few bites - not to mention take home my very own full-sized schiacciata - during the opening night of the pop-up, I can attest to the authenticity of the New York version. 


    This is the first time All’Antico Vinaio travels outside of Florence. Bastianich and Tommaso “Tommy” Mazzanti are long-time friends and had been considering such a collaboration for some time. Tommy’s wife, Clara tells us that though it wasn’t easy, they were beyond excited to do it. “We still can’t believe we’re here in New York,” she says. Everyone - including their young son - flew over for the opening week but most of them will have to head back to keep things running smoothly back home.


    So far, the initiative has already been hugely successful, with lines reportedly forming outside of Otto daily, made up of people curious to check out the hype around “Italy’s most famous sandwich” as well as initiated clients craving some Florentine goodness.


    Could this mean that we might potentially see other All’Antico Vinaio stores pop-up around the world? The Mazzanti family hasn’t mentioned any such plans yet but one can always dream.


    In the meantime, for more information check out Otto’s website and if you plan on going, I would suggest getting there early and hungry (the portions are generous to say the least.)


    And if you want to keep up with the shop and their future endeavors, you can follow them on Instagram, Facebook or on their website.


  • Art & Culture

    New Italian Films Reveling a Complex Reality

    Seventeen Italian films were presented in New York, at Film at Lincoln Center during the 19th edition of Open Roads New Italian Film Festival, which ran from June 6-12. For this occasion, many of the directors, actors, and filmmakers - some emerging others more established within the Italian film industry - came to discuss their movies.


    The selection was larger than that of the previous years and featured movies that came out in 2018 and 2019, with the exception of one classic masterpiece, La Commare Secca (1962) by Bernardo Bertolucci, who passed away last Fall.


    The program was quite varied, as the scope of the festival is to give people living outside of Italy a sense of the country’s cinematographic landscape today.


    This year, Open Roads kicked off with Piranhas by Claudio Giovannesi, a film based on the eponymous novel by Roberto Saviano (author of Gomorrah) which was awarded the Silver Bear for Best Screenplay at the Berlin Film Festival. The movie tells the story of 15-year-old Nicola and his friends (all non-professional actors) living in Camorra-ran neighborhoods of Naples and their seemingly inevitable and only partly conscious descent into criminality.


    Giovannesi insists that this is “not a film about criminals, but a film about kids” and that his intention was to tell their story “not with judgment but with empathy.”  


    And that certainly is the case, you can’t help but like Nicola, relate to the rather tasteless but easily translatable aspirations that he and his friends share, smile and their seemingly innocuous obsession with tacky expensive clothes, watches, furniture, but also feel a constant pang of anxiety throughout the entire film because you just know that this won’t end well.


    “This is a movie about the loss of innocence. It begins with a game - plays with that idea throughout because the characters live it light-heartedly - and it ends with a war,” comments the director. “Naples is the star of the film,” he also notes “but this story can happen anywhere institutions are absent, where education is lacking, where there are no jobs.”


    And it is indeed happening, a lot. As shown in Agostino Ferrente’s Selfie, another film in the program, a documentary about the lives of young people from the gang-ravaged neighborhood of Traiano in Naples shot by the teenage protagonists themselves with their smartphones set on selfie mode.


    Other documentaries include Normal by Adele Tulli, one of the only three female directors present in this year’s selection. Hers is a stylized documentary, which tackles a topic that is completely absent from any form of mainstream discussion in Italy: the issue of gender norms and identity. The film is radical for the context it was produced in because it provides a critical perspective on conventional gender expression and explores the ways in which is instilled and reinforced within society.


    A very different type of documentary is Sono Gassman! Vittorio re della commedia by Fabrizio Corallo, which tells the story of one of the most celebrated Italian actors and reveals how Gassman’s comedic persona reflected and critiqued mid-20th century Italian society, while also showing the more complex aspects of his actual person.


    Another film that deals with the history of Italian cinema is Paolo Virzi’s Magical Nights, a satirical murder mystery set in the early 1990s, the tail end of Italian cinema’s golden age, told through the wild stories of three young screenwriters who are being investigated for the murder of a famous film producer who is found dead in the Tiber River.


    This feeling of decadence, excess and subsequent deterioration is further developed and perfectly captured in Loro by Paolo Sorrentino, set in a similar atmosphere as that of the director’s Oscar-winning The Great Beauty. This time, however, it serves as the backdrop of the story of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s downfall amidst public scandals and personal dramas.


    Other films focus on telling different individual stories and perspectives that, when brought together, begin to paint the complex picture of the contemporary Italian social landscape.


    It’s the case of Twin Flower by Laura Luchetti, in which two teen runaways, Anna, who is escaping from human traffickers, and Basim, a refugee from the Ivory Coast, (both non-professional actors but with incredible chemistry) meet on a difficult journey through Sardinia.


    The same is true of  Edoardo de Angelis’ The Vice of Hope, which tells the story of Maria, who helps a pregnant woman flee her family’s human trafficking business while being herself pregnant and even of Ciro d’Emilio’s If Life Gives You Lemons, a naturalistic coming of age film about Antonio, a 17-year-old who has to drop out of school in order to take care of his mentally ill mother.


    At the same time, relationships and personal dramas remain an important topic, central to several films including Valeria Golino’s Euphoria, in which popular Italian actors Riccardo Scamarcio and Valerio Mastandrea play two very different and distant brothers who meet and clash when one of them becomes ill forcing them to face long unresolved issues and unspoken resentments.


    Mastandrea is also featured in the Festival as a director with his first film Laughing, an exploration of the ways people grieve the death of a loved one, which follows the difficult grieving process of the wife and son of a man who dies in a workplace accident, further complicated by the mediatization of the event which becomes a public scandal.


    Still an exploration of loss, but from a unique perspective can be found in Federico Bondi’s Dafne, a film about a young woman with down syndrome whose life is turned upside down by the death of her mother.


    Also dealing with family relationships and the tension between public and private is Beniamino Barrese’s debut film The Disappearance of my Mother, a movingly personal documentary that the young director made about his mother, former Top Model, turned feminist activist and self-proclaimed image-hater Benedetta Barzini and her desire to disappear.  


    Barrese explains that, as he began filming, the film quickly became a confrontation him and his mother, who was profoundly opposed to the idea of making the film. She finally accepts to let him film her only because, in her own words, “she would rather hurt herself than hurt him.” In the film, which shows the process of making the documentary interlaced with archival footage and old home videos shot by a pre-teen Barrese, the tension between mother and son is always present and at times gives way to violent outbursts from her part, always painful to witness.


    Though the director wasn’t aware of it at the start, he was making a film about their relationship, not just about her and her past. He does however manage to convey her ideas, particularly about images and their falsehood and destructiveness, despite not sharing them completely since his own life revolves around the creation of images. This last contradiction is the main source of conflict within the film, it’s what makes so ambiguous but at the same time so interesting.


    Valerio Mieli’s Ricordi? (Do you remember?) also explores conflict and contradiction as it tells the story of an unnamed archetypal couple facing the eternal issues of memory and the passage of time and how they affect love and relationships.


    In Lucia’s Grace by Gianni Zanasi, Alba Rohrwacher stars as Lucia, a land surveyor and single mother who faces a dilemma when she learns that her new building project threatens the environmental safety of the city. This is another exploration of moral conflict and ambiguity but rendered in a clever comedic key perfectly conveyed in Rohrwacher’s performance.


    A standout film and one difficult to define is Mario Martone’s Capri Revolution, which the director describes as “a film about illusion.” It’s set in Capri in 1914, and tells of the young goatherd Lucia and her journey towards emancipation and freedom. Lucia encounters a utopian commune of Northern Europeans whose ideals clash with those of the traditional islanders as well as with those of modern science, embodied by the island’s young new doctor. The heroine finds herself torn between these contrasting perspectives and in the end realizes that none of them hold the truth.


    The film is ultimately about “the impossibility of saving the world,” Martone notes “the same notion captured in the work of Giacomo Leopardi,” that is, the prominent Italian poet to which Martone dedicated his 2014 film.


    The commune that inspired the film truly existed and was thoroughly documented. Martone and screenwriter Ippolita Di Majo changed a few things, particularly the figure of the group’s leader Seybu, an artist who was actually a symbolist painter was modified. Ippolita, who is an art historian, admits that she modeled him after performance artist Joseph Beuys, whom she and Martone both admire. They were particularly interested in the ways in which he explored the relationship between man and nature, as Seybu does in the movie.


    Dance also plays a fundamental role in the movie, as the members of the commune partake in beautiful and complex choreographies in order to gain knowledge and understanding of the world. In this case too, the choreographies shown in the film are contemporary reinterpretations of the approaches adopted by the real commune.


    In fact, the filmmakers note that they were surprised to find that this group that existed over 100 years ago had so much in common with the utopian communities of the 1970s and that the themes they discussed are the same that we still encounter today.


    During the festival, many of the directors of this year’s films attended a round table moderated by Open Roads co-founder Antonio Monda held at New York University’s Casa Italiana. Each of them were there to talk about their films but the discussion quickly became a comment on the state of Italy. And in fact, the diversity and variety of the films presented is a reflection of this very state.


    As Martone commented, “Italy is struggling to understand itself and this makes it almost impossible for anyone else to do so.” But many filmmakers - certainly the ones present that evening - see it as their role to try and represent their reality. And they do. Each in their own different way, all these films are at least in part about the state of the country and of the world at large, about the people that inhabit it, the challenges they face, their struggle to navigate it.


    This edition of Open Roads is now coming to an end and perhaps the most important lesson it brought is the realization of the extent to which cinema can provide a lens through which to interpret the society that produced it and even the ones that come after it.


    And if you’re yearning for more Italian cinema, you have the chance to enjoy a retrospective on the work of master Italian filmmaker Ermanno Olmi from June 14-26, also held at Film at Lincoln Center.


  • Art & Culture

    Italian Jazz in New York

    Following the concert of Italian pianist Alessandro Lanzoni, who performed at the Italian Cultural Institute on Tuesday June 4th along with bassist Ben Street and drummer Eric McPherson, two more Italian jazz concerts will take place later this month.


    On June 11th, the Institute will host a piano solo by Giovanni Guidi, a young musician from Foligno, Umbria. Guidi, class of 1985, was discovered at a very young age by prominent jazz trompeter Enrico Rava, with whom he toured in 2017 and then again in November 2018. He has won several awards, including the “TOPJAZZ “ award by “Musica Jazz” magazine, as the best talent of 2007, and participated in many festivals both in Italy and abroad.


    He recorded a couple of albums with Rava for the label ECM and in 2013 released his first album as leader titled “City of Broken Dreams.” His 2016 album “Ida Lupino,” which he recorded with Gianluca Petrella, Gerald Cleaver and Louis Sclavis was named “best Italian Jazz album 2016″ by the Musica Jazz Critic Poll.


    The following week, on June 18th, the Bebo Ferra - Paolino Dalla Porta Duo will perform. Ferra is considered the most renowned Italian jazz guitarist, having collaborated with many prominent jazz musicians worldwide, and having won awards such as first prize at the Sulmona Jazz festival for the soundtrack of Daniele Maggioni’s film "Tutto bene" and best soundtrack at the Banff Film Festival for the movie "my tomorrow" by Marina Spada. He currently teaches at the Como Music Conservatory and holds a summer workshop at Nuoro Jazz.


    Dalla Porta is among the most interesting and eclectic bassists of the Italian and European Jazz scene, combining various musical genres and jazz traditions from different parts of the world. He too has won several awards and composed movie soundtracks. He is part of the legendary band “Oregon” lead by Ralph Towner and teaches at the Piacenza Music Conservatory and leads summer workshops at Siena Jazz and Nuoro Jazz.


    The two musicians first worked together in 1997 on a project by the "Centro Meridionale di Cultura Italiana" for a festival and found in jazz the common ground, through which they expressed their search of a new synthesis between European and Mediterranean roots. Both members of this acoustic duo use their strong and refined technical skills to produce poetic themes and create a dynamic and nuanced interplay between their instruments.

  • Facts & Stories

    Creating an Italian Export Network

    The Italian Export Forum (IEF) is not just a two-day event which will take place from the 14th to the 15th of June on the Sorrentine Peninsula, it’s a new multichannel platform with the goal of connecting Italian businesses and institutions in order to work together to better navigate the global market.

    Italy is a great exporter: in 2017, it was the 3rd country in the world for export growth and the 9th for absolutely export value, with a total export volume of 448 billion euro.

    However, according to the IEF, the different actors involved in exporting goods, services and ideas from Italy currently act separately in a fragmented manner that ultimately leads to overlap and dispersion. IEF organizers believe the country needs a global, integrated approach to export in order to optimize time and energy and raise the productivity of all the actors.

    IEF poses itself as the ideal context for all the actors to come together and determine their individual and unique offerings in order to obtain a cohesive and comprehensive picture of all that Italy can offer to the world.

    The forum’s program and presentation states that the event’s mission is to “Photograph the situation, identify its strengths and weaknesses, and propose universally beneficial solutions.”

    Being aware of the full picture can help businesses determine where and how to position themselves on the global market and perhaps adjust their offer based on its needs and identify new opportunities. Such a platform would also be a fundamental tool for institutions, which need to be fully aware of Italy’s exports to decide where and how to allocate any eventual support, without risking to waste public funds.

    Furthermore, IEF wants to bring focus to the Mezzogiorno, the southern part of Italy, which it believes has great economic potential, not only as a tourist destination. That is partly the reason why the conference is taking place on the iconic Sorrentine Peninsula, south of Naples.

    Born from the idea and experience of Italian entrepreneur and founder of The One Company, Lorenzo Zurino, organized in collaboration with Sace Simest and supported by Ispi - the Institute for the study of international politics, - Deloitte, Edelman and Lega del Filo d’Oro as charity partner, the conference will consist of a series of lectures, round tables and workshops on topics including food, fashion and internationalization. Moderating the fashion workshop will be i-Italy founder and editor-in-chief Letizia Airos. 

    At the end of the first day there will be a Gala during which the Italian Export Excellence award will be given out. The panel will consist of representatives from Italian and foreign companies and institutions with great experience working in the global market, including the ministry of agricultural policies, Confindustria, Agenzia Dogane, the Inspectorate for agro-alimentary fraud, the Dubai Economic Council, and the Italian Embassy in Qatar.

    The Osservatorio Italiano Export (OIE) - that is the Italian export observatory - will be set up as the central and permanent organism that will provide resources and support and institutionally connect businesses with public operators and decision-makers. The idea is that it will be a transparent but concrete and effective structure, operative all year long.

    The members of the observatory were chosen in order to provide the best support in the areas of legal/tax consultation, credit and insurance and points of reference with mediating organs, such as the Italian Chamber of Fashion, and with national and local institutions.

    So the forum aims to be much more than a conference: these two days are conceived as a starting point, the initial encounter that will lead to the creation of an ecosystem consisting of all the different actors involved in exporting Italy in all its forms.

    These actors will maintain contact through the multichannel platform supported by the OIE and meet regularly, year after year, in order to continuously expand their area of influence and adapt to and explore relevant global themes.


  • Facts & Stories

    New York Celebrates Italian National Day

    Although the ‘Festa della Repubblica’, Italian National Day, is celebrated on June 2nd, one day just wasn’t enough for all of this year’s festivities. After the successful second edition of the Italy Run, a 5-mile race through Central Park organized by the Italian Consulate, Nutella Cafe and New York Road Runners, celebrations picked up again on June 3rd.


    They began at the Italian Trade Agency, where guests had the chance to celebrate the accomplishments of Italian companies and brands in the US while enjoying top quality Italian products, including De Cecco pasta, Kimbo Caffè, Galvanina sparkling sodas, Ambrosi parmigiano, Bono olive oil, Fraccaro pasticceria, and Beretta salumi.  


    “This is never a routine celebration,” said Maurizio Forte, the director of the Trade Agency, “because there are always new reasons, new accomplishments to celebrate on this important date and it’s an honor to celebrate it in this country, where Italy has many ties - 25 million, maybe more, descendants, but also thousands of Italians, like yourselves, entrepreneurs, managers, and talents in many sectors.”


    “There are many reasons for our special bond with the US,” commented Italian Ambassador to the US Armando Varricchio, who came to New York to celebrate this special occasion, “73 years are certainly an important page of History. From those difficult years, when Italy rolled up its sleeves and got back up, seeking and obtaining the support of the US: we will always remember the ships that brought food to a starving country. But Italy has been able to win appreciation and respect by showing how we are able to be serious and work.”


    Three gorgeous Lamborghinis - red, white and green like the colors of the Italian flag - appeared in front of the Consulate General of Italy at 690 Park Avenue, attracting the attention of many passersby.


    This was later followed by the inauguration of two brand new designer Cassini bookshelves filled with Italian books kindly provided by Rizzoli Bookstore as part of a new initiative to promote the Italian language: “Mentre aspetti il tuo turno...leggi in italiano!” (while you wait for your in Italian!) The books are in fact placed in the Consulate’s waiting room and available for all to read, skim or admire.


    “We selected a variety of books from several publishers, (Rizzoli, Mondadori, Einaudi, Piemme, Sperling, Giunti, Bompiani) which represent our roots,” commented Livia Senic-Matuglia, Store Manager at Rizzoli International, who went on to explain that the idea is that everyone who passes through this room - Italians but also Italian Americans - will find something that resonates with them.


    The Ambassador and Consul General were obviously present at the inauguration, along with prominent figures such as Italian actress, filmmaker, and author Isabella Rosselini and writer Antonio Monda, whose books are included in the new library.


    Other personalities attended the festivities, including paralympic athlete, disability spokesperson, author and politician, Giusy Versace. “It’s amazing how sports become a great instrument for social inclusion and knock down cultural barriers. I was impressed to see how many Italians were present at the race but also so many Americans who love Italy,” she commented after kindly agreeing to stop and give us an impromptu interview.


    “I think that in these occasions, especially for those who watch this from home, for people who are tired, who have lost confidence, who no longer feel stimulated to go out and embrace life, sports gives so much energy, it can move everyone,” she continued in her contagiously positive and upbeat manner.


    Franciacorta wine and Aperol Spritz were poured and the reception officially kicked off with a performance of the Italian and American national anthems by the young musicians of the Scuola d’Italia Guglielmo Marconi.


    “This event is a great occasion to reinforce the strong ties between Italy and the US,” stated Ambassador Varricchio. “It is an important celebration in Italy but also, and maybe more so, for Italians abroad. We celebrate the accomplishments of everyone in this room.” Pointing to the “blue flag” next to the Italian and American ones, the Ambassador then added that this is also an occasion to celebrate the importance of Europe. “Being an Italian citizen also means being a European citizen,” he said.


    It was then time for the musical entertainment. Italian jazz singer and musician Chiara Civello delighted the audience with a short but soulful piano performance next door at the Italian Cultural Institute. Civello performed pieces in Italian, English and Portuguese, and gave a preview of her current project which involves creating Italian versions of great Brazilian songs.


    Finally, the food came out and guests continued to mingle over various Italian delicacies and a special new dish created by chef Davide Oldani: the “,” named so in honor of the Italian flag.


    “In moments such as these we understand how present Italy is in New York and how strong the love for Italy and Italians is here,” concluded Consul General Francesco Genuardi.


  • Art & Culture

    Gucci’s Capitoline Museums Show Gets Political

    The Italian fashion house’s 2020 Cruise Show had already raised interest when it was revealed that it would be held in Rome’s Capitoline Museums, which, having opened their doors in 1734, are considered the world’s first modern museum and host an immense collection of some of the Classical world’s most iconic artefacts.  


    This isn’t the first time that Gucci has chosen to present its collections in an unconventional space, Alessandro Michele, the brand’s creative director since 2015, has been building an ongoing dialog between his designs and the ancient world, mixing together elements from both.


    Recent Gucci shows have been held at a variety of culturally significant locations ranging from the Cloisters of Westminster Abbey in London, to the Palatine Gallery at Pitti Palace in Florence, all the way to the more contemporary Dia Art Foundation in New York. And the photoshoot for the Pre-Fall 2019 Collection was realized in the archaeological parks of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Selinunte.


    “My new cruise collection is, as usual, an homage to many things and to different cultures and historical moments. Among other citations, there are some references to the Seventies,” Michele says in an interview for WWD, “It was a historical moment when women — finally — rejected all the constraints that were imposed in the previous centuries and they became free.”


    This time, in fact, Michele added a new dimension to this dialog between past and present by featuring slogans and symbols evoking current and previous women’s rights and the pro-choice movements, in light of the recent anti-abortion laws that have been passed in parts of the United States. These symbols appear throughout the show and even on some of the clothes themselves.


    Just to cite some examples, the 70s feminist slogan “My Body My Choice” is featured on items from both the women’s and men’s collections, the date May 22, 1978 appears on several pieces, commemorating the moment abortion became legal in Italy, and a red and pink uterus is beautifully embroidered onto a pleated roman toga-inspired silk gown.


    Female reproductive rights have become a hot topic recently, in the wake of the resurfacing of anti-choice movements, which have gained enough following to effectively “turn back time” and get some US states including Alabama and Missouri to pass abortion bans. The issue has also been discussed just next door to the Capitoline Museums, in the Vatican, where the Pope recently compared abortion to hiring a “hitman to solve a problem.”

    “It’s unbelievable that around the world there are still people who believe that they can control a woman’s body, a woman’s choice,” comments the designer, who recognizes that he is in the privileged position of being able to reach large audiences without being censored “I’ve been given the megaphone and I really want to use it for a purpose,” he states.  


    In 2013, Gucci founded Chime For Change, a campaign led by Salma Hayek and Beyoncé “to convene, unite and strengthen the voices speaking out for gender equality.” So far, it has raised over $15 million to support projects and advocacy in 89 countries. Gucci has also been fighting domestic violence in Italy, training 160 ambassadors in cooperation with the D.i.R.e (Women’s Network Against Violence), the first Italian association of independent women’s centers and shelters against violence.


    Gucci’s social engagement is not an isolated case. Nowadays, everyone is expected to have and express their opinion on just about anything. Consequentially, we are seeing more and more brands, celebrities, influencers, and all sorts of public figures taking stances, weighing in on current cultural and social issues.


    And, in fact, many celebrities sided with Michele on this occasion: Elton John, Salma Hayek, Harry Styles, Asap Rocky, Saorsie Ronan, Zoe Saldana, just to name a few, were present at the event. Not to mention Italian figures such as Alessandro Borghi, Valeria Golino, and even former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Mayor of Rome Virginia Raggi, who reportedly stood up and clapped at the end of the show.


    However, unsurprisingly, other Italian politicians - particularly representatives of the 5 Star Movement - expressed their outrage against the event and reprimanded the Museum for accepting to host it, even though Gucci has promised to make a donation to support the restoration project of the Rupe Tarpea, the rock face on the southern side of the Campidoglio, over the next two years, similarly to what other Italian brands such as Fendi and Bulgari have done in the past.


    Whatever your stance may be, it’s an undeniable fact that today a fashion show can fully engage with social, political, and cultural issues. And that may be a little scary to consider but also exciting and potentially an effective way of promoting social advancement and human rights.