Articles by: Andrea Riccio

  • Facts & Stories

    Saying No to the Mafia: a Question of Dignity

    Addio Pizzo is a movement born in Sicily in 2004 to promote  a "cultural revolution" aimed to defeat the leaders of the Mafia.  Within a more comprehensive fight against organized crime, the group's primary commitment is the struggle against extortion, the economic activity that undermines the development of many Sicilian businesses and trades.  The real weapon in this battle is  "critical consumption", in other words the purchase of goods from merchants who clearly state that they do not pay "pizzo", protection money, to the Mafia.

    Francesco Bertolino, former President of Addio Pizzo, and founder of a civic list that oppose the racket, shares with us his point of view on the Mafia phenonmenon and especially on the ways to combat it. 

    "Addio Pizzo" was born in 2004, what has changed since then? 

    With no doubts "Addio Pizzo" has significant merits: first of all it made of the racket a topic of discussion, involving common citizens and pushing them to talk about such a delicate issue; it gave them a new alternative, the associationism, which is the fist weapon to defeat the Mafia when the citizen feels left alone and abandoned.  The movement, moreover, has carried on an innovative message: being on the side of legality does not mean to be a loser and, actually, can also be profitable. 

    The association "Addio Pizzo" can be defined as a "response from the ground up" against against organized crime.  Is it possible to win this war without the mediation of Public Institutions?  What is the relationship between these latter and voluntary associations?

    It is absolutely impossible even to think to defeat the Mafia without the help of the State:  our movement, in fact, acted in secret at first, but afterwards we sought the support of institutions, which proved to be of great support.   "Addio Pizzo," in fact, aims to demonstrate that the State is there and intends to help its citizens. 
    This history of the Antimafia movement is filled with charasmatic personalities.  Is there someone who "Addio Pizzo" finds particularly inspiring? 
    Definitely Libero Grassi, a businessman that payed with his life his firm opposition to the racket, and he is one of the individuals who started the movement.  Grassi's widow, now the honoary president of "Addio Pizzo," is a person at whom we look with great affection and consideration, a "grandma" for all of us. 

    Personally I am very attached to the figure of the judge Caponnetto as well. He was the first to give visability to the Antimafa pool and wanted in his team people of the caliber of Falcone and Borsellino.  Even when he ended his service the judge continued his fight against the Mafia; he visited Sicilian schools, talking to young people, aknowledging them on the issue.  Actually we met during one of his "lessons".


    Is the Mafia a phenomenon in itself, or can it be compared to other forms of organized crime in the South of  Italy?  If not, what are the main features that make it unique? 

    With no doubts the Mafia has its peculiarities: it's the oldest and most well-known criminal organization in the South of Italy and, because of this, it is deeply rooted in the territory.  But it must be said that, nowadays, globaliziation has touched also organized crime and it does not make sense anymore to impute certain phenomena exclusively to mafia, or to localize them in a geographic frame.
    As shown in the studies by the Centro Impastato, the Mafia phenomenon has a "territorial lordship" in Sicily.  Don't you think that we can also talk about a "ideologic lordship"? 
    Unfortunately, yes.  The Mafia intervenes where the citizen is weak, when he thinks he has no choice, where the institutions are inactive.  I believe that no one would go with the Mafia if they had an alternative. This is the problem: the Mafia organization offers a "moral model" to those who don't have it; they provide them with assistance, and act like a sort of Social Policy Department fulfilling needs that the State does not satisty. I even heard that documents related to a sort of "Complaints Department" of the racket were found during a recent raid.  How could the situation be more clear than this?
    After 5 years, can "Addio Pizzo" and the other associations that fight the racket be defined as the new face of the Antimafia? 
    I leave the judgement to those who watch from the outside, but I can say that "Addio Pizzo" definitely has elements of great novelty with respect to the past Mafia movements.  Just think that we offer a different idea of success, of economic prosperity to those who join the association.  The preceeding model, instead, was based on sacrifice, a commitment to the cause that one could also pay with life: it enjoyed a lot of sympathy but not too many would dare to fight for it.
    Apart from the one of the "pizzo", on which other fronts should we fight to regain dignity?  
    We must eliminate corruption, the complicity that sometimes exists between the Mafia and the political world.  I am not talking about the Bench or the Police, from which we have always received a lot of help.  Rather, I refer to the "real political world", the one roling both on a national and a local level. They make it hard to hand down a message of legality and have it accepted by citizens. 
    How difficult is it to help a Sicilian businessman in subverting the status quo?  Do you find a lot of resistance?  Is there still a lot of fear in Sicily?
    There is still fear and it is understandable, but we're having a good response from traders and businessmen.  Just think that today "Addio Pizzo" includes about 400 businesses, while previous antiracket list had an avarage of 10 registered members.  This is because the businessman feels protected and knows that the institutions will rembourse and assist him after his denounciation. 

    How important has been the "buzz" to spread your message and mission?  How important is the problem of criminal extortion in the media?  Do you think it is depicted correctly?

    The buzz is crucial, especially when you consider that we are talking about a spontaneous movement that went from six to thirty members in one month alone.  Now the media -- local, national, and international -- talk about us with great emphasis, except for a few cases of misunderstanding
    Somebody says that organized crime is changing and is becoming more subtle and insidious.  The ethic of the "honored society" doesn't exist anymore, and neither do rules.  The members of the Mafia or the Camorra do not have mustaches or carry a shotgun; the new generations are well educated, well-dressed, and often have master's degrees from prestigious universities. Well camuoflaged, crime enters the "good society".  Do you agree?
    Absolutely yes, this is a very contemporary phenomenon.  Maybe the Mafia still exists in its stereotypical forms in small towns,but the real business is outside of those realities, it is much closer to the upper classes, to the "good society".  

  • Dire no alla mafia. Una questione di dignità

    Addio Pizzo è un movimento dal basso, nato in Sicilia nel 2004 per proporre una “rivoluzione culturale” necessaria ad abbattere il sultanato della mafia. All’interno di una piu’ ampia lotta alla criminalita’ organizzata, il gruppo si prefigge in primo luogo di combattere contro il racket delle estorsioni, il “pizzo”, appunto, che mina lo sviluppo di numerosi commercianti ed imprenditori siciliani. Arma concreta di questa battaglia è il consumo critico, ossia l’acquisto di beni presso esercenti che dichiarano esplicitamente di non pagare il pizzo.

    Francesco Bertolino, ex Presidente di Addio Pizzo, e fondatore di una lista di cittadini che si oppongono al racket, ci fornisce uno sguardo dall’interno al fenomeno mafioso e, soprattutto, ai modi per combatterlo


    Addio Pizzo” nasce nel 2004, cosa è cambiato da allora?

    “Addio Pizzo” ha sicuramente dei meriti importanti: in primo luogo ha reso il racket un tema di attualità, ha scosso la cittadinanza, l’ha spinta a parlare di un tema così delicato, le ha offerto la via dell’associazionismo, la prima arma per sconfiggere la Mafia, che agisce proprio quando il cittadino viene lasciato solo. Il movimento, inoltre, si è fatto portavoce di un messaggio innovativo: non sempre essere dalla parte della legalità corrisponde ad essere un perdente e, pertanto, seguire la via dell’economia pulita puo’ essere anche remunerativo.

    L’associazione “Addio Pizzo” può essere definita una “risposta dal basso” alla criminalità organizzata. E’ possibile vincere questa guerra senza la mediazione delle Istituzioni? E, soprattutto, quali sono i rapporti di questi movimenti volontari con le Istituzioni?

    E’ assolutamente impossibile pensare di sconfiggere la mafia senza l’aiuto dello Stato: il movimento, infatti, ha agito dapprima in segreto per poi cercare l’appoggio delle Istituzioni, che si sono dimostrate di grande supporto. “Addio Pizzo”, infatti, si prefigge di dimostrare che lo Stato c’è e che intende aiutare i cittadini.



    La storia dell’Antimafia è  costellata di personalità carismatiche. C’è qualcuno a cui “Addio Pizzo” e lei in prima persona vi ispirate in particolare?

    Sicuramente Libero Grassi, un imprenditotre che ha pagato con la vita la sua ferma opposizione al racket, è uno degli ispiratori del movimento. Anche la vedova Grassi, attualmente Presidente onorario di “Addio Pizzo”, è una persona a cui guardiamo con affetto e stima, una “nonna” per tutti noi. Personalmente sono anche molto legato al giudice Caponnetto, che per la prima volta ha dato visibilità  al pool antimafia e ha voluto nella sua squadra personalità del Calibro di Falcone e Borsellino. Anche al termine del suo mandato il giudice ha continuato la sua lotta alla mafia; lo ha fatto visitando le scuole siciliane, parlando con i giovani e sensibilizzandoli al tema. Anche il nostro incontro è avvenuto in questo modo.

    La mafia è un fenomeno a sé  o può essere accostato alle altre forme di criminalità organizzata presenti nel Sud Italia? Se si tratta di un fenomeno “autonomo”, quali caratteristiche la rendono peculiare?

    La mafia ha senza dubbio le sue peculiarita’: e’ l’organizzazione criminale più antica e più conosciuta del Sud Italia e, proprio per questo, è profondamente radicata sul territorio. Ma va detto che, oggi come oggi, la globalizzazione ha raggiunto anche la criminalità organizzata e non ha più senso parlare di fenomeni a carattere locale o di stampo esclusivamente mafioso.

    Come rivelano gli studi del Centro Impastato il fenomeno mafioso gode in Sicilia di una “signoria territoriale”. Lei non crede che si possa parlare anche di una “signoria ideologica”?

    Purtroppo si’. La Mafia interviene dove il cittadino e’ debole, privo di scelta; dove le istituzioni latitano o sono colluse. Io credo che nessuno accetterebbe di fare accordi con la mafia se avesse di fronte un’altra possibilità. E’ questo il problema: l’organizzazione mafiosa troppo spesso ispira un modello a persone che non lo hanno, fornisce assistenza, una sorta di assessorato alle politiche sociali, dove lo Stato non arriva. Ho addirittura saputo che in una recente retata sono stati trovati documenti relativi ad una sorta di “ufficio reclami” del pizzo. Più presente di così?

    Dopo 5 anni, “Addio Pizzo” e le altre associazioni che combattono il racket possono definirsi il nuovo volto dell’Antimafia?

    Il giudizio lo lascio a chi ci guarda dall’esterno, eppure mi sento di affermare che “Addio Pizzo” ha sicuramente degli elementi di grande novità rispetto al passato: proponiamo un messaggio diverso rispetto ai precedenti movimenti antimafia. Basti pensare che noi veicoliamo un’idea di successo, di prosperità economica (e pulita) a chi aderisce all’associazione. Il modello precedente, invece, si basava sul sacrificio, sulla morte per la causa: riscuoteva tanta solidarietà ma pochissimi -non a torto-  scendevano in campo.

    Oltre alla lotta al pizzo, quali sono gli altri fronti necessari a recuperare la dignità?

    Bisogna estirpare la corruzione, la complicità che a volte si instaura tra mafia e mondo politico. Non parlo, in questo frangente, della Magistratura o delle Forze di Polizia, dalle quali abbiamo sempre ricevuto grande aiuto. Mi riferisco, piuttosto, alla “politica pura”, del governo e degli enti territoriali. E’ difficile, in un tale contest6o, trasmettere un messaggio di legalità e farlo accettare ai cittadini.

    Quanto è difficile aiutare un commerciante siciliano a sovvertire lo status quo? Trovate molta resistenza? Quanta paura c’è ancora in Sicilia?

    C’è ancora paura ed è comprensibile, ma stiamo avendo un’ottima risposta dai commercianti e dagli imprenditori. Basti pensare che oggi “Addio Pizzo” raccoglie circa 400 attività mentre le precedenti liste anti racket arrivavano ai 10 iscritti. Questo accade perchè l’esercente si sente tutelato anche sotto il profilo economico e sa che le Istituzioni lo supporteranno attraverso rimborsi ed agevolazioni a seguito della sua denuncia.

    Il messaggio di “Addio Pizzo”, inizialmente, è stato diffuso in maniera “virale”, quanto conta quindi  il “passaparola”? Che rilievo sta avendo, invece, il problema dell’estorsione criminale sui media? Pensa che sia dipinta in maniera corretta?

    Il passaparola è stato fondamentale, soprattutto se si pensa che parliamo di un movimento spontaneo che è passato da sei a trenta aderenti in un mese appena. Ora anche i media -non solo in ambito locale ma anche nazionale ed internazionale-  ci danno grande risalto e, salvo pochi casi di “misunderstanding”, ci hanno sempre presentato in maniera corretta.

    C’e’ chi dice che la criminalità organizzata stia cambiando volto, diventando più sottile e più insidiosa. Non esiste più l’etica dell’“onorata società”, non esistono più regole. Il mafioso o il camorrista, inoltre, non portano più i baffoni e la lupara; le nuove generazioni sono ben educate, ben vestite e spesso con master in prestigiose università. Il crimine accede, ben camuffato, alla “buona società”, alle sfere alte. Lei è d’accordo con questa opinione? 

    Assolutamente sì, credo sia un fenomeno molto attuale. La mafia forse esiste ancora nelle sue forme stereotipate solo nei piccoli centri ma, ovviamente, il giro degli affari è fuori, in un contesto molto più ampio e molto più “legato” alle sfere alte. Lo stesso procuratore Grasso, proprio a New York, parlerà di questo tema in un intervento dedicato alla “nuova mafia”.


  • Life & People

    "Fish and Chips" all'Italiana. A Succesful Story of Immigration

    Did you know that the Italians were those who first introduced the famous dish “Fish & Chips” to the Irish? Well, we know, it might seem strange but it is true! And we have evidences to prove it…

    We found them in “Chippers”, the latest documentary by director Nino Tropiano, an Italian settled in Ireland: through his movie, he offers us an attentive reconstruction of what happened in the “green isle” about a century ago or so.

    We had the opportunity to watch the documentary during a screening at the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute, a research center committed to the studying and preservation of old and new Italian cultures and traditions in America.

    Researches in this particular field can often lead to unexpected discoveries of fascinating stories born from fortuitous intercultural “encounters”.

    In this case, it was an employee of the Institute, Bill , who brought the documentary to his colleagues’ attention. “Chippers” was in fact part of the Dublin Documentary Festival, the city where his girlfriend lives.

    “Chippers” is the story of an Italian community of 4500 people that moved from Casalattico, a small town in the Ciociaria region, to Dublin at the beginning of the 20th century. Their settlement brought unexpected consequences for the local inhabitants: these Italians imported to Ireland the typical English dish “Fish & Chips” which became one of the symbols of the Irish culture.

    In Casalattico people are still very affectionate to this traditional English dish, that guaranteed to many of their co citizens a full integration in their new country, Ireland . As Anthony Tamburri, Dean of the Calandra Institute told us, “in this little town in the Ciociaria region you can find what maybe is the only “Fish and Chips” store in Italy. I discovered it when I visited the town where my family came from, Settefrati, in occasion of the celebrations in honor of the “local” Madonna.

    As the Associate Director of Academic and Cultural Programs at the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute Jospeh Sciorra explained during the debate following the projection “the most interesting thing I learned from this documentary is that migrating Italians encountered as many different destinies as the countries were they moved.

    The other speaker that participated to the debate, Cara De Silva, a journalist specialized in food and ethnicity, told the public about the origins of “Fish & Chips”, taking it as an example of how culture can influence food, and vice versa.

    Even if Nino Tropiano was not present at the event, we managed to reach him: “ I think that the Italian/Irish tried to imitate their more famous ‘cousins’, the Italian/American. The story recounted in “Chippers” testifies their successful integration with their new society, they found their America in Ireland.”

    “Yet, I noticed a big difference between these two groups: the Italian/Irish still feel a strong bond with their country of origin, they go back to Italy pretty often and maintain many Italian customs. On the other hand, the Italian/American usually go to Italy rarely (this happens also because of the distance between the two countries) and just during the holidays. So they actually look more American with Italian origins.”

    There is always a lot to learn from stories like the one reported in “Chippers”, wherever they happen, because the story of our migrants is often the story of our forgotten past. At the same time it might become the story of our future: since nowadays Italy is a country of immigration, we have to look at the historical examples offered by the US and Ireland to imagine a new efficient model of integration for the “new Italians”.

  • Quando la regia è ai fornelli

    Riccardo nasce a Bologna 33 anni fa e, sin dall’infanzia, mostra interesse per il cinema. La sua strada è già decisa a 14 anni quando, durante la Mostra del Cinema di Venezia, chiede a Steven Spielberg quale sia la miglior scuola degli Stati Uniti per studiare cinema. La risposta del grande regista gli rimane in mente e, appena è sufficientemente “grande” - a circa 20 anni- Riccardo si trasferisce a New York per frequentare la Tisch School of the Arts presso la New York University.

    Eppure, come nel migliore dei finali a sorpresa, un altro motivo sta per regalargli un’immediata fama: la sua cucina. Riky, infatti, è uno dei tre finalisti di “The Ultimate Recipe Showdown”, programma televisivo prodotto dalla Food Network.

    Mentre sediamo comodamente sull’erba di Central Park, godendo finalmente il sole dopo troppi giorni piovosi, Riccardo mi racconta come è arrivato in tv. “La mia partecipazione allo show è casuale, alcuni studenti del mio corso di cucina (ebbene sì, insegno anche cucina!) me ne hanno parlato e mi hanno convinto a partecipare. La selezione per far parte del programma è piuttosto complessa e si divide in numerose fasi: prima ho mandato tre ricette, poi un video e infine, dopo un’intervista telefonica, mi hanno finalmente detto che ero in finale nella categoria “comfort food”. Considera che ho avuto la notizia mentre ero in vacanza in Sicilia ed è stato piuttosto complicato, tra fax preistorici e connessioni latenti alla rete, riuscire a fare tutto per tempo. Ma ormai è fatta, a breve c’è la finale. Mi sto esercitando tutti i giorni. Sono davvero emozionato!”.

    Per paura di passare per l’ignorante di turno - insomma  l’italiana solo pizza e spaghetti - non ho chiesto chiarimenti in merito al comfort food. Ma il dilemma è stato subito sciolto quando Riccardo mi ha spiegato la ricetta che preparerà durante la finale del 28 settembre: “farò gli Uccelletti Scappati, un piatto tipico della tradizione emiliana, che le mogli erano solite preparare quando i mariti tornavano dalla caccia a mani vuote… senza uccelletti, insomma! Si tratta di piccoli spiedini di mortadella, carne di maiale e formaggio a pasta dura (un emmenthal o una fontina stagionata) immersi nella besciamella e poi fritti…una cosuccia leggera!”. Più comfort di così!

    Con il suo sorriso fresco, quasi infantile, ed una buona dose di orgoglio, Riky mi racconta che l’amore per i fornelli è nato in anni di attenta osservazione della nonna, bolognese d.o.c., amante della buona cucina e della convivialità. Il merito in realtà va a tutta la famiglia, un gruppo di specialisti della cucina. “A casa mia siamo davvero attenti al mangiar bene. Pensa che da 40 anni, ogni Natale, compiliamo il 'libro del tortellino', un quadernetto dove appuntiamo i commenti post-pranzo al fine di ottenere il tortellino perfetto!”

    Viste le ottime premesse era quasi naturale che Riccardo diventasse un cuoco provetto e un amante della cucina. Bisogna però essere precisi: Riky prepara piatti rigorosamente italiani, ancor meglio se di Bologna e dintorni. “Nonostante siano 13 anni che vivo all’estero, la mia cucina non si è lasciata contaminare. Faccio solo ricette italiane e compro, quando possibile, ingredienti italiani. Da buon bolognese ci sono due cose che non mancano mai nel mio frigo: il maiale, in almeno uno dei suoi derivati, e il parmigiano reggiano. Nella dispensa, invece, c’è sempre del cioccolato!”.

    Dopo questo racconto una cosa è sicura: la prossima intervista  con me non la si farà al parco… pretendo una cucina attrezzata! Sono infatti certa che Riky, sebbene maiale-dipendente, riuscirà a trovare tra le sue tante ricette un piatto leggero e ipocalorico da preparare alle donne perennemente-a-dieta (anche gli uomini promettono di farla, ma al primo attimo di distrazione femminile divorano tutto quello che hanno a portata di mano!) dello staff di I-Italy.

  • Life & People

    Ciak...Let's Cook!

    Riccardo was born in Bologna 33 years ago. He discovered his passion for cinema in his early childhood, but it was at the age of fourteen that he finally decided to become a director. At that time, in fact, he met Steven Spielberg at the Venice Cinema Festival and asked him advices on a good school of cinema to attend in the US. He never forgot what the famous director told him and at the age of twenty he moved to New York to attend the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU.

    During his career Riccardo worked with important directors, one of them being Spike Lee, and in 2001 he founded an entertainment company, Blitz Entertainment, of which he became co-chairman. Today he also teaches Italian and Italian cinema in two schools, and he cultivates many hobbies as well. Well, he is  such a really hyperactive guy…

    However, the one thing that will soon give him
    fame is still another one: his good cuisine. He is
    in fact among the three finalists of the Ultimate Recipe Showdown, a TV show broadcasted by Food Network. “My participation to the show is fortuitous: some students at my cooking classes (oh yes, I also teach that!) acknowledged me about it and convinced me to participate. I had to send three recipes and a video to the network to be selected. After a phone interview, they told me I was finalist in the comfort food category. It was a pretty long process, divided into different steps. Since the final part of the competition is coming up soon, I am going to practice everyday. I am thrilled! ”, Riky told me during our interview at Central Park, both enjoying a sunny day after so much rain, laid on the green dump grass.

    And when he told me about the recipe he will prepare for the great final on September 28, it was easy for me, being Italian, to understand what comfort food means and why he is running for that category. The recipe’s name is Uccelletti Scappati (escaped birds), a typical dish from the Emilia Romagna region, originally prepared when hunters came back home empty hands. Riccardo explained that: “Uccelletti was a dish cooked by hunters’ wives to comfort their husbands in those cases. It is not very light, in fact it consists in diced mortadella, pork and emmenthal cheese shish kebabs dipped in béchamel sauce and then fried.”

    With his open smile and a good dose of pride, he tells us about his passion for cooking, grown after several years of careful observation of his grandma, a traditional Bolognese socialite who used to organize big collective meals. But the merit goes to the whole family, all very passionate for cuisine: “Since 40 years ago, everyone of us at Christmas time writes on the libro del tortellino, a notebook where we report our comments on the tortellini we eat in order to finally modify the recipe to perfection!”

    With such a good background, it was expectable that Riccardo would become a very good chef (even though not by profession) and literally fell in love with the art of cooking. Yet, it is necessary to point out that he only loves to cook Italian dishes, better if they come from Bologna and the surrounding areas. “I don’t prepare any recipe that is not truly Italian. This is my own philosophy as regarding to cuisine. I also pay a lot of attention to the ingredients and I always look for Italian brands. Being an authentic Bolognese guy, there are two things that are never missing in my fridge: pork-derived products, and parmigiano reggiano. And I always have chocolate in my cupboard as well!  

    For all the things Riccardo told me, and for his nice attitude, I decided I would have another interview with him, but this time with a kitchen on hand! I am sure that, even if  he is a “pork-oholic”, he’ll find among his recipes something light and tasty to cook for the always-on-a-diet women and men (that should diet, but who eat whatever they find on their way) of I-Italy’s staff !

  • Aniello Musella, Director of ITC of North America and Fabio Aromatici, A.N.C.I.'s  Chief Executive Officer
    Style: Articles

    There's Something About Italian Shoes!

    There’s only one way to fully understand the value of a product: ask to final consumer. This is what exactly the Italian Trade Commission and A.N.C.I. (the National Association of the Italian footwear manufacturer) did in partnership with Footwear News, on the occasion of the innovative competition “Stepping Out in Italian Shoes. Popular Choice Award.” The public selected through voting on the internet which Italian designers received  prizes for their products. This initiative has been a great success, both in terms of voting and the  presence  of attendees at the award ceremony held at the Italian restaurant, Montenapo, a suggestive location.

    Many officials and many “stars’ naturally attended the party, but the most surprising aspect of the evening was the massive presence of standard people that attended the cocktail party (after a complicated process of obtaining invites on the Internet) just for love of Italian shoes. “I love Italian shoes,” in fact, was the most frequent and first comment that these people expressed when interviewed. Another widespread opinion among the “consumers” attending the event is that Italian shoes are not only extremely stylish, but also very comfortable and crafted with high quality materials.

    The comments of the public are echoed by those of the experts:

    Aniello Musella, Director of the ITC of North America, has expressed his positive feelings towards the event: “it has been a very successful initiative of image and communication  in one of the most important areas of made in Italy: footwear. Tonight many buyers, arriving in New York for fashion week, as well as many fashion journalists, are  attending this event. There are numerous consumers also; their presence here is extremely relevant because they are the final group of all the activities organized by the Italian Trade Commission that we hope to reach. It was the awareness of this big power of the public on the market that has inspired the Stepping Out in Italian Shoes’ idea: we wanted consumers to vote for their favorite stylists so that they can understand their precious role on the fashion agenda.

    Moreover, the ITC is preparing another interesting initiative in partnership with the Herst publishing group about Italian fashion which will be presented at the end of September. We are organizing a huge promotion through specialized print publications, the web and 150 retailers all over the US. This promotion about made in Italy will last three weeks between March and April.

    In addition, the ICT will soon bring  five delegations to the main Italian fairs in order to create five special inserts to be published on Herst’s fashion magazines. We must remember that made in Italy is a "brand", or marker, of high quality  that invites consumers to buy those products even in periods of economic crisis. The ITC is doing all its best to help the development of this great brand.”

    Also Fabio Aromatici, Chief Executive Officer of A.N.C.I., has shown his enthusiasm for the awards: “The organization of this competition has taken a year of work. Everything began at the acme of the crisis because we wanted to help the companies we represent, which are more than 800, to overcome this difficult period. We really wanted to do something, not only for the enterprise already presentt on the U.S. market, but also for all of those that wanted to “conquer” this market.

     The A.N.C.I. has involved 80 companies with Stepping Out in Italian Shoes and  has given American fashion journalists the hard work of making the first selection among these companies. Obviously, the final choice was in the hand of consumers that have joined the voting massively. We can state that business and the public have both responded greatly to the initiative. We firmly believe that all the comments left by voters on the Stepping Out website could be used as useful marketing cues for the companies.

    However made in Italy is displaying great strength against the wind of the recession. This is probably happening because of some peculiarities of Italian companies: first of all, the presence of all the phases of the production in the same country; we are an exception in this. On the occasion of this competition, we have presented some new Italian footwear manufacturers to the U.S. market and the public is giving positive feedback. Everything make us hopeful for next winter season.”

    The five winners of the Stepping Out in Italian Shoes awards have declared their commitment for the prize, but also the effort to cooperate in order to promote made in Italy, a market always growing in the US.

     "This a very innovative and valuable initiative!" told us Arturo Venanzi, Sales Director of Franceschetti, winner in Men’s Designer category . Instead, Claudia Carnevali, of Calzaturificio Giorgio Fabiani (winner for Women’s Contemporary) has expressed her surprise for the enormous number of comments left on the site of the awards by consumers : “I didn’t expect such a great response! It’s wonderful!”

     On the other hand, Claudia Ciuti, designer and winner of the award in the Women's Designer category, has stressed the peculiarities of made in Italy shoes: “Italian shoes are not just beautiful, they are also extremely comfortable. Our designers are able to mix the emotional with the practical in a perfect way.” Emiliano Baccarini, Sales Manager in the U.S. for Roberto Guerrini (awarded for Men’s Contemporary Category), has the same opinion: “The Italian shoe stands out in the choice of materials and in the manufacture. That is why we produce unique products which are desrible in a period of crisis.” Simona Zerchi from Casadei's staff, winner for the Innovative Design, showed her enthusiasm for the prize : “This is the right recognition for our policy of innovation and quality.” 

    At the party was also present the Consul General, Francesco Talo’, always supportive of the events organized by the Italian Community: “Stepping Out in Italian Shoes is a success and the site chosen for this celebration  is wonderful, very Italian. I have really appreciated the idea of a popular awards, because it can create a solid link between final consumers and brands. In fact, I have suggested that the winners pay attention to the comments of the public. What makes Italian shoes so famous? Well, a perfect mixture of design, innovation, beauty and attention to ecology. We are unique!”

    This event has been a concrete signal of the popular appreciation of made in Italy in the U.S. and of its ability to cope with a difficult moment. As we have heard at Montenapo, Italian shoes have lots of fans, thanks to their ability to go straight to the heart without hurting the feet!

    photos by Mark Von Holden/

  • Events: Reports

    Stepping 0ut in Italian Shoes!

    From Cinderella to nowadays, shoes have always been an icon of elegance and sensuality. Especially if they are Italian shoes. Well-known song-writers Minke de Ville and Patty Larkin have both given tribute to the outstanding quality of these products with two “twin hits”, both entitled “Italian Shoes”. And how can we forget the shiny red shoe portrayed on the poster of the movie “The Devil Wears Prada”? These are just  a couple of examples that can show fairly enough how much Americans love Italian shoes!

     Recently 45.000 thousands of US  trade operators, experts in the field, consumers, and  passionate have voted their favorite Italian footwear manufacturers in occasion of the “Stepping Out in Italian Shoes. Popular Choice Awards”, a contest organized by the Italian Trade Commission and ANCI (Associazione Nazionale Calzaturifici Italiani - Italian Footwear Manufacturers Association).
    “We are very excited about this project because it was our first large-scale event in the U.S. and the first one directed to the general public,” said Fabio Aromatici, general director of ANCI. “The Association has a long history of working with the media and the industry. Now we are also reaching out to consumers. The use of digital technologies, like the ‘Stepping Out’ microsite, is another important step for us as an organization.”
    Published and publicized on both the paper and the web edition of the trade journal Footwear News, the initiative resulted in the designation of five winners, each one in a different sector: Claudia Ciuti for Women’s Designer; Franceschetti for Men’s Designer; Giorgio Fabiani for Women’s Contemporary ; Roberto Guerrini for Men’s Contemporary; and Casadei for Innovative Design.
    These eminent (and popular) representatives of the “Made in Italy” production in the footwear industry will be awarded before a public of selected guests by celebrity guest host Jamie-Lynn Sigler during a cocktail party to be held at the elegant Italian Montenapo Restaurant, NYC, on September 13.
    The event will not only be an occasion of fun for those invited to attend, but it also represents a new strategy to introduce the world of Italian footwear industry to a wider American public.
    “The goal of this awards program was to capture the attention of U.S. consumers and involve them in the world of ‘Made in Italy’ footwear,” said Aniello Musella, trade commissioner and executive director for the USA at the Italian Trade Commission. “Stepping Out in Italian Shoes presented the best-of-the-best Italian shoe designers from firms large and small.” 
    Under this perspective, the popular participation is particularly relevant and the contest has given to thousands of US consumers a chance to have an insight look at the creativity, quality and style of a key sector of the Italian world of fashion.

  • Events: Reports

    Falling in Love With Leather. When Tannery is Art

    There should be a reason that Italian fashion is so famous all over the world.

    The tenth edition of the Arts & Tannery, the biennial exhibition of Italian leather and textile manufacturers, gave us the opportunity to discover the reason behind Italian fashion’s popularity. This event, which is organized by the Italian Leather System Consortium in partnership with the Italian Trade Commission, is an extraordinary chance for cool-hunters, fashion designers and stylists to enjoy the leather novelties of the Fall/Winter 2010/2011 season, and admire high quality materials, all researched specifically for the American market.  

    Speaking with the Director of the Italian Trade Commission of New York, the Consul Generalwho personally attended the event, and with the ten exhibitors showing their product at Arts & Tannery, gave me the opportunity to fully understand Italian fashion’s points of strength. Some peculiarities of Italian production, like the prevalence of small and medium clothing industries (usually characterized by family owned businesses) as well as the use of top quality and handmade products, allow this market to still thrive during the global recession. 

    Aniello Musella, Director of the ITC of New York explains this phenomenon: 
    “The small and medium enterprise is the strength of the Italian industrial system, because in periods of recession it reacts better than big corporations thanks to its flexibility and its ability to let the demand and the supply meeting. Even if we are talking of high range products, this industrial structure is able to check the costs of each moment of the production’s process, arriving on the market with a competitive final price. This is fundamental nowadays. 

    “Versatility is another core value of these small and medium companies. This is true especially in tannery fields, where many producers are able to create goods based on the needs of their clients, the American buyers. I have to admit that Italian fashion is showing good performance despite the difficult economic situation. In this period, in fact, big department stores, like Sacks, 5th Avenue and Bloomingdales, have restarted to purchase orders. It’s true, these orders are not equal to those of the pre-recession period, but something is in movement. Generally, I can speak of a bigger selectivity among products; the department stores are investing on the key elements of American demand because they don’t want unsold items. I can however give evidence to a return to Italian fashion productions, which are the top among the high quality products. 

    “The Italian Trade Commission helps direct promotion of Italian industries towards the big department stores and eventually to final consumers. For instance, we are organizing an interesting initiative for the Italian shops on Madison Avenue during Christmas Time; we want people to pay attention to Italian artisan products. In addition, we usually bring American traders directly to Italy to show them well-known fashion and design fairs. We do for Pitti, a company/exhibition in Florence, for VicenzaOro, the biggest Italian jewelry exhibition, and for the Furniture and Design fair in Milan. Very soon several American buyers will go to Milan to attend Micam, a shoe fair, and Mipel, a tannery fair, that  occur at the same time.

    “Obviously the main purpose is to reach the American consumer, but this always happens in partnership with US Department Stores, that are the direct contact with customers. As a result these stores, thanks to their closer relationships with consumers, convey the message of the ICT in a deeper way.” 

    The Consul General, Francesco Zaló, has also showed his enthusiasm towards the initiative:  

    “These manufacturers represent the Italian excellence, especially in a field where many European countries have given up. This happens because of Italian creativity and research. The courage that all these industries are showing by coming here for the Arts & Tannery exhibition in spite of the crisis must also be underlined. By the way, we all hope that this year will not be as difficult as the previous one. 

    “I have found extraordinary products in this exhibition and we have to be proud of them. What has really surprised me is that in a relatively small space there are ten different exhibitors that sell similar kinds of items without competing with one another because their products are so unique.” 

    Yet, to really appreciate Arts & Tannery, let’s have a look at each of the ten exhibitors, which have been so kind to also give us trend suggestions for next season: 

    Ausonia was founded in 1946 at Santa Croce sull’Arno;born as a familiar enterprise it is now part of a group of six tanneries located in Tuscany’s industrial area. “Our goals are quality and ecology. We care about the enviromental impact of our industrial processes and we try to

    work as greenly as possible.” Also, in fashion they suggest a very natural style but with shiny colors like blue and green.

    BCN Concerie was founded in 1938 at Santa Croce sull’Arno by Lupi’s Family. It is still a family run industry that tries to maintain the hand-crafted tradition. BCN’s masterpiece is the biological tannery, a process that makes leather not only ecological, but also very soft and water resistant. For the next season BCM suggests natural leather and warm colors.

    Certaldese is a Tuscan company with a 60-year-old history. Unlike most of the other exhibitors, it is not a tannery, but a factory that creates semi-finished leather products, belts and bags in particular. As a result, they work with stylists and fashion designers like Michael Kors, Bottega Veneta and Armani. Certaldese is not interested in mass production and it focuses on high quality materials and flexibility.  

    Conceria M2 was founded 37 years ago in Santa Croce sull’Arno (PI). It is a family run, enterprise specializing in hand-crafted suede, plain or stamped. This is the 5th year that M2 participates in this fair and for this edition they have proposed a special suede treated with wax and then brushed. Regarding fashion, they advised us: “After two or three seasons of patent leather now it is time (luckily for us) for opaque leather, such as suede. Next season promises to be very casual.”

    Mb3 conceria is a 15 years old enterprise, owned by Nuti’s family. This tannery, located in Santa Croce sull’Arno (PI), is the development of a former project. “In my opinion, New York is the most important fashion market in the world. That’s why I’m here for the 5th year consecutively,” Marco Nuti, Mb3’s owner has told us. His fashion advice is to go for a casual style, wearing dark colors such as black, brown and grey. 

    Pellegrini International is a new entry at Arts & Tannery. This familiar factory of Fucecchio (FI) works python leather and realizes many different treatments on it such as coloring, painting and embroidery. They suggest to us a very natural style, with some camouflage and dark colors.  

    Primorpelli is a hand-crafted tannery of Fucecchio (FI) with 20 years experience in mutton and goat leather. They mainly design winter coats, and the most common manufacturing they do consists of washing and then blowing drying the leather. In their opinion, brown will be the dominant color next year.   

    SanLorenzo is a family run factory from Santa Croce sull’Arno (PI) and it specializes inshearling, a pelt with leather on one side and wool on the other one. Shearling is a winter material, used mainly for coats but also for bags and boots. San Lorenzo’s tannery completely manufactures handmade goods, and offers to its customers a wide range of models and colors. This is the fifth year that they attend Arts & tannery, and they have told us that next year’s trend will be very natural. 

    Tuscania industria conciaria is a 15 years old tannery from Fucicchio of Florence (FI).

    This factory does a very particular thing: it reproduces reptile textures on veal’s leather through very complicated handmade processes. “Our products seem to be made in authentic reptile leather, only an expert could recognize that it is veal instead. In this way, our leather is far cheaper than that of snakes or crocodiles.” For 2010 season Tuscania suggests a sporty look based on warm colors as grey, bordeaux and dump green.

    Val Vibrata Ornaments is a family run company started 25 years ago in Alba Adriatica (TE). They produce metal accessories to finish bags and other leather products and they are pretty famous in Italy, as they work with Dolce & Gabbana, Roberto Cavalli and Tod’s. This is their first year in New York: “We are here because we want to explore the US market and we hope to have success,” the young director of Val Vibrata Ornaments said to us. His fashion advice for the coming season is to buy bags with big buckles colored in silver or palladium.  


    Since the previous year’s edition of Arts & Tannery, held in February 2008 during the peak of the economical recession, something has changed. We have perceived this change through the voices of the leather producers as well as from the comments of Aniello Musella (Director of the Italian Trade Commission of New York), who has put much effort into helping the Italian fashion industry keep its historical place in the US market even in a period of crisis. By the way, things seem to be going better now, and the American economy is starting to rise again.

     The Italian market in the US has followed this positive trend thanks to its specific peculiarities. These are the secrets of Italian fashion industry: small sized and family run businesses, eco-consciousness, great creativity and a lot of passion are all characteristics that make Italian products impossible to resist!  

  • Life & People

    Musictherapy, Crossroad of Three Continents

    When Dr Nicoletta Arbusti, a psychologist and psychoterapist from Florence, decided to found her no -profit company Consonanze in 2005, she had a clear idea in her mind: to help people all over the world through humanitarian actions and International cooperation projects. She has always wanted to link all the “faces” of the Planet, from the richest to the poorest countries; being firmly convinced that “differences” may be continuous sources of learning if used well.

    With such a state of mind, the idea of creating a training course company has come naturally. Now the Consonanze Formazione Company is a well known enterprise in its field, and operates in Italy and abroad, in order to create links among different cultures and learning techniques, with precise attention to medical and psychological aspects.

    The latest Consonanze’s project , which will be presented on September the 10th in a Press Conference at the Italian Embassy of Washington, DC, is the concrete sign of this attempt. The Conference, in fact, will talk about a “Postdegree Course in Musictherapy for Disabled Children,“ that will be held at the University of San Augustin of Arequipa (Perù) and will be addressed to all the recent graduates  of the psychology department.  But Perù is only the first step in a long term process: the inner idea, in fact, is to extend  the project to other South American Universities as soon as possible.

    The course prepared for UNSA (University of San Augustin) has a mainly Italian staff coming from CETOM (Tuscan Center for Musictherapy) and selected by Angela Chiummo, the director of the Center, and Nicoletta Arbusti.  The choice of this center is explained by its 25 years of experience of work with people affected by disabilities through music. Yet even if the project starts as Italian, it is intented to become an opportunity of didactical and therapeutic exchange among Europe, the US and South America.

    We cannot forget that charity is an important aspect of this project. Thanks to the hard work of no-profit company Consonanze, which is raising money for students and the young disabled of the Istitutional Center of Paucarpata, so that they can receive the courses and musictheraphy for free. As a result, many humanitarian initiatives have been organized: on September 6th there will be an exhibition of Myria Gradi’s jewelry at the Holy Rosary Church of Washington. Gradi, a famous stylist from Florence, will donate the proceeds of her unique jewelry to the project. In addition, the Braccialini Store of New York will give a percentage of its earnings from September the 14th to October the 14th to the postdegree course.

    This is not the first time that Dr. Nicoletta Arbusti collaborates with the US. Her company has been involved in many Italian/American projects in collaboration with the Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò of New York University, the Italian Embassy of Washington DC, and the US General Consulate in Florence. All of these former initiatives and collaborations prove that is possible to build bridges among people and istitutions of different countries.

    We believe in this project and support its multicultural attempt and, above all, its humanitarian aim. We wish all the best to Nicoletta and her company Consonanze, because we think her company is already on the road to achieving its goals.

  • John Schiumo. Un italoamericano a New York 1

    John Schiumo, il simpatico conduttore di “The Call”, programma di punta delle serate di New York 1, l’emittente televisiva locale più famosa della Grande  Mela, mi ha dato appuntamento in un parco per la nostra intervista.

    Union Square Park, un piccolo ma incantevole spazio verde che segna l’inizio di una delle zone più cool di New York, è un luogo davvero informale e gioioso, perfettamente in linea con il carattere di John e con il mood della City.  John, infatti, è una persona capace di parlare a tutti e di “far parlare” tutti.  In questo consiste il suo lavoro. “The Call” è appunto una trasmissione basata sul contributo del pubblico.  Questo quotidianamente stabilisce i temi di attualità più importanti e dice la sua, tramite telefonate in diretta, su un argomento diverso, sera dopo sera.

    E’ stata una chiacchierata interessante, ricca di spunti, ma soprattutto della professionalità e dell’umanità di questo giovane conduttore. Abbiamo toccato diversi aspetti: dalle origini italo/americane di John  (con tanto di albero genealogico,) al suo lavoro di docente di giornalismo presso la City University di New York, passando per i ricordi d’infanzia e gli aneddoti familiari.

    Quanto senti il legame con le tue origini italo/americane?

    Lo sento molto. Mio padre è nato e cresciuto nel cuore di Little Italy, qui a New York. I suoi genitori , originari di Matera,non parlavano inglese ma hanno imposto la lingua ai loro nove figli, per aiutarli a sentirsi americani. Mia madre, invece, è cresciuta nel quartiere italiano di Philadelphia e la sua famiglia è di Vasto in Abruzzo. Di conseguenza a casa mia ci sono numerose tradizioni italiane e la principale regola tra di noi è che la famiglia viene prima di tutto.

    Come italo/americano, ma soprattutto come giornalista, cosa pensi del giornalismo italiano?
    La mia guida in questo mondo è stata Federica Cellini, una cara amica e un’ottima giornalista, che attualmente lavora alla RAI.

    Federica mi ha parlato dei pro e dei contro del giornalismo in Italia ed ha provato a spiegarmi come è organizzato il vostro panorama mediatico. So che ci sono parecchi problemi, ma d’altronde noi abbiamo i nostri, qui negli Stati Uniti.

    Proprio per spiegare ai giovani giornalisti di domani quali sono le caratteristiche di un buon professionista ho iniziato ad insegnare alla scuola di giornalismo della City University di New York.

    Cosa pensi della televisione italiana?
    Sono stato in Italia cinque volte, sia in vacanza che per lavoro, e non ho mai acceso la televisione. Nemmeno una volta. Credo sia uno strumento davvero inadeguato a scoprire la cultura di un popolo; le persone possono dirti molto di più sulla storia di un paese, anche perché la tv spesso non rispecchia tutti i punti di vista presenti nella società. Ho osservato questo fenomeno  anche in America, ma mi sembra ancora più evidente in Europa.

    Il tuo programma, “The Call”, si basa sul contributo dei telespettatori. Tu credi al cosidetto “giornalismo dal basso”? Pensi che il pubblico possa aiutare i giornalisti nel lavoro?

    Ci credo, eccome. Le persone “comuni” hanno spesso grandi intuizioni e val sempre la pena ascoltarle. Nel giornalismo non bisogna essere autoreferenziali e l’epoca in cui viviamo ci offre, come in nessun altro periodo storico, un numero pressoché infinito di strumenti per dialogare con gli utenti, da Internet ai siti di socialo networking.

    Quindi, se si ha la possibilità di ottenere il contributo del pubblico nel determinare cosa è giornalisticamente rilevante, non vedo perché non utilizzarlo. Non metto in dubbio che sia una pratica rischiosa ma, come in ogni cosa, ci troviamo di fronte ad una curva a campana: ci sono gli estremi, è naturale, ma il centro della curva ben rappresenta l’utente medio e i suoi pensieri.

    Perché hai deciso di diventare un giornalista?
    Mi sono avvicinato  a questo mondo è stato quando ero un bambino: mio padre era un agente assicurativo e tra i suoi clienti c’era Charles Kuralt, un giornalista della CBS molto noto.
    Ogni domenica mattina vedevo così la sua trasmissione; Charles raccontava storie molto semplici, la vita di tutti i giorni di un’America quotidiana.
    Con lo sguardo di oggi, posso dire che si trattava di storie molto ben fatte, nelle quali molte persone erano in grado di immedesimarsi.

    Credo che il giornalismo vada fatto così. Ed io, un bambino di 7 anni, mi aggiravo per casa impugnando qualunque cosa somigliasse ad un microfono e provavo a raccontare storie, imitando Charles Kuralt.

    A questo va aggiunto che mia madre è un’attrice e, se si somma la sua voglia di stare di fronte alle persone e di raccontare, con l’approccio alla vita pratico di mio padre, si può ben capire come io sia arrivato a questa scelta.

    John durante il suo lavoro da reporter per New York 1 in occasione dell'11 settembre.
    John ci ha raccontato che da quel momento ha deciso
    che non sarebbe più stato un reporter nel senso canonico del termine