Articles by: Letizia Airos

  • Life & People

    A Jaunt in the Abruzzi Among its Mountains, Lakes, Hills, and Sea

    Held at ENIT’s North American headquarters directed by Riccardo Strano, the Commissioner of Tourism for the Region of Abruzzi, Mauro Di Dalmazio, joined the President of the Region, Gianni Chiodi, for NIAF’s annual gala.

    The conference focused primarily on tour operators, but with an audience full of enthusiasts the commissioner made a point of saying that after his official visit, he intends to initiate a more tangible relationship with the U.S. and that there will be other conferences like this aimed at major markets like North America.  

    “We have a concrete strategy for promoting the Abruzzi,” said Di Dalmazio, “beginning with logistical steps such as certifying tour operators, implementing business-to-business workshops, organizing educational tours, offering packages for young and elderly travelers, as well as increasing our presence in the local media.” 

    This virtual trip to the Abruzzi also featured a culinary journey thanks to Carla Cotellessa and Adele Cicchitti, editors of Il Pane e La Lingua (Bread and Language). Cicchitti briefly explained how cuisine can open the door to an anthropological relationship with a number of other disciplines.  

    “Based on a systematic analysis of food culture in the Abruzzi, we can find and track connections between the various aspects of food, and food itself can be studied and seen as a means of communication and knowledge.” 

    For the commissioner, his objective is to emphasize the Abruzzi’s exceptional tourist attractions, especially its high quality hotels.

    “The Abruzzi continues and has never stopped,” Mauro Di Dalmazio told us, "thanks to its natural resources and culture, and its extraordinary people and warm hospitality in particular. It has been and remains an outstanding destination for tourists.” 

    The commissioner sincerely thanked all those who contributed to helping the Abruzzi during this difficult period. “The President of the Region will also be sure to express his gratitude directly in Washington. I know that there was a major effort here to collect funds for the people in Abruzzi. NIAF also created a collaboration agreement with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to coordinate the U.S. relief efforts,” he added.

    “This region has so much to offer, especially because of its strong history and real life experiences,” said Riccardo Strano, Director of ENIT, North America.  

    One of these touching real life episodes interwoven between America and the Abruzzi was recounted in the story presented by Mayor Guardiagrele (CH) e Doris Schechter. During the Second World War, as she was hunted by Nazis because she was Jewish, she found refuge among the families in the Abruzzi.

    It was an emotional moment that brought the images of the documentary that was screened for the occasion even closer.

  • Life & People

    Italy’s Tourism Trucks: Italia Much More. So Much More Than an Invitation!

    ITALIA MUCH MORE is the slogan for ENIT’s ad campaign which began on television and will now take to the streets of North America. We spoke with Riccardo Strano, Director of ENIT, North America who organized the tour throughout the United States, an innovative campaign despite its simplicity. 

    Two 18-wheel hospitality trucks will cross the States to promote the various facets of Italian tourism.  

    “Italy can satisfy your every desire,” says Strano. “You will discover the food, flavor, music, and folklore of your dreams. Yes, Italy is so much more.” 

    The journey begins this fall so be on the lookout for the tourism trucks, replete with breathtaking images of the Italian countryside, to roll through your hometown. The hospitality truck tour will cover the continental United States nearly in its entirety, with stops on both coasts, the Midwest, the South and the Northwest, and will feature several special events. 

    Inside each rolling hospitality suite you will find touch-screen displays offering a glimpse of all 20 regions of Italy. You’ll also have the opportunity to stroll around ancient Rome thanks to a new cutting-edge 3D reconstruction of the eternal city developed in collaboration with several world-renown historians who were able to create this incredible virtual journey throughout ancient Rome. 

    For more info on the Rome virtual tour go to:

    Trained personnel with brochures and promotional materials will be on hand to assist curious travelers. Specifically, visitors can get a taste of four distinct characteristics of the Italian experience – culture, cuisine and wine, fashion and nature. Information, photographs, and recollections of personal experiences will offer a sneak peek at the pleasures that await visitors to Italy. 

    Strano goes on to say that “enormous posters with pictures of Italy will attract attention throughout the United States in both big cities and small towns. The trucks will stop and welcome visitors. They hope to attract different types of people, from tour operators and travel agents in the tourism industry to everyday consumers. It will also be an important way to teach young people and anyone interested in learning about Italy. Inside the trucks, modern technology and touch-screens will allow visitors to navigate the various regions and learn about Italian geography. You cannot imagine how many people I have seen who now understand where Rome is located using the maps we brought! It seems obvious but it’s the ABC’s of tourism.”

    “From Houston to Dallas, from Philadelphia to Washington, Orlando, Nashville...these are just a few of the stops that the two beautiful trucks will make and we are sure that they will capture everyone’s imagination, even children.” 

     “Then in January,” Strano tells us, “we will address travel professionals directly and offer very detailed seminars on the market. Last year we met with more than 1,400 travel agents across the United States. We strongly believe in this program, and I am personally taking care of the details.” 


    “For example, I myself decided to move the slogan lower on the engine to make it more visible from the height of a car. This was a great undertaking and I confess...I lost a lot of sleep over it.”  

    We would like to end on this personal and human note because we often forget that behind every marketing campaign there are real people who work hard and with passion, day after day.  
    These are the stops the two trucks will make. Ready to visit Italy?


    Translated by Giulia Prestia

  • Life & People

    Discussing the Mafia. Don Ciotti with High School Students at the Scuola d’Italia Guglielmo Marconi

    It was a special meeting with Don Ciotti and students in New York City. When we asked the president of the Libera if he wanted to meet with high school students at the Scuola d’Italia Guglielmo Marconi we saw his eyes light up: “Yes, where, when?” Accompanying him through the hallways and classrooms of this important bilingual educational setting in New York City and seeing him speak with and respond to students was particularly exciting. 

    In the presence of these youngsters, Don Luigi Ciotti was both armed and disarmed He was armed with his experience, his history, his courage, his sensitivity, and his faith. He was disarmed before the eloquent simplicity that is often present in an unconscious manner in the young, in their disbelief, and in their questions.  

    Sitting among the students, Don Ciotti watched the movie that was screened before his talk. A wisely chosen film, it was the last interview with Enzo Biagi. The film is an important document for two reasons: one, for the clarity with which the great journalist recounts Libera’s work, and two, because it was made shortly before Biagi’s death

    We have rarely seen students pay such close attention for so long a time in a classroom. Eyes wide, ears pricked for the entire presentation.  

    Ciotti began with a heartfelt recollection of Enzo Biagi in which he recalled his contributions to Libera. “His wife had only been gone a few hours and Enzo did not want to give up the service that he knew was so important for Libera. He told me, ‘I cannot leave you alone.’” 

    The questions, timid at first, came from the gut after a short while.  

    Have you ever met a mafioso? What is Libera? I am from Cinisi. Can you tell me something about my land? Can you explain what it means to confiscate assets for public use?  

    “I will give short answers...if I can,” he says. And he begins. 

    “Libera is an association. It was born after the Falcone and Borsellino were murdered. Seeing the emotional responses from ordinary people, I wondered if we had to keep marching and demonstrating and whether it was time to join forces throughout Italy. The mafia problem is not only in Sicily, Calabria, Campania... the problem concerns the entire country.”

    “We bring different worlds together. We work with schools and universities that have signed agreements and follow protocols to examine these issues through academic courses.” 

    His mission continues with sustained energy. “It’s not enough to know, however. One must also assume responsibility. What affects the mafia? Money, business, power. We told ourselves: then we must take away all of the profits from their traffic. So we collected signatures in Italy to demand a law that confiscates assets for the public. These assets should be returned to the people. We collected over one million signatures. Parliament voted to approve a measure to confiscate assets for public use.” 

    “Today in the heart of Naples I discovered a shop that had written ‘The flavor and knowledge of the law’ with the tag ‘Libera Terra.’ These are work cooperatives for young people that have been developed thanks to the confiscated assets. We send an open invitation for them to work on confiscated land from the big bosses.”  

    He stops and adds: “The hardest slap you can give the mafia is to take property away from the bosses, property that is the result of violence, trafficking, and illegal activities. It then becomes a place where young people can go to work legally. It means that the mafia has lost control.”

    “Certainly, seized goods are often blown up or burned. But our activities have always resumed. There is a growing number of people who won’t abandon those boys and girls who do that. This is the right way. Today there are many cooperatives.”

    “Mafia groups have become globalized. We have succeeded in getting to the European Parliament. And we have done it in such a way that after a year and a half of working in Brussels the confiscation of assets for public use was also approved there.” 

    A particularly emotional moment for the young audience came when Don Ciotti spoke of families hit by the mafia. “They lost fathers, they killed wives, innocents, mothers, brothers. In Italy unfortunately only a small fraction of victims knows the truth.”  

    He refers back to the young native of Cinisi. “Sicilians are amazing people. You should be proud of your roots in Sicily. You must avoid people who have prejudices and make generalizations. There is certainly the mafia, but there are also beautiful people. People who have fought against the mafia: policemen, judges, journalists, politicians, and ordinary citizens – your fellow citizens.”  

    “Peppino Impastato belonged to a mafia family. His father was a mafioso. His uncle was in America and they were in business together. Peppino rebelled and began to attack Badalamenti, the town’s big boss. He does this with passion, over the radio, and he is murdered. But his murder was staged to look like a suicide. His family struggled for 23 years to prove that it was not a true suicide. It was his mother Felicia and his brother Giovanni’s fight. But they eventually won. Have you seen the movie I Cento Passi? Go see it….” 

    “I recommend another film: Fort Apache. It’s the story of Giancarlo Siani, another journalist murdered by the mafia. He was the first to write about the Muschilli. Do you know who they were? Kids of about seven or eight who the Camorra used to smuggle packages of drugs...” 

    But what differentiates organized crime from the mafia?  

    “To achieve its goal (money-business-power), the mafia uses competent people, professionals like lawyers, accountants, financiers, all who are corrupt, and today it has both direct and indirect connections to politics. People who turn a blind eye, or who vote in return for favors.... When we speak of the mafia you must quickly go through it in your head. It’s an organization that avails itself of professionals and their skills, including politicians.” 

    A student originally from Northern Italy comments: “Everyone thinks that the mafia is only a phenomenon in the south.”  

    Ciotti quickly comments: “I’ll tell you something. There are too many prejudices. One evening as I screened the film I Cento Passi and at one point a man gets angry. He says, ‘The film is beautiful, but Sicilians...they want the mafia. They are not of our blood.’”  

    “I said to myself, ‘Luigi, stay calm. Smile at him and respond.’ I couldn’t refuse to respond. And so I said, ‘Look, if you read the documents you will find that the city of Corleone was founded in 1237 by immigrants from Brescia and Bergamo.’ This is history. His ancestors are there, people of his blood.”  

    Ciotti gives the youngsters yet another important message: 

    “I call them grave sins: the sin of knowledge. The lack of depth. Everything on the surface. All hearsay. Instead we have the duty to deepen our knowledge and the questions you asked today are a great credit to you.”  

    “If you find someone who has understood everything about life, you are on the wrong path.”

    “We are all children and we need to help each other. I’m here, but I'm a little thing.”

    “For me, joy is hundreds of thousands of people who try to move forward together.”  

    “The problem is not one reality, but putting the many, many realities together. Drawing different worlds together. We have a responsibility as citizens and we must ask ourselves, ‘What are we doing?’ We must begin to respect the rules in small matters. Let’s join forces. Don Bosco used to say: We must be good Christians and good citizens.” 

    And for the Scuola d’Italia Guglielmo Marconi on the Upper East Side of Manhattan hope materializes.  
    Don Ciotti, a priest, is currently a member of the Pastoral Council of the Diocese of Turin and actively engaged in the fight against the mafia in Italy. He founded Libera, a network that coordinates the activities of more than 700 anti-mafia associations and groups on a local, national, and international level.

  • Life & People

    Live Italian Music & More. Gallotta Will Handle It

    We met him in his home-office in Harlem. From his window our glance bounces from   roof to roof, from Harlem to the skyscrapers of Midtown. He is the man who brought Morricone and Benigni to America, and after many years of trying he made Pino Daniele’s concert possible.

    But these are just the latest in Massimo Gallotta’s career as a music producer and so much more.
    And so we spend our visit with him, coffee in front of us while night falls and the buildingsaround us light up. A few of his memories reflect on the presence of Italian music in New York.
    “I’ve been here since 2002 with the intention of organizing concerts. After the event with Ennio Morricone, which was incredibly successful, the number of American offers grew and so I structured a collaborative effort between Italy and the U.S. to produce music events.”
    All of the events until now have had his particular touch… “Yes, I concentrated on difficult events, challenging ones from an organizational point of view. There were some that had been anticipated for years, but I think they required special arrangements.”
    “In recent years there have been various Italian artists who have appeared for the first time in New York. It seems like a magic moment for our music after a long time. Our music has had difficulty crossing over and overcoming a certain stereotypical image that is associated with traditional Italian melodies.”

    Is it truly as good a time as it seems for our music?

    “Yes, but why, I don’t know. I tried to read what the public wants here. There is a pressing need to understand more about the current musical landscape. Obviously, I mean live music productions that I’m involved with. It’s been said that it’s risky to come to American and, in fact, even though many have tried sporadically they have haven’t found the right protection and location in this market. A different approach must be used, and to do so a commitment to understanding the business is required.”

    What are the qualities one needs to be in your line of work?
    “Imagination, but also strong motivation. There is also a lot of competition, but when you have very clear ideas and you succeed in bringing them to the right places, your success is assured.”
    Massimo has been in this business for 35 years. He was there behind many music events that have made history in Italy. Entering the American world was not by any means easy for him. It certainly involved courageous choices even after solid success in Italy.
    “Integrating oneself into the work world here takes time and effort. The business rules here are very different. We are in the motherland of entertainment. It’s different situation here, bringing Italian artists and promoting them with success, especially promotion that requires sophisticated logistics so the artists are presented to the American public in the best possible way. The artists are followed in every detail with a real physical presence...”
    How does Massimo Gallotta Productions work? Is it a big company?
    “There are six of us and obviously I have a support system in Italy that helps me to organize the moves and transfers, and resolve visa problems for the technicians and the artists. And then there are external firms that I consult for advice.”
    Despite the relaxed and cordial atmosphere and a decidedly sunny air, Massimo’s demeanor is one of a true professional who knows his business. He is even meticulous in his explanations. On promotional channels he says: “I usually use both the Italian as well as the American ones. It’s been said that the American ones are more effective. So, we use the New York Times, TimeOut New York… It depends, of course, on the type of artist.

    For example, this time with Pino Daniele we pushed it more in the community with a few nods in the American press. With Benigni and Morricone the promotion was more ‘American.’”

    He quickly elaborates: “This is Pino Daniele’s first concert. With him, as I did with other artists, I made an atypical choice to introduce him. An Italian artist has never played the Apollo. It’s the signature theater in Harlem.

    In this place there is not only the infrastructure for music, but there is a tradition of music, of African-American music, jazz, and other kinds of music. It’s a theater that makes headlines. Pino Daniele understood this immediately. It’s a theater that affects an artist’s career. And for me an artist truly understands when the right moment is and when the proposal is interesting.”

    So how did this concert come about?
    “I tried to convince him for four years. At first I didn’t think of the Apollo. I discovered this location with Patti LaBelle’s concert. A big night. And I really liked the atmosphere. Harlem has been changing for a long time. It’s alive. I also looked for an historic theater for Benigni’s show. [Daniele] will do the same Italian concert. It’s very beautiful. It’s already a success in terms of the number of reservations, and I hope that he will explore the possibility of also experimenting here in America. He will play with his Italian group and two American musicians.”
     Gallotta began this work at a very young age. In 1976 he organized a concert in his hometown by chance. After this, there was another, and another, and still another. In the end it became his job and the good fortune for many musicians.

    From there, he went on to work with Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, the Manhattan Transfer, Gilbert Becaud, Gilbert Gil, Lina Sastri, Gianni Morandi, Renzo Arbore, Lucio Dalla, Gigi Proietti. There are so many artists that he followed, names that belong to the history of international music. Even Renato Carosone. We cannot help but ask him some details about his encounter with the man who sang “Tu vo fa l'americano….”

    “Yes at twenty years old  I became Renato Carosone’s manager. A long story… I wanted this with all my might. He had retired from the scene and didn’t want to play live. I asked him for a meeting which he kindly accepted. I remember entering his beautiful villa at the wheel of a borrowed car. I didn’t even have my learner’s permit. He met with me as a courtesy. I told him, ‘Maestro, I want to promote your concerts!’ He gently responded that he could not. ‘I have to study and I study eight hours a day!’ I didn’t lose heart. I sought after him and after some time I convinced him. He did two solo concerts and then it took off. Viareggio, Montecarlo...and many others. I became his confidant, the person he trusted. The personal approach is usually successful with artists. They need to trust you.”
    He has so much to tell…and i-Italy will soon return to visit him again. He currently has a

    project underway with Renzo Arbore…and many others.

    “Today I’m no longer interested in being a manager in the traditional sense. I’d like to be able to completely dedicate myself to an event, to organize the details. I have different responsibilities. I work on innovation, on a variety of things. I like to work on an artist’s first debut and create an event to generate interest. I do this with many artists and not only those who are connected to Italy. I promote Italian music as well as American music in Italy.”

    The secret? “Every event needs to be unique for me.”
    And we would like to conclude his profile by quoting a sentence from the bio on his website.
    “Above all I have to thank my Parents who right from the beginning of my career have given me a hard time, teaching me to never avoid the hard times, but rather to proceeding with the strongest determination to complete what I truly believe in.”
    The Concert of Pino Daniele will be on October 1st  8.00 pm at the Apollo -253 West 125th Street, New York

  • Live Italian Music and More: Gallotta Will Handle It


  • Life & People

    A Californian Mayor, Italian Style

    He seems like a typical Californian, tanned and healthy. You could run into him at the beach without even realizing that you have something in common. But it wouldn’t be the same thing if you ran into him at the supermarket. His shopping cart would definitely “speak Italian.” 

    Larry Guidi, with his family originally from Bagni di Lucca, has a subtle Tuscan inflection when he speaks Italian. He is the mayor of Hawthorne, a city in southwetern Los Angeles.

    We sat down with him and his relatives in the garden at his home and from there we headed to a restaurant – needless to say, an Italian one. 
    His story begins with his father. In 1953, not finding any work in Italy, he decided to reunite with family members who lived in Limano and then with his brother in America. “He came to see my uncle who was already working in North America. I was born here in ’56. I am an American son. The Golden Boy. My father worked very hard and lived in a three-room house with seven others.” 
    The mayor remembers those times. “My uncle moved from Buffalo to Los Angeles. Even in the west there wasn’t any work. And for me, it was hard growing up in the Los Angeles area. We were always foreigners; they frequently used the term ‘mafioso.’ This was when I was little and I was going to school. Growing up, it was difficult for Italians to find work. I suffered many attacks in this sense.” 
    The decision to enter politics wasn’t an easy one. “I succeeded in gaining respect in the world of work and times seemed to be changing. But this wasn’t the case for political life. Larry Guidi, who no one knew, was a gangster.” 
    Public life remained difficult for an Italian. For Guidi, negative stereotypes strongly persist and are used by the opposing side. “For this reason I support NIAF; I have never watched the Sopranos. I do it on principle”

    His last name, Guidi, can be a play on the word “guidos.” “They still attack me as if I were the Godfather. Not watching the Sopranos is my own personal way of boycotting. The mafia is not only Italian, but it is present in other countries such as Mexico and Russia. But here it’s still associated with Italy…with the Sopranos, enormous pinky rings, open shirts, gold chains…” We point out that Italians are loved in California nevertheless.
    “Yes, it’s true, everyone loves Italy. But I am a politician and a politician always has adversaries ready to attack him. There are as many prejudices as there could be, especially in electoral races. They called me every name in the book. They attacked me as an Italian.”
    The mayor of Hawthorne also speaks Italian well. “My mother taught it to me to the point where she didn’t make me speak English until the third grade. To this day she still speaks Italian when she gets excited. Many Italians changed their names but that wasn’t the case for me; my name is Guidi. I read a lot in Italian. I’ve recently begun to force myself to write in Italian thanks to the Internet.” 
    Italy runs deep inside of him. “I try to go back every year. I take a lot of photos. Italian architecture fascinates me. America destroys its own history. In my own way, I try to maintain Italian culture at home.”
    There is also a connection to Mussolini in his family.
    “My father was a soldier in the Duce’s army in Libya and I’m a distant relative of Rachele Guidi, his wife. Every time I go back to Bagni di Lucca, doors open because of my name. They say that I’m a distant cousin. My uncle knew the real story, but he passed away.”

    His family wasn’t involved in politics before him. “I like Italian politics. In Italy, I’d go with Berlusconi. He’s a typical Italian. He has the same problems as Obama. People can agree or not agree. They both have several problems to solve, and they are both afraid to make decisions. Berlusconi started with a hard line but he now seems to have eased up. Immigration must be handled with a firm hand.”

    Guidi is categorical on this issue. We ask him how a child of immigrants can think this way about other immigrants. Wouldn’t this experience imply more sensitivity?

    “When we came here we were bound by quotas for Italians. They could control our arrival, and we would do the work that no one else wanted to do. Today it’s still necessary to control the flow of migration. We can’t encourage them to come without providing homes, jobs, healthcare. This is what I oppose.”

    “The government cannot allow people to come into the country without knowing how to give them with what they need. In Florence, for example, I saw counterfeit merchandise being sold outside of a Gucci shop. It’s wrong for the economy, for the people who pay taxes, for everyone. We need to fix the problem!”
    “We have a similar problem here in America. We must legalize the immigrants we need and take away the false hopes. Everyone wants to come to America, but it’s also a question of security. They can successfully bring in illegal fireworks for holidays. Who knows what else they can bring.”
    We go into more detail and discuss the image of Italian-Americans in his line of work. “I consider myself moderate; I try to strike a balance. Nothing is black and white, especially when you are dealing with multiculturalism as we are today.”
    He talks about his mother’s fascination with Kennedy and the importance for a politician to have charisma. We ask him point-blank if the he thinks he has this charisma as well.
    “Charisma means that people listen to you when you speak, that they look you in the eyes and understand that you want to help them; it means being heard. It means to be recognized as a fair person. Kennedy had it. As far as whether or not I have it, that’s a difficult question to answer. They’ve told me that a mayor like me is either loved or hated, that there is no in between. For the rest, there are people who condemn me and people who work very hard on my behalf. I have suffered every possible attack. But in the end I think that this is why I’ve been at it for 18 years. When I started I had no particular political aspirations. I’m still intimidated by crowds but I must be strong.”
    And now he uses his Italian heritage as a source of strength.
    “I am proud of my heritage. Everyone knows that I am an Italian mayor.” He continues to talk in the garden at his home, in front of an espresso machine and a huge collection of espresso cups. “I’ve never forgotten where I came from; I’ve eaten pasta and polenta. And family is very important to us. My granddaughter loves caciocavallo and she eats mozzarella. My wife is Dutch, but she cooks Italian – lasagna, sausage and peppers, even rabbit until someone made a comment about Bugs Bunny…. My mother made gnocchi.”
    “Every Sunday I have at least 30 family members over at my house, food and wine on the table for everyone. But no smoking and no piercings.” 
    Guidi continues to bring his Italian heritage to his political activities, almost to the point of mocking every stereotype.
    “I’ve organized many initiatives that have distinguished me as an Italian mayor. For example, I created a space for the elderly to play bocce, the Italian festival, and a spaghetti contest – a pound of spaghetti eaten with no hands… I promote my culture for my family, my children, my grandchildren.”
    He makes an espresso for us with mastery. Despite so much time he has spent in the United States, we can see that he operates as a true expert. He even warms the cup before pouring the coffee.
    There are many Italian elements in his house, ornaments, paintings, a puppet that sings “That’s Amore” which his granddaughter adores, a garden full of fruit and vegetables.
    “I wouldn’t change any of this…. If someone said to me, ‘I’ll make you an American Yankee,’ I’d say no. I love being Italian. I was the first in my family to become an elected official and unfortunately my father passed away before then.”
    Does he think the United States will ever have a president of Italian descent?
    “After Obama, anything is possible. Even I can. Up until recently no one wanted an African-American. He opened the door for every ethnic group.”
    He goes on with pride: “In 18 years they have used every stereotype to fight me…. They said I was Capone’s grandson… Today I have made my being Italian-American a point of strength. I have overturned every stereotype. The message that I want to share is never allow anyone to use your culture against you. So, there’s the Italian festival, the spaghetti contest, the mozzarella factory….” 
    Yes, the mozzarella factory. Guidi has devoted a lot to the opening of the first Italian mozzarella factory in Los Angeles and perhaps in the United States. Real machinery and real professionals who make mozzarella in Campania have been imported directly from Italy.
    He is determined: “I want to bring truffles here; I want to open a production company to make olive oil just as it’s made in Italy. I want to help develop an industrial sector that is truly Italian. I want to bring the real Italy here.”
    We leave his energy and his authentic Italian-American story with Italy running deep inside of him.

    (Special thanks to Darrell Fusaro)

  • Art & Culture

    When Italian-American Theater Becomes Universal

    Whoever is expecting to see a regular play about the relationship between a mother and daughter, even according to the gap between cultures and generations, will be amazed. Even from the opening seconds of the monologue, you can tell that the woman standing in the middle of the stage wants to give all of herself to her audience. She is engaged, excited, unpredictable, and even melancholic at times, but she is always full of subtle irony. In this piece, the Italian-American actress and writer, Antoinette LaVecchia, relates the lack of communication between an Italian-American mother and her Americanized daughter while showing their diverse levels of communication.

    Mother-daughter relationships are often confusing and commanding, as well as distant yet close thanks to a mysterious chain of conflict and harmony. Every minute of this show, even its most hilarious moments, hides a nagging desire for understanding.


    At the beginning of the show, we find Antoinette describing her birth. The psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung once said that every woman contains her own mother and her own daughter within her inner self. The irreverent, instinctive, and, at times, profane gestures that the actress uses to simulate her birth question us about the mystery of this blessed event. The audience is not just watching a birth; Antoinette, in her movements and through her voice, allows us to enter the uterus of her mother while she is giving birth. We watch and live the first moments of the newborn who is about to make her initial contact with the outside world and who literally has to detach herself from her mother's umbilical cord. We follow Antoinette until the moment of her "birth". At the same time, we watch the contractions, the pain, and the fear of her mother; we also hear her internal cry of "Go back inside". The act of b! irth is there in front of our eyes in its purest and crudest form.


    From this point on, mother and daughter confront their own unique identities by following a path that constantly shifts between moments of attraction and repulsion. The entire monologue is a brilliantly improvised crescendo during which the Italian-American experience transcends ethnic boundaries and assumed universal characteristics.


    An instinctive actress: Antoinette LaVecchia tells us about her autobiographical monologue IN SPITE OF MYSELF.


    "My mother hasn't seen it yet... Even non Italian-American women will see themselves in it..."


    There is irony and anger but also tenderness, distance, and reflection: two women tell their life stories in an unsuspecting show of similarities. The crucial moments of family life are relived across a series of flashbacks and therapeutic self-evaluation where the mother figure is often found to be at fault, "There's a monster under my bed! I can't sleep! Mom, can I sleep with you?" "Pray to the Blessed Virgin... You be fine!" It is easy to set aside this faithfulness lived through superstition and devotion, resignation and defense, and justification of the existence of God to understand this Italian-American working mother who immigrated to the United States from Southern Italy and the rebellion of her daughter. "Figlia mia, do you go to church? No?! If you don't go to church that means you do! n't believe in God. You'll have bad luck. Do you take an image of Padre Pio with you wherever you go?... My daughter is divorced! Good people don't do those kinds of things! Once you get married you're stuck for life. Why do people always need to be so happy?"

    This sense of constant guilt where it seems obligatory to feel condemned to a certain lifestyle clashes with the daughter's determination to control her own destiny. She believes in God but she doesn't go to church. She sells her wedding gown to a second-hand clothing store and she is divorced. She wants to be an actress. Because she is tormented by the constant uninvited phone calls from her mother, she looks for satisfaction not just as a daughter but also as a woman.

    The mother-daughter voices are striking; they look for each other, even if they don't always understand each other. The levels of communication between them are contradictory but they frantically attempt to meet each other at times so they could find a possible compromise. For example, the mother insists on sewing curtains for her daughter but she wants nothing to do with them at first. Eventually the daughter gives in; she will have curtains on her window (a symbol of her mother's skill as a parent "There can't be windows without curtains!"). But, the daughter's curtains will not be decorated with purple lines and polka dots. They will be white...

    We met the writer-actress at the end of her performance. From the second she opened her mouth, it was easy to understand that her involvement in this show is not only professional but also personal.

    "My mother has never seen this show, she might see it sometime next week. I am a little nervous but I think it will do her good to see it. I am very sure that my way of life, especially my divorce, has made her reflect on her own lifestyle and, as a result, she has become more independent as a person. She is now 57 years old and thanks to her interactions with other people, she is getting stronger. It took her 10 years to learn English and she lived an isolated life which she devoted to the needs of her family."


    Antoinette, tell us a little bit about yourself and how you were able to write this very personal piece.


    "My family is originally from Salerno; we came to America when I was 3 years old. My mother worked but was very much a loner. This show really helped me to understand her as well as to overcome the sense of oppression that II felt because of her constant attempts to control my life. She wanted me to be more like her but she couldn_t communicate with me: we didn't speak the same language. Thanks to this show, I have been able to understand her as well as find her. I rediscovered her story, her origins; I think I have understood why she always wants to control meit is an attempt to communicate..."

    When did you write this monologue?


    "I didn't really write it. In Spite Of Myself is a work in progress, much like my relationship with my mother. It is not a scripted piece; it is improvisation."


    The story that you portray is found within the Italian-American culture. Do you think the message it contains goes beyond cultural boundaries?

    "Certainly. The mother-daughter relationship that I describe has a universal appeal. Many women have seen themselves in what they have seen on stage and they were not Italian-American."

    How do you think that women in American cinema and theater are portrayed?

    "They are often portrayed badly. The representations are not true to life: the female voice has not yet been heard as it deserves to he."

    Let's use a modern example, what do you think of the character of Carmela Soprano?

    "I like her strength, there are women out there who are like that. But the character herself is exaggerated: she is too masculine. Also, the representation of the Mafia is overdone and unrealistic. There is too much fiction..."

    Do you have any projects for the future?


    "I would like to talk more about families and relationships. I enjoy acting; I am an actressbut this experience of being a writer has been amazing."


    Is there an actress that influences your work?


    "Without a doubt Anna Magani. She has a very instinctive acting style."


    It is true, the most striking part of In Spite Of Myself is Antoinette's use of her body and of her voice as well as the added pauses: Antoinette, the woman, is visceral, precise, and motherly. The image of the solitary actress at the middle of the stage that reminds us so much of the middle of a mother's womb will most assuredly remain engraved in your minds after having seen this performance.


    How To Be A Good Italian Daughter
    (In Spite of Myself)

    Directed by Ted Sod

    Cherry Lane Studio Theatre

    38 Commerce Street (Off 7th Avenue, 1 block south of Bleecker)

    New York NY 10014

    To buy tickets, call
    (212-239-6200 or 800-432-7250)


    Visit their website


  • Facts & Stories

    Italy-city: An Encounter in New York

    The English translation of Italici is the fruit of a fortunate encounter between the Italian/American Digital Project and that side of Piero Bassetti’s multifaceted personality that led to the foundation of “Globus et Locus” 10 years ago.

    A few months ago Bassetti–a renowned entrepreneur, politician, and a public intellectual–invited us to the headquarters of Globus et Locus in Milan, after discovering on the Web. There, we had a rich exchange of opinions on what turned out to be a mission we deeply share: the creation of a virtual network for “Italic encounters.”

    He told us that he had been waiting for years to assist in the spontaneous creation “from the bottom” of the first nodes of that network, and singled out as one of them. We were flattered by his appreciation: we were aware that Piero Bassetti had been working for years on the theme of Italicity. We also knew that he approaches it in a provocative way—outside of the classical schemes, relieved from the inflated registers sometimes utilized in institutional discourse, and also from the most common stereotypes.

    As editors of i-Italy, we are aware that the creation of an authoritative point of encounter, information and communication on the Web for the Italic community is not only possible, but it is a strongly-felt necessity. Together with our bloggers, readers, and on-line community members we have been working at this for over a year in order to lay the first bricks of the kind of Italy-city this book proposes. This is why, brief but incisive as it is, this book immediately caught our attention.

    True, when we offered to explore the possibility to publish it in English, we already knew we had a good chance: we were certain that the most authoritative member and co-founder of the Italian/American Digital Project, Anthony Julian Tamburri, Dean of CUNY’s John D. Calandra Italian American Institute and codirector of the Bordighera Press with Fred Gardaphe and Paolo Giordano, would have been enthusiastic about it. The Italian/ American cultural community, which has provided inspiration and support to many of our initiatives, seemed the perfect environment to start this dialogue.

    We turned out to be right, and thus the book you hold in your hands now is the product of just two months of intense collaboration with Piero Bassetti–via the Internet, of course. We invite the English native reader—who will find him/herself to be an “Italic” right from the very first pages—to approach this book not as a plea for the revival of some sort of exclusive sense of ethnic belonging, but rather as a sort of textbook for the cosmopolitan Italic citizen of the Third Millennium, one who feels his to be part of a constantly growing network of multiple, intertwined, g-local identities.



    From the "Preface" to Italici. An Encounter with Piero Bassetti, by Paolino Accolla & Niccolò d'Aquino (Bordighera Press, 2008).



  • Sicilia. Cosa c’è dopo il carretto?

    Abbiamo incontrato presso la sede di i-Italy l’assessore al lavoro con delega all’emigrazione della Regione Sicilia, Carmelo Incardona.


    Ha deciso di venire negli USA, dopo solo due mesi dal suo insediamento, in occasione delle celebrazioni italiane del mese di ottobre: "Venire a New York è un obbligo per chi si occupa di emigrazione. Per la Sicilia l'emigrazione è una pagina della storia con risvolti tristi, ma al tempo stesso è motivo di orgoglio per l’affermazione dei nostri corregionali all'estero.”


    Con grande energia Incardona, senza mezzi termini, mette in chiaro il suo impegno per promuovere l’immagine di una regione, che deve essere conosciuta come realtà del presente e del futuro.
    "Vogliamo accompagnare le antiche tradizioni con le novità culturali che ci sono in Sicilia, con produzioni di qualità del territorio e vogliamo cominciare dalla nostra collettività, da tutti i siciliani egli amanti della Sicilia. Sono loro i nostri primi ambasciatori del Made in Siclily nel mondo".

    Un po’ provocatoriamente gli chiediamo: cosa c’è dopo il carretto siciliano, simbolo spesso abusato dell’isola più grande del Mediterraneo?
    Dopo il carretto ci sono grossi cambiamenti. Sono stati fatti tanti sforzi. Prima di tutto per le infrastutture. Abbiamo completato diverse opere, alcune sono in corso di realizzazione. Chiaramente c’è ancora molto da fare, ma è normale se si vuole essere al passo con la società moderna.
    Nella nostra isola c’è una qualità della vita molto elevata. Con il carretto si immagina ancora una Sicilia analfabeta, povera, non è piu così. Accanto alle tre università tradizionali (Catania, Messina e Palermo) si sono aggiunti consorzi in quasi tutte le province. Ragusa ha un consorzio, anche la piccola delle province siciliane, Enna, ha una grande università privata.
    La formazione ha avuto una grande crescita in Sicilia e sta cambiando intensamente la regione. Probabilmente oggi ci sono molti (o forse) troppi laureati per la ricettività del mercato. E certo questo è un problema, la Sicilia esporta all’estero le cosiddette “menti”, i cervelli formati nei nostri atenei.
    Abbiamo poi strutture alberghiere all’avanguardia che garantiscono servizi ad alto livello. Anche le più piccole uniscono ad un’accoglienza di tipo familiare tutti i confort che un turista può desiderare.
    Un’altra cosa importante è che la Sicilia prende sempre maggiore consapevolezza dei suoi beni architettonici e paesaggistici. Esistono percorsi molto interessanti dove turismo vuol dire anche cultura, conoscenza intelligente del territorio.
    Quello che manca ancora è un’azione coordinata e sinergica per la promozione della Sicilia. Un esempio, al Columbus Day, ci siamo presentati in mille associazioni diverse senza coordinamento. Questo danneggia la nostra immagine oltre a rappresentare un unitile spreco di risorse.
    Dobbiamo proporre la nuova Sicilia, quella che ha come eroi Falcone e Borsellino. Quella che fa della legalità non solo il principio ispiratore dell’azione di governo ma anche un fondamenale fattore di sviluppo. Quindi dobbiamo presentare la nostra immagine nuova, più corrispondente alla sostanza attuale.  Dobbiamo quindi riformarci anche su attività di tipo culturale. Utilizzando diversi canali.”
    Cosa mi dice di questo nuova fiction ambientata in Sicilia “Agrodolce”?
    Può essere un buon canale?
    “Non l’ho vista, ma condivido l’iniziativa. Quando si fa un film, o una fiction, che ha per oggetto i siciliani non si può pensare sempre alla coppola, al carretto, alla lupara, alle strade non asfaltate... oggi è tutto diverso. Ha per esempio avuto una grande importanza per noi la fiction “Montalbano” tratta dai romanzi di Camilleri. A Ragusa abbiamo incrementato la presenza turistica. Le bellezze della Sicilia, ma partendo da un’immagine positiva. Se una persona si deve spostare da New York vuole andare in un posto dove si sente al sicuro!”
    In Sicilia c’è un grosso fermento artistico soprattutto tra giovani. Intendete promuoverlo all’estero?
    “Si bisogna portare qui i giovani che fanno rock. Che spesso può voler dire musica tradizionale siciliana in chiave moderna. Il rock nella nostra regione subisce l’influenza del passato ed è diverso da qualsiasi altro. Vorremmo fare di New York il palcoscenico per il lancio della nostra isola con testimonianze di caratura internazionale del mondo dello sport, scienza, spettacolo, arte per far conoscere la cultura siciliana di oggi.”
    Questo non si può fare senza un grande lavoro di lancio commerciale?
    “Lavoreremo con le Camere di Commercio sul territorio siciliano e con quella italoamericana di New York. Ovviamente anche con le istituzioni qui rappresentate come l’ Ice, Istituto di Cultura, Enit e Consolato. Vogliamo sollecitare investimenti statunitensi nell'isola, contribuendo anche allo scambio culturale di giovani tra le due sponde dell'Atlantico. Intendiamo facilitare il percorso burocratico degli investitori stranieri. Da anni si parla dell'istituzione dello "sportello unico" di cui anche la Sicilia deve ancora dotarsi.”
    Un’altra domanda un po’ provocatoria. Ha sicuramente visitato associazioni siciliane nell’area. Quanti giovani ha visto?
    “Nessuno. E’ ed perché ai giovani non interessa più il carretto... Lo stesso padre, nonno rifiuta il carretto, nonostante ne sia affezionato. Non vuole tornare in Sicilia, vuole rimanere qui negli Stati Uniti.
    Non so io stesso ho un figlio di 11 anni. Lui mi dice, quando mi vede manovrare con il telefonino, il pc: papà tecnologia, zero?
    Questo vuol dire che guarda avanti rispetto a me, rispetto a ciò che io rappresento. Riproporre il carretto significa riproporre il passato.”
    Però da parte dei giovani italo-americani rimane un grande amore per l’Italia e per la terra di appartenenza.
    “Si lo so, ma ci vuole una proposta seria che magari coniughi tradizione e modernità.”
    Ma allora torniamo al carretto. Se lei dovesse mettere un’immagine al posto del carretto cosa metterebbe?
    “L’arma dei Carabinieri. Oggi ci sono tanti giovani che denunciano. Ad esempio a Palermo hanno costituito un’associazione che si chiama “Addio pizzo” per tentare di sensibilizzare i commercianti a non pagare il pizzo. I giovani oggi hanno come eroi Falcone e Borsellino. Si l’Arma dei Carabinieri come simbolo di una Sicilia che impegna tante risorse nella legalità e nell’educazione alla legalità.”
    Queale è il bilancio delle sue giornate americane. Che impressione ha avuto?
    “In questi giorni mi sono fatto un’idea migliore su come organizzare la presenza siciliana qui. Ho avuto contatti istituzionali importanti, sono stato alle Nazioni Unite, ho visitato la comunità siciliana di Brooklyn, poi nel New Jersey, qui al Calandra Institute ho parlato a lungo con il dean, Anthony Tamburri, ho visto rappresentanti eletti del Cgie, Comites, dei Carabinieri, ho dell'associazionismo, ho parlato con la gente. Ho potuto riflettere sull’immagine della nostra regione qui. Era importante venire, soprattutto per il Columbus Day,  quando le tutte le migliori energie vengono spese per promuovere l’Italia.
    Ho scelto New York perchè è la più grande vetrina. Se vogliamo riproporre una nuova immagine della Sicilia dobbiamo partire da qui, nel centro commerciale e culturale del mondo. Vorrei usare un paragone; se una cosa esiste oggi, deve stare in TV. Allo stesso modo per far esistere la nuova Sicilia, bisogna farla esistere a New York. E l’anno prossimo poporrò l’arma dei carabinieri come  nostra immagine. Nella tradizione antica i Siciliani invece erano visti ostili all’arma. Oggi ne vogliono l’amicizia e la vicinanza.”



                       Palermo. "Festa in piazza Politeama (09.27.2008). From Radio 105 - Flickr Image




  • Life & People

    Sicily. What is There After the Carretto?

    We met with the Minister of Labor Carmelo Incardona who oversees emigration for the region of Sicily.


    After only two months in your position, you decided to visit New York for the Italian celebrations during the month of October.


    "Coming to New York is a must for anyone who is concerned with emigration. For Sicily, emigration is a page from our history with sad implications, but it is also a reason to be proud because of the achievements of our fellow citizens abroad."


    With great conviction, Incardona in no uncertain terms asserts his mission to promote the region’s image, one that is based not only on its past but on its present and future as well.


    "We want ancient traditions to go hand in hand with the Sicily’s current cultural innovation, along with quality regional products. We want to engage our community, Sicilians and those who love Sicily. They are our primary ambassadors of Made in Sicily all over the world."


    A provocative question: What is there after the Sicilian cart, the ubiquitous Sicilian symbol par excellence?


    "After the cart, there have been many changes. There have been so many advancements, especially in the infrastructure. Many large-scale public projects have been completed and several are still in process. Clearly there is more to be done, but this is to be expected if we want to be in step with modern society.

    There is a very high quality of life in Sicily. With the cart, one still imagines a Sicily that is illiterate and poor, but it is no longer like this. Along with the three traditional universities (Catania, Messina, and Palermo), consortia have been formed in practically every province. Ragusa has a consortium, and the smallest Sicilian province, Enna, has a large private university.


    They have had a great impact on Sicily and have been changing the region intensely. Today there are many (or perhaps too many) college graduates for the market to bear. This is certainly a problem. Sicily exports so-called “minds” – intellects that were formed in our universities.


    We also have hotels that are on the cutting edge and guarantee a high level of hospitality. Even the smallest places provide warm hospitality with all of the services that a tourist could want.


    Another important aspect is that Sicily is ever-increasing its awareness about its landscape and architectural assets. There are many interesting travel itineraries where tourism also means culture and gaining knowledge, understanding.


    We still lack a coordinated and synergistic plan of action for the promotion of Sicily. For example, on Columbus Day we were featured in a thousand events without any cooperation or coordination. This damages Sicily’s own image.


    We must present the new Sicily, the one with Falcone and Borsellino as its heroes. This “legitimacy” is not only the main principle behind the government’s action, but it also contributes to Sicily’s development. We must therefore put forward our new image, one that corresponds to reality. We must regroup and organize with respect to cultural activities while using diverse channels."


    What can you tell me about the new novel set in Sicily, Agrodolce?  The Italian TV Fiction. Could this be a good channel?


    "I have not seen it, but I agree with the initiative. When a book or a film is made with Sicilians as its main characters, one can no longer think solely of the cap, the cart, the shotgun, the dirt roads…today it is completely different. For example, the novels by Camilleri (Montalbano series) have been very important for us. We have increasing numbers of tourists in Ragusa. Sicily’s beauty…but beginning with a positive image. When people leave New York, they want to go to a place where they feel safe!"


    In Sicily there is a wide-spread artistic movement, especially among young people. Do you intend to promote this abroad?


    "We need to bring young people here who “rock.” This usually means traditional music played in a modern key. Contemporary music in our region is greatly influenced by the past and is completely different from anything else. We want New York to be the stage from which we launch our island’s modern cultural richness and its international value in the world of sports, science, entertainment, and art."


    And this cannot be done without a large-scale commercial effort?


    "We will work with the Chamber of Commerce in Sicily and with the Italian American one in New York. Obviously, we will also work with institutions here such as ICE, the Italian Cultural Institute, ENIT, and the Consulate. We want to solicit U.S. investments in the island, which will also contribute to a cultural exchange between young people on both sides of the Atlantic. We intend to facilitate the bureaucratic red tape for foreign investors. For years they have discussed a “one-stop point of service” which Sicily still needs to create."


    Another slightly provocative question: You must have visited some of the Sicilian organizations in the area. How many young people did you see?


    "Not one. And it is because young people are no longer interested in the cart…. The same father, grandfather reject the cart even if they have an affection for it. They do not want to return to Sicily, they want to stay here in the U.S. I have an 11-year old son. When he sees me struggling with my cell phone or computer, he says: “Technology, Dad – zero?” This means that compared to me he looks ahead, compared to what I represent. Re-introducing the cart means re-introducing the past."


    But for many young Italian-Americans, there still remains a great love of Italy and for their land.


    "Yes, I know, but we need to propose something that perhaps connects tradition with modernity."


    So then we return to the cart. If you would have to replace the cart with another image, what would it be?

    "The Carabinieri. Today there are many young people who are politically active. For example, in Palermo they created an organization called “Addio Pizzo” to try and convince business owners not to pay protection money. Today young people consider Falcone and Borsellino heroes. Yes, the Carabinieri as a symbol of Sicily that employs many resources to create a legal and law-abiding society."


    What was your experience during your stay in America? What impressions do you have of this visit?


    "Over the past few days I gained a better perspective about how to organize the Sicilian presence here. I was in contact with important institutions, I was at the U.N., I visited the Sicilian community in Brooklyn and then in New Jersey. I was at the Calandra Institute and spoke at length with Dean Anthony Tamburri. I met with elected representatives of the CGIE, Comites, and the Carabinieri. I have the ability to network and I spoke with many people. I was able to reflect on the image of our region here. Most of all, it was important to come for Columbus Day when the best efforts are made to promote Italy.


    I chose New York because it is the largest window on the world. If we want to recast a new image of Sicily, we must begin here, in the commercial and cultural capital of the world. I would like to make a comparison: if something exists today, it must be on TV. In the same way, in order to make Sicily exist we need to make it exist in New York. And next year I wil propose the Carabinieri as our image. Historically, Sicilians were viewed as being hostile toward the Carabinieri. Today they want friendship and community."

    (Traslated by Giulia Prestia)



                       Palermo. "Festa in piazza Politeama (09.27.2008). From Radio 105 - Flickr Image