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Articles by: Letizia Airos

  • Facts & Stories

    What It Takes to Realize Italy’s Potential in the World

    Mr. Boccia, could you start by briefly explaining to our American readers what Confindustria is?

    Italy is the second largest industrial country in Europe after Germany, and Confindustria is the largest trade association in Europe. We have 160,000 associates. Ninety percent of them are small to medium-sized companies with up to 100 employees, which reflect the structure of Italian industry. Our confederation is organized by industrial sector and is present in every Italian city. We support our associates in a variety of ways and we formulate policy proposals aimed at facilitating [their] growth.

    Now would you tell us a bit about yourself?

    I was born in 1964 in Salerno, a city in southern Italy. I graduated in Economics. I then joined the family business, a print-based graphics company now in its second generation. In theory, the industry shouldn’t have a future, but that’s not the case. True, the Internet caused a reduction in the amount of print material, but it actually broadened the printing industry market. By now, over 30% of our income comes from the European market. Later I developed a passion for associations, which led me to Confindustria through my involvement in the Young Entrepreneurs Association in my city. Less than a year ago, I became the president of Confindustria. If I have to present myself, that’s what I would mention: my interest in economics, my passion for trade associations, and my love for my work—and for my country, naturally.

    There have been two “firsts” for you recently: the first time in America and the first time as the President of Confindustria. Can you tell us about your trip in the US and what preceded it?

    I traveled to Washington where we had a very interesting roundtable discussion at the Italian Embassy involving Confindustria, the Italian Bank Association, Bankitalia, and the Ministry of Economy and Finance. We strove to create a narrative for our country, its present conditions as well as its future potential. It’s a way of connecting and working as a larger system, not only in the United States, and of telling the world about our recent progress in economic policy and explaining the benefits of investing in our country, because recently there has been a series of interesting “pluses.”

    And you’re correct. There are two firsts. A few weeks ago we met in Rome for the B7 Business Summit with the trade agencies of the seven most industrialized countries in the world. We signed a document against protectionism, which was approved by everyone, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. That document represented our shared idea of an open, inclusive society—a society in which growth and the economy have to be the prerequisites to eliminating inequality and poverty. This is consistent with Italy’s industrial culture: a country’s growth cannot and does not need to be the goal, but it must be the prerequisite to realize a different vision of society for the medium and long term.

    Such vision is all the more significant coming from the Europe’s second largest manufacturing industry. But it isn’t well known, neither abroad nor in Italy. Why do you think that is?

    It’s not well known at all in Italy! Only 30% of Italians know it. In the past, we developed a tendency to draw attention to our conflicts rather than our potential—we even when we went abroad. This has to be corrected. In our Washington meeting, data from the WTO–not from our Centro Studi–revealed that out of 14 macro-sectors in the world economy, Italy is first in 3 of them, second in 5 of them, and sixth in 1 of them. In other words, in 9 out of 14 macro-sectors Italy is top tier. Evidently, we tend not to grasp who or what we are in relation to the world nor what we could be if we resolved at least some of our conflicts and stood as a cohesive system.

    What can Italy do to reach that goal? Though a few large businesses do exist in Italy, the overall industrial structure is still fragmented into a host of small and medium businesses. What needs to happen to implement your vision for the future?

    We have a few challenges to face. Some of them come from inside the industrial world. Italian businesses need to grow dimensionally as well as culturally. We need to build honest relationships with unions, a system of industrial relations based on collaboration to increase competitiveness. We call it “the salary-productivity exchange”—that is, increasing the productivity of a company must also mean increasing its workers’ salaries. And we also need to work with the banks in order to bring them closer to the actual needs of the economy.

    As for the country more generally, I think Italy must avoid short-term thinking—based on the next round of elections—and put forward its own idea for the future. We need to rebuild a vision of the country with a medium-term plan, to understand where we want to be, and to jointly take responsibility and make sure that we are on a common path that works in the interest of Italy and the world.

    I wonder if you could comment on Southern Italy. It is so often portrayed as an idle, stick-in-the-mud region, when in fact it has great energy.

    What you said is exactly right. What we see from the data is that in any given area of the country—Southern, Central, Northern—we have businesses that are doing very well, very bad, and average. It’s no longer a question of latitude. What has been missing in the South has been missing in all of Italy: an adequate attention to the so-called industrial question. But that is becoming increasingly clear, as you can see from the government’s recent economic policies. In the past few weeks, the Senate approved a law providing tax benefits for those who invest in the South. You can’t immediately reduce taxes for all Italy, but you can provide these types of incentives to investors. We started with the South, and positive results will be seen in the near future.

    There is a human aspect emerging from this conversation. You talk about community. I know that in Washington you also visited NIAF, so that concept includes Italian communities living abroad. How important is a sense of community to you?

    I believe that the sense of community is the essence of a country. One legitimate criticism of Italy is that for a period in our country’s history, we lost that sense of community, which is the foundation of building a common vision. As Goethe said, it is not important that we get along but that we “strive in the same direction.” In order to strive in the same direction, you have to feel you belong to a community. Sense of community is essential to Confindustria, and it gains a double significance for us, since we also see ourselves as part of the world community. It is something we must recover, and we have to do it by constructing a fresh narrative of the country and by building relationships with other countries’ communities, including the Italian communities living abroad, without exclusion, with a strong dose of modesty and humility.

    I have been living here for 20 years now and have this growing feeling that my fellow citizens in Italy are not aware of the love that the world feels for Italy. Don’t you think that we should better reflect on this aspect when promoting our country? Love of Italy is a huge resource…

    I always say, “A country dies of conflict but thrives on debate.” It perfectly sums up what you just said. Firstly, we need to be aware that we live in a great country, that when we talk about beauty and balance, we are talking about Italy. We have to be more responsible when we talk about our country. It’s a matter of cultural identity. We must create a different narrative from the one that perpetuates negativity; we cannot allow that narrative. We need a positive vision to realize Italy’s potential in the world.

  • © Giuseppe di Piazza
    Arte e Cultura

    Giuseppe Di Piazza. Narrare per immagini


    Fermatevi qualche attimo per guardare ed entrare nel suoi scatti. Rubate del tempo a questa vita che sovrappone sempre di più immagini su immagini. Di selfie, in selfie, tra Instagram e Facebook, le fotografie sono diventate piu’ veloci del tempo che passa. Ricordate? Erano nate per fermarlo il tempo. Restituitevi lo stupore di una fotografia guardata con attenzione, per scoprirne il suo momento. L’intento del fotografo. Fatevi suggestionare poi per renderla vostra, amarla o odiarla. Fatelo con le foto di Giuseppe di Piazza, esposte presso la Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò. “Landascapes” pieni di sensazioni, di pensieri, di vita. 

     Una vita tra immagini e testi

    “La fotografia per me è stato un dono e una scoperta dei miei dodici anni. Grazie a mia madre, che mi regalò una Kodak Instamatic, di quelle da ragazzini,” ci racconta Giuseppe Di Piazza. "Ricordo che facemmo un giro a Roma - la mia prima volta - e  fotografai la città. Fu un’emozione. Era il settembre del 1970, si celebrava un secolo dalla 'presa di Porta Pia' [la conquista di Roma da parte del Regno d’Italia e la definitiva unificazione del paese--ndr]. Roma era in festa. Rimasi colpito dalla possibilità di ritrarre la sua bellezza in bianco e nero.” Comincia così la sua avventura da fotografo che, naturalmente data l’epoca, passa per la camera oscura: “Trascorrevo intere giornate sotto quelle luci rosse. C’e’ arte nella camera oscura. Ti insegna a capire la luce, quella che ti entra nella macchina, quella che usi per stampare. La fotosensibilità, le correzioni.” E Giuseppe ragiona ancora oggi in termini di tempi e diaframmi, in analogico, anche quando usa macchine digitali e la post produzione la fa nella così detta ‘camera chiara,’ cioè in Photoshop.

    Tutto ha origine con la mamma insomma? “Sì. Mia mamma era gallerista d’arte e con mio padre - che faceva il medico – aprì una galleria a Palermo nel 1966, forse una delle gallerie più importanti del sud Italia in quegli anni.  Loro mi hanno permesso di crescere in mezzo ai quadri e ai pittori, in una realtà visiva straordinaria. Ho potuto conoscere artisti e scrittori siciliani di livello nazionale come Leonardo Sciascia e Renato Guttuso.”

    Ecco dunque l’origine dell’intreccio tra fotografia e scrittura, tra immagini e testo, nella vita di Giuseppe. Il ragazzo della camera oscura, avrebbe poi intrapreso una carriera di successo come giornalista e scrittore, che lo porterà alla direzione di diverse testate, per ultima il 'Corriere Innovazione', il settimanale dedicato all’innovazione del più grande quotidiano italiano, il Corriere della Sera. La domanda viene spontanea: Quanto è stata importante la fotografia nelle sue 'altre carriere’?

     “Vanno di pari passo. La fotografia è una parte del giornalismo stesso. A metà degli anni '80 già lavoravo con una società americana che acquistava da me foto e testi.  Mi compravano i servizi che venivano distribuiti ad una quarantina di giornali. Ma anche nell mia vita di scrittore la fotografia viene prima. Io penso i miei romanzi per inquadrature, per quadri. Quando immagino una scena che devo descrivere, la penso in maniera fotografica, o meglio cinematografica.”

    Oggi però il suo approccio è molto lontano dalla fotografia come testimonianza. “Mi piace più parlarne come espressione di sentimenti e visione, percezioni. Sono interessato alla parte artistica… Ma al tempo stesso quando scrivo uso molto le foto, le cerco anche online, guardo sempre le immagini delle cose su cui devo scrivere.”

    Quanto è italiana New York?

    Negli anni ’80 Giuseppe lascia Palermo, dove è nato e ha trascorso la gioventù, per trasferirsi a Roma, e infine a Milano, dove vive oggi. Ma ha anche un rapporto molto stretto con l’America e ritiene New York uno dei suoi più grandi luoghi d’ispirazione. “NYC è uno stato mentale, come dicevano Alicia Keys e Jay-Z. Non è soltanto una città. Rappresenta la condizione esistenziale di tante persone che hanno deciso di vivere insieme. E chi viene qui anche solo per quindici giorni viene accolto, da questo stato dell’anima. Per me che scrivo e fotografo, forse luogo migliore non c’è —dopo la mia Sicilia, ovviamente.”

    Ma il legame è ancora più profondo... Giuseppe ha Roberta, la sua bellissima moglie americana,  e poi un bisnonno  emigrante. C’è mancato poco che non nascesse negli Stati Unitii anche lui: “Io adoro gli italiani d’America, perché dovevo esserci anche io tra loro. Mio bisnonno Luigi faceva il fabbro, e nel 1899 si trasferì proprio qui, lavorava ai cantieri navali di Brooklyn. Ma purtroppo dopo qualche anno si ammalò e dovette tornare in Sicilia.”

    Così da adulto, ormai giornalista affermato del più grande quotidiano italiano, il Corriere della Sera, è Giuseppe che torna a NY per  documentare la sua anima italiana, e ne rimane folgorato: “Ebbi la conferma allora di una grande ricchezza che viene troppo spesso trascurata. Abbiamo costruito delle comunità vivacissime che sono un pezzo importante della struttura sociale americana. E’ un patrimonio pazzesco che voglio conoscere sempre meglio. Nuovi americani - italiani d’America, americani d’Italia – comunità che magari hanno perso la coesione interna, ma che sanno bene da dove vengono.”

    E poi c’è la New York che sa anche sonnecchiare, “quasi come un borgo italiano” ci dice. Nelle guide turistiche è descritta come la città che non dorme mai, ma il vero newyorkese sa che non è solo così. New York ha i suoi momenti di sonnolenza, che sono spesso tra i più affascinanti, e questo non sfugge a Giuseppe… “I ritmi li puoi dare tu a NY. Se scrivi romanzi, vai a fare aperitivi con amici, porti fuori il cane e parli di letteratura arrivando fino ai margini dell East River, vivi in una maniera paradisiaca, e puoi sentirti anche come in un piccolo borgo italiano. Non sarà il mare di Capri, ma puoi assaporarne il sapore.  Se ti allontani dai luoghi simbolo di Manhattan, quelli più famosi, puoi scoprire una città bellissima e quasi sconosciuta.” 

    Paesaggi e ritratti

    In aprile alla Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò della NYU Giuseppe espone “Landscapes”. Una serie di scatti del suo lavoro sul paesaggio urbano, la sua visone di grandi città, da New York a Singapore, ma anche di tante piccole località italiane… Perché “Landscapes?” “Perché mi dà gioia descrivere luoghi che siano emotivamente riconoscibili, scattare foto che rappresentano sensazioni. Devo dire che i commenti dei giornalisti descrivono a volte dei miei lavori andando al di là dal mio stesso intento.  Ci sono intenzioni che il pittore non sa di avere. E’ così anche per il fotografo.”

    Ma Giuseppe di Piazza è anche un grande ritrattista, ma lui nega, in un cenno secondo noi di eccessiva modestia: “Non mi sento un ritrattista—è una cosa estremamente difficile—anche se ho un archivio di ritratti decisamente importante a partire dagli anni 60. Adoro fotografare gli esseri umani, le donne in particolare. Con loro riesco a stabilire un dialogo mentre le fotografo. Forse perché nella mia carriera ho diretto magazine molto basati sulle immagini. Ma mi sento più a mio agio con il paesaggio, che è figlio, diciamo, della mia formazione digitale. Il digitale mi ha permesso di lavorare come volevo io, avendo a disposizione una tavolozza di colori. Con l’analogico non era facile.  Dunque per me il colore è il linguaggio del paesaggio. Il B/N è il linguaggio del ritratto “

    Insistiamo, perché i suoi ritratti di donna sono davvero notevoli. Forse perché a scrivere è una donna. La sua sicilianità, che scruta con sapiente curiosità, ma sempre discreta, mai invadente, ti accarezza ad ogni scatto. Tutte le donne amerebbero farsi fotografare così. Come fa? “Voglio che si riconoscano. Faccio uno sforzo molto forte per non alterare la realtà, per cogliere una donna nel suo momento migliore, nella sua bellezza interiore. Non riesco quindi a fare ritratti costruiti. Ho bisogno di creare un gioco di complicità e di sguardi tra la modella e il fotografo. Scatto quando riesco a vedere la bellezza. Ci sono fotografi che usano le modelle per ‘modellarle’ come un materiale plastico, io no.” 

    Dunque vi invitiamo ad andare sul suo sito per scoprire anche queste foto, che speriamo di vedere presto a New York dal vivo, dopo suoi stupendi “Landscapes” che per ora sono, come lui stesso ci dice, “Non una mostra, ma LA mostra.” “Essere invitato ad esporre in un luogo così prestigioso come la Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò della New York University mi dà grande gioia, è un enorme riconoscimento per il lavoro che sto facendo. E ringrazio davvero di cuore il direttore Stefano Albertini che lo ha reso possibile.”

    E cosa prova Giuseppe di Piazza ad esporre per la prima volta a New York?

    “Un’emozione indescrivibile. Anche perché come ti dicevo, la città è una parte della mia famiglia. Una storia che poteva essere, ma non è stata. Una continua tentazione.” 


  • The Gala of Vino 2017 took place at Spring Studios
    Facts & Stories

    Italian Wine: A Market Leader in America


    For the past 6 years, the Vino 2017 initiative has been organized by the Italian Trade Agency (ICE) in collaboration with Vinitaly International and International Exhibition Management. This year’s event took place in both New York and Miami. The days were packed with networking opportunities and presentations citing the latest developments in Italy’s main area of export–agricultural products. Furthermore, it’s important to note that 4% of “Made in Italy” products are sold in the US market.

    We stopped to chat with the President of ICE, Michele Scannavini, who gave us a clear picture of the situation. From our conversation, it is evident that Italy has accepted a challenge, and although some difficulties exist, the country is realizing success after success.

    Wine. Success after Success.

    “The United States is a complex market with many internal differences and many opportunities that have not yet been explored,” Scannavini began to explain. “However, Italy holds a solid piece of the market. Our prices are significantly lower than those of our closest competitor: France. We still have a limited presence in the middle of the United States. We need to work on that.”

    He also told us that Italian wine in the US is a market-leader among imported wines, accounting for approximately 1.7 billion in sales. This is the most significant market share of the entire agri-food industry. It’s doing well, and this year it will increase by approximately 7%.

    More Work to be Done

    “Nevertheless, we feel that we can do more,” Scannavini proceeds. “Overall, it’s best to introduce wines of the highest quality. Therefore, we created a strong, important plan. In fact, I would say it is the most important plan that the Italian Government has ever created for wine in the United States.

    Over the next three years, 20 million will be invested for both market participants (distributors, importers, and retailers) and for consumers by way of communication and promotion.”

    Optimism and the Trump Administration

    The Trump Administration has some protectionist policies, but even in this political environment, Scannavini remains optimistic: “It’s important to consider that Europe has traditionally been an essential commercial and political partner of the United States. I’m thinking positively. In the end, I believe they will make choices that benefit the commercial relationship between the United States and Europe. Given that this relationship represents a fundamental part of the American economy, I tend to think that they won’t choose measures that can, in some way, compromise commercial trading.”

    Italy Charms Americans

    Leaving the numbers aside, we wanted to speak with him about a topic that is, in our opinion, the cornerstone of his speech in front of the press: the allure of Italy worldwide and, in particular, for Americans.

    He essentially stated that the positive notions linked to the Italian lifestyle must be deepened. He told us, “The strategies regarding wine coincide with those regarding the Made in Italy branding. That is, Made in Italy is strangely aspirational because it’s not only rich in information regarding products, which are often technological or functional, but also because it evokes a unique lifestyle.

    It is a lifestyle made of culture, tradition, the joy of life, and the appreciation of beauty. The same applies for wine; it needs to remain in the same dimension, and it needs to be more attractive when we present it. However, we’re starting with a situation that is already positive. We’ve seen from research that a series of highly aspirational elements are already present, but we want to do even more.”

    Education and Italian Products

    Another important aspect regarding the promotion of Made in Italy is making it even more educational. How can consumers, importers, and American restaurateurs be educated about Italian products?

    “There are several activities for this, and we are really concentrating on them. Vinitaly Academy is one particular example; it was born to teach about Italian wine. They conduct training activities for wine operators including distributors, sommeliers, and restaurateurs. Therefore, it’s a crucial organization. As I was saying before, the two dimensions need to work together. Knowledge is fundamental, but it also needs to be accompanied by the desire to learn, to be inspired, and to buy something. This is why we need to work on both ‘axes.’”

    “Education” and “inspiration” are key, and at this point, another question naturally comes to mind.

    Historical Presence of Italians in America

    The United States has a potential “ace in hole” for anyone who wants to publicize or sell Italian products in America: the 20 million Italian Americans residing in the United States. If they’re reached in the right way, they can be potential ambassadors. Is there an awareness that through education, they can be an important entry point into the American market?

    “Yes, surely one of the reasons that Italian wine does so well in the United States is the extremely large Italian community. We think that Italian Americans can be extremely valid ambassadors. At the same time, we also need to facilitate the association of wine with other expressions of italianità (Italianness), from the food industry to exciting cultural aspects that can expand the presence of Italian wine in the United States.”

    Do Millennials Drink Italian Wine?

    Millennials are another complicated subject. How do we interest young people? Good wine is a relatively expensive product. What can we do?

    “Above all, communication is important. We need to convey certain values in a language that they understand. I feel the role of social media and applications like ‘Vino’ are fundamental, even essential, I would say. Objectively, we Italians didn’t do well enough. We need to better ourselves, and this evening presents an area on which we will concentrate in order to be sure to reach young people and millennials.

    Millennials, however, have a very positive propensity for wine. They consider it an authentic product of the Earth; therefore, it’s an authentic expression of culture and of the land. Millennials look for this type of authenticity. I feel there’s an important opportunity there, but we need to use the correct language. It’s going to be a bit of a challenge…”

    If we were to use hashtags, perhaps we could use these words to promote Italian wine: Challenge, Success, Quality, Land, Inspiration, Fascination, Education, Italians in America, Youth.


    - Italy has an overall market share of 32.4% and is the number-one wine supplier in the United States.
    - From January to November 2016, the industry accounted for $1.65 billion USD in sales.
    - The market share experienced growth of 5.9% compared to the prior year.
    - Wine is the main export of the Italian agricultural industry.
    - 4% of the Made in Italy products are sold in the US.
    - The United States is the largest market of wine-consumption in the world.
    - Data from Wine Opinions’ research shows that 34% of consumers under 40 frequently buy Italian wines and are interested in moderately priced wine (starting at $12 USD per bottle).

  • Vino 2017, Miami
    Fatti e Storie

    VINO italiano in America. Sei un leader!

    IN ENGLISH >>>

    Vino 2017 è un'iniziativa organizzata ormai da 6 anni da ICE in collaborazione con Vinitaly International e International Exhibition Management. Quest'anno l'evento si è svolto tra New York e Miami. Le giornate colme di eventi sono state opportunità di networking e presentazioni. Sono stati resi noti gli ultimi dati e novità nel mondo di quella che per l'Italia rappresenta la prima voce dell’export agroalimentare. Va detto poi che il 4% del totale dei prodotti del made in Italy è venduto nel mercato Usa.

    Ci siamo fermati quindi a parlare con il presidente dell'ICE Michele Scannavini che ci ha dato un quadro chiaro e della situazione.

    Nelle sue parole la consapevolezza delle difficoltà che sussistono, ma anche l'orgolio di poter dire che l'Italia ha accettato una sfida che va avanti di vittoria in vittoria.


    Vino. Di successo in successo.

    “Gli Usa sono un mercato complesso, con forti differenze interne e ancora molte opportunità inesplorate – comincia a dire – ma Italia ha una solida quota di mercato. Il punto è che i prezzi medi sono nettamente inferiori a quelli della nostra concorrente più vicina: Francia. Abbiamo poi una presenza ancora limitata negli Stati interni del Paese. Ci dobbiamo lavorare”

    Il vino Italiano negli Stati Uniti è leader del mercato tra i vini d’importazione, circa 1.7 miliardi in termini di fatturato. Si tratta della quota più importante di tutto il reparto agroalimentare.  E’ in crescita, quest’anno crescerà di circa il 7%. Dunque una situazione di buona salute.

    Si può fare di più

    “Cionondimeno noi pensiamo che si possa fare di più - prosegue Scannavini -  e meglio soprattutto nell’introdurre vini di altissima qualità. Quindi abbiamo pensato ad un piano molto forte, molto importante, direi il più grande che il Governo italiano ha mai svolto per il vino negli Stati Uniti.  

    Verranno investiti circa 20 milioni nei prossimi 3 anni, per una attività sia rivolta agli operatori di mercato, quindi distributori, importatori, retailers, sia al consumo, con modalità soprattutto di comunicazione e di promozione.”

    Amministrazione Trump. Siamo ottimisti

    Certo ci sono le politiche protezionistiche dell'Amministrazione Trump, ma anche su questo punto si dice ottimista:

    “C'è da considerare che l’Europa è un partner commerciale e politico essenziale e di grande tradizione per gli Stati Uniti. Io la penso in modo positivo. Alla fine credo che si faranno le cose nell’interesse di quelle che sono le relazioni commerciali degli Stati Uniti con l’Europa. E siccome rappresenta una parte fondamentale importantissima dell’economia americana tendo a pensare che non verranno prese delle misure che possano in qualche modo compromettere gli interscambi commerciali.

    Il fascino italiano per gli americani

    Ma andiamo avanti nella nostra conversazione e lasciamo da parte mumeri. Vogliano parlare con lui di un tema che a nostro avviso rappresenta il fulcro del suo intervento davanti alla stampa: il fascino dell'Italia nel mondo ed in particoalre sugli americani.

    Occorre lavorare su tutte le suggestioni positive legate allo stile di vita italiano. Riassumiamo così cosa ha detto. Approfondiamo con lui questo tema.

    Quella sul vino – ci dice – è  “una strategia coincidente con le strategie sul marchio Made in Italy. Cioè, il Made in Italy è stranamente aspirazionale perchè non solo è ricco, spesso di contenuti specifici di prodotto, che siano tecnologici o che siano funzionali, ma anche soprattutto perchè evoca un lifestyle che è unico.

    E questo lifestyle è fatto di cultura, di tradizione, di gioia di vivere, di gusto per il bello. Occore fare lo stesso quindi per il vino. Rimanere nella stessa dimensione, comunicarlo in modo da renderlo un po’ più attraente. E va detto: si parte da una situazione già positiva. Abbiamo visto con le nostre ricerche che tutta una serie di elementi, fortemente aspirazionali, sono molto presenti, però vogliamo fare ancora di più.”

    Educare al prodotto italiano

    C'è un altro aspetto importante nella promozione del Made in Italy. Quello legato all'informazione e per dirla ancora più chiaramente educational. Come si educa il consumatore ma anche l'importatore e poi il ristoratore americano al prodotto italiano?

    “Si, ci sono parecchie attività in questo senso. E ci puntiamo moltissimo. Questo lo fa soprattutto Vinitaly Academy. Si tratta di una struttura nata per l’educazione al vino italiano. Loro svoltgono tutta una serie di attività di formazione, di training per operatori, da distributori a sommelier, a ristoratori. Quindi é fondamentale. Però, come dicevo prima, le due dimensioni devono andare assieme. L’aspetto 'conoscenza' é fondamentale ma deve anche essere mosso dal desiderio di voler conoscere, di farsi ispirare e comprare qualcosa. Ecco perché bisogna lavorare su tutte e due le “assi”.


    Presenza storica di italiani in America

    Dunque “Educazione” ed “Ispirazione”. C'è un'altra domanda che a questo punto viene spontanea.

    Gli Stati Uniti celano un'altra presenza che può essere un asso nella manica per chi vuole portare, far conoscere e vendere i prodotti italiani. Parliamo di 20 milioni di italo-americani residenti negli Stati Uniti. Tutti potenziali ambasciatori per l'Italia se raggiunti e ben curati. C'è dunque la consapevolezza che possono essere, sempre attraverso un lavoro educational, una porta importantissima d’ingresso sul mercato americano?

    “Si, sicuramente uno dei motivi per cui il vino italiano é cosi forte negli Stati Uniti é quello della grandissima comunità italiana. Pensiamo che possono essere degli ambasciatori validi. Al tempo stesso dobbiamo anche aiutare ad associare il vino a tutte quelle altre espressioni dell’italianità, dalla ristorazione all’aspetto più culturale che possono essere degli stimoli importanti per accrescere la presenza del vino italiano negli Stati Uniti.”

    E i millennials? Bevono vino italiano?

    Altro tema delicato. Quello dei millennials. Dei giovani… Come si avvicinano i giovani?  Chiaramente il buon vino é anche un prodotto relativamente costoso. Come si fa?

    “Prima di tutti si tratta di comunicazione... Occorre riuscire a trasmettere certi valori con un linguaggio a loro comprensibile. Secondo me il ruolo dei social media, di applications come “Vino” é fondamentale. Direi vitale. Noi italiani non siamo stati molto bravi, dobbiamo migliorare, e quindi questa sarà un’area su cui ci concentreremo per esser sicuri di raggiungere i giovani e i millennials.

    I millennials peraltro hanno una propensione molto positiva per il vino, laddove come viene percepito come un frutto autentico della terra. Dunque un’espressione di una cultura, di un territorio. I millennials guardano molto a questa autenticità. Quindi secondo me lì c’é un'opportunità importante, bisogna avere il linguaggio corretto. Sarà un pò una sfida...”

    Dunque se dovessimo usare dei tag  potremmo dire che ci sono parole che ricorrono e accompagnano la promozione del vino italiano: "Sfida, Successo, Qualità, Territorio, Ispirazione, Fascinazione, Educazione, Italiani in America, Giovani".



    • Italia con una quota di mercato complessiva di 32.4% primo fornitore di Vino negli USA.

    • Nel periodo gennaio – novembre 2016 ha raggiunto il 1.65 miliardi di USD

    • Crescita del 5.9% rispetto all'anno precedente

    • Vino prima voce dell'export agroaliementare italiano

    • 4% del totale del Made in Italy è venduto negli USA

    • Stati Uniti il più grane mercato di consumo di vino nel mondo

    • Dai dati di una ricerca di Wine Opinions emerge che il 34% dei consumatori sotto 40 anni acquista   frequentemente un vino italiano orientandosi su fascia media (prezzo di partenza 12 USD a bottiglia)

  • World-renowned chef Lidia Matticchio Bastianich during i-Italy's interview
    Life & People

    Lidia Matticchio Bastianich: Nostalgia and Success

    The name Lidia Bastianich is synonymous with exquisite Italian cuisine. Many people know the talented chef from her fine Italian restaurants and her various television programs throughout the years. However, Ms. Bastianich’s professional accomplishments are only one component of her intriguing and significant personal history. As a child, Lidia grew up between three different worlds–each one having a significant impact on her and her future. i-Italy had the pleasure of sitting down with the world-renowned chef in order to better understand her roots and to help share her story.

    Beginnings in Istria

    It was February 1947; World War II had ended, and the Paris Peace Treaties were about to be signed. Until that point, the Istrian peninsula was primarily under Italy’s control following World War I. Despite having Italian governance, Italians living in Istria had a very difficult existence; many of them faced violence or death during the Foibe massacres occurring near the end of World War II. The Paris Peace Treaties, however, were a final nail in the coffin for many of those individuals as the treaties granted control of the Istria to Yugoslavia. Istrian-Italians knew they either needed to adapt to a new way of life or to emigrate from the peninsula. Many chose the latter option, so many, in fact, that the time period was known as the “Istrian Exodus.”

    That same month, February 1947, Lidia Matticchio (later Bastianich) was born in the middle of the political unrest. Her family resided in Pola, and she would live there for the first nine years of her life along with her parents and her older brother–three years her superior. Lidia recalled that life in Pola during that time meant change for many of its residents. People were changing their names, changing the language they spoke, and even changing religion. She shared with an anecdote about her grandmother: “My grandmother would discreetly take me to church, and she would discreetly speak to me in Italian. All of these things, you really felt them as a young girl. It was difficult to exist in this uncertainty.”

    Moving Across the Border

    When Lidia was approximately ten years old, her parents decided that they could no longer raise their two children in that environment. During that time, it was not possible to simply leave Istria as a refugee; those looking to escape had to truly run away. Fortunately, the Matticchio family had relatives in Trieste, Italy. Lidia’s parents decided that she, her brother, and her mother would go to Italy to visit their family. Her father, however, had to stay behind in Istria. Lidia recalls, “They didn’t let the whole family go. They always held one as a hostage.” This system was enacted to ensure that those who went abroad would always return for the family member left behind. However, two weeks later, Lidia’s father fled Istria and arrived safely in Trieste.

    The events of this tumultuous time stuck with young Lidia. She remembers her aunt who lived in Italy and who brought her son into the woods to avoid the Foibe massacres, but he never returned. Work in Italy was scarce and did not provide a secure life; Lidia’s father worked as a chauffeur for a the Rossetti family, and her mother cleaned houses. Again, Lidia’s parents felt compelled to make a change.

    Crossing the Atlantic

    Anyone who was interested in emigrating from Italy needed to enter into a refugee camp. Lidia’s parents had been contemplating entering the camp in Trieste, San Saba, for a few months before they finally decided to sign up. Lidia shared with us a bit of her experience there: “I remember that as soon as we entered, they put us in quarantine. Quaratine meant that they stripped you of your clothes; they took everything from you, and they looked to see if you were healthy. Then they put us in a rather dark room, and they put my father in another because they separated the men. Even now I remember it because there was this small window, and I was looking between the bars to see if I could see my father coming. After 40 hours, they reunited us, and we were all much more relaxed.” Lidia and her family stayed in this camp for two years. She recalls waiting in line for food every day with her small plate and living in a big room divided into small sections. The family left the camp’s grounds from time to time in order to visit Lidia’s aunts and uncles; however, in order to remain in line for emigration, the Matticchio family needed to continue to reside in the camp.

    Finally, in 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower opened up immigration to America, and the Matticchios were among the first to arrive in the United States. They first entered the United States through Idlewild Airport in New York City, which is known today as John F. Kennedy International Airport. Their journey was assisted by both Caritas and the Red Cross. Lidia recalls that as young children, she and her brother felt the United States was a place with beautiful music, beautiful homes, and artists. However, her parents found the experience to be a bit more frightening as they did not know anyone in their new country, and they did not speak the language. After living in New York City for two months, Lidia’s family found a job for her father as a mechanic, and they relocated to North Bergen, New Jersey.

    The Foundation of a Culinary Career

    After Lidia’s family finally felt some stability, her own career began to take off. Her roots, however, always remained fundamental to her success. Lidia remembers that when she was a child, her mother would often leave her in the care of her grandmother. Lidia told us: “I was her little helper; I went behind her, and I would cook with her. I remember when the goats were milked, she made me ricotta with a bit of honey on it, and that was my breakfast. It’s great! When arrived in Trieste, I knew we wouldn’t be going back. I felt like something was ripped away from me because I didn’t say goodbye to my grandmother or my friends, nothing. We just left, and that was it. I believe food remained as my connection and my tie to my grandmother. The scents, the flavors, everything. I continued cooking in order to keep her close to me.” Lidia’s also stated that father was very nostalgic, and he loved to make traditional baccalà mantecato from Veneto. To this day, Lidia still makes this dish on Christmas Eve because it feels as if her father is there with her.

    Lidia first began cooking at home. When she was in school, she started working part time at a bakery; she enjoyed the work, and it gave her a chance to develop her skills. Subsequently, when she was attending Hunter College, she began working in restaurants and she felt that she was on the right path. Lidia’s husband, Felice, was also another important part of her successful culinary career. Felice was already involved in the restaurant industry. The two met when Lidia went to visit a distant cousin in Astoria, Queens. They married, had their first child, Joseph, and opened their first restaurant, which was in Queens. They hired a chef, and Lidia worked closely alongside him for ten years as a sous-chef.

    In 1981, after making several trips back and forth to Italy, Felice and Lidia opened Felidia in Manhattan. Lidia became the chef, and she made the switch from preparing Italian-American cuisine to cooking genuine Italian regional cuisine. Today, the head chef of this East Side gem is Fortunato Nicotra, and the menu is as eclectic as ever.

    Words of Wisdom

    We asked Lidia if she had any advice or perhaps a positive message for those who are going through difficult times. She told us, “I would give strength and opportunity to someone who is looking to restart his or her life and looking to find a stable place to live. If you give that helping hand, once you’re gone, those people are then able to help themselves, assuming they have the desire to. You need to give someone the opportunity when he/she needs it, just like my family and me were given. We’re a perfect example of what can happen when someone seizes this opportunity. Naturally, yes, we worked very hard; yes, we made sacrifices along the way. Yes, my grandmother, my mother, and my father cried on several occasions. Yes, to all of these things, but in the end, you make something beautiful for yourself, a great opportunity.”

    Don't forget to tune in to NYC Life (Channel 25) on Sunday, Febraury 26th for our exclusive conversation between Letizia Airos and Lidia Bastianich.

  • Marianna Pizzolato nel ruolo di Isabella per "L'Italiana in Algeri" di G. Rossini.
    Arte e Cultura

    Canta la diva più antidiva. E che voce!


    Entra nella stanza dove la stiamo aspettando e subito sembra riempirla di luce. I camerini del Metropolitan non sono come ci si potrebbe aspettare. Sono piuttosto scarni, essenziali nell'arredamento. La solarità di Marianna Pizzolato cambia subito tutto. Lo spazio si riempie di colore, calore, personalità.

    Intervistiamo la mezzo-soprano, che piano piano scopriamo essere la diva più anti-diva. Lo facciamo in un momento molto speciale: poco prima di una delle entrate in scena, come interprete principale al Metropolitan Opera.

    Un successo inaspettato il suo, che l'ha resa principessa di una favola che diventa realtà. Inaspettato non perchè lei non sia conosciuta e brava, Marianna Pizzolato è una star in Europa. Capita che, mentre era al Metropolitan per un ruolo di secondo piano, viene scelta a sorpresa per interpretare Isabella, protagonista de l'Italiana in Algeri.


    Mentre si racconta diventa Isabella

    Ci mettiamo quindi d'accordo con lei per un'intervista video. La prima cosa che ci colpisce è la scelta del luogo dove farla. Non in un salotto, in uno studio televisivo, nella hall di un albergo ma prima di una sua serata importante: dentro il suo camerino, davanti allo specchio, mentre la truccano...


    Una scelta insolita per un attore o un cantante. Assistiamo quindi alla preparazione, al suo trucco, e Marianna Pizzolato si racconta con chiarezza e anche tanta ironia. Lo fa con generosità e alla fine, con il vestito della scena, si mette al pianoforte e canta.


    Comincia a parlare con il volto complemente struccato: “Mentre sono davanti allo specchio, mi preparano, i pensieri vanno soprattutto alla scena. Dove si troverà Isabella, dove vuole andare questa sera. E' un lavoro di fantasia no?”.


    Metropolitan Opera. Un'esperienza unica

    Emozionata certo lo è, ma ne parla con estrema semplicità.

    “Il Metropolitan ti fa vivere un’esperienza unica. E' diverso dal resto dei teatri del mondo. Il più grande in assoluto, il più importante. E' molto esigente. Sono consapevole di questa cosa. Ma la felicita di essere qui è più grande, ci si sente veramente carichi. È chiaro che nei teatri europei sei più nel tuo ambiente, si parla forse una un linguaggio più comune, ma devo dire che anche qui mi sento come se fossi veramente a casa.”

    E le facciamo subito raccontare come è stata scelta.

    “Cosa ho provato quando ho saputo di fare questo ruolo? Mi chiamano per una prova dell’Italiana in Algeri che conoscevo bene. Comincio e uno dei responsabili mi chiede: “Marianna saresti disponibile a fare tutta la recita? Mi sono messa a piangere. Non immaginavo una cosa così bella, così importante. L'emozione è stata enorme. La prova ovviamente si è interrotta, è scoppiato anche un grande applauso. Il maestro James Levain mi ha abbracciato e mi ha detto delle parole bellissime.”


    Una favola. Ma Marianna rimane sempre la stessa

    E da quel giorno sono cambiate diverse cose, ma ci tiene a dirlo:

    “Sono sempre la Marianna di tutti i giorni. Con la stessa spontaneità, felicità, passione. Questo lavoro va al di la, la musica è una cosa che va al di la di tutto.”

    Gioachino Rossini. La facciamo parlare del grande compositore.

    “Rossini ha scelto me? No, non è stato Rossini che ha scelto Marianna Pizzolato. Quando ha scritto quest'opera ha pensato ad una vocalità che fortunatamente mi appartiene. Quello di Isabella poi è un personaggio straordinario, uno dei più affascinanti delle donne della storia operistica. Isabella va fino ad Algeri per salvare il suo amore Lindoro e usa tutte le sue armi di donna. Usa la seduzione e fa di tutto per portare a casa il suo amato”.


    La sua Sicilia. La sua Palermo

    Insieme alla musica c'è un altro tema di cui parla con grande passione: la Sicilia. Nata a Parlermo, da bambina ha vissiuto nella cittadina Chiusa Sclafani. Studia poi nel conservatorio Bellini di Palermo. Oggi naturalmente viaggia molto per lavoro, ma il suo punto di ritorno è sempre Palermo.


    “La Sicilia è un modo di essere, mi appartiene perché è un connubio di culture, di chiaroscuri. Come la mia personalità. Tanti colori, espressioni, tutto insieme, sole, mare, terra, montagna, vulcano. Mi piace essere siciliana, non potrei pensarmi diversamente.”


    “Ritornare a casa è importantissimo. È come tornare dentro se stessi. E' una terra accogliente. Viviamo a Palermo. C'e' una canzone siciliana che amo molto. Dice “l’oduri di la zagara si senti” vuol dire l’odore di zagara si sente. Con questi versi, anche se sono lontana, mi vengono in mente tanti profumi siciliani, l’odore appunto della zagara, del mandorlo in fiore, del fico in estate che è una cosa inebriante, dei ciclamini, dei fiori in estate, l’odore del mare, l’odore del pesce. Dunque viaggio, canto nel mondo e poi, a un certo punto, non posso farne a meno. Devo tornare.”


    E la Sicilia è dentro la sua voce, canta nella sua voce.
 “La mia voce rappresenta rappresenta la Sicilia in qualche modo. Essendo mezzosoprano ovviamente mi avvalgo dei colori chiaroscuri della voce proprio perché il mezzosoprano va giù con il registro ma va anche su. Dunque la terra ma anche il sole, la spontaneità, l’istinto, e forse un po di genialità.”

    Genialità certo ma anche tanto studio.

    “Per usare una frase di Gioachino Rossini: è soprattutto studio. Perché l’arte, l’arte stessa è studio. Dunque la pratica del canto è direttamente proporzionale al successo, alla base diciamo del successo. Quanto sia importante studiare lo possono dire veramente i grandi che ci hanno dimostrato quanto sia fondamentale per arrivare in alto. E' un messaggio per giovani che vogliono cominciare, senza una seria base di studio si dura poco, qualche anno e poi finisce tutto.”


    Studio, tante emozioni, ricorda ancora:

    “Io vengo da una famiglia modesta che non ha mai potuto diciamo finanziare i miei studi. E' stata dura e ho lavorato tantissimo. Mi ricordo quando vinsi al master comunale di Piacenza. Mio padre mi disse: 'Bene adesso se vuoi puoi cominciare ma devi farlo da sola perché io non posso aiutarti, posso darti il mio sorriso, la mia gioia, ma non posso darti altro".


    Duro lavoro e caparbietà.

    “Ho lavorato tanto, ho avuto tante persone che mi hanno aiutato, ci tengo a dirlo. Non ho mai pagato una lezione di canto perché la mia insegnante, che oggi ha 92 anni, non non ha mai voluto niente da me. Ha creduto nel mio talento. Così come tante altre altre persone che mi hanno sempre aiutato ad andare avanti sostenendomi anche economicamente.”

    La sua denuncia: è un mondo che non da spazio al talento puro

    E c'è una cosa speciale di cui vuole parlare:

    "Un’altra sfida grande che ho affrontato, che mi tocca affrontare spesso. Questo mondo superficiale, che si basa su l'immagine e a volte non da spazio al talento puro. Io mi sono trovata tante volte a disagio perchè mi hanno per esempio giudicato per la mia forma fisica.


    È una sfida con me stessa, ma anche con tutto il mondo dell'opera che mi circonda. Arrivare dove sono per quella che sono e non per quella che gli altri vogliono. Questa per me è una cosa molto importante. Dimostrare che il talento, la voce, e di sapermi muovere in scena con la mia fisicità, con la mia rotondità.”


    Le facciamo ripercorrere il suo debutto al Metropolitan. Cosa ha provato dopo la prima?

    “Dopo gli applausi ero li ancora dietro le quinte, mi sono guardata dentro e ho detto 'I made it! Ok! L’ho fatto! Ho cantato al Metropolitan Opera ed era vero!'. Fino a quel momento ero come in un sogno. E succede tuttora mentre parlo. Questa di Jean-Pierre Ponnelle è' una produzione classica estremamente bella, elegante come quasi tutte le sue produzioni. I costumi sono deliziosi, raffinati. Mi piacciono molto questi colori come il verde, il blu il rosso il fucsia, questi pennacchi, tutto un po' orientale. Ho lavorato con il maestro James Levain, che dire! Tutto è avvenuto in una cornice speciale.”

    Noi siamo pagati per vendere sogni.

    Sembra una favola nella a favola...

    “Di fatto è una favola. Perché bisogna vivere come in una favola per fare teatro. Noi siamo pagati per vendere sogni, È questo la gente lo vuole sentire a teatro. Che sia un’opera, un pezzo di musica classica o una sinfonia o altro... vuole sognare e noi vendiamo sogni.”

    E le chiediamo cosa si prova ad indossare una favola per 4 ore.

    “Ti fa evadere completamente dal mondo. Fin da qui, in camerino. Ti prepari ti trucchi, conosci il truccatore, le sarte e cominci piano piano ad entrare in una dimensione diversa.”

    Marianna da bambina

    E continuamo a parlare di favole, ci racconta la storia di lei una bambina senza grilli per la testa.

    “Da bambina sono stata un po' diversa. Vivevo in un paese piccolo. La mia vita era molto semplice. Ho cominciato a sognare solo quando ho capito che ero stata scelta dalla musica. Mi ha scelto, non sono stata io a scegliere la musica. Allora ho cominciato a realizzare che forse la vita stava cambiando. Ero già più grande, lavoravo nel comune del mio paese. Tutto sembrava predisposto per una vita calma, stabile. Invece no. E' stato un cambiamento totale, uno shock per i miei genitori quando ho detto che lasciavo il lavoro per intraprendere lo studio del canto. Insomma per diventare una cantante lirica.”

    Torna a New York presto

    La sua presenza al Metropolitan è durata solo qualche settimana. Eccola di nuovo in giro per il mondo tra un teatro e l'altro. Eppure questa volta, New York sembra volerle dire: torna, torna presto. E l'affetto è sicuramente corrisposto da Marianna.


    'Cosa rappresenta per me New York? Non vorrei cadere sul banale ma è veramente il centro del mondo. Qui le cose possono veramente accadere. Io ne sono la prova. Poi qui ho tantissimi amici a cui sono legatissima, italiani e non solo. Ecco quando vengo qui incontro il mondo, questo ti da una carica incredibile ed e' per questo che amo New York”


    E noi l'aspettiamo. Con quella sua voce preziosa, elegante, avvolgente, piena di vita. Con tutta la simpatia che trasmette al primo sguardo. Con il suo amore infinito per la musica.

    Per vedere l'intervista realizzata da Letizia Airos al Metropolitan Opera >>>

  • Dining in & out

    Nonno Rana’s Story: Family, Intuitions and Little Secrets


    For Italians, Giovanni Rana is not just an entrepreneur, the founder of Pastificio Rana, and a world leader in the market for fresh pasta. For many generations, especially for children, he represents so much more. He’s a popular television personality who, through his advertisements that were particularly effective in their spontaneity, was able to not only promote his products but also to bring them into Italian households. He’s the image of the grandfather you always wished for. We met with him at his restaurant in New York City’s Chelsea Market. Upon speaking to him, we were transported back in time to Italy. We realized we were not only speaking with the businessman, but also with a bright, cheerful grandfather figure.

    Need for a change

    Giovanni Rana is man who is proud of his origins in Cologna Veneta, in the lower portion of the Province of Verona. After he lost his father Gaetano when he was 11, Giovanni continued to go to school for a couple of years before starting practice in his older brothers’ bakery, where he learned how to make bread.

    “I was the youngest of three boys,” Giovanni recalls, “We used to make great bread. But by the time I turned 22, I knew that I had to do something else. My mom Teresa always said, ‘Why change careers? You already learned to make bread. You’re ready to get yourself your own oven!’ But I knew I needed a change, and I would tell her, ‘I’m going to make fresh pasta and tortellini!’”

    A great intuition and a close family
    Around the late 1950s, Giovanni realized that Italy’s lifestyle was undergoing tremendous change. “Most women started to go out to work and they didn’t have much time to cook,” he tells us. “So I created a fresh pasta that could be made quickly but that maintained the quality of a homemade product. It was much appreciated; it became a great success.” And this is how his adventure began. It was the 1960s, and a fresh pasta industry was a novelty. It started in Italy and then it expanded.

    But there was one fundamental ingredient in his success, a typical Italian ingredient—a close family. “First, my wife helped me, and we were pretty successful. Afterwards, my son, who had just finished his studies, took charge of the business. With his help, we were able to grow our business abroad, especially in America. It’s all thanks to him.” Here is how the story went. Twenty years after they started, Giovanni and his wife were leading their market. “We had a 

    beautiful little factory, and there were always more and more studies saying that Italians were eating fresh pasta. All of the big- named business owners, starting with Pietro Barilla, came to visit my business to see if I intended to sell it. Many multinational corporations came to me, and I always told them, ‘I’m absolutely never selling my business.’ My accountant used to say, ‘You’re insane! You could make so much money...’”

    Giovanni was right once again, for in those years his son Gianluca, who was just finishing school, realized he had a great passion for his father’s work. And he would turn out to be his family’s ace in the hole. “We held on to the business, and it was a great success!”

    Making his own commercials
    Another peculiar intuition of Giovanni’s was to create his own advertising campaign and to star in it. “I wanted to make my own commercials. I didn’t necessarily want to be an actor,” the businessman says with a smile, “But I firmly believed in my product, so I was the one who had to promote it. I went on TV myself, and I said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen look! Eat and relax because I am the one responsible for this product!’” And so a new character was born, one who was to be beloved by generations of TV viewers—Nonno Rana, or Grandpa Rana—a charming grandfather known for his sweetness and his attention to his grandchildren.

    If you watch some of his first ads, as well as the more recent ones, you’ll see that Govanni had another stroke of genius: the use of irony. “Look, food is joy; it’s happiness. Therefore, a food commercial needs to be happy. Here, in the United States, I found a great director in my daughter-in-law Antonella. She is a master of irony. She likes liveliness, so we made very ironic commercials.”

    Family again. Let’s talk about Antonella, who is the cornerstone of their success in New York. “Antonella – Gianluca’s wife – became part of the Rana family 14 years ago, and she is a blessing  for us because she comes from a family of hoteliers. She already had experience in catering, which was extremely helpful with the launch of our store here in New York.”

    “But she also became your art director?” we ask. “Yes, Antonella has great sensibility. She understands me because I’m not an actor; she knows my limits and knows what I am capable of... She says I’m a great actor, and I say that she’s a great director.”

    Some other little secrets

    But let’s return to the Rana products that are distributed all over the United States and the world. “Today we make 180 different types of fillings, something for everyone: the Americans, the Spanish, the English, etc... It’s important to understand your consumer because not everybody has the same taste. Inside this package...” says Giovanni holding a package of tortellini Rana in his hand, “there is our best work, our passion. You need to be a gourmand to appreciate this. My 100kg are 100kg of great quality.” One wonders how important it is, for a leader of the food industry, to eat well himeself. And here is what Nonno Rana has to say: “I always say that I eat with pleasure. I know how to eat and to determine foods of high quality, and I want it to be this way. It’s a great joy because food, like I said before, is joy. But above all the consumer needs to be respected, in America like in Italy. They need to know and understand what they’re eating, and we are the ones responsible for explaining it to them.”

    But when testing a new type of pasta, who tastes it first? And who decides? “I have a qualified staff that does it before the launch, young experts. Next they have the old boss taste it: ‘let’s see what he says,’ and then I give my verdict.” In other words, Giovanni is always right? Not necessarily, he admits. “Sometimes I have my doubts about certain products, but they end up working out fine. I always said that my taste is not representative of everyone’s.”

    Discovering (and conquering) America
    What does America represent for Grandpa Rana? “Well, in America I discovered a truly new world. I never thought I would have this kind of success here. My son Gianluca always said, ‘Look, in America they don’t have products like ours.’ Almost everyone else was skeptical, ‘Americans eat hamburgers,’ they said. But a few years later we were selling like crazy!” So your ultimate secret is—good and genuine, yet fast to prepare? “Abslolutely! At last, Italian food can be eaten quickly every day, without spending too much time in the kitchen. We have a product that cooks in a few minutes. Once upon a time, ravioli used to take 20 minutes to cook; today they can be ready in 2-3 minutes. We make a very light dough. What’s good for the Italians is good for the Americans!” 

    Click here to see the interview made at Giovanni Rana Pastifico & Cucina by i-Italy.

  • Op-Eds

    Addio Lella Vignelli. Legendary Designer

    This book is dedicated to Lella Vignelli, an inspiration to all women designers who forcefully stand on the power of their merits.” So begins this excellent book just published in electronic format (You may download it at www.vignelli.com).

    Massimo Vignelli’s tender and intimate dedication carries through the entire book, which takes you into the world of the couple and immerses you in their work, their way of thinking, not only in the story of the designs they have been creating over the last half- century, but also in a lifestyle and ethic of great discipline and responsibility. Page by page, the book becomes a manifesto of style, full of intellectual honesty and intelligence.

    A call to arms

    The intensity of Vignelli’s dedication is important for one to understand the book fully; it contains a fierce yet coolheaded call to arms. For years, writes Massimo Vignelli, the collaboration between female architects and designers and their partners has been underappreciated. The creativity and influence of women was not accepted, and often their contribution was ndervalued if not completely ignored. This was the case even with the most famous partnerships: Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich, Le Corbusier and Charlotte Perriand, Alvar and Aino Aalto, and Charles and Ray Eames.

    “Female architects have often been relegated—by assumptions, by the media, by ignorance or arrogance—to supporting roles, even when they shared the position of partner,” says Vignelli. Little seems to have changed to this day. A recent article in Architectural Record noted that even though women make up 40% of all architecture majors in America today, they represent only 17% of the work force in major architectural firms.

    Of course there have been multiple recognitions for women in recent years. In 2013 the Museum of Modern Art held the exhibition “Designing Modern Women: 1890-1990” in which they noted “modern design of the twentieth century was profoundly shaped and enhanced by the creativity of women.”

    Macho attitudes

    “The supporting role of the woman architect has often been created by the macho attitudes of her male partner” writes Massimo Vignelli. “Most of the glory went to the men (not accidentally) while the women, as partner architects, found that their role was dismissed or totally ignored.” He has always wanted to create a brand that presented the couple together. But it wasn’t always easy: “For years our office sent our work to magazines properly credited. For years they only gave me the credit.”

    Many projects in the book were begun and completed by Lella herself, and she collaborated closely on others. Lella often said, “Massimo is the dreamer, I am the realist. He flies high, and sometimes I have to pull him down....”

    Their collaboration, their similar understanding and approach to design, has been extraordinary. But it hasn’t been without its hiccups. “We had complete trust in each other’s judgment, even if sometimes the discussions were quite animated,” says Vignelli of Lella. In our opinion, such openness reveals their humanity.

    “Both of us despise obsolescence in design; we consider it an irresponsible attitude toward the user and toward society. We detest a wasteful culture based on greed, we detest the exploitation of the consumer and of resources; we see this as an immoral attitude,” continues Vignelli. “Lella’s sensibility toward natural materials, textures, and colors is quite apparent in her work: Linen, wool, silk, woods, silver are often the foundation of her creative palette. Her clothing design also reflected the same approach, based on sober values and thoughtful intelligence. Lella’s work, as her life, has been a fantastic blend of logic and playfulness, spirit and pragmatism, down-to-earth logic and idealistic vision.”

    The book provides a dense, yet minimalist portrait of their story, with pictures of their work dating from 1964 till today. The book divides their work, in Italy and America, into several chapters: “Furniture Design,” “Interior Design,” “Exhibition and Showroom Design,” “Product Design: Glass, China, Silver,” and “Clothing Design.” There you have it: Lella and Massimo Vignelli, partners, lovers, and husband and wife for over half a century.

    A role model for all women

    “Her personality has made her a role model for all women,” writes Massimo. On the last page, with a black background, is a close-up of Lella wearing a 17th century inspired necklace she designed. “Here, Lella is modeling her necklace. We have often said that the problem with some designers is that they play with the appearance of things rather than getting at their essence. Lella has been consistent throughout her career: she is unfailingly intelligent; rigorous, not arbitrary; timeless, not trendy. She is an inspiration.”

    Her inspiration has infected contemporary design and united this singular couple. “Design is one,” says one of their slogans. “If one knows how to design one thing, one can design everything.” But in their book design also takes two.   

  • Editor in Chief Letizia Airos and Mezzo Soprano Marianna Pizzolato in the dressing room of Metropolitan Opera
    Facts & Stories

    Editorial: The Year to Come

    Picking a person of the year is a time-honored tradition in the magazine industry. Sometimes the man or woman who best represents the times we live in now, though important, is controversial. Other times their story suggests hope for the future. We opted for the latter.

    Dear friend, my writing you is a means of diversion, and because you’re far away I’ll write you with more fervor. Since you’ve gone something new is going on. It’s over now, the old year, yet something doesn’t sit right here.

    Thus sings Lucio Dalla in “The Year to Come,” a popular song that has entered the collective imagination of multiple generations in Italy. I recommend looking it up on YouTube. In his letter to a friend, the great singer-songwriter from Bologna touches on an array of subjects, imparting most of all his sense of what “doesn’t sit right” and the importance of not losing hope in the possibility for change.

    This year we placed our continued hope in a woman, opera singer Marianna Pizzolato. Not only for the dream that, by persistence, she was able to realize, but for her self-mockery, her perceptiveness, her courage to be herself, her anti-diva diva ways in a world where everyone puts on (imagined more than not) airs. You’ll understand once you’ve read the cover story and watched the interview conducted in her dressing room at the Metropolitan Opera.

    Other women featured here include the extraordinary photographer Lisetta Carmi, who has drawn comparison to Henri Cartier-Bresson, and the board members of the Italian Welfare League under the wonderful direction of Linda Carlozzi, who volunteer to help children affected by serious illnesses and their families.

    This issue, which takes you into the new year, gathers together a number of subjects regarding current events in America as seen in “an Italian key.” On the eve of the President-Elect taking office, we assembled a few commentaries and, of particular note, an interview with noted Italian intellectual Sergio Romano, who provides a European view of American politics and considers future steps that Vladimir Putin might take.

    What else you ask? In 2017 we’ll be continuing our series “Grandparents and Grandchildren in Italian America.” Here you’ll find a conversation between John P. Calvelli and his brilliant grandson John D. The magic meeting of minds between seemingly distant generations is fascinating.

    Our foodie section includes an interview with another well-known “grandfather” in Italy, Giovanni Rana, who has made a name for himself in the restaurant industry thanks to his creative genius—a matter of passion rather than business. Another uncanny story is that of young Roberto Scarcella Perino, a modern (and Sicilian) version of a Renaissance Man who has profitably yoked his two passions: music and cuisine. One of the leitmotifs of this issue (and i-Italy in general!) is how

    the combination of passion and work can be an antidote to the cold logic of business. As Salvatore Ambrosino puts it in his article on maestros of Italian artisanship, the secret lies in detecting a “Heart Beyond Spreadsheets.”

    As usual, there’s not enough room here to cover everything, but I cannot neglect to mention Anna Lawton’s interview with writer Domenico Starnone and Fred Gardaphe’s review of Joseph Sciorra’s acclaimed book “Builth with Faith.” Neither should you miss Goffredo Palmerini’s travels through Lago di Garda, accompanied by gastronomic recommendations by our food editors Michele and Charles Scicolone. 

    I’ll leave off by saying that 2017 will be a special year for i-Italy. You’ll know what I mean when you see the next issue. For now I’ll keep you in a bit of suspense. The changes will be many and we’ll need your help to see them through.

    i-Italy was founded in New York eight years ago with the stated mission of bringing together three similar yet historically isolated groups of Italophiles: Italians living in the United States, Americans of Italian heritage, and all Americans who love Italy. Our plan was ambitious; we wanted to tell the story of Italian life in America by producing quality content for television, print, and web media whose powerful message would spark lively discussions and debates—that were, most importantly, in English.

    Since then, with few resources and lots of enthusiasm, we’ve achieved miraculous results. Our website now has over a million hits and, between Facebook and other social media, we have almost 200,000 followers. Moreover, our print magazine is in its fourth year of production, as is our television program, which airs weekly on NYCTV, the Public Broadcasting Station of the City of New York (Channel 25).

    We’re pleased and proud of our work, but remember that i-Italy exists thanks to you and your donations. In other words, you are the ones who can help us keep the dream going! We accept any contribution. Every dollar counts!

    On behalf of the entire staff of i-Italy, I wish you happiness and success for every year to come. 

    Letizia Airos

  • Rene Barbera as Lindoro and Marianna Pizzolatto as Isabella in Rossini's L'Italiana in Algeri. All Photos by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.
    Art & Culture

    The Anti-Diva Diva Sings And Boy, What a Voice!

    The dressing rooms at the Metropolitan Opera aren’t what you’d expect. They’re rather bare, furnished with just the basics. But Marianna Pizzolato’s bright star changes all that. The minute she enters she brightens the room with her warmth and personality. Over the course of our interview with the mezzo-soprano, it gradually dawns on us that she is the most anti-diva of divas. Our chat takes place, oddly enough, just before she jumps on stage to play the lead at the Metropolitan Opera. Pizzolato’s unexpected success made her a princess in a real-life fairytale. Unexpected not because she is unknown or untalented. On the contrary, she’s a star in Europe. Yet she had come to the Metropolitan to play a minor role. Then, out of the blue, she was tapped to play Isabella, the lead in L’Italiana in Algeri.

    Becoming Isabella

    The rst thing that took us by surprise was her decision on where to conduct the interview, which we had agreed to videotape for i-ItalyTV. Rather than in a television studio or hotel lobby, she’d chosen to sit down with us in her dressing room, in front of the mirror, while having her makeup done before going onstage. A rare choice for any performer. So we helped her prepare and put on her makeup while she talked about herself with candidness and a healthy dose of irony. She was generous with her time and, in the end, costume on, sat down at the piano and sang. But before that, at the start the interview, she wore no makeup at all. “I warm up when I look in the mirror. My thoughts are especially taken up with the action. Where will Isabella nd herself, where does she want to go tonight? It’s a work of the imagination, no?”

    The Metropolitan Opera: A Rare Experience

    Despite her obvious excitement, Marianna appears at total ease when she talks about the Met.

    “The Metropolitan provides you with a rare experience. It’s different from all the other theaters in the world. It’s the biggest, the most important. It’s very demanding. I’m aware of that. But my happiness about being here trumps that. We feel very motivated. Obviously you’re more in your element in European theaters. Perhaps you speak the same language there. But I have to say that I really feel at home here, too.” 

    We waste no time inquiring about her being chosen to play the lead.

    “How did I feel when I found out I’d be playing this role? They call me in to audition for L’Italiana in Algeri, which I know well. When I get there one of the managers
    says, ‘Marianna, would you be willing to recite the whole thing?’ I started to cry. I’d never dreamed something so beautiful, so important. I was enormously moved. The audition was interrupted, obviously. People broke out in applause. Maestro James Levine hugged me and said some really wonderful things.”

    Marianna Post-Fairytale Is Still Marianna

    Many things changed after that day, but she makes a point of saying: “I’m still plain old Marianna. I’ve got the same spunk, joyfulness, passion. There’s much more to this work... there’s much more to music.”

    It’s almost like Gioachino Rossini had chosen you for the role...

    “Rossini chose me? No, Rossini didn’t choose Marianna Pizzolato! But when he wrote this opera he imagined a vocal range that, fortunately, I happen to possess. Isabella is an extraordinary character, one of the most fascinating women in the history of opera. Isabella travels all the way to Algeria to save her beloved, Lindoro, and uses every womanly weapon at her disposal. Including seduction. She does everything in her power to bring home the man she loves.”

    Her Sicily, Her Palermo

    Another subject beside music about which Marianna speaks with equal passion is Sicily. Born in Palermo, she grew up in the small city of Chiusa Sclafani and went on to study at the Bellini Conservatory in Palermo. Naturally, these days she travels a lot for work. But her compass still points to Palermo.

    “Sicily is a way of being. I feel close to it because it embodies a marriage of cultures and contrasts. It blends together all sorts of colors and sensations: sun, sea, earth, mountain, volcano. I like being Sicilian. I couldn’t imagine myself otherwise. And it’s very important to return home. It’s like regaining a sense of yourself... There’s a Sicilian song that I really love that goes, ‘L’oduri di la zagari si senti.’ It means ‘You can smell the orange blossom.’ Even when I’m far away that verse calls up all sorts of Sicilian fragrances for me: the aforementioned orange blossom, almond ower, the dizzying smell of g trees in the summer, cyclamens, summer owers, the sea, the smell of sh. Which is to say, I travel, I sing all over the world, and then at a certain point I can’t help it, I have to go back.” 

    You can hear the island in her voice, singing through her.

    “In a way, my voice represents Sicily. As a mezzo-soprano, I avail myself of great vocal range, for the very fact that mezzo-sopranos can go down as well as up in register. So there’s the earth and the air, spontaneity and instinct, and maybe a hint of genius.”

    Genius Takes Practice, Practice, Practice

    “To borrow a phrase of Gioachino Rossini: above all things, study. Art itself is study. Practicing singing is in direct proportion to success—it forms the basis of success. All the greats tell us how important studying is. They’ve shown us how fundamental it is in order to rise to the top. It’s a message for young people who want to get their break without seriously studying. They don’t last long. A year or two and it’s all over.”

    Marianna becomes emotional on this point. She recalls:

    “I come from a modest background. My family could never afford to pay for my schooling. It was hard. I had to work a lot. When I won a master’s in Piacenza, my father said, ‘If this is what you want, go ahead. But you’ll have to do it alone because I can’t help you. My smile and joy I can give. But that’s all.”

    Hard work and determination.

    “I did work hard. But I also have to say there were a lot of people along the way who gave me a hand. I never paid for singing lessons because my teacher, now 92, never charged me. She believed in my talent. Likewise, many others helped me continue and supported me economically.”

    A Rebuke: It’s A World That Fails To Fully Reward Pure Talent

    And there’s something else she’d like to talk about:
    “Another great challenge that I faced—that I have to face often—is that this super cial world can place a premium on image and sometimes fails to fully reward pure talent. How many times have I found myself in the uncomfortable position of being judged for my physical appearance! It’s a personal challenge, sure, but I come up against it with the whole opera world. To get where I am for who I am and not what others want me to be. It is fundamental for me to demonstrate that I have talent, a voice, and that I can move onstage despite my physicality, my curviness.”

    We ask her about debuting at the Metropolitan. How did she feel after the premiere? 

    “After taking my bow, I stood behind the curtains and thought to myself, ‘I did it! I sang at the Metropolitan Opera! That really happened!’ Up until that moment I’d felt like it was a dream. I still feel that way when I talk about it. Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s production is a classic. Like all of his productions, it’s extraordinarily beautiful and elegant. The costumes are delicious. I love the greens, blues, reds, fuchsias, these Orientalish feathers. They’re very re ned. What can I say? I got to work with James Levine! And it all happened in a special place.”

    The Business Of Selling Dreams

    It’s like a fairytale within a fairytale...

    “As a matter of fact it is a fairytale. In order to do theater you have to live in a fairytale. We’re paid to sell dreams. That’s what people want from the theater. Whether it’s opera, classical music, a symphony or something else. They want to dream and we’re in the business of selling dreams.”

    So what’s it like to act out a fairytale for four hours?

    “It totally frees you from this world. Starting here, in the dressing room. You get ready, put on your makeup, meet the makeup artist and costume designers, and gradually you enter another dimension.” 

    Marianna In Her Youth

    Our talk of fairytales continues, but Marianna paints a portrait of herself as a child not given to ights of fancy.

    “I was a bit different growing up. I lived in a small town. My life was very simple. I didn’t begin to dream big until I realized I’d been chosen by music. Music chose me, not the other way around. That’s when it dawned on me that my life might be changing. I was already a grownup. I was working for the local municipality. There was every indication I’d lead a normal life. But that turned out not to be the case. It was a complete reversal and came as a shock to my parents when I told them I was leaving my job to study music, to become, you know, a lyric singer.”

    Come Back Soon

    Her stay at the Metropolitan lasted but a few weeks. Now she’s back on the road, traveling from one theater to another. Only this time New York seems to be saying: come back soon. The feeling is mutual.

    “What does New York mean to me? I hate to rehash a bunch of clichés, but it really is the center of the world. Things do happen here. I’m living proof of that. Plus I have a lot of very close friends in the city, some but not all Italians. When I come here I come face to face with the world, and that can be an incredible boost of energy. That’s what I love about New York.”

    And those of us here look forward to her return. We look forward to the return of her elegant, entrancing, animated voice; the kindness she conveys with a look; her boundless love for music. 

    Click here to see the interview >>>