Articles by: Letizia Airos soria

  • Facts & Stories

    Food, Startups and Innovation: When Limits Become Strengths


    In a few days New York will host the Summer Fancy Food Show. As always, it’s an important occasion for the Italian Trade Agency ...

    This year the Italian presence is confirmed with about 300 businesses. And this year in addition to Specialty Food and  Universal Marketing we have Italian fairs: Tuttofood, Cibus and Vinitaly and FederAlimentare on our side. It’s a true team effort.

    Did you focus on any particular products this year?

    We don’t have a particular focus this year, also because we realized that the New York Fancy Food Show is an extremely successful and demanding fair for everyone, so we wanted to set up our lounge as a service lounge. A space of encounters and meetings between American operators, Italian operators, and the press. We decided not to carry out additional promotional activities dedicated to specific products.

    However, we do have umbrella themes, such as we’ve been using in the last months. Amongst them innovation and startups.

    Startups in the food industry?

    Yes, they will be discussed at Fancy Food. Even the Italian food industry has exceptional startups and much to offer in terms of innovation.

    These startups are for the most part created by young entrepreneurs, in a world of small businesses.

    Yes, and they are the future. This is the direction we are trying to follow in our role as Trade Agency.

    Italian small businesses are the foundation of our country. 90% of Italian exhibitors at Fancy Food is made up of small to medium businesses.

    Startups are a particular category of small to medium businesses. A niche within a niche.

    These are all highly innovative businesses. There is a program called Global Startup, supported by the government, which is launching in the United States with various initiatives. For example, with an international open call.

    What does it consist in?

    It has been compared to the Erasmus program (ed. a study abroad program), an Erasmus for startups. They send young people from Italian startups to gain experience abroad. To give them a chance to grow professionally and better navigate their career within a startup. It’s a highly articulated project.

    Startups and innovation within the food industry, this also means sustainability: a fundamental theme.

    Absolutely, we are what we eat, but we are also the world we live in. In this sense, the food industry faces responsibilities but also great opportunities.

    The food industry on which to invest is based on sustainable production, sustainable distribution, packaging, and fighting food waste. It’s an engagement towards a healthy diet, so better overall health. There is no other single sector that can offer as many challenges but, as we say in these cases, also many opportunities.

    Often, when we think of innovation, we think of technology, space, new apps, digital economy, etc. But actually, the biggest effort we should be making probably lies in introducing more and more innovation, sustainability and responsibility within the food industry.

    We owe it to our planet...

    If we fix the food industry, from how we produce to how we distribute, to how we avoid waste, and to how we take care of our nutrition, we are in fact helping our planet, aiding public spending, and carrying out ethically important work.

    And how is Italy doing on this front?

    Italy is very open, it is playing its cards right on this issue. One of our limitations, that of the small size of our businesses, is also a source of strength. All these businesses are not multinational corporations with thousands of employees that can produce in one place today and somewhere else the next...they are small family businesses, often tied for generations - with their feet, head, and heart - to their land.

    And these are often businesses that make products with a geographical denomination, so they can and must be exclusively produced in a certain place.

    And, for some time now, these are also businesses that have been “revamped”

    Yes, often these are also young businesses, because we have this return phenomenon. Young people who care deeply for community in a social sense, one tied to the concepts of respect for the land, of its promotion, of inclusion. Inclusion of those who remained behind, have a hard time keeping up, those who need to work but also more help.

    And Italy is the country of the Mediterranean Diet.

    With our Mediterranean Diet model we are considered “the healthiest country,” so we have the best chance of bettering our health through food. And it must be said that our health is also due to our excellent healthcare system.

    A system that we criticize too often.

    The Italian healthcare system, which by the way is infinitely less expensive than the American one, ensures us an average life expectancy that is almost ten years higher.

    And let’s return to innovation to come full circle.

    Yes, all of this has to do with innovation, also with the presence of young generations, young people who return to the countryside, but it also has to do with startups that are inventing new systems to promote the food industry, to get up on the right foot.

    Let’s talk internationalization, exports. Many Italian businesses come to Fancy Food with this intention. What are some of the mistakes, the traps let’s say, that a business could fall into when presenting itself to the international market?

    Exporting doesn’t mean selling in a different place, it means setting up a business that usually only deals on the domestic market, in a completely different way.

    If they decide that they want to export to the United States, that means they’ll have to do all their homework first. Especially, it’s best not to choose the US as the initial market (primo mercato) but as the destination market (mercato d’arrivo).

    So how should they approach the United States?

    By making a strong effort to “anglicize” the business. With this I mean that it’s not enough for the export manager or the export office to speak English, the business has to be completely organized in English, all its catalogs, all the labeling, the website, social media, tech offices, production offices. Everyone has to be ready to interact in English.

    American clients will expect to speak with the administration or with the production department. They want to find someone on the other side who understands them and can explain how to make a payment, or how to go over a list of ingredients. Basically, the company has to be equipped to handle any subject, any request in English.

    And appropriate storytelling is essential.

    They need to be able to tell their story. The belief that since we are Italian we are celebrated food industry superheroes is completely false.

    There is a good awareness of Italian products, of our culinary specialties, but it’s still quite limited and concentrated in large cities. I’m talking about mostly coastal cities, like New York, Washington DC, Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and a bit in Chicago, lately in Texas.

    But the United States still need to be reached.

    Yes, knowledge of our excellences, of our singularity is still very limited. Businesses have to be able to use digital channels to tell their story, especially since our products are often more expensive.

    And are Americans willing to spend more?

    Yes, they are but they have to know why. If we are not able to tell them and convince them, the operator facing us will immediately terminate our meeting.

    Another very important aspect is knowing how to handle packaging, labeling and logistics, because in many cases the US importer takes care of that but he does it for dozens of suppliers and for hundreds of products, so with a significant push towards the final consumer.

    It’s important that the company, maybe not right away but in a second moment, set up an efficient logistical system. Even if they decide to only sell to a few states, they have to always be on top of their deliveries and will probably need a dedicated staff to take on marketing and storytelling activities, something which isn’t normally done in Italy.

    And let’s get back to the need for innovation again in this case.

    Yes, innovation. I’m convinced that we have the best cheeses, the best oils, the best pastas, the best vegetable preserves in the world, but if you come here with a classic product, classic packaging, so with a great Granarolo pasta, an excellent extra virgin olive oil, exceptional tomatoes, you should know that these products already exist in the US.

    Coming here with yet another “olive oil made on this specific hill, where we have been making it for 150 years with lots of love so therefore it’s the best” probably won’t be sufficient.

    You also have to bring innovation, which can be in the aromatization, in the packaging, in the mode of operation… American clients are very curious, they are ready to pay a higher price but not for a base product. They have already known the base product for decades, so they buy and continue to buy - and will keep an eye on the cost - the brand that they are familiar with.

    So they have to capture the curiosity and the fantasy of Americans...

    Yes, that’s another thing that we see at Fancy Food, that’s why it’s called “fancy” and not “traditional” food. The element of innovation, of trend, of glamour has become central in the food industry as well.

    I would like to go back to the Italian family businesses. Which are today the advantages and disadvantages of a family-based food company?

    Now I’m not going to give any names - I can’t in my position - but we have examples of great companies born from families.

    I’ll give some names: Barilla, Colavita, Auricchio, Zanetti…

    Exactly. We could say that they were born in different times, but I want to talk about the present. These are all family businesses that have shown that family management, when done right, allows a business to become a global leader, to become a multi-billion business that confronts the market with great efficiency.

    I don’t think it’s a question of family or not, of big or small, but it’s always a question of how it’s managed. If a business is well managed, it will thrive. But if a family business in which the skills and the DNA of the mom or dad who funded it aren’t passed down to the children, or if the children fight amongst each other, or if they haven’t been able to innovate and keep up with the times, or if they made bad investments, or if they failed to invest in capable managers for certain positions, then the problem isn’t that it’s family business, it’s bad management.

    So family is still important?

    Family businesses have some advantages in the food industry, the ones I mentioned earlier. Especially because they aren’t just looking for profit wherever they can find it, but have strong ties to the place they were created in.

    Many of these businesses became multinational corporations, they bought entire firms all over the world, but still when we think of them we identify them with the place they were born, where they continue to be centered.

    Let’s give an example: Ferrero in the town of Alba in Piemonte, a true force.

    In the food industry, businesses, family, and land make up a trifecta that is much more powerful than in technology or in other sectors in which we also have excellent examples.

    But that’s true today, especially perhaps because of what we said earlier about how the younger generations of those families have studied abroad, learned languages, earned degrees, and then returned to their family business.

    Let’s look at the wine industry for example. There are many examples of family businesses that successfully went through a generational passage.

    Like I was saying there are families and there are families. Family is precious but in the end skill and good management are what counts.

    And the food industry is maybe one of the few sectors in which you don’t necessarily have to be big to be successful. But you do have to be among the leaders in your niche market. You can become a big international name with 2 million euros a year, but you have to make a truly special product, innovative, different.

    Italy is the leading country in almost 250 global niche markets, some of these by the way are worth billions. So again, it’s not necessary to be big but, if you want to be competitive in your sector, you can’t have a flat product that any other company - many of which bigger than yourself - could have. You have to stand out and innovation is one of the keys.




  • Life & People

    Apulia and the Strength of Its Youth


    We meet Maria at a dinner in a renowned New York restaurant. It’s not just any event: it’s the opening dinner inaugurating Italian Haute Cuisine Week in New York, dedicated to Puglia. The wines being served come from her family cellar: the 2017 Edda Bianco Salento IGP, the 2015 Talò Malvasia Nera Salento IGP, and the star of the collection, the 2014 Sessantanni Primitivo from Manduria.

    She describes them in great detail before they even arrive but regrets that the labels aren’t showcased adequately.


    This is how we meet her, the extremely young representative of a Pugliese wine production house, and we are struck by her genuine enthusiasm.


    Unity Makes Strength

    The story of Cantine San Marzano begins in 1962, a time preceding not only her birth but also the existence of the DOC. Nineteen winemakers, including Maria’s grandfather, united to create a cellar, located in San Marzano di San Giuseppe, in the province of Taranto, at the heart of the zone of the famous Primitivo di Manduria.


    Today the company counts 1200 partners and 106 employees, some of them very young, “even in the country fortunately,” Maria tells us. It holds the exporting record in Puglia since 2000, when, realizing that their wine was vastly appreciated at international fairs, they understood that they could also make it on the global market. “Now we are present in 80 countries,” she says proudly.


    Maria comes to see us in our office, and tells us about her land, her business, her family history over coffee, with great warmth and enthusiasm.


    The cellar’s most recent success that of the Sessantanni Primitivo di Manduria DOP. “I was a great victory. Papà had an intuition: he wanted to make wine with the trees planted by his father. Harvesting has to be done by hand, the trees are short, it’s difficult. In 3 years it became huge, and this year Gambero Rosso gave us the 3 glasses.”


    Francesco Cavallo, Maria’s father, became the President of the cooperative in 1982. “My father always tells him that having a wine cellar was his dream. At first I didn’t think it could become mine too.”


    Back to Her Roots

    In fact, at 18, Maria moved to Ferrara to study Law. At the time the pollution caused by ILVA in Taranto was a hot topic and to someone so deeply in love with her land the idea of specializing in environmental crimes felt like the best way to do something concrete. “Every time I came home though, I increasingly felt that my roots were there: tied to the land, to the wine. After completing my studies I understood that my life was the cellar. Hiding it was futile.”


    And so Maria dedicated her life to a new goal: developing and promoting the land.


    The Importance of Communication

    The fact that her family owned the cellar doesn’t mean that she came into the industry through the front door. “My father made it immediately clear that since I was the last one there, I would have the least say. So I followed him, observed, and now I am focusing on communication.”


    The mission is to use pictures, videos, and the right words to tell people what Puglia is, what the South is. And in order to do that you have to really live in this land. For this reason, she also aims to help develop the local economy, “we try to assign communication to local agencies,” Maria tells us, “Lately, many celebrities have purchased masserie in Puglia, and thanks to their economic strength and notoriety, they immediately positioned themselves on the market. But this has nothing to do with the tradition.”


    Maria says that the strategy is instead to bring attention back to the Taranto region. “Because telling the story of a cellar like ours, which has been for the last 60 years tied to the region of Puglia and to 1200 families, requires the help of the local youth. They’re the ones who will create a network.”


    Their logo represents a network “We are a network of farmers tied to their land, and the land creates a network. We want to do this even though it’s very hard amongst producers. We always have to explain and convince people that building a network will allow us to finally open up to the world in an effective way.”


    Many are the projects carried out by Cantine San Marzano to achieve this goal. An example is ‘World Menu,’ a week during which the company hosts chefs from all over the world and takes them fishing, harvesting, and making cheese.


    To learn about the land, which Maria passionately describes as “wild, filled with olive trees that remain green all year long. With those short drywalls, the colors in contrast with the perennial blue sky. You still find trattorie where an apron-clad signora welcomes you in, her hands covered in flour.”


    An American Training

    She came to New York to understand and learn from Americans. She wasn’t off to a very enthusiastic start though: “I was expecting America to be light years ahead of us, smarter, cleaner. It wasn’t always like that. It served as a great challenge though. New York is a city which, whether you like it or not, pushes you to become stronger.”


    And New York is only one step for her. For the future, Maria plans to undertake other formative experiences, “in South Africa, or in New Zealand, areas which are now producing excellent wines.”


    Now more than ever, the final goal is clear to her: returning to San Marzano. “Puglia is genuine, and it has everything. It’s an explosion. Life there is not frenetic, and it’s experiencing a cultural awakening. It’s up to us, the younger generation, to protect it. I’m optimistic because I believe there is a lot to do.”


    Her eyes say it all. There is a lot to do. And young people like her can do it.

  • Arte e Cultura

    La Puglia e la forza dei suoi giovani


    Incontriamo Maria ad una cena in un noto ristorante newyorkese. Non è una serata qualunque: è la cena che apre la Settimana dell’Alta Cucina Italiana a New York, dedicata alla Puglia. E i vini serviti sono quelli della cantina della sua famiglia: l’Edda Bianco Salento IGP del 2017, il Talò Malvasia Nera Salento IGP del 2015 e il “cavallo di razza” della scuderia, il Sessantanni Primitivo di Manduria del 2014.

    Ce li descrive in ogni sfumatura prima che arrivino, ma si rattrista del fatto che le etichette non vengono adeguatamente messe in mostra.

    La conosciamo così, questa giovanissima rappresentante di una casa produttrice di vino in Puglia, e ci incuriosisce il suo genuino entusiasmo.

    L’unione fa la forza

    La storia delle Cantine San Marzano nasce nel 1962, epoca in cui non solo lei non era ancora nata, ma la stessa DOC non esisteva. Diciannove vignaioli, tra cui il nonno di Maria, si uniscono e creano una cantina, che si trova appunto an, in provincia di Taranto, nel cuore della zona del famosissimo Primitivo di Manduria.


    Oggi l’azienda conta 1200 soci e 106 dipendenti, tra cui ragazzi molto giovani, “anche in campagna, per fortuna”, ci dice Maria. E vanta il primato per l’export in Puglia, iniziato nel 2000, quando rendendosi conto che nelle fiere internazionali il loro vino era molto apprezzato, capirono di potercela fare anche nel mercato estero. “Adesso siamo in 80 paesi”, dice con orgoglio.


    Maria ci viene a trovare in redazione e, davanti ad un caffè,  ci racconta la sua terra, la sua azienda, la storia della sua famiglia. Lo fa con calore e con un entusiasmo raro.


    Il successo più recente della cantina è il Sessantanni Primitivo di Manduria DOP. “È stata la nostra vittoria. Papà ha avuto questa intuizione: voleva fare il vino con gli alberelli piantati da suo padre. La raccolta deve essere fatta a mano, gli alberi sono bassi, è difficile. In 3 anni è diventato famosissimo, e quest’anno il gambero rosso ci ha dato i 3 bicchieri”.


    Francesco Cavallo, padre di Maria, diventò Presidente della cooperativa nel 1982. “Mio padre mi dice sempre che avere una cantina era il suo sogno. All’inizio non pensavo potesse diventare anche il mio”.


    Il richiamo delle radici

    Compiuti i 18 anni, infatti, Maria si trasferisce a Ferrara per studiare Giurisprudenza. All’epoca l’inquinamento causato dall’Ilva di Taranto era un tema caldo, e per una persona così innamorata della sua terra l’idea di specializzarsi in reati ambientali sembrava il modo migliore per poter fare qualcosa di concreto. “Ogni volta che tornavo a casa, però, qualcosa mi faceva sentire sempre di più quanto le mie radici fossero lì. Legate al territorio. Al vino. Finiti gli studi, capii: la mia vita è la cantina. Era inutile nasconderlo”.

    Ed è così che Maria dedica la sua vita ad un nuovo obiettivo: la valorizzazione del territorio.


    L’importanza della comunicazione

    Il fatto che la cantina appartenesse alla sua famiglia non vuol dire che il suo ingresso in azienda sia stato dalla porta principale. “Mio padre mi ha chiarito subito che essendo l’ultima arrivata sarei stata l’ultima ad avere parola. Perciò l’ho affiancato, ho osservato, e adesso mi sto concentrando sulla comunicazione”.


    L’obiettivo è raccontare con foto, video, e con le parole giuste cos’è la Puglia, cos’è il Sud. E per farlo è necessario viverlo un territorio così. Per questa ragione, e anche nell’ottica di far crescere economicamente la zona, “cerchiamo di affidare la comunicazione ad agenzie locali”. - ci dice Maria -  “Negli ultimi tempi in Puglia ci sono stati molti personaggi famosi che hanno acquistato delle masserie, e grazie alla potenza economica unita alla loro notorietà si sono posizionati da subito nel mercato. Ma questo non riflette una tradizione”.


    Maria dice che la strategia è invece di riportare l’attenzione nella zona di Taranto. “Perché raccontare la storia di una cantina come la nostra, radicata da 60 anni in una regione come la Puglia, con dietro 1200 famiglie, richiede i giovani di quel territorio. Saranno loro a creare una rete”.


    Il loro logo rappresenta infatti una rete  “Noi siamo una rete di contadini che si aggrappa al territorio, e il territorio fa rete. Lo vogliamo fare anche se è difficilissimo tra i produttori. Dobbiamo spiegare sempre e convincere che fare rete consente di aprirsi al mondo in maniera finalmente efficace”.


    Sono tanti i progetti che le Cantine San Marzano seguono per raggiungere questo risultato. Citiamo il World Menù, un’iniziativa in cui l’azienda ospita per una settimana chef da tutto il mondo, portandoli a pesca, a fare il raccolto, nei caseifici.


    A conoscere appunto il territorio, che Maria, illuminandosi, descrive come “selvaggio, pieno di ulivi sempre verdi tutto l’anno. Con i muretti a secco, quei colori che contrastano col cielo sempre azzurro. Trovi ancora le trattorie dove la signora ti accoglie col grembiule e le mani sporche di farina”.


    Il training americano

    É venuta a New York per capire e imparare dagli americani. Non parte convinta però: “Pensavo di trovare un’America anni luce avanti a noi. Più smart, più pulita. Non è stato sempre così. Mi ha però messa alla prova. New York è una città che volente o nolente ti spinge a diventare più forte”.


    E New York è solo una tappa per lei. Nel futuro, Maria svolgerà altri periodi di formazione scelti senza preconcetti, “in Sudafrica, o in Nuova Zelanda, territori che adesso stanno producendo degli ottimi vini”.


    Certo la  meta finale le è più che mai chiara: tornare a San Marzano. “La Puglia è genuina, e c’è tutto. È un’esplosione. La vita non è frenetica, e si sta risvegliando sempre di più culturalmente. La dobbiamo proteggere noi giovani. Sono ottimista, perché secondo me c’è tanto da fare”.


    I suoi occhi raccontano tutte le sue radici. C’è tanto da fare. E i giovani come lei possono fare.

  • Op-Eds

    Soft Power & the Role of Young Italians Abroad


    I return to New York after having had one of the best experiences of my life: Five days in Palermo for a Seminary with 115 young Italians from all over the world.


    They met thanks to the General Council of Italians Abroad (CGIE), the Comites (Committees of Italians Abroad) and to the Regional Councils for Emigration of the countries they respectively inhabit. It wasn’t easy but their spirit of enthusiasm and teamwork helped overcome the mainly logistic and economic difficulties.


    It’s hard to describe the constructive atmosphere that from the very first moment engulfed everyone, the young and the less young (or, how people like to say nowadays, “differently young.”) For once, the organizers - due to space restraints I can only name Secretary General of CGIE Michele Schiavone and President of the VII Commission of CGIE ‘New Migrations and New Generations’ Maria Chiara Prodi, - were careful not to take over, as is often the case.


    The young finally spoke, making proposals, objecting at times; they compared their ideas amongst themselves and with institutional representatives. They are now finally ready to create, over the course of the coming months, what will be the first network of young Italians abroad. Their work has already begun, as those who returned home to different continents started sharing new input remotely. In Palermo, we built the foundations, now it’s their turn, their moment.


    I could say a lot about the young men and women that I’ve met, but for now I want to initiate a reflection on the themes discussed during the panel that I presented and moderated alongside Domenico De Maio of the National Agency for Youth, Stefano Queriolo Palma of the General Direction for the Promotion of Sistema Paese (DGSP) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Giovanna Mafodda, from the Marketing Coordination Office of ICE-Agenzia.


    I want to do this because it’s the theme I have most frequently come across in my work over the past 15 years. At i-Italy, our aim is to communicate Italy to Americans and we do it at 360 degrees. We have to start from the concept of Soft Power.


    Italian Soft Power


    The term, coined in the early 1990s by Professor Joseph S. Nye of Harvard Kennedy School of Government, is used frequently in Italy, cited by institutions, media, businesses. It’s with Soft Power - much more than with Hard Power, which they don’t lack - that the United States have constructed the American Brand that is now part of the global collective imagination, for good and bad. The American Dream made this country’s fortune, also by attracting millions of immigrants from all over the world, including Italy. A similar Nation Branding operation could today be realized for Italy.


    In fact, Italy already has Soft Power currency that is largely unutilized but spontaneously appreciated worldwide. Take “Made in Italy,” for example. There is such a thing as an Italian Dream, an Italian Way of Life, the VIVERE ALL’ITALIANA slogan that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs coined as an umbrella term under which to qualify all the economic and cultural diplomatic activities of Sistema Italia.


    Institutions need to hone this potential Soft Power in order to promote our image abroad. In Italy, however, there is no central entity in charge of designing and activating a strategy for an integrated promotion of Brand Italia. There are many entities involved in internationalization activities, operating nationally, regionally, and locally, and coordinating them is a strenuous feat.


    Ten years ago, the DGSP, General Direction for the Promotion of Sistema Paese was founded - and I would like to name perhaps its most important deviser, Ambassador Giampiero Massolo, then Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. For those who are unfamiliar, the concept is that, since we have a ramified diplomatic network (126 Embassies, 80 Consulates, 83 Cultural Institutes) headed by the MAECI (acronym for the ministry of foreign affairs), the DGSP proposes itself as the coordinator of an enormous body of activities for an INTEGRATED PROMOTION of Italy in the world. And for some years it has been doing so through what is called the ‘Control Room for Internationalization,’ that the MAECI co-presides alongside the Ministry for Cultural Development (MISE). It is composed of ICE-Agenzia, an entity through which the funds dedicated to foreign commerce are canalized, and a variety of other ministerial, financial, entrepreneurial, and territorial subjects.


    These are the subjects promoting Italian Soft Power, the coordinators of Sistema Italia in the world, the devisers of our Nation Branding - and the tagline  #VIVEREALLITALIANA, realized by Artistic Director Davide Rampello.


    Young Italians, the “healthy carriers of Soft Power”


    But what do young people have to do with this? That’s the question I raised to the organizers of the seminary. It contained, of course, a veiled provocation. There are 60 million people of Italian descent in the world (about 20 million in the United States, where I live.) Around 5 million are Italian citizens. These millions of Italians around the world, and particularly the young ones, are fundamental to Italian Nation Branding, they are “healthy carriers of Soft Power.” But are we aware of this?


    These young men and women are real enactors of the “Vivere all’Italiana,” of the culture, the lifestyle, of ‘Made in Italy,’ and, more importantly, they represent contemporary Italy, not the stereotyped version attributed to their parents and grandparents.


    The CGIE, the Comites, the Institutions, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, all have to take on this challenge, work together with these young Italians across the world, and consider them integral parts of Sistema Italia. They have to do this not only by proposing bottom-down initiatives, but by rendering them actors, listening to them, letting them into their own projects, and, in some cases, in their electoral bodies. They have to support, foster, multiply the occasions for encounters such as the Palermo Seminary. And they may have to learn to listen, rather than talk, and to step aside when necessary, in order to favor the generational changeover, which is also a cultural changeover and a spiritual renewal.


    The network that these young men and women have begun building is what really matters. With their online media and social networks, younger generations have become actors in the global political, social and economic spheres. They are the - perhaps still unaware or unexpectant - enactors of the possibilities ahead of them, not docile instruments or collection basins for votes. Italy’s soft (‘morbido’) power in the world depends on them.


    It’s starting from this idea, and from them that we have to build our Soft Power. By creating networks. I believe that their network can become a significant asset for Italy abroad. And all of this could be extremely beneficial to their peers in Italy.

    More info >>

  • Opinioni

    Soft Power. Cosa c’entrano i giovani nel mondo?



    Torno a New York dopo aver partecipato ad una delle più belle esperienze della mia vita. Cinque giorni a Palermo per un “Seminario” con 115 giovani provenienti da tutto il mondo.

    Si sono riuniti, grazie al Consiglio Generale degli Italiani all’Estero (CGIE), ai Comites (Comitati degli Italiani all’estero) e alle Consulte regionali dell'emigrazione presenti nei rispettivi paesi di accoglienza. Non è stato facile ma l’entusiasmo, e un grande lavoro di squadra, ha fatto superare molte difficoltà soprattutto logistiche ed economiche.

    Difficile descrivere l’atmosfera costruttiva che fin dai primi momenti ha coinvolto tutti ed il caso di dirlo: giovani e meno giovani (o, come si dice oggi non senza ironia: “diversamente giovani”). Per una volta gli organizzatori -  e posso citare per motivi di spazio solo Michele Schiavone, Segretario Generale del CGIE e Maria Chiara Prodi presidente della Commissione VII del CGIE - Nuove migrazioni e generazioni nuove -, sono stati molti attenti a non occupare, come troppo spesso capita, i loro spazi.

    I giovani hanno quindi finalmente parlato, presentato proposte, contestato quando occorreva; si sono confrontati fra di loro e con alcuni rappresentanti istituzionali. Sono ora finalmente pronti per creare, nei prossimi mesi, quella che sarà la prima vera rete di giovani italiani nel mondo. Si comincia già a lavorare a distanza, gli imput arrivano da chi è tornato a casa, nei diversi continenti. E’ chiaro, nella città di Palermo si sono poste solo le basi. Il momento dei giovani, il “loro” momento, comincia ora.

    Potrei scrivere a lungo su questi ragazzi e ragazze che ho incontrato ma, per ora, vorrei avviare una riflessione sui temi di cui si è parlato nel panel che ho presentato e moderato. Con me Domenico De Maio, dell’'Agenzia Nazionale per i Giovani, Stefano Queriolo Palma, della  Direzione Generale per la promozione del Sistema Paese (DGSP) del Ministero degli Affari Esteri e della cooperazione Internazionale, e Giovanni Mafodda, funzionario Ufficio di Coordinamento Marketing di ICE-Agenzia.

    Lo voglio fare perché negli ultimi 15 anni della mia vita questo è stato il tema su cui mi sono più spesso confrontata  nel mio lavoro. Noi di i-Italy ci occupiamo di comunicare l’Italia agli americani e lo facciamo a 360 gradi. E, per farlo,  dobbiamo partire appunto dal concetto di soft power.

    Il soft power italiano

    Il termine, coniato  all’inizio degli anni novanta da Joseph S. Nye della Harvard Kennedy School of Government, ricorre spesso in Italia, lo citano le istituzioni, i media, le aziende. Sul soft power  - molto più che sull’hard power che pure non gli manca - gli Stati Uniti hanno costruito il Brand America che ormai fa parte dell’immaginario del mondo, nel bene e nel male. L’American Dream ha fatto la fortuna di quel Paese, anche attraendo milioni di immigrati da tutto il mondo, Italia inclusa. Una analoga operazione di Nation Branding, di costruzione del Marchio Paese, potrebbe oggi essere concretizzata per l’italia.

    L’Italia dispone già, infatti, di un patrimonio di soft power largamente inutilizzato, ma spontaneamente apprezzato in tutto il mondo.  Il Made in Italy, ad esempio. Esiste un Italian Dream, una Italian Way of Life, quel VIVERE ALL’ITALIANA che campeggia ora nello slogan coniato dal Ministero degli Esteri come ombrello per tutte le attività di diplomazia economica e culturale del Sistema Italia.

    Occorre mettere a sistema tutto questo potenziale soft power  per esportare la nostra immagine nel mondo. In Italia, però, non esiste un ente centrale in grado di decidere e attuare una promozione integrata del Brand Italia. Abbiamo tanti enti coinvolti nelle attività di internazionalizzazione, centrali, regionali e locali, ed è necessario un enorme sforzo di coordinamento.

    Solo 10 anni  fa nasce, proprio con questo scopo, la DGSP - Direzione Generale per la promozione del Sistema Paese (e mi piace citarne l’artefice forse più importante, l’Ambasciatore Giampiero Massolo, allora Segretario Generale della Farnesina).  Per chi non lo sapesse il concetto è questo. Visto che abbiamo una ramificata rete diplomatica (126 Ambasciate, 80 Consolati, 83 Istituti di Cultura) che fa capo al MAECI (acronimo del Ministero degli affari esteri e cooperazione internazionale) la DGSP si candida a essere il coordinatore di un enorme attività di PROMOZIONE INTEGRATA dell’Italia nel mondo. E da qualche anno lo fa attraverso quella che viene chiamata ‘Cabina di Regia per l’internazionalizzazione’, che il MAECI co-presiede insieme al Ministero per lo sviluppo economico (MISE). Ne fanno parte ICE-Agenzia, ente unico attraverso cui vengono canalizzati gli ingenti fondi stanziati a questo scopo, ed una serie di altri soggetti ministeriali, finanziari, imprenditoriali e territoriali.

    Ecco finalmente insieme i soggetti promotori del soft power italiano, i coordinatori del Sistema Italia nel mondo, gli artefici del nostro Nation Branding - e il marchio #VIVEREALLITALIANA, realizzato dal regista e direttore artistico Davide Rampello.

    I giovani “portatori sani di soft power”

    Ma cosa c’entrano i giovani? Questa era la domanda che avevo proposto agli organizzatori del seminario. Conteneva, naturalmente, una velata provocazione. Ci sono 60 milioni di discendenti di Italiani in tutto il mondo. (Circa una ventina sono negli Stati Uniti, paese dove vivo). Circa 5 milioni sono cittadini italiani. Questi milioni di italiani nel mondo, e in particolare i giovani, sono i fondamentali per il Nation Branding italiano, “portatori sani di soft power”. Ma ne siamo consapevoli?

    Questi ragazzi, queste ragazze sono i veri attori del “Vivere all’Italiana”, della cultura, dello stile di vita, del Made in Italy e, cosa molto importante, rappresentano un’Italia contemporanea, non quella stereotipata attribuita ai loro padri e ai loro nonni.

    Il CGIE, I COMITES, le istituzioni, il Ministero degli Esteri devono raccogliere questa sfida e lavorare insieme a questi giovani nel mondo, considerarli a tutti gli effetti parte del Sistema Italia. Lo devono fare non solo proponendo dall’alto iniziative dirette a loro, ma devono renderli partecipi, starli ad ascoltare, farli entrare nei loro progetti, e in alcuni casi nei loro organi elettivi. Devono sostenere, favorire, moltiplicare occasioni di incontro come quella del Seminario di Palermo. E devono forse imparare ad ascoltare, più che a parlare, e a farsi da parte quando è necessario, per favorire il ricambio generazionale, che è anche ricambio culturale e rinnovamento spirituale.

    E’ la rete che questi ragazzi e ragazzi hanno cominciato a mettere su che conta davvero. Con i loro media on line, con i loro social network, i giovani sono ormai soggetti attivi sullo scenario politico, sociale ed economico mondiale, e non docili strumenti o magari bacino di raccolta di voti. Sono loro gli attori - oggi forse ancora inconsapevoli o almeno increduli delle possibilità che gli si aprono davanti.  Il ‘potere dolce’, il ‘potere morbido’ dell’Italia nel mondo dipende da loro.

    Su questo, e su di loro, si deve costruire Il nostro soft power. Facendo rete. Credo che la loro rete possa  diventare il vero punto di forza per l’Italia all’estero. E tutto questo può fare tanto bene ai loro coetanei che vivono in Italia.


    Informazioni sul seminario si trovano sul sito


  • Life & People

    Lorenzo Zurino: “I’m not one to show off, I like to work”


    He was born and raised in Sorrento, went to school in Amalfi, but now lives mostly between New York and Milan.


    Lorenzo Zurino is born in a family of important traders in Campania, but decides to move to America. Very young, he is ready to realize his American dream.


    “The first time I came to America on holiday, I was 17 and I fell in love with the country. My father deals in food distribution across Costiera Amalfitana, Costiera Sorrentina and Capri. I come from a family that’s been doing that for 104 years, so 4 generations.”


    He remembers how his great-grandfather used ‘chiatte’ (barges) to go to Sorrento. “There were no cars back then!”


    But Zurino decides not to take on his father’s business. “There certainly has been some tension in the family. I shared my desire to study to become a father went mad!


    But I had been a ‘daddy’s boy’ and I didn’t want to follow in his footsteps, it felt like a limitation of my freedom. I’m a Romantic: I wanted to test myself.”


    He interrupts his studies, however, and his path goes in a different direction, ultimately not far from that of his father. At 22 he founds his first company and calls it ‘The One.’


    “I chose this name because it was my first business. I wanted to live in America and so I created it here. So, 11 years ago, at age 23, I came to the US.”


    And he gets started: “I managed to sell 700 bottles of my father’s white wine over the phone, using his contacts. Then, when I got to New York, I met Gianfranco Sorrentino, the President of Gruppo Italiano Ristoratori e Distributori. He has been fundamental, he taught me so much.”


    But what does Zurino do today?


    “Essentially, in some cases I trade products, I buy and I sell.


    Other products, I bring to distributors across 11 states. So I present and bring Italian products to the US. I handle logistics.  


    My job has evolved over the years. When I first arrived, I used to go around with my suitcase telling people ‘my product is good.’ I let the product do the talking.


    Now, if I want to push a company, I go directly to supermarket chains. I follow the product. I’m a sort of ‘pillow’ between those selling the product and the final retailers.


    Essentially, I ‘create’ the company for America, for the American market. For example ‘Caffe Motta’ didn’t exist here and I brought it.”


    He doesn’t like to speak of internationalization though…


    “I find that it’s a word that gets overused. Everyone ‘does internationalization’, yet nobody sells a grain of rice.


    I was lucky because, if on the one hand there are many companies that focus on internationalization and market analysis, on the other hand, it also happens that big businesses who have gone to them and spent at least 100 thousand dollars, didn’t achieve anything.


    That’s how, little by little, they started coming to me, ‘He may be young but he’ll probably sell that sack of rice!’ Italy is a small country, it spread by word of mouth. I’ve always been very low profile, I let the big companies speak. But when NIAF gave me that award, for the first time, I looked back and thought ‘Ok, I’ve accomplished a few things.’”


    For the past two years, he’s been closely following small and medium businesses as well. The heart of Italian entrepreneurship, full of potential but still getting very little attention.


    “Sure, I had to start with large businesses because I had to create some flow, but Gianfranco Sorrentino always told me ‘Lorenzino, quality pays back in the long run,’ and it’s true.


    So I started with rice from Sardinia. Nobody knows that they have rice fields in Sardinia, which produce high-quality rice.


    Then I went to Pachino in Sicily (Pachino tomatoes have had a boom but very few people know that it’s also the name of a town) and I met with the main local producer of fresh Pachino and I asked him to put it in a jar. We called it ‘Bottega di Sicilia’ and we sell it, at a price, but it’s the real thing.”


    A niche market but a great start for those small to medium-sized businesses that have potential abroad.


    “In these cases, we sell to restaurants, we’re not doing large-scale distribution for now. I see if something sells or if it doesn’t. If I don’t know, I ask my 70 distributors located across 11 states.”


    And he has to say no to those who can’t make it into the American market…


    “I make some enemies, sure, but if I do my research and realize that something won’t work, I don’t take it on. I like to sleep soundly, especially in the last 2 years since I became a father…”


    And you can see the profound emotion in his eyes when he says the word ‘papà’ (father), which is much more important than any professional achievement. He talks business, sure, but behind every success story there are men and women with regular lives and feelings.


    To conclude our interview, I ask him about his next steps.


    “I’m currently selling in 11 states, the US has 50... I’m not one to show off, I like to work.”

  • Fatti e Storie

    Lorenzo Zurino. “Non sono uno che fa show-off, sono uno che lavora!”


    E’ nato e cresciuto a Sorrento, ha frequentato la scuola ad Amalfi, ma oggi vive soprattutto tra New York e Milano.

    Lorenzo Zurino appartiene ad una famiglia di commercianti molto importantei in Campania, ma decide infatti di trasferirsi in America. E’ giovanissimo e pronto, da subito, a realizzare il suo sogno americano.

    “La prima volta che sono venuto in America in vacanza avevo 17 anni e mi sono innamorato del Paese. Mio padre si occupa di distribuzione di cibo in Costiera Amalfitana, Costiera Sorrentina e Capri. Appartengo ad una famiglia che lo fa da 104 anni, quindi da 4 generazioni.”

    Ama ricordare che il suo trisavolo, per andare a Sorrento, usava le chiatte. “Non c’erano macchine allora!”.

    Ma Zurino decide di non prendere in mano l’attività del papà. “Ci sono certo stati degli attriti in famiglia. Ho comunicato che volevo studiare,  fare l’avvocato…. ricordo che mio padre sembrava impazzito!

    Ma io sono stato figlio di papà e mi pesava seguire le sue orme, Mi sembrava una limitazione della mia libertà. Sono un romantico: mi volevo mettere alla prova.”

    I suo studi per diventare avvocato però si interrompono, la sua strada è un’altra e poi, alla fine, non troppo lontana da quella di suo padre.  A 22 anni fonda la sua prima azienda, la chiama “The one”.

    “Il nome viene dalla mia  prima partita IVA. Volevo vivere in America e quindi l’ho fatta in America. Dunque 11 anni fa’, a 23 anni, sono venuto negli USA.”.

    E comincia così: “Sono riuscito a vendere a telefono 700 bottiglie di vino bianco di papà, usando i suoi contatti. Poi, arrivato a New York,  ho incontrato Gianfranco Sorrentino, presidente del Gruppo Italiano Ristoratori e Distributori.  E’ stato fondamentale,  mi ha insegnato molto”

    Ma cosa fa oggi Lorenzo Zurino?

    “Essenzialmente, per alcuni prodotti,  faccio trading, compro e vendo.

    Altri li destino ai distributori in 11 stati americani. Dunque presento e porto negli USA  prodotti Italiani, mi occupo di logistica.

    Il mio mestiere, negli anni, si è molto evoluto. Quando sono arrivato qui giravo con le valigette e dicevo ‘il mio prodotto è buono’.  Facevo parlare il prodotto.

    Adesso, se voglio spingere un’azienda, mi rivolgo direttamente alle catene dei supermercati. Seguo il prodotto. Sono una sorta di ‘cuscinetto’ tra chi produce e chi vende al conservatore finale.

    Quindi in sostanza ‘creo’ l’azienda per l’America, per il mercato americano. Per esempio ‘Caffè Motta’ non esisteva qui e l’ho portata”.

    Non ama però parlare di internazionalizzazione...

    “Trovo che sia una parola molto abusata. Tutti fanno internazionalizzazione, ma nessuno vende un chilo di riso.

    La mia fortuna è stata che,  se da un lato ci sono tante aziende che fanno internazionalizzazione e analisi di mercato, dall’altro è successo anche che grandi società, dopo essere andate da loro,  e lasciato magari almeno 100 mila euro, non hanno concluso niente.

    Ecco che poi piano piano sono venuti da me ‘sarà giovane ma probabilmente quel pacco di riso ce lo vende!’.  L’Italia e un paese piccolo, è stato un passaparola. Io sono sempre stato low profile, lascio fare alle grandi aziende. Ma mentre mi davano il premio alla Niaf, forse per la prima volta, mi sono guardato dietro e mi sono detto ‘qualcosina hai fatto!’”

    Sono due anni che segue attivamente anche le piccole e medie imprese. Il cuore del sistema imprenditoriale italiano, con tanto potenziale ancora così poco considerato.

    “Certo ho dovuto iniziare con le grandi società perché dovevo muovere i contenitori, ma c’era Gianfranco Sorrentino  che mi diceva “Lorenzino, the quality pays back in the long run.” (la qualità ripaga a lungo termine). E’ così.

    Ho cominciato dunque con un riso che viene fatto in Sardegna. Nessuno sa che in Sardegna ci sono le risaie, che producono riso di grande qualità.

    Poi sono andato in Sicilia a Pachino (c'è stato il boom del pomodoro Pachino, ma pochissimi sanno che è anche una città) ho incontrato il più grande produttore locale di pachino fresco e gli ho chiesto di metterlo in barattolo. L’abbiamo chiamato ‘Bottega di Sicilia’ e lo vendiamo, caro, ma è lui, quello vero.”

    Una distribuzione di nicchia, ma un’ottima partenza per quelle piccole e medie imprese che hanno un potenziale all’estero.

    “In questi casi i clienti sono i ristoratori, non facciamo grande distribuzione per ora.  Vedo se qualcosa funziona o non funziona, se non lo so, chiedo ai miei 70 distributori sparsi su 11 stati”

    E deve anche dire dei no a chi non ha la possibilità di entrare sul mercato americano…

    “Mi faccio certo qualche nemico ma, se dopo le mie ricerche, mi accorgo  che qualcosa non funziona, non la prendo. Mi piace dormire tranquillo, soprattutto negli ultimi 2 anni da quando sono papà…”

    E se lo guardi negli occhi percepisci un attimo di vera emozione quando usa la parola ‘papà’, molto più importante di un successo nel suo lavoro. Si parla di affari con lui, certo, ma dietro ogni successo ci sono uomini e donne con una vita comune, sentimenti.

    I prossimi passi? Gli chiedo alla fine della nostra intervista.

    “Io vendo in 11 stati, negli Stati Uniti ce ne sono 50… Io non sono uno che fa show-off (si mette in mostra), sono uno che lavora.”


  • George Loring Brown, Monte Pellegrino at Palermo, Italy, 1856
    Facts & Stories

    Palermo: 115 Young Italians From All Over the World to Create a Global Network



    They are set to meet in Palermo from the 16th to the 19th of April, all aged 18 to 35: 115 young women and men, originating from every region in Italy, and residing in cities all over the world. 60% are of second or third generation and 40% new immigrants. They speak and write in Italian.


    These young Italians abroad are taking on a great commitment. After being selected by the Committee of Italians Abroad (Com.It.Es.)* and by regional councils for emigration, they will work intensely for four days in order to then return to their communities and implement the launch of the first global youth network.


    “The event coincides with the ten-year anniversary of the Global Youth Conference, another initiative launched by the CGIE, which brought 400 delegates from all over the world to Rome in December 2008,” recalls General Secretary of the CGIE* Michele Schiavone.


    The program consists of two days of innovative participatory techniques, to identify goals and projects; one day of formation with experts to delve deeper into various themes (networks of Italian researchers abroad, work and mobility, cultural heritage, new experiences and opportunities for expat families, soft power, representation for Italians abroad); and finally one morning dedicated to dialoguing with institutions and setting goals in terms of work and commitment for the year to come.


    “Since early February, we’ve involved all the participants through preparatory video conferences on the platform Bitmeeting and through questionnaires to encourage maximum engagement and convey the potential of this initiative” explains Maria Chiara Prodi, the President of the Committee ‘New Migrations and New Generations,’ which has been working on the project for the past three years.


    We discuss the participants’ profiles with her. “What’s striking is the variety, the intelligence of these students and researchers, the different jobs they hold, from fire-fighter to physical therapist, to special needs teacher, to grand professions such as judge, economist, scientist.”


    And where do they come from? “We have the whole world here, even places we weren’t expecting, like Guatemala. In Australia, they have already gone through an intense preparation on the themes we will be discussing, in Norway, they have already produced significant research on the networks. All of this makes us understand that they are ahead and that it’s important to bring their energies together in a system that valorizes them. That’s the objective of the symposium. We intentionally selected people who are already socially active in their territories and able to work in a team.”


    Ten years have passed since the Global Youth Conference, ten years that have transformed the world. So much has changed. One of the challenges that the CGIE has had to face is economical. “It was clear from the beginning that we would not have the resources we had in 2008. We contemplated accepting this challenge by turning it into a strength. We jumped. It’s important to work with the actual data, with the economic reality, and build with the tools at our disposal. - continues Maria Chiara Prodi - All this while respecting and sharing the values of the COM.IT.ES upon which we depend, to connect also with the regional councils and institutions that wished to participate, particularly with those of our host city.


    Palermo - Italian Capital of Youth in 2017 and of Culture in 2018 - presented itself immediately, thanks also to the work of commission member Gaetano Calà. Local institutions, the municipality of Palermo, with the enthusiasm of Mayor Leoluca Orlando, and the Region of Sicily presided by Nello Musumeci, all endorsed and supported this initiative.”


    It’s been a real team effort, that becomes evident as Maria Chiara Prodi thanks all those who contributed alongside the CGIE and local institutions, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the Regional Councils, but also the Regions who don’t have councils and who worked together with the young migrants to perfect their policies. “We wanted to get past the idea that emigration is solely the competence of Emigration Councils. Many regions don’t have them, but they have departments devoted to internationalization, youth employment, startups, innovation…”  


    The participants received their travel reimbursements directly from their territories, the platform BitMeeting (an instrumental partner in determining the success of the symposium), will allow the work to be carried out remotely, room and board are financed by local entities, the commission was funded by the CGIE: meaning each organization and institution did their part. Maria Chiara Prodi’s enthusiasm is fully justified.


    “We will ensure that no idea gets overlooked or distorted. We believe deeply in participatory techniques. They enable us to get to the core of what is important and dispel the notion that young Italians abroad don’t care about politics and the activities carried out by associations.


    We will analyze and realize that it could very well be that their interests are hardly being heard by the existing representatives.”


    One of the selection criteria is motivation. “We wanted them to be formally committed to being active before and after the seminary. This isn’t a vacation. We want them to become the voices of their territories, to report back there what will take place here.


    We didn’t intervene directly on the selection process. There have been different experiments corresponding to different situations, to heterogeneous realities across the world. We know that each COM.IT.ES has its own history.


    Not all COM.IT.ES participated and neither did every region. The list is on the website. What we hope is to put in motion a positive dynamic, fueled by youthful energy. Those who weren’t able to participate can join us later. I hope that institutions will become sensitized and help us to gain a more stable economic status. We plan on creating working groups, some of which will be connected to objectives such as the State Region Conference that will take place in November and where we would like to send proposals made by young people, like ‘Reti, Ricerca, Innovazione’ (Networks, Research, and Innovation) and more.


    It’s a unique opportunity, it’s not easy to bring together, face-to-face, so many young Italians living abroad. That’s why I enthusiastically agreed to participate.


    There, I will meet, listen, and ask them if they realize how important they are in presenting the Italian Brand to the world. I will inquire about their awareness of their role as Soft Power ambassadors. We will discuss this with Minister Queirolo Palmas from the DGSP of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I will be glad to introduce the General Director of the Youth Agency, Domenico De Maio, who will present his institution, talk about employment, knowledge, and cultural integration amongst young people in different countries.


    “The idea is for the young delegates to become a resource on all levels.” says Maria Chiara Prodi.


    There is much talk about the status of associations of Italians abroad. It is often said that associationism is dead. This is an opportunity to respond within a changed, glocalized, faster, “liquid” world, one that lives on social media but in which relationships built on physical presence are still needed.   


    Although the event will only be accessible to the delegates due to space constraints, everyone will be able to follow their work on the website




    *The CGIE is an institution made up of 43 volunteers elected in the countries in which there is a community of Italians, and an additional 20 members nominated by the government. It’s a consultatory organism of the government and the parliament, advising on the main themes that interest the community abroad. Its representative legitimacy derives from the direct election of the components of the COM.IT.ES throughout the world.


    * The COM.IT.ES are elected and represent the needs of Italian citizens residing abroad to the Consular Offices, with which they collaborate to determine social, cultural, and civil needs of the Italian community.


  • Fatti e Storie

    Palermo. 115 giovani da tutto il mondo per fare rete


    Si troveranno a Palermo dal 16 al 19 aprile.  Hanno tra i 18 e 35 anni. Sono 115 ragazze e ragazze, le loro regioni d’origine seguono la geografia di tutta l’Italia, le città dove vivono sono in tutto il mondo. Per  il 60% sono di seconda e terza generazione e per il 40% di nuova emigrazione. Parlano e scrivono l’italiano.

    E’ un grande impegno quello che aspetta questi giovani italiani all’estero.  Selezionati dai Comitati degli Italiani all’Estero (Com.It.Es.)* e dalle consulte regionali per l’emigrazione, parteciperanno a delle giornate intense, dovranno lavorare per poi tornare nelle loro comunità e attivare la nascita della prima rete di giovani nel mondo.

    “L’evento ricorre nel decennale della Conferenza Mondiale dei Giovani, che nel dicembre del 2008, sempre per iniziativa del CGIE, portò a Roma 400 delegati da tutto il mondo”, ricorda Michele Schiavone, Segretario Generale del CGIE*.

    Il programma prevede due giorni di tecniche innovative partecipative, per fare emergere speranze e progetti; un giorno di formazione per approfondire con esperti vari temi (reti di ricercatori italiani nel mondo, lavoro e mobilità, patrimonio artistico, nuove esperienze e opportunità legate alle famiglie expat, soft power, rappresentanza degli italiani all’estero) ed infine una mattina per dialogare con le istituzioni e darsi degli obiettivi di lavoro e di impegno per l’anno a venire.

    “Da inizio febbraio abbiamo coinvolto tutti i ragazzi tramite video-conferenze preparatorie, utilizzando la piattaforma Bitmeeting, e tramite questionari per incoraggiarli ad un massimo impegno e spiegare loro il potenziale di questa iniziativa” spiega Maria Chiara Prodi, presidente della Commissione 'Nuove migrazioni e generazioni nuove', che da tre anni lavora al progetto.

    Commentiamo con lei  i profili dei giovani che parteciperanno. “Colpisce la varietà,  la levatura, con studenti e ricercatori, con i diversi lavori che svolgono, dal pompiere al fisioterapista, all’insegnante di sostegno,  e le grandissime professionalità di giuristi, economisti, scienziati. “

    E da dove vengono? “Abbiamo tutto il mondo e anche luoghi che proprio non ci aspettavamo, come il Guatemala.  In Australia hanno già svolto un intenso lavoro di preparazione sui temi che affronteremo, in Norvegia hanno realizzato già un’importante ricerca sulle reti. Tutto questo ci fa capire come siano più avanti e quanto sia importante riuscire a mettere insieme le loro energie in un sistema che le valorizzi. Questa è la finalità del simposio. Abbiamo appositamente chiesto che fossero coinvolte persone già attive socialmente nei loro territori e capaci di giocare di squadra”

    Sono passati dieci anni dalla  Conferenza Mondiale dei Giovani, dieci anni che hanno trasformato il mondo, molto è cambiato. Uno degli aspetti che il CGIE ha dovuto affrontare è sicuramente quello economico.  "Era chiaro fin dall’inizio che non avremmo avuto le risorse del 2008. Ci siamo posti la domanda se accettare la sfida per farne un punto di forza.. Ci siamo lanciati. E’ importante partire da dati contemporanei,  dalla realtà economica e lavorare, costruire con i mezzi che si hanno. - continua Maria Chiara Prodi -  Tutto nel rispetto e condivisione dei valori dei COM.IT.ES  da cui noi dipendiamo, per connetterci anche con le Consulte Regionali e le istituzioni che hanno voluto  partecipare, in particolare con quelle della città ospitante.

    E Palermo - grazie anche al lavoro di Gaetano Calà nella nostra commissione -  si è presentata subito, capitale italiana dei giovani nel 2017 e della cultura nel 2018. Le istituzioni locali, il Comune di Palermo, con l’entusiasmo del suo sindaco Leoluca Orlando,  e la Regione Sicilia, con il presidente Nello Musumeci, hanno sposato e sostenuto questa iniziativa.”

    E’ stato un vero lavoro di squadra, lo si capisce quando Maria Chiara Prodi ringrazia tutti coloro che hanno contribuito,  insieme al CGIE e le istituzioni locali,  il Ministero Degli Esteri e Cooperazione Internazionale, le Consulte Regionali ma anche le Regioni che non hanno Consulte hanno lavorato insieme per perfezionare le loro politiche con i giovani immigrati. “ Abbiamo voluto superare l’idea che l’emigrazione sia competenza sole delle Consulte dell’emigrazione. Molte regioni non le hanno, ma hanno assessorati all’internazionalizzazione, economia per i giovani, start up, innovazione …. “.

    I giovani hanno recuperato le spese di viaggio direttamente dai loro territori, la piattaforma BitMeeting (partner molto importante per il successo del simposio), consentirà di seguire i lavori in via telematica, il vitto e l’alloggio sono coperti con finanziamenti degli enti locali, la commissione è finanziata con fondi del CGIE. Ogni organizzazione e istituzione ci ha messo il suo quindi.  Quello di Maria Chiara Prodi è un entusiasmo più che motivato.

    “Faremo in modo che  nessuna delle idee venga sottovalutata o manomessa. Crediamo molto nelle tecniche partecipative. Permettono di arrivare al fulcro di cosa è importante e smentire il fatto che i giovani italiani all’estero non si interessino alla politica,  alle attività associative.

    Analizzeremo e capiremo: non sarà che i loro interessi vengono ascoltati a fatica dalle rappresentanze esistenti?”

    Tra i criteri di scelta dei giovani delegati la motivazione. “Abbiamo voluto che si impegnassero formalmente ad essere attivi prima e dopo il seminario. Non saranno giorni di vacanza. Vogliamo che si rendano portavoce dei propri territori.  Che quello che accadrà venga riportato nei loro territori.

    Non siamo intervenuti direttamente sulle pratiche di selezione. Ci sono stati esperimenti diversi che corrispondono a situazioni diverse. Realtà eterogenee nel mondo. Siamo consapevoli che ogni COM.IT.ES ha una sua storia.

    Non tutti i COM.IT.EShanno partecipato e non tutte le regioni. La lista è sul sito.  Quello che ci aspettiamo è di mettere in moto una dinamica positiva e di energia giovane. Chi non ha avuto modo di partecipare può raggiungerci dopo.  Spero che le istituzioni si sensibilizzino, ci aiutino a trovare condizioni economiche più stabili. Abbiamo in programma di creare gruppi di lavoro, tra questi alcuni connessi  a degli obiettivi come 'la Conferenza Stato Regione' che si svolgerà in novembre, dove vorremmo mandare proposte che vengono da giovani, come 'Reti, Ricerca, Innovazione' e altre.

    E’ un’occasione unica, non è facile far incontrare dal vivo tanti giovani italiani che vivono nel mondo. Per questo ho accettato con entusiasmo di partecipare anch’io 

    Li incontrerò, ascolterò, e domanderò a loro se sono consapevoli della loro importanza nel portare nel mondo il Brand Italia, chiederò a loro se sanno di essere ambasciatori inconsapevoli di Soft Power.  Ne parleremo insieme al ministro Queirolo Palmas della DGSP del Ministero degli Esteri e Cooperazione Internazionale. Sarò lieta di introdurre il  Direttore Generale dell’Agenzia Giovani, Domenico De Maio,  che presenterà l’istituzione che rappresenta, parlerà di lavoro,  conoscenza e integrazione culturale tra giovani in Paesi diversi.

    “L’idea è che i giovani delegati diventino una risorsa a tutti i livelli.” dice Maria Chiara Prodi.

    E c’è un gran parlare (e a volte far finta di niente) dello stato delle associazioni di italiani all’estero. Si dice spesso che l’associazionismo sia morto. Questa è l’occasione per dare una risposta in un mondo che è cambiato, glocalizzato, veloce, 'liquido'', che vive sui social ma che continua ad avere bisogno di rapporti basati sulla presenza personale.



    Benché riservato ai delegati per questioni di spazio, sarà possibile per tutti seguire i lavori tramite il sito



    * CGIE è un’istituzione composta di 43 volontari eletti in tutti i paesi dove è insediata una comunità di italiani, a cui si aggiungono 20 membri di nomina governativa. E un organismo di consulenza del Governo e del Parlamento sui grandi temi che interessano le comunità all’estero. Esso deriva la sua legittimità rappresentativa dall’elezione diretta da parte dei componenti dei COM.IT.ES nel mondo


    * COM.IT.ES sono eletti e rappresentano le esigenze dei cittadini italiani residenti all’estero nei rapporti con gli Uffici Consolari, con i quali collaborano per individuare le necessità di natura sociale, culturale e civile della collettività Italiana..)


  • Art & Culture

    Mesmerized by Mafalda Minnozzi's Voice

    In lingua italiana >>

    She owns the stage. With all the sweetness and strength that only a woman, who understands the meaning of fragility, can grasp. 

    She hypnotizes your entire body, inviting it not only to listen to her, but also to dance, follow the rhythm, even sing along. I don’t have a great voice and have the reserve to withhold it when she invites the audience to follow along. I regret this later, however. I didn’t let myself go, I told her “no”. I’m sorry. I may have missed out on something, a part of her.

    Crowned by her red hair, two experienced eyes observe the audience without losing focus. Mafalda Minnozzi appears to traverse you when she sings, giving herself to the public each time, no matter where she is singing her songs: a theatre, home, studio, park…

    I heard her sing recently at my friend Patrizia di Carrobio’s home. Thanks to her I enjoyed yet another unforgettable evening of 1960s musical hits: precious gems recast by her voice.

    As she sings, Mafalda Minnozzi gives herself but also receives from those who listen. You find yourself engaging in a cycle of mutual generosity. Few artists can accomplish such a feat, which comes from her profound humility. 

    Mafalda’s story is important, difficult, unconventional, and brave. It’s the story of a true interpreter. Her voice is her instrument. She conveys emotions. Each text is given a new life as it passes through her vocal chords. Sometimes it is reborn. She conveys passion and pulls you into a complete sensorial experience. 

    She has not lost her Italianness, but Brazil has gotten into her veins, influencing not only her musical repertoire, but also the way in which her words move through the air, treading their own path alongside the music.

    This is how I see her. This is how I see Mafalda Minnozzi, a singer who, in my opinion, should become much more popular in Italy, where nowadays musical interpreters are given little importance. This certainly wasn’t the case in the time of famous  Italian singer Mina. And one can’t help but wonder whether even the “Tiger of Cremona” (as public also labeled her)  herself would have a hard time emerging in the current system.

    Mafalda Minnozzi also boasts a strong personality. And this too could be a problem in the current Italian musical landscape, which likes to groom its artists.  

    Her roots are between Pavia, where she was born, and San Severino Marche, where she grew up. She then spent her long career between Italy and Brazil and it’s in this Latin American nation that she found true fame.

    She conquered Brazil but the Country also conquered her.

    In Brazil music easily becomes dance. Mafalda does the same with her voice. And sometimes she reworks Italian pieces this way. She plays with different genres, interpreting Italian hits from the ‘60s (by Tenco, Paoli), ‘30s and ‘40s Jazz (Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday), and of course Brazilian songs (by Gilberto Gil, Chico Buarque, Milton Nascimento, Caetano Veloso…).

    Over the past twenty years, she has been performing with Italian-American guitarist Paul Ricci. With him she recorded eMPathia Jazz Duo, a gem that brings together Samba and Jazz, her two musical pillars.

    What else can I say? Go and listen to her. She’s in New York these days. You won’t want to miss it.

    You can find all the info on her website: