domenica, novembre 19, 2006

The Italian serenade

The month-long Festa Italiana promises to go beyond wine and pizzas...to books, music, business and fashion
by Suman Tarafdar

The Financial Express
Bombay, India - Sunday, November 19, 2006
Mountains to the north, sea on three sides, multilingual, multicultural potpourri of flavours, sounds, music and energies. The capital city that is more political with rival economic power centres, a society glued to sport and the big screen, screaming, loving, chaotic families. Green, white and orange as the flag—yes, you know all this is about India. But it could just as well be Italy.

Yes, the commonalities and links are deeper than is obvious at first glance. And taking off from various points in the two histories, the lines seem to want to converge even more. “Italy has chosen India as its focus country for 2007,” informs Giancarlo Lamio, the Italian trade commissioner in India.

So, from the scheduled arrival of the Italian prime minister Romano Prodi in February next year to the celebration of Italy in a month-long festival in India (that has just started), spread across five leading Indian cities, there’s a lot of Italy on offer at the moment.

For Indians, Italy has been synonymous with high art, fashion, lifestyle, and of course, food. The Sonia Gandhi connection may have been accidental, but that today she is seen as an Indian with Italian ascendancy has just added to the equation.

But the festival, which has been jointly organised by the Indo-Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IICCI), Italian Trade Commission, Italian Cultural Institute and the Italian State Tourist Board will seek to present the peninsular nation (Italy, not India) as much more—a hub for various industries and technology-driven sectors. “We are putting together various aspects of Italy—from education to design, tourism, ICT, culture, lifestyle and others,” says Sergio Sgambato, secretary general, the Indo-Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

India is already a significant destination of Italian FDI, with about $500-600 million flowing in annually. And the Italians express confidence that this figure will only rise in the near future. “We are trying to grab all the opportunities India has to offer,” says Lamio smilingly. “We are already good partners and want to be even better friends.” The Italian cultural centre has already sent about 50 students to study in various courses in Italy. “Language is not a problem, as while the students have learnt a bit of Italian, the courses are in English too,” elaborates Patrizia Raveggi, cultural counsellor and co-ordinator, Italian Embassy Cultural Institute. “This time our week-long cultural programmes centre round the theme of food. So we have historical menus, competitions and discussions - all centred around food. We thought food is a good way of getting to know a different culture.”

Going by the popular perception of the people, the key of the festival, (which started as a weekly, and graduated to a fortnightly till the last edition), has been the cultural aspects. The festival got off to a spectacular start with the concert performance by Teatro Regio di Parma, in both Delhi and Mumbai. “Grazie Mille” was the reaction of those who got to see and hear the opera in Delhi and Mumbai.

India may be wooed by the world at the moment, but few nations have managed to put together a festival of this expanse. This Italian connection can only be expected to see the wine glasses raised for many a toast.

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