Department Life: A Visit from the Italian Ambassador

Dr Carla Battelli, Visiting Lecture of Italian Studies at the University of Reading.

Dr Carla Battelli, Visiting Lecture of Italian Studies at the University of Reading.

On Thursday 12 March Italy’s Ambassador to England, Pasquale Terracciano, came to visit the University of Reading, accompanied by the General Consul of Italy, Dott. Massimiliano Mazzanti, and the Cultural Attache’ of the Embassy, Dott. Federico Bianchi. We asked Dr Carla Battelli, Visiting Lecturer of Italian Studies in the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies, to fill us in on the events of the day.

Out of a four-door burgundy Maserati there came three men in black, one wearing sun glasses. It was enough to make you say: “Yes, that confirms my cliché of Italians!”

But actually our Ambassador was concerned to avoid cliché:  Italy is not only “pizza, sole, mandolino,” he insisted. There’s more to Italy than that.

The three V.I.P.s came to Reading as representatives of a country that is full of contradictions. Italy would be better called “Italies”, in recognition of its diversity. Yet they are also representatives of a country that is full of amazing people who are warm and cheerful (yes, I know, you are thinking “and loud!”),  and which offers a unique experience of “life at its fullest”.

That’s what our students here at Reading say when they come back from their year abroad in Italy. One of our students recently asked me: “How could I live without  knowing that a place like Naples exists?”. I am chuffed. I teach Italian here and I do my best to convey my passion for all things Italian, but my students find a new piece of magic each time, and I thank them for this!

A beautiful example of the “Italian job” came from the video that Daniela showed as a means to promote the campaign “Choose Italian”. It is aimed at students who still need to make their choice of university, and it stars several of our students, reporting from their year abroad in Florence, Bari, Salerno, Como. A video that’s moving and beautiful and so inspiring, that the Ambassador wants to show it at Italy’s next National Republic Day (June 2nd).

The Ambassador and the Vice Chancellor meet with members of the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies

The Ambassador and the Vice Chancellor meet with members of the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies

After a meeting with those teaching and studying Italian in the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies, the Ambassador and members of the department went to have lunch with the Vice-Chancellor, Sir David Bell. Later in the day there was another informal meeting with the Italians on campus at Uni, from many different departments, who had a chance to actually meet the people working in MLES, and talk to the Consul General – asking questions such as “Can I marry my hubby in Italy and how do I get the paperwork sorted in England?”

At 4pm we said goodbye to our visitors, and they sailed away in their Maserati, off to a charity event to fund a school for the Italian community in London. Italians in U.K. now number around 500.000…

Viva l’Italia!