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Articles by: Letizia Airos soria

  • Fatti e Storie

    Il dovere di compiere fino in fondo il proprio dovere

    IN ENGLISH >>

    New York - Un improvviso pomeriggio di neve come quelli che solo questa città ti sa regalare. Ma non potevamo non incontrare di nuovo Pietro Grasso, ex magistrato ed ex Presidente del Senato, questo volta nel ruolo di membro della Commissione Parlamentare cosiddetta “antimafia”, che ha appena concluso una visita ufficiale negli USA.

    Non è la prima volta. Ricordiamo subito insieme l’incontro del 2009, quando venne per commemorare  l’anniversario della morte di Joe Petrosino. Con lui c’erano Don Ciotti, il musicista Roy Paci e altri esponenti della cultura siciliana. Fu una delle mie prime “interviste eccellenti” per i-Italy, che era nata da poco ma già faceva parte dell’organizzazione di alcuni eventi e dibattiti a margine della visita di Pietro Grasso.

    Dunque, quando gli chiedo se può essere considerato, in un certo senso, “la  guida americana” in questa missione, mi sorride ricordando innanzitutto l’importante lavoro del presidente della commissione, l’on. Nicola Morra. Ma la storia del suo impegno racconta da sola.

    “Alla commissione porto prima di tutto la mia esperienza di tanti anni di magistrato, ma ne sono stato anche consulente quando ero più giovane, quando la Commissione antimafia, era presieduta da Gerardo Chiaromonte e poi Luciano Violante. Nelle mie varie funzioni ho incontrato più volte i rappresentanti governativi e istituzionali degli Stati Uniti. E’ sempre importante scambiare personalmente le informazioni, anche per aggiornare le nostre analisi sul fenomeno della criminalità organizzata. Ed io qui mi sento a mio agio."

    Nella vostra fittissima agenda, tra Washington e New York, c’era anche un incontro con il giudice Samuel Alito, uno dei 9 membri della Corte Suprema, l’unico di origine italiana. 

    “Con Alito è stato molto interessante. Ci ha raccontato le sue esperienza, mettendo anche a fuoco come la Supreme Court sia diversa dalla nostra corte Costituzionale.  Ma abbiamo anche parlato dei momenti comuni nella nostra storia professionale. Alito si era occupato di una parte del processo “Pizza connection” mentre io mi occupavo contemporaneamente del “maxi processo” contro la mafia a Palermo. E dunque entrambi abbiamo conosciuto, da diversi punti di vista, i legami tra la mafia siciliana e quella americana."

    La coincidenza tra  “Pizza Connection” e “Maxiprocesso” di Palermo fu una tappa importante di una lunga collaborazione tra l’FBI e gli investigatori antimafia italiani, fortemente voluta da Giovanni Falcone. E infatti la Commissione ha anche visitato la Base Militare di Quantico in Virginia, sede anche di uffici FBI e DEA. Lì c’è una statua di Falcone ai cui piedi avete deposto una corona di fiori...

    “Sì, sono stato a Quantico diverse volte. Ora mi interessava portare questa commissione antimafia a conoscere da vicino l’apprezzamento dell’FBI per il lavoro svolto da Giovanni Falcone. Li c’è una colonna spezzata che indica il fatto che il lavoro di Falcone venne interrotto e poi un busto adiacente all’ingresso. E’ importante. Entrando tutti gli allievi lo vedono e apprendono di una figura che ha sacrificato la sua vita in un percorso di giustizia.”

    L’attività di Falcone ha ispirato la  “Convenzione delle Nazioni Unite contro la criminalità organizzata transnazionale”, la cosiddetta Convenzione di Palermo. Fu il primo strumento giuridico a fornire le basi comuni nel contrasto al crimine organizzato e fu firmata da 188 Paesi.

    “Ero Procuratore a Palermo quando venne firmata, nel 2000. Ho partecipato alla fase preparatoria e organizzativa, anche quello è stato un proseguire l’azione di Falcone dopo la sua morte.  Dal suo assassinio nel 1992 fino alla data della firma... ci vollero 8 anni per poter mettere in campo quello che lui aveva illustrato proprio qui all’ONU.”

    Infatti ne avete parlato anche nel vostro incontro alla Rappresentanza Permanente italiana all’ONU.

    “Certo perchè è uno strumento giuridico fondamentale. E’ un trattato estremamente completo, semplice, duttile. Purtroppo non tutti gli Stati che lo sottoscrissero hanno poi adeguato la loro legislazione per poterlo attuare fino in fondo. Ma ora è partita finalmente la procedura di revisione che dovrebbe facilitarne l’attuazione. La Convenzione di Palermo è uno dei trattati multilaterali più importanti, insieme a quello sul contrasto alla corruzione e al riciclaggio.”

    All’ONU avete anche visitato l’Ufficio anti-terrorismo, il comitato anti-terrorismo del Consiglio di Sicurezza, avete avuto  incontri con UNODC, Interpol...

    “Abbiamo affrontato soprattutto il tema del finanziamento e dell’organizzazione dell’antiterrorismo. L’Italia è considerata all’avanguardia in questo campo. Sotto il profilo della prevenzione del terrorismo, siamo un punto di riferimento. Per la nostra legislazione, per la DNAA, la Direzione nazionale antimafia e antiterrorismo, che ha un ruolo importantissimo di coordinamento; e per il Comitato di Analisi Strategica Antiterrorismo (CASA), che si incontra ogni settimana per uno scambio di informazioni in tempo reale.”

    Sempre al Palazzo di vetro avete visitato la mostra “L’Arte di Salvare l’Arte”, organizzata dai Carabinieri del nucleo per la protezione del patrimonio culturale insieme alla Rappresentanza permanente italiana. Perchè?

    “Sotto il profilo della commissione antimafia è  interessante perchè parecchie attività criminali sono collegate con il traffico delle opere d’arte, che sono usate come investimenti della mafia  o nel riciclaggio di capitali. 

    Ma i nostri Carabinieri hanno portato a termine una iniziativa di rilevanza mondiale: hanno creato una banca dati dove inseriscono tutte le opere rubate del mondo e che è accessibile e consultabile da tutti gli investigatori, quando si hanno dei dubbi su degli acquisti. Nella mostra all’ONU c’è anche un pezzo che viene da Palmira che a livello simbolico è molto importante. Richiama il tema delle guerre che possono distruggere l’arte, un tema purtroppo attuale”

    Cosa si porta con sé dopo questo viaggio la Commissione?

    “E’ stato molto utile. Abbiamo recuperato le fila di un discorso che risale alla “Pizza Connection” e alla guerra di mafia. Al fatto che alcuni della famiglia Inzerillo, collegati con la famiglia Gambino, si erano rifugiati  negli USA per sfuggire alla morte. Intorno al 2005-2006-2007, quando mi occupavo del processo, c’erano alcune intercettazioni da cui si apprendeva l’intenzione di farli tornare per riprendere in mano alcune attività come il traffico degli stupefacenti. Ritengo che oggi le nuove generazioni di mafiosi nate in America non siano più interessate a questo. Sono inserite in altri affari. 

    Certo ci si chiede ancora dove siano finiti gli enormi capitali di Pizza Connection... 

    “Alcuni erano in Svizzera, ma tanti non li abbiamo trovati. C’è il sospetto che il tesoro degli Inzerillo sia stato solo in parte investito, mentre un’altra parte potrebbe essere sotterrata in sacchi di juta da qualche parte. Non si fidavano delle banche!”

    Quanto e ancora attuale parlare di mafia oggi?

    “Domanda impegnativa. Il problema è che nonostante ci siano organismi come l’FBI ancora molto impegnati a monitorare il fenomeno, oggi negli USA si guarda più al terrorismo e al traffico di migranti.  Dopo l’11 settembre la lotta alla criminalità organizzata, da un punto di vista di utilizzo di risorse strategiche, ha subito un calo o sono state concentrate altrove.

    Le mafie sono meno visibili, la violenza mafiosa è meno visibile. Bisogna cercare le 'reti di sistema' tra potere amministrativo, governativo, mafioso, enti locali, imprese collegate ai fini di acquisire appalti pubblici, ci sono molte cose da controllare, anche in diverse città americane.

    In Italia e in Europa abbiamo poi ancora  il fenomeno dello “spostamento al nord” della mafia. Anche da noi la criminalità organizzata è sommersa, appare meno. La violenza si manifesta solo quando è ritenuta indispensabile. E’ una precisa strategia, che rende il fenomeno più difficile da individuare.”

    Ed i danni sono al Paese intero...

    “Il metodo mafioso  è contro la libertà dell’individuo, contro l’economia. Realizza un monopolio ed elimina le imprese legali. Crea un network di impresa da favorire che hanno i vantaggi. Gli imprenditori,  anziché subire le intimidazioni, la paura, il pagamento di tangenti, pagano e prendono i vantaggi del sistema. Sono collusi con il sistema anche se non ne fanno parte in maniera ufficiale. Non sono affiliati a Cosa nostra, ma fanno il suo gioco”

    Nella sue attività è molto vivo il “senso dello Stato”. In un momento in cui è sempre più difficile parlare di valori condivisi, soprattutto ai giovani, non pensa che forse si possa partire proprio dal Senso dello Stato?

    “Il senso del dovere e dello Stato è fondamentale, basilare. Anche in questo ho avuto la fortuna di avere come  punti di riferimento maestri come Falcone e Borsellino. C’è una frase attribuita a John Kennedy che Falcone citava spesso: “Occorre compiere fino in fondo il proprio dovere, qualunque sia il sacrificio da sopportare, costi quel che costi, perché è in ciò che sta l'essenza della dignità umana”. 

    Falcone citava anche un’altra frase di JFK: “Gli uomini passano, le idee restano, e continuano a camminare sulle gambe di altri uomini”. La politica può avere un ruolo nel trasmettere ai giovani tutto questo? 

    "Io mi sono 'spostato in politica' continuando a cercare quello che serve per combattere l’economia criminale. Quello che non sono riuscito ad ottenere da magistrato. Ho cercato di dare il mio contributo sui temi della giustizia, dell’eguaglianza sociale, del lavoro, perché il problema della criminalità organizzata è un problema sociale. Non è solo un fenomeno criminale. Ci sono zone in cui la mafia riesce a dare lavoro, non solo lavoro criminale, ma anche lavoro nelle imprese illegali o legali camuffate. Sono certo che con più lavoro pulito i giovani sarebbero più liberi di contrastare il sistema mafioso.

    Per questo dico che mi sono ‘spostato in politica’, non che sono ‘passato alla politica’. Sono sempre alla ricerca di quei valori di legalità, libertà, verità, senso del dovere e dello stato che sono alla base della mia azione anche politica”

    Parlando di giovani con il Pietro Grasso “politico” viene spontaneo chiedere un commento sulla grande novità in termini di partecipazione oggi in Italia, il fenomeno delle “Sardine”.  Cosa ne pensa?

    “Incontro molti giovani, lo facevo  da magistrato e lo faccio da politico. E da quello che vedo mi sembra un fenomeno spontaneo e positivo, non politico in questa fase. Quando dico ‘non politico’ intendo che non è un partito, non è un movimento, ma un’esigenza delle persone di scendere in piazza per evitare così che la piazza la prendano altri. Tra di loro ci sono molte persone che non votavano più, non partecipavano, e la partecipazione è sempre positiva.”

    E’ anche una risposta concreta all’incattivirsi veicolato dai social media ...

    “Vero, Si può fare politica in senso buono, meglio se di persona invece che virtualmente, senza insultare, senza aggredire, senza violenza verbale.

    E’ apprezzabile l’apporto che le Sardine potranno dare in questo senso. Si vedrà in futuro. Certo è qualcosa che non va inquinato, cercando di tirare la giacca da una parte o dall’altra,  occorre lasciare che si sviluppi come vuole.”
     

     

     
  • Facts & Stories

    The Duty of Fully Fulfilling One's Duty

    IN ITALIANO  >>

    New York - An unexpected snowy afternoon such as only this city can offer. But how could we miss the chance to meet with Pietro Grasso, former magistrate and former President of the Senate, here on an official US visit as a member of the parliamentary commission known as ‘antimafia.’

     

    This isn’t our first encounter. We met in 2009, when he came to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Joe Petrosino. With him were Don Ciotti, musician Roy Paci, and other representatives of Sicilian culture. It was one of my first “excellent interviews” for i-Italy, which was still very young but was already involved in the organization of certain events and debates surrounding Pietro Grasso’s visit. 

     

    So when I ask him whether he can, in a way, be considered this mission’s “American guide,” he smiles as he recalls, first of all, the important work of the president of the commission, Nicola Morra. But his story tells itself. 

     

    “I bring to the commission my experience of many years as a judge, but I had also been a consultant for it when I was younger, when the antimafia commission was presided by Gerardo Chiaromonte and then Luciano Violante. In my various functions I’ve repeatedly encountered US governmental and institutional representatives. It’s always important to exchange information personally, also to update our analyses on the topic of organized crime. And I feel at ease here.” 

     

    Your very busy schedule also included an encounter with Justice Samuel Alito, one of the 9 members of the Supreme Court, the only one with Italian origins. 

     

    “The encounter with Alito was very interesting. He recounted his experiences, highlighting how the Supreme Court is different from our constitutional court. But we also talked about the commonalities between our professional stories. Alito handled part of the “Pizza Connection Trial” while I was involved in the “Maxi Trial” against the mafia in Palermo. So - from different points of view - we both learned about the ties between the Sicilian mafia and the American one. 

     

    The confluence of “Pizza Connection” and Palermo’s “Maxi Trial” was an important step in a long collaboration between the FBI and Italian antimafia investigators, strongly desired by Giovanni Falcone. And, in fact, the Commission also visited the Quantico Military Base in Virginia, which is also the base of the offices of the FBI and DEA. There is a statue of Falcone there and you placed a floral reef at its feet…

     

    “Yes, I’ve been to Quantico several times. Now I wanted to bring this antimafia commission to witness firsthand the FBI’s appreciation for the work done by Giovanni Falcone. There is a broken cloumn, which indicates that Falcone’s work was interrupted and then a bust near the entrance. It’s important. All the students see it upon entering and learn about a man who sacrificed his life in a path towards justice.”

     

    Falcone’s work inspired the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the so-called “Palermo Convention.” It was the first juridic instrument to set the common basis for contrasting organized crime and it was signed by 188 countries.  

     

    “I was the Procurator in Palermo when it was signed, in 2000. I participated in the preparatory and organizational phase, that was also a way of carrying on Falcone’s work after his death. From his assassination in 1992 to the signing of the convention … it took 8 years to implement what he had illustrated right here at the UN.”

     

    And in fact, you also spoke of it during your meeting at the Permanent Mission of Italy to the UN. 

     

    “Certainly, because it is one of the most fundamental juridical tools. It’s extremely complete, simple, workable. Unfortunately, not all the States who signed it then modified their legislation in order to utilize it at its fullest. But now the revision procedure, which should facilitate its actuation, finally started. The Palermo Convention is one of the most important multilateral treaties, along with the one on contrasting corruption and money laundering.”

     

    At the UN, you also visited the Counter-Terrorism Office, the Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee, you met with the UNODC, Interpol…

     

    “We especially tackled the question of financing and organizing counter-terrorism. Italy is considered at the forefront of this field. We are a point of reference in the prevention of terrorism. For our legislation, for the DNAA - Direzione Nazionale Antimafia e Antiterrorismo, - which plays a very important coordinative role; and for the Comitato di Analisi Strategica Antiterrorismo (CASA), which meets every week to exchange information in real time.”

     

    Still in the glass building, you visited the exhibition “The Art of Saving Art,” organized by the Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage and the Permanent Mission of Italy. Why?

     

    “From the perspective of the antimafia commission, it’s interesting because many criminal activities are tied to the trafficking of artworks, which have been used as investments by the mafia or to recycle capital. But our Carabinieri have carried out a globally relevant initiative: they created a database which gathers all of the world’s stolen artworks and is accessible to all investigators, when they have doubts on purchases. In the exhibition at the UN, there is also a piece that comes from Palmira, which is very important symbolically. It recalls the unfortunately timely issue of how wars can destroy art.”

     

    What will the commission bring back from the visit?

     

    “It has been very useful. We picked up a discussion that dates back to “Pizza Connection” and the mafia wars, to the fact that members of the Inzerillo family - connected to the Gambino family - took refuge in the US to escape death. Around 2005-2006-2007, when I was working on the trial, certain tapped conversations revealed there was the intention to have them come back and take hold of certain activities including drug trafficking. I believe that the new generations of mafias born in America are no longer interested in this. They are involved in other businesses.”

     

    Yet, people still wonder where the enormous sums of Pizza Connection ended up…

     

    “Some were in Switzerland, but we didn’t find most of them. Some suspect that the Inzerillo’s treasure was only partly invested and that the rest of it is burried in sacks somewhere. They didn’t trust banks!”

     

    How relevant is it to still speak of the mafia today?

     

    “That’s a complex question. The problem is that despite the existence of organs such as the FBI, which are still actively monitoring the phenomenon, today the US looks more towards terrorism and migrant trafficking. After 9/11, strategic resources have been cut from the fight against organized crime or redirected elsewhere. Mafias are less visible, mafia violence is less visible. We have to identify systems and ties between the administration, the government, the mafia, local entities, companies involved in procuring public projects, there are many things to keep under surveilance, even in many American cities. 

    In Italy and in Europe we also still have the phenomenon of the mafia moving North. There too, organized crime gets burried, it’s less visible. Violence only manifests itself when strictly necessary. It’s a specific strategy that makes the phenomenon hard to identify.”

     

    And this harms the entire country…

     

    “The mafia’s method goes against individual freedom, against the economy. It creates a monopoly and eliminates local businesses. It creates a network of favored businesses, which are advantaged. Rather than facing intimidation, fear, extortion, they pay and reap the benefits of the system. They are colluded with the system even if they aren’t officially part of it. They are not affiliated with Cosa Nostra, but they play its game.”

     

    The 'sense of the State' is very present in your activities. In a time during which it’s always harder to speak of shared values, especially to young people, do you think that we can speak of the sense of State?

     

    “The sense of duty and of the State is fundamental, basic. Even on this matter I had the chance to have masters such as Falcone and Borsellino as reference. Falcone often used a phrase attributed to John Kennedy: ‘We must accomplish our duty fully, no matter the sacrifice, no matter the cost, because that’s where the essence of human dignity lies.’”

     

    Falcone used to cite another JFK quote: “Men come and go, ideas stay and they keep walking on the legs of other men.” Can politics play a role in transmitting all of this to younger generations?

     

    “I ‘married into politics,’ looking for what is needed to contrast the criminal economy. What I wasn’t able to obtain as a judge. I tried to give my contribution on the themes of justice, of social equality, because organized crime is a social problem. It’s not only a criminal phenomenon. There are areas where the mafia manages to give work, not just criminal work but also employment within illegal or seemingly legal businesses. I’m certain that if there were more clean work, young people would be freer to contrast the mafia system. 

    For this reason I say that I 'married into politics,' instead of ‘turning to politics.’ I’m always looking for those values of legality, freedom, truth, sense of duty and of the State that are at the basis of my political action as well.”

     

    Speaking of young generations with “politician” Pietro Grasso, I can’t help but ask for a comment on the new phenomenon in terms of participation that is taking place in Italy, the “Sardine.” What do you think about it?

     

    “I meet many young people, I did so as a magistrate and now as a politican. From what I’ve seen, it seems like a spontaneous and positive phenomenon, not a political one in this phase. When I say ‘not political’ I mean that it isn’t a party, nor a movement, but stems from the need for people to go out into the streets to keep others from taking them. Among them there are many people who had stopped voting, who didn’t participate, and participation is always positive.”

     

    It’s also a concrete response to the resentment and tension that spreads on social media…

     

    “True. Politics can be done positively - better if in person rather than virtually - without insulting, without attacking, without verbal violence. The Sardine’s contribution is positive in this sense. We’ll see what happens in the future. It’s certainly something we shouldn’t taint by trying to pull it in one direction or the other, we need to let it evolve how it wants.”

  • Facts & Stories

    Italian Export Forum: ‘A Home for Made in Italy in the World’

    You are the founder of the Italian Export Forum. What is the purpose of this organization and how important is it for Italian business?

     

    The Italian Export Forum was born with the objective to offer a ‘home,’ a place for encounters and exchanges, to exporters in order to promote the Made in Italy brand throughout the world, starting with a defined strategy that will allow for the quality jump towards a more structured export model for Italian products. The IEF has identified the need for a coordinated system of businesses and institutions and it proposes itself as an effective tool for supporting those businesses seeking a content-driven internationalization rather than one made up of slogans. 

     

    Italy’s success is largely due to the creativity and entrepreneurship of small and medium businesses. How can they be helped to enter the American market and how can their presence here be managed?

     

    In this current phase, our country has the duty to stand by its own agents of production, which express not only excellence but also history and tradition, encompassing a value which is today already largely recognized abroad. However, this is not enough because if on the one hand institutions are called to do their part, we also have to create a structure. The Forum will accompany businesses towards securing a longer and more sustainable presence on the international market. In order to get there, they will need to prepare and aquire the right skills: that is why the Forum is promoting the first Master class in “Export, Made in Italy and international markets,” created by John Cabot University. Today, there is no more space for superficial and unstructured activities and we help businesses to enter the market thanks to a consolidated plan, which is already showing great results. 

     

    In your experience, what are the most common mistakes that businesses trying to enter the American market can make?

     

    The most common mistakes I’ve encountered can be traced back to an approximative approach to the world of export. Improvisations or easy enrichment schemes don’t help growth, we have to build gradual but solid paths in order to secure solid positions on foreign markets. Another mistake is one made especially by small businesses which, not knowing how to get over their individualist approach, refuse to work together - by forming consortiums for example - and thus miss important opportunities on foreign markets. 

     

    What did the first edition of the Forum, which took place last year in Sorrento, represent?

     

    The first edition of the IEF was an occasion to analyze the problems in the export field together with its entrepreneurial and institutional actors. About 300 businesses and numerous exponents of the Italian economic and institutional world had the opportunity to participate in an interesting exchange on the difficulties faced and the opportunities to grasp. It revealed a series of critical points, which represent an initial input on the work carried out by the Forum and those who participated in it. We understood the need to favor a calculated allocation of resources to promotion and internationalization, avoiding wastes and dispertions. What really emerged was how the theme of export should be a point of confluence between public and private and not one of contention tied to issues of delegation and split competency among ministries and other bodies. 

     

    Why did you open this window onto America? What is the goal?

     

    Opening a window onto the US market means addressing a range of consumers who adore Italian products. There is a remarkable demand which at the moment is only marginally being satisfied and not meeting demand means not only favoring imitations of our products - a phenomenon which we are currently unable to contrast effectively - but also translates to forgoing extraordinary opportunities of growth. The goal is for Made in Italy to affirm itself on the American market with high quality for the right price. It’s a significant challenge, which - also thanks to the Forum - can be successfully grasped. 

    ---

    Attendance to the "Italian Export Forum" is free-of-charge 

    January 27th  2020
    from 4.00 pm to 6.15 pm

    Please RSVP  team@youritalianhub

    NEW YORK
    SVA - School of Visual Art - SVA  - Theatre
    333 W 23rd St
    New York, New York

     

  • Facts & Stories

    American Consumers Expect High Quality Products from Italy

    In addition to being a leading brand in the field of Italian gastronomy products, Colavita is also an importer and distributor of many Italian brands, large and small. How do you work with the companies you introduce on the US market? What are the criteria by which they are chosen and what services and support do you offer?

    Twelve years ago we decided to open our US distribution organization to other top Italian brands looking to approach the US market, and today we represent many leading Italian brands and niche producers of unique products. We promote product lines of small manufacturers via e-commerce and larger brands in brick and mortar retail, so we have a differentiated offering in the two channels. E-commerce is a powerful tool for giving niche producers an opportunity get their products in front of a broad audience, while brick and mortar retail is better suited for large scale manufacturers who have the resources available for the investments in slotting and advertising that are required to compete in that channel.

    In your experience, what do Americans expect from Italian products? How would you assess the situation of  the ‘Made in Italy’ brand  in the US food and beverages market today?

    The American consumer is expecting high quality products and long standing family tradition behind Italian food products. Our most difficult challenge on the market is not the Italian sounding brands, but those Italian companies that do not deliver on the quality and standards demanded by American consumers. The market has changed dramatically in the 40 years that Colavita has been distributing Italian products. Today, the consumer values quality and experience before considering a product's country of origin.

    Italy’s success depends largely on the creativity and entrepreneurship of small and medium businesses. How can they be helped to enter the American market and successfully manage their presence here?

    The American market has become more and more competitive over the last 12 years that I have been living here. For a new company approaching the US market, the first and most important step is the selection of the right partner to ensure a shared vision between both companies. Typically, the first measurable success will come via e-commerce and the food service channel, followed by traditional retail. An essential resource, which can be shared between the two companies, is to have a brand ambassador living in the US to support the sales force of the importer, to promote the product, to educate the sales team and the buyers on the brand's history and message.

    As one of the co-founders of Italian Hub Corporation, what’s your take on how the country and its products are communicated in the US? What are some the most common mistakes that companies can make in this regard?

    We decided to create the Your Italian Hub partnership between Colavita and i-Italy because we recognized the need for this in the US market. We saw that the Italian agencies working on strategy and communications for the Italian brands we represent in the US market lack a real knowledge of the US market and consumers. At the same time we also observed a lack of understanding by American agencies of the culture, traditions, and values of Italy and their brands and products.

     

    ---

    Attendance to the "Italian Export Forum" is free-of-charge 

    January 27th  2020
    from 4.00 pm to 6.15 pm

    Please RSVP  team@youritalianhub

    NEW YORK
    SVA - School of Visual Art - SVA  - Theatre
    333 W 23rd St
    New York, New York

     

  • Fatti e Storie

    Italian Export Forum. Una 'casa' per il Made In Italy nel mondo

    Lei ha fondato l'Italian Export Forum. Quale è lo scopo di questa organizzazione e quanto è importante per il business italiano?

    L’Italian export forum nasce con l’obiettivo di offrire una ‘casa’, un luogo di incontro e confronto, agli attori dell’export  per valorizzare il Made in Italy nel mondo, partendo da una strategia definita in grado di promuovere un salto di qualità verso un’esportazione strutturata dei prodotti italiani all’estero. Lo Ief ha intercettato l’esigenza di un’organizzazione trasversale di  imprese ed istituzioni e il Forum si pone come strumento efficace a sostegno delle aziende intenzionate a migliorare e ad avvicinarsi per la prima volta ad una internazionalizzazione di contenuti e non di slogan.

    Il successo italiano dipende largamente dalla creatività e imprenditorialità delle piccole e medie imprese. Come possono essere aiutate ad entrare nel mercato americano e come si può gestire con successo la loro presenza qui?

    In questa fase storica, il nostro Paese ha il dovere di essere al fianco delle proprie realtà produttive che esprimono non solo eccellenza, ma storia e tradizione, racchiudendo un valore che all’estero oggi è già ampiamente riconosciuto. Questo però non basta, perché se da un lato le istituzioni sono chiamate a fare la propria parte, dall’altro bisogna strutturarsi e il Forum è in grado di accompagnare le aziende ad una più duratura e sostenibile presenza sul mercato internazionale. Per essere all’altezza c’è bisogno di preparazione e acquisizione di competenze ed è per rispondere a questa esigenza che il Forum ha promosso il primo master, creato con la John Cabot University, in “Export, Made in Italy e mercati internazionali”. Oggi non c’è più spazio per attività superficiali e destrutturate e noi supportiamo le aziende a penetrare nel mercato grazie ad un progetto consolidato che sta già dando ottimi risultati

    Secondo la sua esperienza quali sono i più comuni errori che possono essere fatti dalle aziende che entrano nel mercato americano?

    Gli errori comuni che ho riscontrato nella mia esperienza sono riconducibili ad un approccio approssimativo al mondo dell’export. Improvvisazioni o facili arricchimenti non aiutano a crescere, mentre bisogna costruire percorsi graduali ma solidi per affacciarsi stabilmente sul mercato estero. Un altro errore è quello che commettono soprattutto le piccole imprese che, non riuscendo a superare un approccio individualista, non si mettono insieme,  attraverso realtà consortili ad esempio, e perdono così opportunità importanti sui mercati esteri.

    Cosa ha rappresentato la prima edizione del Forum tenuta la scorso anno a Sorrento?

    La prima tappa dello Ief è stata l’occasione per analizzare i problemi legati all’export, insieme agli attori imprenditoriali e istituzionali. Alla presenza di circa 300 aziende e numerosi esponenti del mondo economico e istituzionale italiano, si è avuta l’opportunità di un interessante focus sulle difficoltà e le opportunità da cogliere. Ne è uscito un quadro di criticità che rappresentano di certo un primo input per il lavoro del Forum e di quanti vi aderiscono. Si è compresa la necessità di favorire un attento utilizzo delle risorse per la promozione e l’internazionalizzazione evitando duplicazioni e dispersioni. Ciò che è emerso con forza è come il tema dell’export debba essere elemento unificante tra pubblico e privato e non terreno di scontro legato a questioni di deleghe o competenze tra ministeri o enti.

    Per quale motivo ha aperto questa 'finestra sull'America? Quale è l'obiettivo?

    Aprire una finestra sul mercato statunitense significa rivolgersi ad una fascia di consumatori che adorano i prodotti italiani. C’è una notevole domanda che al momento è soddisfatta solo in modo marginale e  non evadere la domanda non solo favorisce il mercato delle imitazioni delle nostre eccellenze, un fenomeno che attualmente non riusciamo a contrastare in modo efficace, ma si traduce nella rinuncia a  straordinarie opportunità di crescita per il mercato del Made in Italy. L’obiettivo è affermarsi sul mercato statunitense con la qualità del Made in Italy al giusto prezzo.  E’ una sfida importante che, anche grazie al ruolo del Forum, potrà essere colta con successo.

     

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    Attendance to the "Italian Export Forum" is free-of-charge 

    January 27th  2020
    from 4.00 pm to 6.15 pm

    Please RSVP  team@youritalianhub

    NEW YORK
    SVA - School of Visual Art - SVA  - Theatre
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    New York, New York

     

  • Facts & Stories

    Being Successful in the U.S. Market: A Few Crucial Issues and 10 Quick Tips

    Mr. Totino, in your experience as a business consultant, what  are the major Issues faced by Italian businesses who come to the U.S.? How do you help them confront these issues?

    When first  entering the U.S. market, Italian companies must face the fundamental cultural issues of the local market: "How  do things work?" and “What's the regulatory structure?” This applies not only at the Federal level, but also state and local. There are 50 states with their own rules and then cities and, overseeing it all is the Federal government. Understanding the complexity of the regulatory and legal environment the company will be operating in is critically important. 

    Once they educate themselves  on these fundamentals, they can then concentrate on a few crucial issues:

    Location: What they sell and the services they provide  will determine what location they should to be in. They need to consider their  market and their distribution strategy.

    Budget: They need to structure a realistic budget and devote the resources/investment necessary to be successful. This means preparing to experience  some tough financial results, sometimes over a few years

    Personnel: Who do they need to hire and what's the availability for their  target employees

    Training: What's  the plan to train personnel to fit their needs

    Benefit Costs: In addition to salary expenses, new employers  need to consider the cost of employee benefits like medical plans, retirement benefits, and other  benefits, some mandated bylaw.

    Tax Code Compliance: Not only Federal but states and local.

    Consultants: Selecting the appropriate consultants to assist, guide and explain all of the issues and potential opportunities mentioned above. The consultants you choose should have the requisite experience, talent, breadth and depth to provide  cogent advice at each stage of the process. You want advisors who can help you navigate and who have the capacity to grow with your long-term needs.

    It has been my experience  that businesses that prepare themselves by performing the requisite  market research and align with experienced consultants have been the most successful.

    Italy's success depends largely on creativity and entrepreneurship of small and medium businesses. How can they be helped to enter the American market and successfully manage their presence here?

    Getting help and being prepared before they enter the U.S. is, in my opinion, the key to success in a new market like the U.S. Here are my 10 quick tips:

    1) Do the market research to identify opportunities for the products you want to produce and sell or the services you want to offer: “What is their competition like?”  “Where is the market?” “What differentiates your offering from others already in the U.S. market?”

    2) Determining where to locate is also critical because it impacts costs and can position your company close to the markets you want to serve. 

    3) Investigate incentives. There are many states and localities that offer various incentives for a company to set up in their state/city.

    4) Have sufficient financial resources available to sustain your venture for a few potentially  lean years.

    5) Connect with the "right" advisors; those who can provide analysis and appropriate  advice before the venture begins. This is very important. Your advisors need to be practical and realistic. lfthe plan to enter the U.S. is not supportable, they should so advise.

    6) Have the right leadership and personnel.

    7) Do not enter the US market at a scale you cannot sustain; start small if that is what it takes.

    8) Be realistic and do not expect great results immediately. Patience is important. Expect to experience some short term failures which can prepare your business for long term success.

    9) Do your homework  at home in Italy before you go to school in the U.S.

    10) Hire and retain the best advisors for your business at the start.

    Speaking from your own experience, what are some of the most common mistakes that companies can make in this regard?

    I have nearly 46 years of experience in this area and I have experienced failures and 1  have had the pleasure of seeing enormous successes. Over confidence and a "know it all" mentality are the most dangerous mistakes. My comments above are the result of this experience.

     

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    January 27th  2020
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  • Facts & Stories

    “We Need to Educate the Trade and the General Public”

    You are the President of ‘Gruppo Italiano’. Why did you establish an organization that regroups the Italian restaurant presence in the US together with professionals in the import/export and distribution sectors? 

    GRUPPO ITALIANO (GI) was established in 2017 on the heels of its predecessor organization, GRUPPO RISTORATORI ITALIANI (GRI) to keep a strong educational voice before the trade.  We wanted to discuss the Italian cuisine authenticity and the sustainable practices used to produce quality Italian products; explore and help solve the challenging issues facing the hospitality industry as a whole; and create a better understanding of the importance of Italian cuisine being viewed as top quality, healthy, nutritious and safe.  It is of critical importance for the Italian restaurants, importers, and distributors to engage in dialogue and then speak in a united voice to get these ideas out into the general public (essentially our customers) and also into the marketplace. There is no trade organization filling this role at the moment with exception of the Italian Trade Commission with whom we have a wonderful working relationship in seeking these goals.

    Why is it important from your perspective to discuss Italian export in the US?

    The trade and the general public consumer(s) need to be educated on what it takes economically to present high quality products that make up the menus at our Italian restaurants across the country.  Good Products are greatly affected by sustainable and traditional farming and manufacturing processes in Italy. There are reasons—-economic and otherwise—-why menus vary, and why one restaurant is more expensive than another.  They both have delicious dishes, but the price differences and other factors need to be understood so that the consumer can make educated choices on what and where they eat.  Believe me, there is much more work to do in this area.  Educating the trade and the general public is a never-ending endeavor.

    How would you assess the situation of  the ‘Made in Italy’ brand  in the US food and beverages market today?

    The importance lies once again in education and the promotion of the notion of “authenticity”.  Great Italian dishes are made from great Italian products, “Made in Italy”.  That is simple to understand.  However, great Italian dishes in the US are also made using wonderful local products, employed in creative ways by Italian-American and American chefs.  I applaud that trend in our business.  But I do not want the trade and consumers here to lose site of quality, spirit, tradition, and history of Italian cuisine. To explore variations of traditional dishes is a natural outcrop of the world getting smaller, with more and more people traveling and experiencing other countries.  Thus the defining of “authenticity” has become a complex issue—-and we will be holding a seminar soon to discuss this. Regardless of its definition, “authenticity” provides a reference point (a gold standard, if you will) that allows us to better understand and enjoy our cuisine and the creatively to freely explore the variations of our national and regional dishes

    What's the Italian place and role in the restaurant scene of New York and other big US cities?

    According to the National Restaurant Association's “Global Palates”, Italian food still reigns as a favorite among consumers.  Other surveys may put Chinese or Mexican cuisine first.  Regardless, and undoubtedly, the position of Italian cuisine is strong in the minds of restaurant patrons.  This is an enviable position.  However, many consumers still are confused as to what is real Italian cuisine.  Many merely define favorites like pizza, chicken parmigiana,and spaghetti and meatballs as sole representations of Italian cuisine.  I feel strongly that the role of Italian restaurants—as GRUPPO ITALIANO sees them—need to go further to help define and offer consumers what is true, authentic Italian cuisine.  We again must take the role, through our businesses, of educating the trade and general public.  Restaurants are on the frontline of this responsibility.

     

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    Attendance to the "Italian Export Forum" is free-of-charge 

    January 27th  2020
    from 4.00 pm to 6.15 pm

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    New York, New York

     

  • Facts & Stories

    “Stronger together”: The Secret of Promoting the Made in Italy Brand.

    ARTICOLO IN ITALIANO >>

    In the past decades the “Made in Italy” brand has conquered America, from food to fashion. What is in your opinion on the status of 'Made in Italy' in today’s market, particularly within the food industry?

     

    “Let’s start by prefacing that Italian products have always added great value to foreign markets and that’s a fact, a chance that others don’t have. To be clear, we didn’t create this valuevout of thin air, we found it thanks to our identity, which stems from an incredible reality made up of ancient municipalities, each with their own traditions. 

    We have been less capable than others to make good use of this immense heritage and today we understand that in order to remain attractive we have to elevate our competitiveness by focusing on things such as technological investments on infrastructure and increasing the level of the workforce involved in the production. We have to do more.

    To remain relevant we have to keep up with the times, interpret the evolution of the consumer and continue to propose a product imbued with the values unique to our tradition. We are no longer able to remain attractive with the 'Made in Italy' label alone.”

     

    In your experience, what do Americans expect from Italian products?

     

    “The American consumer - but in general any evolved consumer - requires a product that is not only ‘physical’ but also ‘emotional.’ When someone purchases an Italian product today, they are also purchasing a part of culture, our culture, our way of life, because all of this takes place in a specific environment, Italy, which is considered unique and irreplicable. 

     

    I’m thinking of the fashion world and our great interpreters who are constantly presenting masterpieces with each of their collections, or of the food coming from the different regions of our incredible country: from parmigiano reggiano to mozzarella di bufala from Campania, from prosciutto crudo to Calabrese soppressata, from spaghetti to orecchiette; products that speak to the expert skills and traditions of small businesses or to the advanced technology of our great manufacturing companies. Between its DOP and IGP products, Italy has over 200 specialties, unique for their flavors but also for the traditions they represent. When consumers purchase an Italian product, they ultimately want to live a bit of our tradition, to make it their own.”

     

    Italy’s success is largely due to the creativity and entrepreneurship of our small and medium businesses. What should we do to help them position themselves on the American market and manage their presence here?

     

    “Creativity and entrepreneurship alone are not enough, there should be an integrated system to support our businesses and allow them to present themselves in a more ‘institutional’ manner in the market. I’m thinking of France, which has made its embassies the institutional promoters of its businesses. We, on the other hand, have a network of delegations, with undefined roles, just think of embassies and trade agencies, in addition to the many difficulties that the government with its choices is not helping to resolve.” 

     

    In other countries, companies work together, and as we know, we are stronger together and today size is a critical factor when it comes to entering a new market. 

     

    “Our production chains should organize themselves better and dedicate more resources to trademark protection, because if we look at the data on fake ‘Made in Italy’ products (known as “Italian sounding,” ed.) we notice that it amounts to a value of up to 100 billion dollars. Low-cost imitations have increased by almost 70% in the last 10 years and this means that our production chains as well as our politicians haven’t been doing enough.

     

    Specifically in the American market, we find mozzarella, parmesan, provolone produced in Wisconsin, California, or in the very state of New York in open violation of the property rights of the original brands. We even find Pecorino Romano (in those same areas) with no trace of sheep’s milk!”

     

    And then there’s the issue of tarifs and commercial policy. Here too, they should intervene.

     

    “Certainly. In 2019, the US commercial strategy was to protect internal production to the detriment of those of the European Comunity by imposing new trade tarifs amounting to 7.5 billion dollars. And the country to suffer the most from this in the food sector was Italy. The Italian Trade Agency estimates a burden of about 120 million dollars on a selection of about 500 million dollar’s wortg of products such as cheese, liquor, meat, preserves, and fruit. The essence is that it's not just the companies making the products but also the final consumers who are being penalized by these difficult relations. Central governments should initiate negotiations with the US government in order to find mutually beneficial solutions.”

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    Attendance to the "Italian Export Forum" is free-of-charge 

    January 27th  2020
    from 4.00 pm to 6.15 pm

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    NEW YORK
    SVA - School of Visual Art - SVA  - Theatre
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  • Fatti e Storie

    Promuovere il Made in Italy. L'importanza di "fare sistema"

    ENGLISH  VERSION >>

    Nei passati decenni il “brand” del Made in Italy ha conquistato l’America, dalla moda al cibo. Come valuta la situazione del Made in Italy oggi su questo mercato, in particolare per il settore dell’agroalimentare?

    "Partiamo da un assunto: Il Made in Italy è da sempre un grandissimo valore aggiunto per i mercati esteri e questo è un dato di fatto, una fortuna che altri non hanno; sia chiaro non lo abbiamo studiato o creato noi a tavolino, ce lo siamo in qualche modo trovato grazie alla nostra identità che parte dall’incredibile realtà dei comuni che nascono oltre mille anni fa e che vivono ognuno delle proprie tradizioni.

    Di questo grandissimo patrimonio siamo stati meno abili di altri a farne buon uso e oggi abbiamo compreso che per poter continuare ad essere attraenti dobbiamo elevare il livello di competitività facendo dell’altro, come investimenti tecnologici sulle strutture ed elevare il livello del personale coinvolto nel processo produttivo, insomma fare di più.

    Per continuare ad essere presenti bisogna riuscire a stare al passo con i tempi, interpretare l’evoluzione del consumatore e continuare a proporgli un prodotto arricchito di quei valori che solo la nostra tradizione riesce a dare. Unicamente con il nostro 'Made in' non siamo più in grado di rimanere attraenti."

    Secondo la sua esperienza, cosa si aspettano gli americani dai prodotti italiani?

    "Il consumatore americano, ma generalmente ogni consumatore evoluto, richiede un prodotto che sia non solo 'fisico' ma anche 'emozionale'. Quando oggi viene acquistato un prodotto italiano si acquista anche una parte di cultura, la nostra cultura, il nostro essere e il nostro vivere, perché tutto questo viene svolto in un ambiente, l’Italia, che ci viene riconosciuto come unico e irripetibile.

    Penso alla moda con i nostri grandi interpreti che costantemente propongono opere ad ogni loro collezione o al cibo proveniente dalle diverse zone del nostro incredibile paese: dal parmigiano reggiano alla mozzarella di bufala campana, dal prosciutto crudo alla soppressata calabrese, dallo spaghetto all’orecchietta; prodotti espressione dell’esperta manualità e tradizione delle piccole imprese o dell’alta tecnologia delle grandi industrie. Insomma, l’Italia tra prodotti DOP e IGP ha oltre 200 specialità uniche per la loro bontà ma anche per le tradizioni che rappresentano. Il consumatore, quando compra un prodotto italiano, in definitiva vorrebbe vivere un po’ della nostra tradizione, farla un po’ sua."

    Il successo dell’Italia dipende largamente dalla creatività e dall’imprenditorialità delle nostre piccole e medie imprese. Cosa si dovrebbe fare per aiutarle ad entrare sul mercato americano e a gestire la propria presenza qui?

    WCreatività e imprenditorialità da sole non bastano, ci vorrebbe un sistema integrato che supporti le nostre aziende e permetta alle stesse di presentarsi in modo più “istituzionale” nel mercato. Il mio pensiero va verso la Francia che ha fatto delle sue Ambasciate il primo istituto di promozione delle aziende del suo paese. Noi invece abbiamo una rete con deleghe, funzioni e ruoli non ben chiariti, si pensi ad esempio alle Ambasciate ai presidi dell’ICE oltre alle molteplici difficoltà che il governo con le sue scelte non aiuta a risolvere."

    Negli altri paesi le aziende fanno sistema e uniti, si sa, si diventa più grandi e oggi la dimensionalità è un fattore critico di successo per penetrare i mercati.

    "Le nostre Filiere dovrebbero organizzarsi meglio e dedicare più risorse alla tutela dei marchi perché, se andiamo ad analizzare i dati sul falso Made in Italy [il cosiddetto “Italian sounding” n.d.r.] vediamo che nel mondo possiamo riprendere valori che potenzialmente si aggirano intorno ai 100 miliardi di dollari. Le false imitazioni 'low cost' sono aumentate negli ultimi 10 anni di quasi un 70% e questo significa che le nostre Filiere insieme alla nostra politica non hanno fatto abbastanza.

    Nello specifico mercato americano troviamo mozzarella, parmesan, provolone che vengono prodotti tra Wisconsin, California e lo stesso stato di New York in palese violazione della proprietà dei marchi di origine. Troviamo persino del Pecorino Romano (sempre prodotto in queste aree) che non ha minima traccia di latte di pecora!"

    E poi c’è la questione dei dazi e della politica commerciale. Anche qui si dovrebbe intervenire.

    "Certo. Nel 2019 la strategia commerciale americana è stata quella di proteggere le produzioni interne a danno di quelle dell’area della Comunità Europea e parliamo dell’introduzione di nuovi dazi su un valore di import verso gli USA pari a 7,5 miliardi di dollari dove il soggetto più penalizzato nell’agroalimentare risulta essere la nostra realtà italiana. Le stime dell’ICE parlano di un aggravio di prezzo di circa 120 milioni di dollari su un paniere di prodotti come i formaggi, liquori, carni, conserve, frutta che vale circa 500 milioni di dollari. Di tutto quanto detto si potrebbe fare una sintesi affermando che c’è una sola verità e cioè che oltre alle aziende produttrici è il consumatore finale ad eseere penalizzato da questi difficili rapporti. I governi centrali dovrebbero promuovere tavoli negoziali con il governo statunitense al fine di trovare una linea condivisa nell’interesse di entrambe le parti."

     

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    Attendance to the "Italian Export Forum" is free-of-charge 

    January 27th  2020
    from 4.00 pm to 6.15 pm

    Please RSVP  team@youritalianhub

    NEW YORK
    SVA - School of Visual Art - SVA  - Theatre
    333 W 23rd St
    New York, New York

     

  • Op-Eds

    Another Turn of the Key. Nino Marano. 49 Years in Prison

    >> IN ITALIANO

     

    A crude story, but also one filled with humanity, that of Nino Marano, who spent almost 50 years behind bars. Years marked by many turned keys. A life of ups and downs. Characterized by brutal crimes that take place behind bars, but also by the love for his wife and children. 

     

    Nino Marano spends the first years of his sentence going in and out of the penitentiary. At the time he was in fact being investigated in various trials. “<< Marano, go get a job and don’t ever come back,>> Corporal Vasta told me as he handed me a suit, blue pants and a jacket of almost the same color. Who knows where he got them, but they were exactly my size and they were exactly what I needed to concretely feel like I was stepping into a different life.”

     

    “I spent eight wonderful months with my Sarina. I felt like I was finally breathing. I had taken my life back into my hands, I looked for a job,” Nino Marano remembers. But then he is told that he still has to pay his due with justice. “I had to spend 16 months in jail to permanently close with the past...Such news would have sent anyone into despair, but not me...I wanted to pay my debt to justice in full. I willingly walked into the closest police station.”

     

    From here, it gets hard to follow the unbelievable succession of events in which he is involved. Pages of criminal life, involving trials, escape attempts, sentences, prison transfers…

     

    Alongside his personal story, the book traces decades of Italian history. Events that make their way into prison. Marano encounters the brigades, the ‘carceo duro’ measures known as ‘41 bis,’ all these societal changes as seen and experienced on the inside.

     

    An almost unbelievable story, the one told by Emma D’Aquino, but true stories are often hard to believe. It all begins with a couple of stolen vegetables, following a childhood marked by hunger and poverty. The son of a sicilian worker, Marano had four brothers and grew up in a home that “smelled of hunger.”

     

    His recollections give the novel a verist quality. “In the poor man’s house, everyone is right” … “the fork is for the wretched man” … so Giovanni Verga wrote in “I Malavoglia” (The House by the Medlar Tree) 

     

    In “Ancora un giro di chiave. Nino Marano. Una vita fra le sbarre” (Another turn of the key. Nino Marano. A life behind bars) (Baldini Castoldi editions) - TG1 prime time news anchor, with an important reporting career -  takes on a delicate theme. 

     

    The citicalities tied to life in prison are still numerous. According to Italian law, sentences should have an educational purpose with the goal - also through contact with the external world - of re-integrating convicts into society.

     

    I would therefore like to continue here, with my pen, an open reflection that is incredibly difficult and vast, born during the double presentation of the book organized by Your Italian Hub in New York: the first one at St. John’s University with Professor Katia Passerini and her wonderful students; the second at Union Square Loft, where I conversed with Emma along with my colleague Francesca Di Matteo. Consul General Francesco Genuardi was there to introduce the event, while Ambassador Mariangela Zappia, the Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations, and the new Director of the Italian Trade Agency Antonino Laspina sat in the audience, speaking to the topic’s appeal. 

     

    I would like to clarify that I do not intend to justify Nino Marano in any way: he is undoubtedly a multiple murderer. A killer. But, to be clear, what initially landed him in jail was the theft of a few peppers and eggplants. 

     

    When we decided to present this book with Emma D’Aquino, I knew that it would be a hard one to explain. I had read it all in one breath last summer, and then returned to it several times, gone through its pages to review some passages. His story, though unique, leads to broader reflections.

     

    The first one is: Emma D’Aquino - through the words of Nino Marano - recounts life in prison as it was decades ago, how much has changed in Italian penitentiaries since then? And the second one, since we are in New York: Is it true that the US prison system is even harsher? Also: how should we view the “re-educational function of sentences” when life in prison can actually push people towards violence? And finally: do we all agree that prison should have such a function rather than simply a form of payback?

     

    Emma D’Aquino’s is an accurate, detached, controlled, careful tale by a deeply sensitive reporter.

     

    She investigated, scrutinized, observed Nino Marano. A criminal with no affiliations to mafia clans, proud, a “one man show” of sorts, who from one penitentiary to another becomes time and again a murderer.

     

    There are several aspects that stand out about him. In his words, we make out a sort of moral code, his “immoral morals.” Something primordial, ancestral, that comes from his humble and misfortunate origins, a clear lack of civic culture.

     

    Based on a sort of “necessary evil,” which Nino considers a weapon of legitimate defense against the injustices he and others face. And for Nino legitimate defense justifies violence.

     

    “From my encounters with Nino, I learned that he acts based on a specific personal ethical code, founded on the respect of the innocent, who as such shouldn’t be harmed but protected (and prison guards belonged to this category)” writes Emma D’Aquino. She continues: “I believe he has been the victim of his inability to distinguish clearly between good and evil, without nuance or contamination. A victim of the role of censor he tried to take on within a world deprived of moral rules.”

     

    And next to this man, far away but intimately close, is a woman: his wife. Sarina never abandoned him and his words spell out his love for her. The pages dedicated to this couple, to their children, are very intense. So, he’s a ruthless man, but also deep and attentive towards his wife Sarina, whom he loves and who loves him back.

     

    I can’t help but wonder: did he become violent in prison or was he already violent? Had he been born in a different social context would he have become the same man? Could his life have taken a different path?

     

    It’s clear that we are all the same to begin with. It’s clear that prison did not help Marano to “redeem” himself, as the Italian law and international resolutions to respect human dignity would have it. Instead, detainees are left to fend for themselves "in the wild."

     

    His sentence seems to lead to new deviations. Is there no hope then for Nino Marano? That’s not the case, he too had his chances, especially in the last years. As Italian prisons slowly changed, some people offered him a hand.

     

    At the end of the book there are two chapters. One is titled “The Metamorphosis” and the other “Professor Gioia.”

     

    “My rebirth is derived of a long process, and for it I have to thank those who in these years in prison have helped me to understand, to look inside, to become the man I am today. The teachers, the volunteers, the directors. At the same time, I don’t believe that what happened to me was all my fault, and I can’t say that I have really repented for all that I’ve done in prison.” These words paint the portrait of a man full of contradictions, proud but “tormented by memories,” as the author writes.

     

    However, the book leaves us with a sense of hope, beyond the tragic story it tells. It traces a path towards “redemption.” Many questions about how to live and build a life behind bars today remain.

    I want to conclude by inviting you to read Emma D’Aquino’s beautiful book. To reflect on these deeply human nuances.

    ----

    Ancora un giro di chiave: Nino Marano. Una vita tra le sbarre
    by Emma D’Aquino 

    on Amazon

     

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