Last week, in the center of Italy, an earthquake devastated the village of Amatrice. Known for its famous pasta dish, spaghetti all’ amatriciana, Amatrice is still experiencing strong aftershocks. Reports say half the town is gone and the death toll is nearing 300, leading residents to call Amatrice a city without a future.
Yet the heart of the village lives on in its culinary legacy. To honor it and help aid the residents of Amatrice, chefs around the world have agreed to place spaghetti all’ amatriciana on their menus, donating all proceeds from the dish to earthquake victims.
Marco, the subject of this post, lives near the Austrian/Italian border. I have tried contacting him to see if he or anyone he knows was impacted by the earthquake.
I have not heard back from him.
How I Met Marco
Once again, I have to thank my husband, Steve, for providing me with a contact for this blog. Marco and Steve met playing an online word game. Graciously, Marco agreed to be my Italian interview.
Marco is a teacher and researcher. He lives in a small city in the northeast of Italy, close to Austria. He spends his days working, spending time with his family, surfing the internet, and reading books.
My Conversation With Marco
Please look out a window in your home and describe what you see.
Some roofs, trees, a valley, and a some mountains.
Which languages do you speak?
Italian, English, and a little bit of French, Spanish, German.
What do you want the rest of the world to know about Italy?
Italy is a hospitable country. People who come and visit Italy usually find several people happy to meet them.
Which myth or stereotype about Italy is not correct?
Italy is no longer a Catholic country. Almost one half of Italians are real Catholic people, most of them following the Catholic rules with some elasticity, but most people are not, even if baptized and formally educated as Catholics. Last year non-religious weddings were more than Catholic ones.
What do you love the most about your city and country?
My city is quite orderly and organized. It is small enough to allow me to get out in a short time. In its close neighborhoods there are mountains, valleys, lakes, woods.
My country is incredibly rich of variations. In a sense Italy is the land of differences. Different traditions, habits, architectures, food, languages, landscapes. Up to half a century ago, just one religion, with very small enclaves of non-catholics. Luckily, this is changing.
Please describe your favorite time of year in Italy.
Spring. Nature comes back to life, the trees are covered with young leaves, flowers appear everywhere, the air gets warmer.
What brings you joy?
Spending time with my family, possibly outdoors.
What frightens you?
A possible global economic crisis. I do not think we, the world, are prepared to face that.
If I were to come to your home for dinner, what traditional meal would you serve to me?
Spaghetti! Most probably “spaghetti all’amatriciana”, served with a sauce whose main ingredients are tomatoes (worked in a special way) onions and bacon. I am very happy to be born in a country with such a wonderful gastronomical tradition.
What does your city/country do well? What do you wish it did better?
Italy excels at solidarity, individual and collective.
As for what I would like us to improve, I would like Italy to fight mafias more efficiently. The three of them, in Sicily, Calabria, Campania. Defeating them would open a new era.
What is your opinion of the United States?
USA = The Big Brother. One with a lot of interesting features and some virtues, but a real Big Brother.
Who or what inspires you?
Developing new ideas. I think that thinking is a wonderful activity and people able to develop solutions to open problems produce something important for other people.
In terms of nature and natural beauty, what are the most remarkable things about Italy?
Islands. Sicily, Sardinia, Tremiti, Elba, Ustica, Eolie, Egadi, Ischia, Capri. Wonderful beaches, rocks, vegetation, smells, atmospheres, panoramas. Even some volcanoes, two of the four Italian volcanoes are on islands. Close to the Vulcano island – that’s its name – it is possible to swim in hot water.
What ONE word best describes Italy and its people?
Adaptability. Italians are like pine trees, able to live close to the sea or on the mountains, in cold or hot, humid or dry environments. There are more than one hundred different species of pine trees, and even more of Italians.
Italians settled in all continents, adapting to local habits and traditions.
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