In this interview, Italy’s Ambassador to India, Vincenzo de Luca speaks of the significance of culture in the relations between India and Italy.
Vincenzo de Luca, the Ambassador of Italy, has been a career diplomat since 1989. Over the years, he has been given several assignments at the Foreign Ministry and at the diplomatic representations in Khartoum, Tunis, Paris (at the permanent Representation at the OECD), and in Shanghai, where he served as Consul General for four years. He has a long-standing expertise in the internationalization of the economic system of the public and private sector, both in Central Offices, in the capacity of Diplomatic Advisor of the Ministries of Industry, Transports and Economic Development, and in large corporations like ENI and ENEL. He presented his credential as the Ambassador of Italy to India in December, 2019.
In this interview, Ambassador Vincenzo de Luca talks the significance of culture in the relations between India and Italy, the major attractions for the upcoming Italian National Day and Republic Day celebrations, focus areas to further boost the cultural bond between India and Italy, and the role of the Cultural Centre in promoting Italian culture in India. He also talks about the different scholarships on offer for Indian students to study in Italy, support extended by Italy to the Indian filmmakers who want to shoot in Italy, and the importance of food diplomacy in the context of India and Italy.
Q. How do you see the significance of culture in the relations between India and Italy? How have the cultural ties between India and Italy boosted by last year’s meeting between PM Modi and his Italian counterpart Mario Draghi on the sidelines of the G20 Summit?
A. The cultural exchanges between Italy and India date back to an ancient history and this is also why the relations between our two countries are based on common values. Not only can ties between European and Indian cultures be traced back to 700 BC, but there are also testimonies of linguistic influences in the 16th Century. In the last century, Giuseppe Tucci and Luigi Tessitori contributed to the knowledge of Indian culture and artistic tradition in Italy by collecting scientific studies and artistic testimonies still preserved in Italy. Furthermore, Italy boasts the most important tradition of Indology studies in the world outside India. In the last 50 years, exchanges in the cinema field have flourished with the production of docu-films by Pier Paolo Pasolini and Roberto Rossellini and awards at the Venice Film Festival to Satyajit Ray and Mira Nair. These ties are not only rooted in the past, but they are very much driven by innovation, creativity and contemporary cultural contamination. In 2021, we celebrated the Festival of Italian Culture in India, together with the Embassy of India in Rome, through a rich number of events and activities in the fields of cinema, music, literature, visual arts, fashion and design. These paved the way to a stronger cooperation in the years to come and we have continued working closely with our Indian partners to encourage our creative industries to develop more joint projects.
Q. What can we expect this year on the occasion of the Italian National Day and Republic Day on June 2?
A. After two years of online programs, this year we will finally celebrate the Italian National Day in presence, with a reception hosted at the Residence of Italy. This year marks the 75th year of India-Italy relations and we have many surprises for you: we will unveil a new logo to mark this crucial moment in our bilateral relations. The friends of Italy who will attend will have the opportunity to enjoy an Italian meal and participate to enchanting performances. I am not going to spoil the details, but the evening will be enriched with live opera and Jazz music by Neemrana Foundation, a live contemporary dance show from Italy by the Oliva Contemporary Dance Project, and a group of young dancers from Verona. The dancers will also perform in the coming days at India Habitat Center. I hope everyone got a chance to find tickets as they sold out in 48 hours.
Q. Given that a lot of the time has been lost due to the pandemic, what will be your priorities to further boost the cultural bond between India and Italy going forth?
A. We are focusing now on encouraging people-to-people relations from the bottom up. The idea is to bring Italian-Indian cultural relations to the young generations through education in the most attractive fields of study such as design and fashion. This is why we are supporting the development of new university courses in India promoted by the best of Italian institutions. We are also promoting more business opportunities for our creative industries, also thanks to the conclusion of important agreements that facilitate Italy-India film co-productions.
Q. In your speech last year on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Italian Embassy Cultural Centre you described it as the cultural hub of Delhi. Could you please elaborate on the role of the Cultural Centre in promoting Italian culture in India?
A. Italy is a soft-power super power thanks to the immense richness of beauty, arts, music, literature, monuments, cinema, lifestyle, fashion and innovative creativity. To promote all of this around the world, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs coordinates a network of 82 Italian Cultural Institutes. These represent meeting places for intellectuals, artists, Italians living abroad and whoever wants to encourage relations with our country. The Italian Cultural Institutes are invested in developing various activities to promote Italian culture where they are located. To do so, they organize art, music, literature events. Some of them offer also Italian language and culture courses. The Italian Cultural Institute in Delhi is a cultural hub and its Director General, Andrea Baldi, has done a great job in defining a program of activities of the highest standards and among the most dynamic and rich ones. The added value of its work is the capability of engaging with the key cultural institutions in Delhi.
Q. What are the different scholarships on offer for Indian students to study in Italy?
A. There are a number of scholarship opportunities available for Indian students willing to study in Italy. Let me remind you that over 5000 Indian students are currently enrolled in our Higher Education System and some of them have benefitted from such scholarships.
First, there are scholarship opportunities offered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. Every year, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MAECI), offer grants in favor of foreign citizens not residing in Italy to pursue study, training, and/or research programs at Italian Higher Education Institutes.
Indian students are also eligible to apply for the Invest Your Talent in Italy Program which offers Postgraduate Course in the field of Engineering, Advanced Technologies, Architecture, Design, Economics or Management and a complete training opportunity, as it provides academic studies at prestigious Italian universities as well as a period of on-the-job training, through an internship at an Italian leading Company.
Furthermore, there are many Regional Scholarships open to Indian Students regularly enrolled in degree or postgraduate programme in Italy. The scholarships are awarded yearly, via competition, to all university students meeting certain income, merit and regular attendance requirements, and include free accommodation, meals and a monthly payment to cover extra expenses (sporting activities, books, etc.).
Finally, Italian Universities / AFAM are offering scholarships and other benefits to international students applying for their Study Programs. These scholarships opportunities may be merit and/or income based and change accordingly to the Higher Education Institution of reference.
We have an office in Mumbai, Uni-Italia, who organizes promotional activities on Study in Italy and offers orienteering service and personalized guidance to students all across India interested in pursuing their future higher studies in Italy. You can reach them at [email protected]
Q. Indian film “Radhe Shyam” starring Prabhas was shot entirely in Italy. What kind of support does Italy extend to Indian filmmakers if they want to shoot in Italy?
A. We encourage as much as possible the production of foreign movies in Italy, especially because we have one of the most beautiful countries in the world in terms of landscapes for movie settings. The support is assured by a network of about 20 film commission that bring together organisms that provide free of charge services such as logistic assistance, access to financial resources, the granting of permits, a mapping of qualified manpower and service providers, including the search for the best locations. Italy has the best manpower when it comes to makeup artists, costume designers, technicians. The Ministry of Culture also provides incentives for foreign productions, with tax credit measures meant to optimize and support film production activities also through joint projects involving Italian and foreign production companies that choose to film all or a part of their projects in the Italian territory. You can find all the details on the Italian Ministry of Culture website. Currently, two Indian projects are being shot in Italy: “Four More Shots Please!,” an Amazon series that is being shot in the region of Piemonte and “Anni Manchi,” a film by Nandini Reddy, shot in Tuscany and Liguria.
Q. How do you look at the idea of food diplomacy in the context of India and Italy? What would be your recommended dishes to someone uninitiated to Italian cuisine?
A. Certainly, food is part of our culture and food diplomacy is something we are very fond of. In fact every year we organize the Week of Italian Cuisine all over the world and in India, it has always been a great success. For the occasion, we invite the world’s most renowned chefs to present their culinary masterpieces and organize events for them around the city. I cannot pick one specific dish or meal. I can say that Italian food is not only about pizza and pasta and that Italian cuisine is extremely diverse and rich in flavours and ingredients.