Italy ready to respond to the growing demand for Italian culture: Ambassador della Seta

May 31, 2024 - 09:26
Article by Ambassador Marco della Seta on the occasion of the 78th anniversary of the Italian Republic

Article by Ambassador Marco della Seta on the occasion of the 78th anniversary of the Italian Republic

On the 2nd of June, seventy-eight years ago, Italy became a Republic and this date has been chosen to celebrate our National Day, the first I will spend in Việt Nam since taking up my duties as Italian Ambassador last August. During this period, I have lived through some eventful times: Italy and Việt Nam celebrated half a century of diplomatic relations and a decade of Strategic Partnership between the two countries.

These commemorations hold great significance as they symbolise the enduring and profound friendship between Italy and Việt Nam, shedding light on our shared aspirations. Although historically Italy did not have a substantial presence in the region and was not a conventional destination for Vietnamese emigration, our peoples are progressively bridging geographical and cultural divides.

Ambassador Marco della Seta meets the Deputy Minister of Culture Sports and Tourism Tạ Quang Đông on October 11, 2023. Photos courtesy of the embassy

It is indeed noteworthy that approximately 150 Italian companies have chosen to invest in Việt Nam and that many of these have successfully become household brands, such as Ariston with its water heaters or Piaggio with Vespas. The success of Italian goods demonstrates the appeal of Italian design to the Vietnamese people and, ultimately, their affinity for the Italian lifestyle. Such interest is confirmed by the positive trend in our bilateral trade balance, which has expanded by 14% since 2020, also thanks to the entry into force of the EU-VN Free Trade Agreement. Furthermore, the EU-VN Investment Protection Agreement, which Italy ratified in July last year, is poised to complement this instrument.

Italy is also supporting Việt Nam's goal of achieving upper middle-income status by 2030 through aid and assistance projects, in collaboration with the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, which is also part of the Embassy of Italy. To date, Italy has undertaken with Vietnamese counterparts more than 18 projects, valued at 104 million euros.

If economic cooperation undoubtedly takes the front line when defining Italian-Vietnamese relations, with Việt Nam being Italy’s main trading partner in ASEAN, our countries also share a tapestry of cultural affinities that go beyond business creativity and an inclination towards trade.

I am thinking about the passion for food and the sense of pride associated with our cuisines, which intertwine with agricultural produce. Agriculture is emerging as a growing pillar of our partnership, as evidenced by the visit to Việt Nam in March of Italian Minister of Agriculture Lollobrigida, who identified concrete fields of cooperation encompassing food security and agricultural mechanisation. Indeed, the Italian Embassy in Hà Nội recently inaugurated a new office focusing on agricultural cooperation that will help to oversee these projects. This joins a previously established office dedicated to science and technology, marking a further expansion of bilateral ties with the Vietnamese academic and research communities. Each year, over 500 Vietnamese students choose to pursue their studies in Italy, thereby substantiating and enhancing the profound connections between Italy and Việt Nam in the field of education.

Yet, the most striking aspect of my experience in Việt Nam has been the depth of knowledge and curiosity demonstrated by the Vietnamese people of all ages with regard to Italian culture. I recently had the pleasure to meet a group of middle school students who were quite familiar with the Coliseum and the Roman Empire. Works by Italo Calvino and Elena Ferrante were translated into Vietnamese, showing a strong interest in both traditional and contemporary Italian literature. At the Italian Film Festival, held last November, many Vietnamese in the public were conversant with Neorealism to a greater degree than I am myself.

Furthermore, I am particularly grateful for the warm welcome extended by the Vietnamese people to all our cultural events and I would like to single out the “MOSAICO. Italian code of a timeless art” exhibit held early this year at the Viet Nam Museum of Ethnology, which attracted a remarkable 50,000 visitors. Thanks to cutting-edge design and technology, it offered an immersive multimedia experience to discover the most evocative Italian mosaics. Let me also mention the "FABRICA. Italian textile style and innovation” exhibition, currently hosted at the Hà Nội University of Science and Technology. This latter exhibition employs an interactive approach, allowing visitors to touch the fabrics on display, while providing insights into the history and evolution of Italian textile manufacturing.

The World Youth Orchestra performs at the Vietnam National Academy of Music on April 6, 2024.

With a forward-looking perspective, I wish to further engage Vietnamese youth in our activities. We are working towards this goal through "Sounds of Brotherhood", a project that throughout this year will cover music, theatre and visual arts. These initiatives are carried out in partnership with Vietnamese institutions such as the Việt Nam National Academy of Music, the Hà Nội Academy of Theatre and Cinema, and the Việt Nam National Institute of Culture and Arts Studies.

Despite these encouraging results, there is still more that can be done to further expand people-to-people relations between Italy and Việt Nam. The establishment of a fully-fledged Italian Cultural Institute in Hà Nội, a goal the Embassy is actively working on, would greatly respond to the growing demand for Italian culture and language that we are registering in Việt Nam. I thus hope that this project will soon become a reality.

As Italy celebrates 78 years of peace and development, I warmly extend to both the Italian and Vietnamese peoples my best wishes for an enduring friendship and an increasingly fruitful cooperation. VNS