Why did you decide to study Italian?
I decided to study Italian at the age of 18 after a brief visit to a small town in Friuli called Gemona. I was only passing through for a couple of nights, but my hosts were so gracious and friendly that I felt compelled to learn more about their language and culture. In fact, we became good friends and still see each other regularly.
You are an award winning multimedia journalist. What impact has your knowledge of Italian had on your work?
I've spent the majority of my career as a journalist in Italy, so knowledge of the Italian language has been crucial. Without it, I wouldn't be able to communicate with my sources, read government press releases, or tap in to society at large. I know some non-Italian journalists who somehow get by without ever learning the language. How unfulfilling that must be.
You live in Italy; can you describe three aspects of the “Italian lifestyle” that have positively surprised you?
The walk-and-pause. This happens when you're strolling with an Italian. When s/he wants to make a point, s/he'll stop walking, turn, and make eye contact to underscore this crucial piece of information.
Intimate knowledge of the human digestive system, other internal organs. Where an American might say "my stomach hurts," Italians of all ages would be more specific. I once heard a young boy say "my spleen hurts." I couldn't even point to where my spleen is.
Valuing the genuine. That goes for food, wine, craftsmanship, etc. But it also goes for people. I find Italians tend to have a very good nose for nonsense. It's one reason why no one there has a good opinion of politicians. (Ask an Italian to name a single MP they find redemptive in any way...besides Berlinguer or anyone else who's long dead).
What would say to ASU students that are starting their journey in Italian studies?
Italian is useless if you can't find ways of applying it. This can be tough if you're not living in the country. So find ways to make it indispensable to your psychic well-being. Fall in love with Fabrizio De Andre's music, Elena Ferrante's novels, Dante's poetry, and Pasolini's films. Then, reflect on the fact that you'll never fully unlock their delights and mysteries until you learn Italian.