The FINANCIAL — In an interview with Glossy magazine, the sixth Italian Ambassador to Georgia, his Excellency Enrico Valvo, who has held the position since 2019, shared his first impressions of Georgia, talked about his favourite destinations and food in the country, and summarised the diplomatic relations between Italy and Georgia.
Q. Let’s start our interview by talking about your childhood. Could you please share the most formative memories from your childhood?
A. I was born and grew up in Milan, Lombardy. I lived there for 26 years. When I turned 26 I moved to Rome and joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Memories of my childhood are often linked with the particular weather which we have in Milan, which is not always sunny, especially in winter. It was quite an experience walking back home late in the foggy evenings.
I worked as a journalist for a time and I think that this was useful in setting up the right framework for developing my career afterwards as a diplomat. Before I was appointed to Georgia I worked at the Italian embassies in Turkey, Russia and in Germany for a relatively long time. All those jobs were very interesting with the work being both challenging and pleasant at the same time.
Q. What was your first impression of Georgia?
A. As a first impression, I found Georgia extremely fascinating. I was hosted by my good friend the previous Ambassador in his residence. The view from the house showed Narikala Fortress perfectly lit up at night. It was the best welcome I could have had. I immediately understood that I had arrived in a good place where, yes, there is a lot of history. Although Georgia is a relatively small country there are lots of regions with different characteristics and this is very similar to what we have in Italy on a bigger geographical scale.
Q. Which regions of Georgia have you visited so far?
A. I was in Svaneti, which is to me a fantastic place with mountains ranging up to 5,000 meters. We also have high mountains in Italy, but we do not have any that reach 5,000 meters. And mountain Ushba, is quite impressive, I have to say.
Possibly the most iconic place in Georgia, to me at least, is Gergeti church in Kazbegi. Another very fascinating area to me was Khevsureti where I had the chance to overnight in Shatili, in an old tower house which had been converted into a hotel.
Q. Which are your favourite Georgian dishes?
A. My favourite dishes are quite basic. I love Khachapuri, the Imeruli one, with a good glass of Saperavi. That is one of the best things to me.
Q. What would you recommend to Italian travellers coming to Georgia and vice versa – Georgian travellers visiting Italy?
A. I would recommend travellers coming to Georgia to visit Tbilisi of course. I am happy to see the streets filled again with people enjoying the cafés, restaurants and delicious Georgian food they have to offer. And for Georgians visiting Italy, I would recommend starting in Rome, exploring by foot the centuries-old history of the place, and then moving by train or by bus to our other cultural cities, tasting our food and our wine on the way and comparing them to those in Georgia. They are both very good.
Q. Where do the diplomatic relations between Georgia and Italy stand?
A. Diplomatic relations between Georgia and Italy are excellent and are developing dynamically, despite some hindrances by the pandemic in the last year. Italian companies continue to be interested in Georgia and I regularly hold video conferences with them, at least once every six months. We are working on developing all components of the bilateral relationship.
Something which I would also very much like to focus on is people-to-people exchanges and exchanges between the two parliaments.
Q. What products does Italy export to Georgia?
A. Italian exports are particularly famous for the 4Fs: food, furniture, fashion and Ferrari. They make up a significant portion of our export and some of our most famous brands are connected to these areas. But, as the second industrial basis in Europe, with highly technological districts, our productive fabric is not limited to them. As for Georgia, for instance, also machinery for agriculture is an important sector.
On famous historic Italian brands the Embassy organized an exhibition. Of course not all could be represented, but they could provide an idea. When I mention the F for Ferrari, I actually mean the whole car industry, including brands such as Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Maserati and FIAT in its new company configuration. When I refer to food, you have several iconic brands (with Perugina, Lavazza, Illy coffee and Ferrero being among the ones which are quite known in Georgia). And when I refer to fashion, Bulgari was also represented in our exhibition. These are all brands which have been popular in Italy and all over the world for several decades now and which are part of our productive fabric.