My first posting to our Mission in Rome, Italy, as a student of the Italian Language in 1983 and then as Third Secretary/Interpreter walking in the Italian streets, was ‘love at first sight.’ People were always dressed in bright colours and impressively and freshly baked hot pizzas were rolled in paper affectionately and handed over to the walking customer who relishes its every bite ‘saporita.’ ‘Che attira l'attenzione’ began in Perugia, where I studied the Italian language, and in Rome, where I took my first baby steps as a diplomat. It was thus, no surprise that my wife Anjum, my daughter Cydra and I would strike a rapport with His Excellency Mr Andreas Ferrarese, the Ambassador of Italy in Pakistan, and his elegant wife Albana.
As I continued my journey to understand Italy, there was a quantum jump in the ‘tutoring’ and the coach was Ambassador Ferrarese, who chalked out his vision ‘Roadmap for Cooperation.’ What a week that was! I was enthralled to become part of ascertaining my ‘love at first sight’ and it looked like a breathtaking week, which began with the National Day of Italy, the ‘celebrazione of Festa della Repubblica’ in Islamabad. The reception grand or ‘grandissimmo’ in every manner was overflowing with Pakistanis from all walks of life, and the warmth of Farrarese and Albana, uttering ‘Benvenuto!’ A true reflection of the reach out of Ferrarese and Albana’s in the host country. Ferrarese shared with the guests that Italy’s archaeological mission is one of the oldest present missions in Pakistan and had made great contributions to Pakistan’s already rich archaeological scene. Italians’ love for Pakistani mountains is no secret and that reflects through their activities of conservation and uplift of Pakistan’s mountainous areas.”
As Ferrarese spoke, the guests mingled with others to ‘gustare’ an array of Italian food, whose fragrance followed you. While other guests were there to say ‘Grazie Molto’ to the Ambassador for facilitating their visit to Italy, a tearful mother and her daughter were also there, who had nothing to say but ‘Grazie Moltissimo’ – her seven-year daughter, suffering from a critical illness, was sent to Italy in challenging circumstances for treatment by Ferrarese, handling the child, like his own. The child was now hale and hearty, enabling her to personally thank her ‘benefactor’.
The ‘scoperta continua’ and I hear that the ‘simpatico’ Ferrarese is not content with just comforting words about textile problems. And in a jiffy I am standing with the guests in Faisalabad at the inauguration by Ferrarese of the Italy-Pakistan Textile Technology Centre (IPTTC) at the National Textile University (NTU), which is the first of its kind for Italian textile machinery technology in Pakistan. Financed by the Italian Government, the project promises to give the desired lift to the development of the local textile industry to boost its exports. Not content with the ‘feat’ in the realm of trade, Ferrarese ‘whizzes’ his Ferarri to open the Italian Trade Agency (ICE) office in the Italian Mission, dubbed by the businesses in Pakistan as a significant event in the bilateral context, promising to surpass the billion-dollar mark in bilateral trade and home remittances from 300,000 Pakistanis residing in Italy, the largest expat community across the EU. For the record, Italy was the seventh-largest source of worker remittances to Pakistan globally, and the top one within the EU countries. Pakistan’s exports of goods and services to Italy witnessed an increase of 35.58% during the first three quarters of last year and for 2023, the target is much higher.
Ferrarese and Albana’s 'amore’ for food was oozing when the couple launched Italian Cuisine Week and Olive Gala Festival aimed to promote awareness and appreciation of Italy’s culinary excellence. Ferrarese himself demonstrated his culinary skills at his residence. And then the couple in two separate public events, attended by a diverse audience, including diplomats, government officials, families, and the general public, guided by Albana, savoured the delectable offerings featured a showcase of unique recipes, highlighting the diverse and flavourful dishes from Italy. Not bothered like others by the stream of immigrants who have made a beeline to enter Italy, Ferrarese was rather upbeat and welcomed the fusion of other culinary influences, including from Pakistan, to his beloved ‘Cibo Italiano’.
It is common for Italians to share their good health with their friends by saying ‘fresco come un’oliva’ (as fresh as olive) and thus to the utter delight of the guests, the Ambassador shared the pride of Pakistan–Italy cooperation, the OliveCulture Project, which lays out €1.5 million for olive cultivation in Pakistan. This initiative is all about Italian involvement in enhancing the olive value chain in Pakistan, led by its International Project Coordinator, Marco Marchetti. This venture will bring on board Pakistanis to weave a national canvas and holistic Mechanism to build all the steps – from farm to fork – of a Pakistani olive oil value chain, to be tailored to each province’s requirements. Virgin olive oil being locally manufactured with Italy’s support was also shared with the invitees.
‘Il Capo Italiano nel Pakistan,’ the Head of Italians in Pakistan, Ferrarese never tires of enlarging Italian-Pakistan ties, and the celebration of the Italian Armed Forces Day, which honours the sacrifices of the Italian soldiers in war, is also a day to reflect on growing relations with the armed forces of Pakistan. The opening of the Police Section in the Italian Mission is focused on coordinating with the host country in the fight against terrorism, and drug and human trafficking – and is also a landmark of Ferrarese’s untiring journey to enlarge bilateral ties.