Ambassador Bisogniero stands with members of the Associazione Culturale Italiana di Portland. Photo credit - Andrea Scasso

(The Portland Italian community is grateful to publish a guest post from Italy’s Consul General in San Francisco, Mauro Battocchi, drawn from his blog You can follow the Consul General on Twitter @MauroBattocchi)

On a recent spring evening, leaders and personalities of the Portland Italian community gathered in the ninth floor offices of Ater Wynne, LLC, to welcome Italian Ambassador Claudio Bisogniero to the city. The reception celebrated a historic meeting – the first official visit of an Italian Ambassador to Oregon. Ambassador Bisogniero was accompanied by Consul General of Italy Mauro Battocchi and Honorary Consul of Italy Andrea Bartoloni. Never had an Italian Ambassador officially set foot in Oregon. Therefore, the visit of Ambassador Claudio Bisogniero on March 10 and 11 had a historical character. He came to meet with Governor Kate Brown and Portland Mayor Charlie Hales to illustrate the wide array of cooperation opportunities that Italy can offer to Oregon business, culture and society. He also came to see the vibrant Italian community in the Beaver State.

There are 1,100 Oregon-based Italian citizens in our vital record registry, while the number of Americans of Italian descent in the state is around 40,000. They have key positions in society, and are well organized in several associations and cultural groups. They can be great allies in our efforts to bring Italy and Oregon together. In his official meetings, Ambassador Bisogniero highlighted that Italy shares many values that are well cherished by Oregonians, such as attention to sustainability, quality of life and social inclusiveness.

Portland has already developed a Sister City relationship with Bologna, a sustainable city par excellence. “Expo Milano 2015, the great World’s Fair on ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’ that will be open May 1st to October 31st,” Ambassador Bisogniero pointed out, “is a unique platform for Oregon institutions and companies to let the world know about Oregon’s leadership in sustainable life and food, and to explore new joint projects.” The Ambassador also pointed at the potential gains in trade and investment that may arise from the TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, currently being negotiated between the United States and the European Union.

As the two blocs harmonize their standards and bring down barriers to investment, the Oregon economy is set to reap considerable benefits. These messages were very well received, as you can imagine. The reception was even warmer when he met with several leaders of the Italian community. There are several layers of Italianità in Oregon, spanning from the descendants of the first generations of Italians that landed there in the early decades of the 20th century to the professionals that arrived in recent years, drawn by the opportunities in the realms of high-tech, sports apparel, and scientific research. They are organized in several organizations, such as Festa Italiana Association (which every year takes over the main square of Portland), Italian Business Club of Portland, UNICO-Portland, Tuscan Association of Oregon, Amici d’Italia, Club Paesano, Associazione Culturale Italiana di Portland, and the Portland Bologna Sister City Association.

Ambassador Bisogniero praised our fellow-citizens for their activities and dynamism. He also invited them to consider stepping up their efforts to network among different clubs, to take advantage of all possible synergies. He hinted at the Scuola Italiana of Portland led by Grazia Solazzi as a flagship Italian project in Oregon that all should consider supporting. “We started with a Piccola Scuola in San Francisco too,” he explained. “And look now, La Scuola is an International Baccalaureate bilingual school.

That’s the model for Portland.” When the Ambassador left the reception in Portland, everybody was energized. I am confident that new amazing projects will come out of the Italian community there in the coming months. One of them is already in the making – an Italian Film Festival on April 11-12 at the PSU Fifth Avenue Cinema, with the local premiere of five critically acclaimed Italian movies. The Ambassador has planted many seeds in Oregon. It is up to all of us here on the West Coast to help them grow into new projects of trade, investment, cultural exchanges and more.

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