“I am most passionate about bringing my knowledge [of tasting] to consumers, “said an enthusiastic Orietta Gianjorio, a native Italian from Rome,...
When the Convivio Center first opened its doors little more than one year ago, it had one main vision. Connection. Not only did it want to connect with the community, but it wanted to serve as a meeting point where community members could connect with one another. Even its name – Convivio, meaning “to live together” – furthered that vision.
Since then, the center has hosted events in an effort to bring the Italian-American community together under its roof. The “Honoring Heritage” lecture series is one of these events. Throughout the year, Convivio has played host to a variety of guest speakers on a wide array of topics, discussing both local San Diegan and Italian heritages.
Since the program began, the lecture series has covered topics ranging from San Diego’s local waterfront hosted by San Diego local Jim Brigante to olive oil and wine making to a film documentary on the first baseball players for the San Diego Padres, many of whom were Italian. Its most recent guest lecturer was local entrepreneur Ingrid Croce of Croce’s Park West, who spoke about her business ventures here in San Diego as well as life with her late husband, the musician Jim Croce.
“People love [the lecture series],” says President Tom Cesarini. “We get a lot of variety in terms of audience and we tend to offer something for everybody, which is what [Convivio] is all about. I think really it’s about connecting, especially nowadays it’s important [to] really just trying to follow that thread of how we got here, where we’re going. It’s kind of all linked to the cycle, really. I think people really want to know history, heritage, whatever the topic might be. I think it’s just inherent in all of us – it’s innate – that we want to know origins and such.”
Cesarini points out that in an age where tools such as the internet and social media allow us to connect to people around the globe, we often find ourselves becoming more and more disconnected to those around us and the community in which we live, oftentimes without us realizing it. The lecture series, he says, is a way to reestablish those connections and celebrate them. Furthermore, he says, while it is important to celebrate diversity, “these kinds of thing also celebrate how many things we have in common… We look for these common threads. And that’s the bond that brings us all together.”
The diverse topics touched upon during the lecture series has attracted crowds of various age and cultures, Cesarini explained. As head of the organization, he expressed great excitement in seeing the younger crowd come in to the center with a desire to learn about the Italian heritage, whether they are Italian-American or not.
“It’s really cool to see,” he said. “There’s a younger crowd that wants to know the history as well, of whatever the topic may be…. I think there is a renewed interest in ethnic identity, heritage, what have you. Just again to get back to roots, just to get back to how it all started. Not for nostalgia’s sake, per sè, but for again, just to trace that line to see, ‘Here I am right now; I’d like to know what are the elements that brought me here.’ Then that will help someone figure out where they’re going to go.”
The lecture series took a brief hiatus during the World Cup, but Cesarini said he is looking to reboot it now that the center will be resuming its regular calendar for the remainder of the year. Events will be listed on the center’s website as they are scheduled, but Cesarini said the lecture series – as with all events and programs hosted by the center – will continue to provide the community with interested and innovative topics that will connect with community members and allow them to connect with one another.
“That’s what the center represents,” he said. “A way to connect.”