Mauro Battocchi’s last day as San Francisco’s beloved Consul General will be July 8, 2016.
He has been Italy’s Consul General in San Francisco since September, 2012. For the past four years, Battocchi has presided over countless events with a never-ending smile and seemingly boundless grace that will be sorely missed, not just in the city but throughout California, and beyond. The consulate's service area is vast and includes northern California counties, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Hawaii, Alaska, Utah, Washington, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.
Battocchi grew up in Trentino, a region of northeastern Italy. Previously he had a stint in the private sector as vice president for government affairs at Enel. Within Italy’s foreign service, he had led the desk for trade and investment promotion at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Rome, was the head of the economic section of the Italian Embassy in Tel-Aviv and served at the financial section of the Italian Embassy in Bonn, Germany. He graduated in economics from Bocconi University, Milan, and received a Master’s degree in public policy at Princeton University.
Over the past several years, L’Italo-Americano’s conversations with Battocchi revealed how important his task was to him, and, more importantly, how important his legacy has become for the San Francisco Bay Area’s Italian community. When asked what was his defining task as the Consul General of Italy in San Francisco he responded: “We like to think of Italy as the land of antique arts and timeless design, but it is also a vibrant modern economy. Over these four years we have showcased the forward-looking, technological side of Italy. We have supported Italian companies here in their expansion into Silicon Valley. At the time of Expo 2015, the World’s Fair on food sustainability, we have shown Californians how Italy leads in clean-tech and smart grid technologies. We also have encouraged innovative educational projects like La Scuola International School.”
Asked if he could name a symbol of the Italy we tried to highlight, he mentioned the September 2014 visit of Matteo Renzi, the first of Italian Prime Minister who came to San Francisco in 32 years, as a decisive step to convey the message of innovation. “I could name so many Italian leaders that emerged or did business here in the past years. For instance, on July 6, Ambassador Varricchio opened the new store of the Italian electric superbike Energica in San Francisco with CEO Livia Cevolini. Livia is a woman CEO that brought to California a product of stylish design, innovative 3D printing, superior manufacturing and sustainable lifestyle. Her success is the emblem of the new Italy that we have presented in San Francisco.”
In the Bay Area, Battocchi has forged an alliance of all streams of Italianness that were able, for the first time, to work together for a common purpose: “new” Italians in Silicon Valley and second, third, fourth generation Italians that previously had few contacts, if any. An unusual display of Italian unity was visible on December 2012, when he gathered nearly one hundred Italian business and civic leaders on the grand staircase of San Francisco’s City Hall, together with the Mayor of San Francisco Ed Lee, for the launch of the “Year of Italian Culture in the United States 2013”.
For an entire year, the city was flooded with Italian events, spanning from policy to business, from Opera and ballet to literature and cinema. The peak was the joint performance of Verdi’s Requiem by 325 musicians of the San Francisco Opera and Naples’ San Carlo Theater conducted by Nicola Luisotti. “It was a unique, world-class event,” Battocchi says, “and it happened because of the mobilization of the Italian community here to raise the funds. It was touching.”
It was abundantly clear at the June 9, 2016 dinner for Mauro that he will be sorely missed. It proved to be a spectacular evening honoring the end of his term at the San Francisco Italian Athletic Club in North Beach, San Francisco. Organized by Alessandro Baccari and hosted by 20 Italian organizations, the event paid tribute gathered several hundred people from throughout the Bay Area. One by one, representatives stepped up to the microphone and spoke of Battocchi’s tireless efforts to bring the Italian community together with pride of culture and mutual respect. An often repeated phrase was “We are losing someone that has touched our hearts”.
The event began with a welcome by Joseph Marotto, President of the San Francisco Italian Athletic Club, followed by Master of Ceremonies Alessandro Baccari. The Invocation was given by Father John Itzaina from Saints Peter & Paul Church. One of the evening’s highlights was when singer, Maria Fassio Pignati and Consul General Battocchi led an enthusiastic crowd in a sing-along of four, classic Italian songs. It certainly was a night to remember.
In his remarks at the event, Battocchi laid out his message for the Italian Americans of the Bay Area in the coming years. “The critical issue,” he noted, “is how to engage the younger generations. Think of how your organizations can be attractive to your children and grand-children. I believe that the more you bring into your activities modern Italy, the more you can get the younger generations on board. More specifically,” he also said, “it makes sense to invest money and resources to send your children and grand-children to have a real life experience in Italy, be it work, adventure, tourism or study. Once they are back, they will become the natural Ambassadors of Italian lifestyle here: authentic food, glamorous fashion, Italian language. They will be the future leaders of your organizations.”
Battocchi also urged Italian Americans to work together with Italians and with Italophiles. He encouraged them to select a limited number of flagship initiatives, reach out to fellow Italians and test new synergies. He praised, for instance, the organizers of the Italian Heritage Parade and encouraged all Italian American organizations to work together to make sure that the October parade can still be, also in the future, a cornerstone of civic life in San Francisco.
An organization that gives Battocchi confidence in the future, he believes, is Comites, the Committee of Italians abroad, elected democratically in 2015. “The newly elected Comites members have an average age of 35”, Battocchi notes. “There are researchers and entrepreneurs from Berkeley and Silicon Valley. They are eager to engage in new projects with the Italian American associations here. They are an invaluable resource for the Italian community in the Bay Area and beyond.”
Battocchi’s final words in San Francisco are of gratitude. “What a great ride it has been. I have to thank my great staff at the Italian Consulate for working so hard to implement all our project; and I have to thank all the Italians that have brought here the inventiveness, industriousness and charm of our country. When I landed in California in 2012, I had heard great things about the Italians of the Bay Area, but I would have never imagined receiving such a warm embrace, from them and a legion of Italophiles. We worked together to promote il Bel Paese, the beautiful country. We had great fun together. We have seen the prestige of our country rise: Grazie mille!”
L’Italo-Americano thanks him for representing us with brilliance, un modello di dinamismo ed eleganza, a model of dynamism and elegance, we will never forget.