San Francisco was honored by the recent visit of Ambassador of Italy His Excellency Armando Varricchio, who spent several days visiting with leading, local Italian businessmen and meeting with City and Italian community leaders. Stops included a ribbon cutting for Energica Motor Company and a meeting with Airbnb. Energica, a high-performance, supersport electric motorcycle company, recently opened their San Francisco galleria on Page Street (More on this topic in an upcoming issue.)
The Ambassador’s visit culminated with the knighting of Commendatore Maria Fassio Pignati. The event, held on July 6 at the Italian American Athletic Club, was organized by Nickolas Marinelli and was hosted by San Francisco Italian Consul General, the Honorable Mauro Battocchi.
Consul General Battocchi introduced Commendatore Pignati by saying, “Maria has been an incredible asset for the Italian community, not only in the Bay Area but all over California and the western part of the United States. She is always present and always ready to step into action.”
Commendatore Pignati was honored with the Ordine della Stella d’Italia (Order of the Star of Italy) for her many years of tireless work benefitting the Italian community. Distinguished for her tremendous volunteer efforts, she continues to be highly involved in local Italian-American clubs and organizations, including the Sons of Italy Grand Lodge of California. She is also an accomplished operatic soprano and has sung the national anthem for the San Francisco Giants Italian Heritage Night.
The Order of the Star of Italy was established on February 3, 2011 by Law 13 which updated the name, purpose, and classes of the Star of Italian Solidarity. The new name, Order of the Star of Italy, responds to the changes that have occurred since World War II when the Order had originally been established giving recognition to Italians abroad who had made outstanding contributions to the reconstruction of Italy. After 2011, the Order has been bestowed upon people instrumental to the preservation and promotion of friendly relations, cooperation between Italy and other countries, and in the promotion of ties with Italy. The award is granted by the President of the Republic, at the proposal of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
When Commendatore Pignati was presented with a handsomely framed certificate and insignia pin, she said, “This evening is a great honor. Ever since I can remember, I’ve been so proud of my Italian heritage and have been drawn to all things Italian. We need to protect everything that thousands of years of work have produced and we need to impart this to our young people, to the next generation. We need to be very proud of our Italian heritage. Tonight is an incredible evening for me. This moment fills my heart with pride.”
As well as honoring Commendatore Pignati, the Ambassador had the opportunity to speak with representatives of the Bay Area Italian community. The evening proved to be a warm gathering of people dedicated to preserving and promoting the historic traditions of Italy in the United States. Representatives of local Italian organizations each took turns describing their organizations’ purpose and the people they serve.
Ambassador Varricchio has held numerous positions in the Italian government including Deputy Secretary General - Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Diplomatic Advisor and G7/G20 Sherpa of the Prime Minister, Ambassador of Italy, and in 2016 he was appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Washington, D.C. The Ambassador holds an MA (Summa cum Laude) in International Relations (University of Padua), is a Grand Officer of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Italy and has been awarded numerous honors from various foreign countries.
In his diplomatic activities throughout the United States, Ambassador Verrocchio has celebrated Italian culture and has had many opportunities to meet with Italian communities. “I’ve been listening very carefully to different stories, to your tremendous dedication to the community and your passion. We share and cherish our great traditions and relations between our countries. I have been able to rally the community that came here many years ago and now the new flow of people between our countries is able to bridge relations. The expression enshrined in the Great Seal of the United States, “E Pluribus Unum”, (Out of many, one), is just what Italy is, what we are in Italy; a very old nation but a young state. Although there are many different provinces expressed in differences of language, food, wine, and art, in Italy, we manage to unite ourselves.”
Ambassador Varricchio listened attentively to each organization’s representative and at the end he expressed his appreciation for the dedicated work of the San Francisco Italian community by saying, “I will come back again in the future to follow your activities and to promote relations between Italy and the Bay Area.”