In the US Capitol building, there is a marble bust of Giuseppe Garibaldi, the popular hero of the Italian Risorgimento, signed Giuseppe Martegana, 1888. The official catalogue “Art in the United States Capitol” lists the bust as the gift of members of the Italian Society of Washington, Citizens of Italian descent, 1888.
1888: Italy was a very young nation back then, only 17. The US, on the other hand, had already over a century of common history as a unified nation. The American Dream had already reached the Belpaese, where young men and women longed for a better future in the land of all freedoms, but ached at the idea of leaving their homes behind at the same time. It was them, though, those first young Italians from a young, just-formed Italy, who became the forefathers of a whole community, a community that is at once rooted in the old, timeless traditions of the place they left, and firmly connected with the beautiful place that welcomed them. Life hasn’t always been simple for those early Italian-Americans: the first generation of first-generations. Yet, it’s them who wrote the incipit in the book of Italian-American history.
History, so, keeps us united. It’s the bridge over the ocean and the common ground for Italians from Italy and Italians from America to grow closer. The Italian Cultural Society of Washington gives us the opportunity to keep connected with Italy through history and by discovering what makes it special: its culture, its art, its language.
The present Society was formed in 1953 when a group of Americans and Italians was organized under the leadership of Professor Salvatore J. Castiglione, Chairman of the Italian Department of Georgetown University. Today ICS is a community, united not only in its love for Italy, but also by its appreciation of the values that Italy is known for around the world: creativity, innovation, originality and authenticity.
The ICS’ mission is to promote Italian language and culture, creating opportunities to explore the many facets of Italian life, and strengthen the bonds between the Italian and American people. It proudly does so through cultural and social events, scholarships to award students who excel in the study of the Italian language (from elementary to university level), in art, music, science and the study of the classics. Their language school — their most important program — counts over 1,600 enrollments per year.
“Culture is an essential part in all our classes” The ICS Executive Director Francesca Casazza says, “it is a system of knowledge, values, products, behavior traits of a population. A student who is interested in studying a language cannot just learn grammatical issues, because a language is the instrument used by a population to express itself. Language and culture are two faces of the same coin. Teaching Italian culture exposes our students to fascinating journeys through history, geography, archeology, literature, art, cinema, music, fashion, food and wine. In the relaxing and welcoming environment of our school (also online) we pass our students the passion for learning la ‘bella lingua.’ In addition, we explain Italy and the Italians, who we are and the historical and geographical elements that have been critical to define our character and our nation.”
“I am particularly proud of our Course + Trip” says Board Member, ILP Advisor Annelise Morani Brody, “The concept was born by listening to some of our students commenting on their trips to Italy: – Everything was wonderful, but I didn’t get the chance to practice my Italian, nor get to know local people… – So we designed this ‘formula’ to provide a more profound travel experience. Our instructors, who grew up and studied in Italy, teach a Course about their region: a virtual tour that covers history, art, geography, food and wine tasting; and then, we suggest a Trip: through our selected contacts in Italy, we offer our public the possibility to experience the country as an insider. They will speak in Italian or in English, as preferred, and will lead the traveler through the discovery of traditions, gastronomy, and the natural beauty of their region, with a warm welcome.”
The pandemic pushed the ICS to develop classes online: new courses were launched and the number of student during the past 12 months grew. The online format made the ICS community even more varied and lively, with many students coming from outside the D.C. area. Each class is small and focused on communication and engagement, so that everyone has the chance to participate, bond with classmates, ask questions and be an active member of the online class.
Classes for all!
The ICS offers a variety of classes, for the entire family: adults, teens, and kids. Courses range from beginners to advanced, including several elementary and intermediate levels. You can be part of the ICS community from wherever you are in the world long after the pandemic ends, as online courses will continue to be offered. So, don’t worry if you live far away: there’ll always be a place for you in the ICS community.
Cultural Events are also online!
Once a month, from September to June, the ICS host cultural events with special guests and speakers, well renowned and respected in the cultural world. Some of the guests were journalist Beppe Severgnini, presenting his new book for the American audience, and the ICS Board Member Sara Forden, writer of The house of Gucci, that is recently being made in to a movie by Ridley Scott, starring Lady Gaga and Adam Driver.
When in person, after each lecture, or performance, prepare for a relaxing aperitivo — Italian style of course! Another way to be part of this amazing community of learners, teachers and creatives.
Glam and culture at the Italian Embassy
Each year the ICS holds a Gala at the Italian Embassy. Each year there is a theme. In 2020, the society held a Virtual Gala, to celebrate the resilience within the Italian spirit that looks forward to a brighter future: “We are proud of the outcome of the event, because by watching it, you can understand who we are, our passion and our values,” says Francesca Casazza. Among the guests were Marco Bucci, Beppe Severgnini, Francesca Lusini, Cristina Cassetti.
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