Spain    Italy: «We are not that similar.  You Italians are cozier, we know how to have fun »

Spain Italy: «We are not that similar. You Italians are cozier, we know how to have fun »

by Elisabetta Rosaspina

In Spain, Italy is perceived “as a reference model”. For Erasmus students, Madrid is about to beat Barcelona. The scientist: “Researchers are valued more here”

«Social success in Spain? An Italian or an Italian able to prepare a good tiramisu is guaranteed “that was suggested by accident years ago and maybe still happens at the parties in Madrid. The possibilities of integration are endless and for newcomers from Italy that is Skill in the kitchen is certainly an effective key to entering Spanish social life, which to be honest is more often done outdoors: “They love dinner at home with friends, we prefer to go out in the evenings and go from brewery to brewery.” the nightlife that no one has called here for decades.

Near and far

“We love. We are close and allied in many things, but we are less alike than we think,” said Enric Juliana, deputy editor-in-chief of the most important daily newspaper in Catalonia, La Vanguardia. For historical reasons: “Spain has a past of an empire. A decision signed a few months later in Madrid also applied in Patagonia. Italy has been a single nation-state since 1861 ». And for geopolitical reasons: «Italy has an oriental look that Spain lacks: Venice, Marco Polo, Trieste and Milan and Austria-Hungary, Byzantium, Ravenna, the Channel of Otranto, Albania, Greece… Albanian is still spoken in some countries of Calabria… Spain is clearly oriented west: the Pyrenees, North Africa and Latin America More than 400 million people all over the world World speak Spanish, far from Eurasia ».

However, you always keep an eye on them. At the end of 2006, Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero euphorically announced to the Spaniards: “Within four years our per capita income will exceed that of Italy”. A year later, on the eve of the Great Crisis that was to affect the whole world, Zapatero joined the parliamentary Bourbon monarchy at the bursting of a gigantic real estate bubble, met the foreign press with Christmas greetings and strengthened the prophecy and national pride : “Next year we will Overtake Italy, then we reach France and finally Germany ». In fact, things didn’t quite work out that way, and in the 2011 elections the socialist Zapatero gave way to the conservative Mariano Rajoy. But Italy is still a parameter in the Iberian Peninsula, a more relevant economic and political term of comparison than France. It is far more interesting than that of its Portuguese neighbors.

«Italy is perceived as a reference model – confirms the director of the Italian Cultural Institute in Barcelona, ​​​​​​Lucio Izzo -. The Spanish Constitution was inspired by the Italian one in 1978 at the end of Francoism, when was one of the countries where the Spanish could buy books and see films banned by Francisco Franco’s regime. During this long period, the Cultural Institute and the Italian School have been an oasis of freedom and knowledge. Pedro Almodóvar often recalls his training in Italian cinema of the 1950s and 1960s. Even if Federico Fellini was banned for political and cultural reasons until the 1980s».

Italian experience

Continuity is important. In Catalonia, the largest foreign community is still the Italian one, with 63,000 inhabitants registered in Aire, the registry of Italians living abroad. Barcelona, ​​​​​​with almost 54,000 of them alone, is losing its priority as an Erasmus destination in favor of Madrid. But the official figure does not include seasonal workers, a large part of university students, tourists. There are many, and they enjoy, says Enric Juliana, amused, a good reputation among the girls of Barcelona, ​​who make it a point of honor to have at least one “Italian experience” in their sentimental curriculum.

In any case, the Catalans learn Italian with commitment and not just out of sympathy: «Many of our students are preparing to go to Italy to specialize in architecture, design, cuisine – informs the director of the Italian Cultural Institute -. Italy was the first country to introduce the creative industries in Spain, and after several locations in Madrid and Barcelona, ​​the IED (the European Institute of Design, ed.) has just opened a new one in Bilbao. The Spaniards imitate us, but we remain the first ». For now.

Teresa Sapey, co-owner of an international architecture office in Madrid since 1990, is also convinced of this, albeit with many awards: “The game is swept by the Italians in design, but not in architecture. The Spaniards are good, especially in the Valencia area. Brands like Vondom, Vibia, Gandia Blasco, Sancal are now known all over the world. But we’re still far ahead. The Spaniards are strong in ceramic production and Italian tiles are often actually Spanish, although you’d rather not say so. Many Italian entrepreneurs have a factory in Castellón because the costs are lower. Among the great architectural projects, on the other hand, in Spain the names of Renzo Piano stand out, the only one to play in Serie A in the world and very few others ».

Where from? «The Spaniards are fascinated by Italian historical architecture, but not so much by contemporary architecture – is the answer -. They have great respect for Giò Ponti or Carlo Mollino, but know little about the new generation of Italian architects. In general, Italy is very popular here and the explanation stands out: half of Italy is bourbon! From Naples down there is a whiff of Italianized Spain or Italy that has become Spanish. And as a Piedmontese I understand Sicily since I live in Spain. The designs of the Andalusian and Sicilian tiles are almost identical. Pecorino and manchego are the same cheese. I don’t know who copied who, but it’s a very successful marriage ».

A wedding, not a competition or “a football game,” emphasizes the Valencian “three-star Michelin” chef Quique Dacosta, who shies away from comparisons: “I don’t think that one gastronomy should prevail over the other or the Italian courses over first Spanish tapas. The Italian antipasti are as unusual and varied as the Spanish ones. Our kitchens are just as creative and the most innovative in the world. I have often worked with Italian colleagues and we have shared experiences, never rivaled them. We found that our kitchens complement each other: when they prepared tapas and I the main courses, we could combine them perfectly ». But in the end he admits: “I would eat Italian every day”.

Vision of superlatives

It’s a passion similar to that which binds the writer Clara Sánchez and her Italian audience. To the point that for some years now the new novels of the Madrid author have been translated first into Italian and only later in the original Castilian version: «Yes, it’s a sentimental question. While the Italian publishers were immediately enthusiastic about my books, the Spaniards gradually accepted me». Titles like The Scent of Lemon Leaves or The Miracle of Imperfect Years or The Things You Know About Me published in Italy by Garzanti have made a splash in Italian bookstores, selling millions of copies. Not that Clara Sanchèz is snubbed by the literary world in Spain. On the other hand. She is the only author to have won the three most important Spanish prizes, the Alfaguara, the Nadal and the Planeta, with these three novels.

«Italian readers are the most curious – says the writer -. And Italy has been my dream country for a long time. I fell in love with her when I first visited her. Francisco Franco had just died, we Spaniards came out of the dictatorship and everything there seemed great to me. My earliest memory of Rome is of a 60-year-old in white on a bicycle holding an ice cream cone. The man met a friend and while they were talking I heard the exclamation “how nice!”. In Castilian, “beautiful” is a superlative. For example: In Spain, a girl can be “hermosa”, “guapa”, but if someone tells her that she is “beautiful”, it means that her beauty is unattainable. Here you Italians have applied a patina of glamor everywhere. You have a superlative view of existence. At the age of 18, this explosion of Roman life and lightheartedness enchanted me because that was what I was missing ». Won’t it be a Roman holiday theme? “Maybe. But clichés and myths have a grain of truth. Marcello Mastroianni with sunglasses in La Dolce Vita is in the DNA of Italian men – laughs Clara Sánchez –. And in Spain we are very influenced by your aesthetic. The Spanish poetry of the sixteenth and seventeenth Century cannot be understood without understanding the Petrarchism that influenced the golden ages of our poetic art ».

Spanish merit

But many Italians, like biologist Laura Soucek, who has worked at the Vall d’Hebron Oncological Institute in Barcelona for 11 years and another 10 years in the US, have no plans to return to what many foreign colleagues describe as “the most beautiful country”. of the world”. Because? «Because I learned a new way of working during my experience abroad. I found a merit-based system that I didn’t know could exist in my university and doctoral years in Italy ». That’s what many say “Brain Drain”, but Laura Soucek can prove it: “Here there is a Catalan government-backed foundation called Icrea (Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies) whose mission is to attract the best talent in the world and keep them.Provides a permanent apprenticeship and salary It integrates the new academics into local research centers and universities, with the possibility of recruiting the best To negotiate working conditions and to be able to move from one place to another as long as it is Catalonia. At the moment there are 278 Icrea professors in all scientific disciplines: 22 are Italians like me. This makes us the second largest nationality in an institution of excellence after the Spaniards ». And in research, “we are respected. You don’t have to know anyone to come here and do your PhD.”

The designer Ágatha Ruiz de la Prada, on the other hand, one of the most famous Spanish brands, graduated many years ago in Italy, in Como, as a young intern for six months in the best silk factory in the world, that of Antonio Ratti. In front of the Ratti company, there should always be flowering trees, because whoever creates beauty must live immersed in beauty. My first memory of Italian fashion may have come from my childhood, when my mother came back from a trip and brought me something from Valentino. I loved Moschino very much for his never-ending sense of humor. But I have to admit I’m glad if you mistake me for Miuccia Prada because she’s an intellectual who dabbles in politics even before she was a marvelous designer. Even something bad becomes beautiful when Prada does it. Paris has always been the capital of fashion, but for a long time I preferred Italian fashion over French. And being able to exhibit in Milan or Florence was one of the great privileges of my life ».

August 19, 2022 (change August 19, 2022 | 08:08)