Lorenzo Angeloni, ambassador of Italy to India, talks about forging lifelong bonds with Indians, his love for local food and why he is fascinated with Rajasthan. Nitasha Panda takes notes
Have you been to India before? How was your initial experience here?
My first visit to India was in March 2015, when I was appointed to represent my country here. On my very first day, I turned on the television and came across a talk show where people were expressing their ideas very passionately. I established a connect with India that very instant, because people in Italy are passionate too.
When you were appointed as the ambassador, did you have any expectations of what India would be like?
Having been posted in Vietnam as the ambassador (2010–2015), I already had some insight into Asian traditions and lifestyles. Around the same time, India had become the talk of the town because of its rapid development. When I finally came here, I was expecting a fusion of cultural heritage and technical advancement, and I was not disappointed.
What are some of the similarities you have found between India and Italy?
One big similarity that I find between the two countries is the concept of joint families. And like Italians, Indians are warm people, full of love and kindness.
Where have you travelled to in India? Do you have a favourite destination?
I love north India – I find it very fascinating. I have visited Rishikesh, Haridwar, Varanasi and Dehradun. The culture of the region intrigues me and I enjoy the ambience of the ashrams in all these places. However, Rajasthan is my favourite destination, as I believe it is the gateway to Indian culture. I have visited Jaipur and Pushkar several times, and every time I visit the state, I discover something new – be it the traditions, the colours or even the shape of the houses!
Is there any region or city in India that is on your travel bucket list?
I have never been to Khajuraho; it is one place I would love to visit. This apart, I would also like to visit Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana.
What are some of the things that you would suggest an Indian do in Italy?
To an Indian, I would suggest a trip to the southern part of Italy, still not explored much by Indian tourists. The area is the most exotic and scenic part of the country, with plenty of food, history, traditions and culture to explore. Visit Syracuse in Sicily if you wish to see how the concept of smart cities has been applied for the benefit of residents and tourists. Both Naples and Catania are cities full of stunning monuments, museums and historical ruins, and are today active urban centres. At Catania, you can learn how, over centuries, urban settlements have developed and sustained themselves on the slopes of a volcano (Mount Etna). Also, you must have a pizza in Naples! The art of Neapolitan ‘Pizzaiuolo’ has been inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
What are some of the things you would suggest an Italian should see and experience in India?
One of the many things that an Italian must experience in India is the diverse cuisine, including the outstanding street food. I would suggest a visit to one of the many popular literary festivals, which, I believe, bring together the learned, the experienced and the young, across all classes and nationalities. Also recommended is a stay in the beautiful havelis of Gujarat and Rajasthan. It is an experience that should not be missed. I would also suggest an Italian try and live like an Indian – interacting with the locals and observing life in metropolises as well as in small towns.