We sat down with the Italian ambassador living in Lebanon and asked him to share his experience and thoughts about the country. Here’s what we learned.
Life in Lebanon is intense and there are countless memories that will stay with me.
Where do you enjoy spending time in Lebanon and why?
There are many great places, but I generally end up in two spots; Sporting Club in Ras Beirut, as it is welcoming and beautifully designed, and the Old Port of Byblos, which is so magical.
What hidden gem have you discovered?
I recently saw the magnificent Grand Hotel Sofar. It is a fascinating architectural masterpiece, which has retained its charm. I remember reading about this hotel in a book by Samir Kassir, where people used to spend vacations and live the high life, but I did not realize how beautiful it could be.
What has been your fondest moment so far?
I experienced a magical moment during the 2018 Baalbeck International Festival when the eclipse of the moon, the backdrop of Bacchus temple, the performance of a great Lebanese choir, the music of Rossini and Verdi directed by Father Toufic Maatouk and the enthusiasm of the audience all came together so harmoniously.
What souvenirs will you take with you when you leave?
I will take many precious souvenirs. Life in Lebanon is intense and there are countless memories that will stay with me; for instance, when my wife and I planted a cedar tree in Shouf and the inauguration of the basement at the Beirut National Museum. I will also remember walking in Lebanon’s beautiful mountains and the spirit of the young people.
Which restaurants in Beirut best reflect your nation’s cuisine?
I do not have a favorite one; in many, I found myself at home and enjoyed a very nice risotto, my favorite dish. We are developing an initiative worldwide to promote Italian cuisine. It will be an interesting experience.
What do you like and dislike about being here?
I like more than I dislike. The Lebanese people are very hospitable and great at welcoming everyone. I admire the work ethics of many citizens, their spirit and their capacity to go on; I have the impression that they are the backbone of the country. I am concerned about pollution though.
Describe Lebanon in three words.
Captivating, exciting and surprising.