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September 9, 2010

“In the Same Shoes” in Different Countries

By Margaret Shakarashvili, Georgia

The below article was published in the English-Georgian magazine ‘Focus’, 2007 (special addition about Italy).

Although ‘every road leads to Rome,’ the diplomatic road brought Fabrizio Romano from Rome to Tbilisi with the mandate of an Italian Ambassador while Georgian Zaal Gogsadze was sent to Rome, where this son of a tiny country was bestowed with the enormous responsibilities of Georgian Ambassador.

Here is the interview with these two diplomats who live in different countries, but wear the proverbial “same shoes”, and they provided smart answers to similar questions: H.E. Ambassador Romano – who enjoys going to the places where common Georgians, not the VIPs, go – and H.E. Georgian Ambassador to Italy Zaal Gogsadze – who, at the end of the workday usually recalls the verse of Galaktion (a king of Georgian poetry) which says: “Days roll like dice.”

How do you feel in your newly adopted country?

F. R: Bene, Grazie. I feel lucky that I am in Georgia.

Z.G: Very well, though not as an Italian. I still live with the everyday life of Georgia. The only difference is that I am in Rome, in this truly eternal city. Passing by the Trevi Fountain, I want to go into the water like Marcello Mastroianni – although it is forbidden – and besides, Anita Eklberk doesn’t call from the fountain any more.

What it is like to be an Italian (Georgian) Ambassador to Georgia (Italy)?

F. R: It is a responsibility and stimulus. I think that there are few ambassadors who have the opportunity to be in such a politically active and internationally significant country as Georgia.

Z.G: Not only in Italy, but being an ambassador to any country is a huge responsibility. Your country assigns you as its representative abroad, what can be more honorable and responsible? Responsibility is greater when you represent your tiny county in the international community and strive for a respectable place. Believe me, it is not an easy task. This demands extreme energy and nerves, though it is awfully pleasant when you reap the fruits of your labor

Is there any spot in the country where you work which reminds you of your home country?

F. R: Bakuriani reminds me of Trentino, and Gudauri is like the northern part of the Alps. As for the Kakheti region, it is like Toscana.

Z.G: There are several places that remind me of Georgia. However, the Orange Garden in Rome is the most significant because while looking out from there I have the feeling that I am gazing at the bank of the River Mtkvari near Queen Tamar’s bridge. Besides, here are a lot of plane trees along the streets like in Tbilisi and the River Tevere has almost a Mtkvari-like size.  As for the regions, Toscana quite resembles Imereti, though Imereti is greener.

What is the stereotype of an Italian (Georgian) in Georgia (Italy)?

F. R: There are Georgians who know Italy and Italians better then I do since I have not lived in Italy full-time for about 20 years already. Though, I can say that there are two Italian stereotypes: that which was created by films of the 1950s-60s and the real. Sometimes, when I am watching old Italian movies I am amazed since the Italian stereotype has undeniably changed.

Z.G: Italians think of Georgians as hospitable, openhearted, friendly people with a European mentality. Many remark that Georgia is the doorway of democracy at the junction of Europe and Asia.

Georgians and Italians are frequently seen to have same character or temperament. Do you see similarities between Georgian and Italian people?

F. R: Georgians and Italians really do have something in common. The immense traditions and the cultures of these two Christian countries, Italy and Georgia, have certainly made a remarkable influence on the two nations.

Z.G: Definitely. Italians and Georgians really have much in common. Both peoples have the same attitude towards certain virtues and values especially with regard to the family. Perhaps, Sicilians are more like Georgians. Once, one of my friends, a senator who originally comes from Sicily, told me: “We are friends and you should know that when you become a friend of a Sicilian he must not ask you anything if you come to his place at midnight or at 2 o’clock as a guest. You will be always welcomed to your Sicilian friend’s family and his wife will become your sister.”

And what would you say about the role of wine in the life of Georgian and Italian men. Who better knows the value of a quality wine, Italian or Georgian?

F. R: In the 1960s, wine was an important component of the Italian daily ration. Now drinking wine has become a pleasure, like it is in Georgia. Today the quality of Italian wine is really high as is the international demand for it. I think that the quality of Georgian wine has also improved. If during the Soviet period the accent was on the quantity of wine, now quality appears to be a priority.

There are unique species of vine in Georgia that must be brought to the international market. I see that Georgia is going in this direction, and this is the right way.

Z.G: Maybe Georgians appreciate wine more. I don’t think that anyone around the world would love and adore wine as much as a Georgian peasant living in Kakheti. However, Italians also know the value of wine and drink it everyday. Red wines are the most popular here and the vineyards are perfectly minded. Viticulture is more developed in Italy, though, let’s see, I am sure that viticulture in Georgia will take a leap forward in the nearest future.

Would you change pizza (khachapuri) to khachapuri (pizza)?

F. R: I would not be honest if I said “yes,” though I do like khachapuri very much as it perfectly substitutes pizza for me.

Z.G: By no means.

Do you remember the very first day when you arrived in Georgia (Italy) with the mandate of an Ambassador? How did hospitable Georgia (eternal Rome) meet you?

F. R: Of course I remember that day as if it were today.  It was in May, 2003, and the official, diplomatic meeting was soon followed by Georgian hospitality.

Z.G: The first day was quite usual. My wife and I arrived in Rome late at night since the flight was delayed. However, the day when I met the President of Italy was a really significant one and I will never forget that momentous date.

Two guards dressed in special uniform came to the Embassy to accompany me to the President. To be frank, I was a bit startled since both of them were two meters tall. (Later I learned that presidential guards cannot be shorter than two meters). When we entered the yard of the Presidential Palace, guards lined up in the Roman soldiers’ attire greeted me. Then I walked through the large halls and met the President with whom I had a very open and interesting conversation.

How will Georgia (Italy) stay on your mind?

F. R: I will have nostalgia.

Z.G: Italy – a country of beautiful, warm and vibrant people.


1 Comment »

  1. […] “In the Same Shoes” in Different Countries September 2010 Leave a Comment LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

    Pingback by 2010 in Review « Per rivestire di valori il tuo viaggio: — January 26, 2011 @ 9:36 am

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