Interviews

Due chiacchiere con Lia Como

In Italian, when you ask someone to meet for coffee, you say, “facciamo due chiacchiere.” The literal translation in English is “let’s have two chats,” but in essence, one is trying to say, “let’s catch up and have a good chat”. Of course, it always sounds better in Italian!

There are so many amazing, talented people in our communities, so we’ve developed this segment as a virtual ‘café’ to connect with you and share some of their inspiring local stories in between filming schedules!

Published: December 20, 2015 ǀ By Lia Como

Guests: Diego Marchi and Jle Zago

Beating the Christmas Blues with Diario da Vancouver

The lights, the egg nog, snowy mountaintops and decorated trees: the festive, wintery season is a wonderful time to relax and spend time with family and loved ones. But for many newcomers in Vancouver, the opportunity to return ‘home’ is not always option, especially if you are in limbo waiting for the appropriate legal papers to remain in Canada. 

Diario da Vancouver,* an online resource platform created by bloggers Diego Marchi and Jle Zago, have started a tradition called the Cena di Natale or Christmas Dinner, where Italian newcomers can

get together and shake off those feelings of loneliness and isolation that can creep up for those who are starting a new chapter in their lives an ocean away from la famiglia.

I caught up with Diego and Jle at the Osteria at il Centro to discuss the inception of Diario da Vancouver, and their journey to organizing their 4th Cena di Natale:

Which areas of Italy are you two original from?

Udine, Friuli, a small region in the north-east corner of Italy (Venezia Giulia).

Where did you meet each other?

Jle: We met 13 years ago at the University of Udine.

What originally drew you to Canada?

Diego: We wanted to make an experience abroad, and then the job situation in Italy was not the best. We decided to throw ourselves out there and test ourselves.

Jle: We were looking for an English speaking country outside of Europe to practice our English. Our top choices were Australia and Canada, but we chose Canada because we found that Canada was closer in distance (to Italy) and the process was easier.

And to Vancouver?

Jle: The weather: it’s warmer, and similar to the weather in Udine – it rains a lot there, so we’re acclimatized!

How did the Diario da Vancouver project begin?

Diego: Diario da Vancouver started out as a platform to keep in touch with our friends and family in Italy.

During a trip in St. Louis, I found that I was sending a lot of long emails to friends. Instead of writing to everyone individually, our friends and family could visit one site for all our updates. Then it started being followed by other people interested in Vancouver and in Canada in general…

Jle: And then I wrote a post on how to apply for a working visa, and all of a sudden, we got a lot of notice.

Diego: People wanted to meet us over dinner, asking us to share our experience, but it was all getting to be too much, so we started organizing group meet ups where people could come and ask questions and network with other newcomers. Our first dinner was with 17 people at a pizzeria downtown, then 32, then 40 and recently 75 guests. Plus at Christmas, we have a huge dinner, open to everyone – it’s become a tradition. We’ve met lots of beautiful people and we’ve become an information source for the people coming here!

Now, our friends don’t read it (Diario da Vancouver), it’s mainly people who are interested in moving/visiting to Vancouver who read it.

Jle: Why wasn’t the General Consulate of Italy (in Vancouver) or il Centro answering the questions from newcomers? Nobody was prepared for this current wave of new immigrants. It caught everyone off by surprise. Diario da Vancouver became a blog of what we wanted to have when we first moved to Vancouver. We’re now using our Facebook page more rather than blogging. It’s a faster way to share information, like changes in governmental rules, etc.

What are the future plans for Diario da Vancouver?

Diego: We’re planning to organize another conference on the Provincial Nominee Program because of all the changes that are coming up in immigration. We just hope to give a little help to the newcomers, and help them face the reality of Canada in a more knowledgeable way.

Jle: My dream would be that this would be my full-time job. Through the blog, it becomes a placement agency, helping people find a place to live, find a job, network, even pick them up from the airport when they land!

As newcomers to Vancouver, you’ve had to adapt to a fairly different culture and lifestyle than is experienced in Italy. What are some of the differences? What are some of the challenges? Are some things easier rather than harder in Canada? And vice-versa?

Jle and Diego: Being a western culture, Canada and Europe have several points in common. But the life style, the culture, the history are different. Can’t say better or worse, just different. The culture, the sense of politeness and the relationships between people are different. In Italy, people are more passionate. Here, in the beginning, it’s more of a shallow interaction, so it’s harder to get to know people at first. It’s like here people are afraid to expose themselves, to get to know someone.

Here, you are busy, because you want to be. In Italy, you have work, family is a priority, and everything else (in life) is an accessory.

Jle: The culture of eating: in Italy, it’s about enjoying the meal. Here, you have 20 minutes to eat. It’s interesting: in English, there isn’t really a phrase that means ‘enjoy your meal.’ In Italian, you specifically say, buon appetito (i.e. enjoy your meal).

At the root of it all, maybe, the differences are because here everything is simpler: the bureaucracy, taxes, even selling a car.

Deigo: Everything seems straightforward, like it should be!

Jle: Here, you can cross the street without getting killed. In Italy, it’s survival of the fittest.

Diego: But maybe having the day organized, maybe leads to things being simpler.

Jle: If we went back to Italy, what we would miss most about Canada would be the simplicity and the Canadian politeness – the customer service is lower in Italy.

Diego: The issue in Italy is that citizens are not protected by the government. The government over protects the minorities and the immigrants – these two groups have more rights than the Italians citizens. For example, immigrants have tax shelters, etc. It’s imbalanced. In Canada, Canadians are protected by their government, and are first given the opportunities, with jobs, etc.

What are your favourite aspects of Italy? What do you miss most about Italy?

Jle: The weather – I love it when it’s 35 Celsius. The food. Everything is closer: the mountains, the sea…all the small towns with their summer festivals. In half an hour by car, you can visit an ‘agriturismo’** and have the best cheese or meat in your life!

Diego, what inspired you to run for il Centro’s Board of Directors?

Diego: I started volunteering on the Friuliani Society’s Board of Directors. They were looking for new directors from the younger generation.

Diego, the term on the Board is 2 years – what goals do you have in mind to achieve during this period?

Diego: I just hope I can give a fraction of what other more capable people before me gave to il Centro. I’d like to continue with the work of Diario da Vancouver and create a platform to allow il Centro to be more aware of what’s going on with the newcomers. The older immigrants (who moved to Vancouver 30 to 60 years ago) do not know why we are here and sometimes are confused about this new wave of immigration from Italy. I’d love to put these two worlds together. In this way, the Italian Community can keep thriving and the newcomers can find their way of staying here. Perhaps finding common topics between the older generation and the newcomers, and closing that gap a bit.

Lightning Round: You’re building a villa in Italy – where would you construct it?

Diego: Udine – my heart is in my city. I love my city.

Jle: Croatia – its close enough to Italy so that I can visit…the water (in Croatia) is crystal clear.

Favourite Italian actor?

Diego: Gigi Proietti

Jle: Totò

You’re sipping your cappuccino at the bar, and you notice sitting beside you reading the newspaper is Dante Alighieri. You turn to him and say:

Diego: “Sei uscito dalla selva oscura”~ (a verse from the Commedia Divina).

Jle: “Che ci fai qui? Sei davvero tu?”~~

The Christmas Dinner will take place at il Centro on December 23. Tickets are $35. To order your ticket, visit the Diario da Vancouver website.

Diario da Vancouver* – the Diary of Vancouver

Agriturismo** – farm-stay in the countryside; it used to be Italy’s best-kept secret, but with tourists looking for more sustainable practices in their travel when it comes to food (i.e. farm to table dining), agriturismo is becoming quite popular.

Sei uscito dalla selva oscura~ – You have exited the dark forest.

Che ci fai qui? Sei davvero tu?~~ – What are you doing here? Is it really you?

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity and space.

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Published: October 14, 2015 ǀ By Lia Como
Photo Credits: Ital-Decor Ltd.

Guest: Robert Tinucci

Pinocchio makes a grande appearance at Tuscany Society’s 45th Anniversary Gala in Vancouver

Walt Disney may have made him famous, but Pinocchio began his humble beginnings is a series of episodes for a Roman newspaper, and later published as a book by Carlo Collodi (1883). Since the author was originally from Florence, Pinocchio has always had a special place in the hearts of the Tuscans, and with the help of Ital-Decor, the Tuscans in Vancouver are looking forward to having Pinocchio as their guest of honour at their 45th anniversary celebration. 

 

I spoke with Robert Tinucci from Ital-Decor about the world of craftsmanship and the family business that started as a single artist to a multi-product and service company in decorative plaster and ornamental concrete.

La Famiglia:

My family is originally from Lucca. After war (WWII), a lot of the monuments were destroyed, and my dad’s uncle did a lot of marble and stone work, so my dad (Joe Tinucci) also started to get in that line of work. They both worked on the Leaning Tower of Pisa after WWII – they helped replace the pillars on the south side of the tower. After that, my dad worked a bit in France, and then settled in Canada in 1956. My mom arrived in Canada in 1958.

The Beginnings:

One of the first projects my dad worked on when he arrived on the West Coast was the Deas Island Tunnel in Richmond (a.k.a. George Massey Tunnel). A lot of immigrants worked on that project; he worked on the tunnel for two years, and then started his own business (Ital-Decor) of statuary and ornamental concrete and plaster products.

He created a lot of original sculptures and worked on smaller projects during the 60’s. This was also the period when my dad tried to move his business to Tuscany, but it didn’t flourish, so after a few years, we returned to Vancouver. His big break came in 1970 when he worked on the Orpheum Theatre restoration project. Then the business took off from there.

It’s funny: one of dad’s first projects was Simon Fraser University (SFU) – he did all the stairs for that building. Now, 60 years later, one of our main projects is a major stairs project in a mansion built in 1911.

Traditions:

Besides eating a lot of Italian food, we speak Italian to the boys (Robert has two sons), and we’re always in contact with our relatives here and in Italy. Family is really important to us.

One family tradition is our presepio (nativity scene). My dad created a background for our nativity, and the family gets together and puts it up every year at Christmas.

Reflections on Italian Culture:

Respect for each other. And respect for our generations, and being thankful for giving us the opportunity to be where we are today.

Getting Involved in the Community:

It’s important that you follow your (cultural) background. I do it out of respect for my old man and out of respect for the people involved in the (Tuscany) group. For Italians, it’s important that you follow your traditions.

The Original Tinucci Pinocchio

The Pinocchio at the (Tuscany Society’s) 45th Anniversary Gala is a mold of the original caste that my dad created over 50 years ago. We were living in Italy at the time, and my parents gifted the family a statue of Pinocchio. The original statue is made out of marble and has an antique stain (see photo).

Lightning Round: Best Moments in Italy

With family: after dad passed away, I promised the boys that we’d go to Italy and meet the relatives. We went over for the first time in 2009; we enter the arrivals area in the airport and waiting for us are 15 of our family members. We see each other, and all at once, everyone starts to cry, I’ll never forget that.

With sight-seeing: definitely visiting Lucca and riding our bikes along the walls.

Favourite Italian Dish:

My zia Maria’s spaghetti alle vongole. And pizza: I found this hole in the wall in Lucca, it’s in this 400 year old building or something, and it fits 16 people at the most, and they make the most incredible pizza!

Sophia Loren or Claudia Cardinale?

Sophia Loren.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity and space.

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Published: September 8, 2015 ǀ By Lia Como
Photo Credits: Espressino Travel

Guest: Robert Collins

The chronicles of one Italophile’s torrid love affair with Italy

“I’ve always said that my greatest failure in life was not being born Italian.” The statement stopped me in my tracks. Being Canadian of Italian heritage, I’ve always had an appreciation for the culture, but while chatting with Italophile Robert Collins, a British expat who currently divides his time between Vancouver, Canada and Lecce, Italy, he reminded me of the many aspects of naturally living ‘la dolce vita’ that I have long taken for granted. 

 

When he talks about Italy, his eyes light up, and he’s very well versed on what to do there, especially when it comes to finding the best coffee (“You’re going to Rome? The best coffee is Café Giulia, it’s a hole in the wall, but the coffee is amazing – you’ll love it!). 

Robert Collins and his partner Lili Okuyama are living the dream: both are huge fans of the Italian culture, so much so that two years ago, they decided to take the grand leap in starting their own boutique travel business focusing on the culinary experience in and around Lecce, Puglia (fyi: Puglia is the next Sardinia of Italy. It’s like everyone I’ve met lately has been making a stop in Puglia).

Here’s the interview with one Italophile’s torrid love affair with Italy:

How did you and Italy meet? Specifically, Puglia?

Our first vacation together took place 12 years ago; we decided to go to Venice. We had an incredible time, so we made plans to go back, this time in Tuscany, then to Umbria, and in Umbria, we had our ‘wow’ moment: it was New Year’s Eve, we’re sitting in our favorite restaurant when we met Christine Smallwood, author of ‘An Appetite for Umbria.’ She highly recommended that we visit Puglia. So we booked our flight for that spring, and we loved it, and have been going back ever since.

Puglia is special: the people are inquisitive and genuine, the food is out of this world, and then there are the beaches…it’s a beautiful province, and not yet super-touristy. The society, especially in the south, still put aside time to enjoy life. Life is so straight forward there, and I love that. This attitude of “it’s ok to spend an hour with friends, to linger over your meal,” you can live in the moment there.

What’s the meaning of ‘Espressino’?

Espressino is the coffee of Puglia. It’s a half espresso and half cappuccino drink. It resembles what they call in Vancouver a ‘cortano.’ Because we love coffee so much, and because our tours are about food, we thought the name ‘Espressino’ was the best name for our company.

By the way, the coffee in Puglia is excellent – it’s something to get excited about.

Tell me about Espressino Travel.

It all started two years ago when Lili and I were staying in Lecce for one month while Lili was studying Italian. We were embraced by the community of Lecce and felt like we were meeting our new friends. We weren’t treated as foreigners or tourists, but as friends from the beginning. We returned to Vancouver and thought: how can we share what we’ve just experienced with everyone else?

Our tours are not rushed and are not about remembering all the dates of when churches were built. It’s about enjoying and understanding the culture and your surroundings.

We’re currently been in Italy since May and will be here until October. This summer is our second run at it, but it’s been great. We already have two group tours set up for next year. I really enjoy welcoming guests to Puglia. And the Italians love welcoming our guests and showing off and sharing what they love to do. They make you feel like you’re part of the family. For example, one of our partners, ‘Pizza & Co.,’ when you enter the pizzeria, you know this experience is not for mass production. It’s a unique experience with a passionate, animated pizzaiolo“ showing our guests how to make a pizza. His wife makes the desserts, their kids are running around, the mozzarella*~ is being delivered, people are coming in even though the pizzeria is closed and the chef yells out in Italian, “I’m teaching a pizza class! I’m closed!” All this in your experience and it’s not manufactured – it’s real.

Any new activities or plans for the Espressino Travel in the near future?

Part of why we do this is because we want to spend time in Italy. It is very difficult to get the family feeling, the welcoming when you’re a traveler, but not in Italy. If we do expand, maybe it would be in Umbria, but right now, we’re just enjoying Puglia.

Lightning Round: It’s the Last Supper – what do you order off the menu?

If it’s by the sea, then a simple spaghetti con le vongole*, but if I’m in the interior, then it would be ‘ceci e tria’ – a chickpeas and pasta dish where half of the pasta is fried – it’s out of this world!

Favourite Italian movie star:

Alberto Sordi – “Mac-carone!”** The food must be delicious when you see that image of him.

Choose one: Lamborghini or Ferrari?

Ferrari, but I’m quite happy with a ‘Fiat Cinque Cento.’** I had one once – a sporty one, blue with orange trim.

For more information on Espressino Travel and their tours, visit www.espressinotravel.com.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity and space.

Definition: a pizza maker (in a pizzeria)

*~Definition: a type of cheese generally used as a pizza topping.

*Definition: Pasta with clams

**Definition: Italian dialect for macaroni, which is a type of pasta – a famous line from the Italian film, Un Americano a Roma (An American in Rome) with the actor, Alberto Sordi.

**Definition: Fiat 500
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Published: June 11, 2015 ǀ By Lia Como

Guest: Michael Murazzo

Engaging the next generation of Canadian-Italians

A challenge the Italian community in Vancouver is facing right now is how to engage the third generation Canadians of Italian background. There are a few active individuals in the community, one in particular who is doing an exemplary job is Michael Murazzo, articling accountant, and President of the Famiglia Bagnolese Society

I arrived first to our interview; I’m reviewing my day planner when from the corner of my eye I notice Michael entering the coffee shop: a young man in his mid-twenties, tall and casually dressed in jeans and a black hoodie.

As we get to chatting, it’s obvious that Michael has the qualities of a future leader: hard working, well-spoken, very prepared, and handles each project strategically and with clarity.

I spoke with Michael on being a young leader, the extended ‘famiglia’ of the Bagnolese Society, and the group’s plans for the future.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity and space.

Which part of Italy are your parents from?

My dad was born in Rome, and my father’s mother was born in Bagnoli del Trigno. The rest of my grandparents are from other towns in Molise.

You’re very involved with the Famiglia Bagnolese Society – tell me about the group.

The Famiglia Bagnolese was established approximately 40 years ago with the purpose to bring together the Bagnolese people in Vancouver. There are many people in Vancouver who emigrated from that particular area of Italy. At the time, as a way of socializing, the Bagnolese would cook meals together – it was like an extended family for many who didn’t have family here.

Why did you decide to get involved with the Famiglia Bagnolese Society and not another Italian regional society?

It goes back to giving people a reason to get involved, to get engaged. I was invited to a conference in Italy through the Famiglia Bagnolese Society. When I returned, I started to attend their meetings, and at the next elections, there wasn’t anyone who wanted to lead the group, so I took on the role and brought a few new people on board.

You were very young when you began to lead the Famiglia Bagnolese Society – how has the society evolved during your leadership?

First, our committee: in the past, the second generation didn’t have the opportunity to get involved. There was (and still is) a generational gap. However, currently on the Board there are eight individuals under 30 years old and two who are under 40 years old.

In fact, another major change was going back to our roots as a club, back to the original “statue”, a formal document that states the original purpose for the group, which is to promote education, athletics, folkloristic and social events (from the town of Bagnoli). In the past, we have done well with our “feste”* and picnics, the social/folkloristic component of the ‘statue.’ We have been very good at engaging our youth. For example, at our last event, the ‘Festa della Casacca’** we saw 70 to 100 youth in attendance out of 400 guests. It’s a pretty good accomplishment, considering that many other Italian societies speak about connecting with youth at their events, however, for a variety of reasons do not meet this objective. Having the youth participate gives them the opportunity to understand/connect with their culture and heritage.

One area of the statue that required some attention though was our ‘athletics’. There hadn’t been as much focus in this category. Now, the athletic component has become an avenue of philanthropy for the society: we have decided to set aside funds to a not-for-profit called Athletics for Kids. They distribute the monies to families lacking the funds to enroll their children to participate in organized sports.

Finally, with the educational component, the club formalized a scholarship called the “Dr. Dominic Ciarniello Scholarship”. Dr. Ciarniello was an Italian-Canadian dentist in Vancouver, and was the first Bagnolese to obtain a degree from a post-secondary institution. He went to UBC…he was a fantastic individual, who has since passed. Each year the club gives out two scholarships. This year there was one recipient who was of Bagnolese decent, and another amount was donated to the SFU Italian Language Program.

Will the Famiglia Bagnolese be participating in the Italian Day on the Drive Festival?

Yes, we will have a tent and we’ll have around twenty volunteers there, three BBQ’s, people rolling dough, face-painting for the kids – it’s busy! We’ll be selling sausages and peppers in a bun – last year we made 1,100 sausages! We’ll also be making a traditional item from the town “Bagnoli del Trigno,” a special dessert called “scarce.” It’s basically an elephant ear (i.e. bread dough that is deep fried). You can make it either savory or sweet – we make it sweet.

Italian Day on the Drive is a great way to promote our region, show people where we are on the map. It’s a great audience of 250,000!

At the same time, we’re able to raise funds for other causes we’re involved in. Our surplus from Italian Day on the Drive goes towards one of our traditions: giving back. We distribute a significant amount amongst other charities, and utilize other funds for the development of the Society.

Future plans for the Society?

We have a banquet in the Fall, and our Christmas Festa in December. For our Christmas Festa, we’re focusing the event towards children under the age of 13 years old, from entertainment and activities, getting them engaged and making it an enjoyable experience for them, because they are the next generation. We want to offer them a memorable experience.

What are your thoughts on what it means to be Italian-Canadian? Or Canadian of Italian heritage background?

My parents and grandparents are Italian immigrants and worked really, really hard to get ahead. This is something that I take very seriously. Good things don’t come easily – you have to work for it.

The Italian culture is so rich, but it’s also a powerful brand. People want the label ‘Made in Italy’ on their commodities, clothes, etc. because it means something to them.

I’m very proud to be Canadian-Italian, but I really think back on what my grandparents did as immigrants: coming to Canada, not knowing the language, having little schooling, no family here, that’s really important to me.

Lightning Round: You’re in a bar and you see Leonardo da Vinci in the crowd; you approach him, and you say, what?

“What is the Mona Lisa thinking?”

Favourite Italian singer.

“I love listening to Italian music – Adriano Celentano.”

Choose one: Ducati or Vespa?

“Ducati. The Vespa doesn’t go that fast.”


The Famiglia Bagnolese will be at Italian Day on the Drive on June 14. For more information on Italian Day on the Drive, visit
www.italianday.ca.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity and space.


*Definition: Parties.

**Definition: The ‘Casacca’ is a type of (women’s) dress that was worn in the 19th to midway 20th century in the Bagnoli region.

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Published: April 6, 2015 ǀ By Lia Como

Inaugural Guest: Tamara Mainardi

Italian-Canadian family business navigates through the new millennial

“I don’t want the Pinterest app, you baccalà!*” I’m sitting at Renzo’s Coffee Shop on Commercial Drive with Tamara Mainardi, the Marketing Coordinator at Columbus World Travel, one of the longest-standing Italian-Canadian business on Commercial Drive, the district known as ‘Little Italy’ in Vancouver. She’s searching her phone for a photo of her favourite Italian movie star. “There he is!” She turns the screen to me: it’s Riccardo Scamarcio – the king of Italian romcoms, ladies. Those baby blues are quite alluring. IMDB – noted.

Tamara is the granddaughter of Peter Mainardi, the founder of Columbus World Travel. He was a visionary and entrepreneur who was involved in starting several important organizations in Vancouver. “I have big shoes to fill,” says Tamara, a strong young woman, funny and refreshingly straight-forward. She’s the girlfriend you can go shopping with (she admits to having a “shopping issue”) and trust that she’ll give you her honest option if the outfit you’re trying on makes you look like a patata.**

She is passionate about her work, and enjoys sharing her love and knowledge of travel with everyone. You can also see an inner drive in Tamara: she’s someone with the desire to make a difference, and given the new climate the travel industry is facing with technology, bringing her aboard the family business to tackle these challenges could not have been more timely.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity and space.

Tell me about the history of Columbus World Travel.

My Nonno,ꜛ Peter Mainardi, began the business in 1963. He was the one to organize the first charter from Western Canada to (northern) Italy in the summer of 1963. His wife was Emilia (my Nonnaꜛꜛ), and together, for the era that they lived in, it’s very impressive what they were able to accomplish. Besides the travel agency, he also started the Italian newspaper Leco D’Italia (a.k.a The Marco Polo), and being a soccer enthusiast, he also started the Columbus Soccer Club (which was inducted into the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame in 2013).

My Nonna was very much ahead of her time: she was the first woman to sit on the Board of the Commercial Drive Business Society, and at one point, she was the Mayor of Commercial Drive.

When you talk to members of the Italian community today, my Nonno and Nonna are still spoken highly of and are considered as one of the most influential Italian couples the Vancouver community has seen. They really made a difference and were there for the community. For example, the travel agency was not only an agency, but also a place where Italians could seek support in their transition to moving to Canada. My Nonno and Nonna helped Italians immigrate to Canada, they helped them with their passports, the process to stay here, everything. It wasn’t always easy, but they persevered.

With the accessibility of the internet, it has transformed the way people prepare for their travels – what are some challenges Columbus World Travel faces today?

Regardless of technology, I think people are looking for travel services, but they don’t know where to go and who to trust, which can be frustrating for the traveller. A travel agent is important: they can guide you, educate you and be there if and when you get stuck while on your trip. Our office has a lot of knowledge, personality, culture – we have much to offer. The challenge is how to convey this to an online audience. We’re exploring how this can transition to online, and at the same time, continue to service our walk-in customers and our long-standing clientelle. It’s a balancing act, but you have to evolve with the times.

What are your thoughts on what it means to be Italian-Canadian? Or Canadian of Italian heritage background?

I consider myself the “self-denying Canadian.” All of my girlfriends think of me as the “Italian one.” I identify myself with fashion, and talk with my hands even when I speak in English! I like to throw an Italian word in my sentences once in a while, even though no one may understand what I’m saying!

It’s nice to see/experience both the life in Italy and in Canada; it makes you a well-rounded person. And you value what you have.

As the agency is a family business, you must be used to working closely with family members – what lessons have your parents or grandparents taught you?

From my Nonna, it was all about manners and etiquette. I was very close to my Nonna. She was always there when I needed her; if there was something I wanted/needed when I was growing up, I could always go to her for help. But what I really wanted from my Nonna, the only thing, truly, was her time. And I spent a lot of time with her – she was always there for me.

My Mother taught me to be realistic, which is very important to have in life.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Italian culture?

Family. Respect and value. Tradition. Energy. For example, when you have a group of Italians over for dinner, there is an energy, a force there that you can’t find anywhere else – I can’t explain it. And cars. Please write down cars.

Columbus World Travel recently generously donated 2 round trip airfare tickets to Italy as part of il Centro’s Italian Heritage Month Raffle.

Yes, we’re very excited about the partnership. Raffle tickets are available at our office and at il Centro. There is a constant pressure from people who buy the raffle tickets though; they keep asking “So, are you going to pick my ticket?”

You have an exciting event planned on April 9th.

Columbus World Travel is organizing a wine and cheese soiree as part of celebrating over 50 years in the industry at il Centro. Several of our suppliers will be present at the event: Air Transat, Contiki Tours, Globus, Espressino Travel & Italy Ride. We want people to get engaged, come with their questions, have them answered and be better prepared for their next travel plans. At Columbus World Travel, we love sharing what we do, and so do our suppliers; we sometimes forget to celebrate and have fun. And that’s what traveling is – having fun.

Lightning round: If you had a Vespa, what colour would it be?

I have a Fiat 500 Sport – and it’s black.

You’re getting ready to go to a deserted island; in your suitcase, do you include pasta or pizza?

“Pizza, but….I’m trying to say away from gluten, and I’m lactose intolerant…I know! And I’m Italian!”

*Definition: salt cod, traditionally served at Christmas Eve. In this context: idiot.

**Definition: potato

ꜛDefinition: Grandfather

ꜛꜛDefinition: Grandmother