Those who live in Rome and are in love with the United States have some landmark institutions that represent and America here. One of these, which organizes events and gathers Americans living in the eternal city (but not only them) is the American International Club of Rome.
I've had the pleasure of attending a couple of Independence Days organized by this wonderful club in years past, and it was a beautiful way to celebrate the Fourth of July in the right way. That's also why I'm very happy to meet Silvia Zamarripa, the current President of this club, and talk with her about how here in Rome they are committed to represent and improve relations between Italy and the United States
Welcome on We the Italians, Silvia. Please tell us the story of the American International Club of Rome
Thank you Umberto for this opportunity to share a little bit about the American International Club of Rome. I believe we have a rich history that represents progress. Progress is what allows us to measure our success. As such one of the projects I’m developing is a timeline that tells our story, a chronological archive of past presidents, events and pictures. I think it is important to illustrate a history that resonates far beyond the words we use to describe our early beginnings.
The club was founded in 1953 by a gentleman named Henry Luce. You may recognize the name since you are an American history enthusiast or perhaps more so because you are a journalist. Henry Luce was one of the founders of Time Magazine and in 1953 he came to Rome with his wife Claire Booth Luce, the appointed US Ambassador to Italy. He provided other American expats in Rome an opportunity to come together to socialize at a time when Rome was thriving. The film industry was booming. Via Veneto was teaming with the who’s who of high society and a social club was the natural response to a need for socializing.
AICR originated as a gentlemen club that organized luncheons. I’ve been told that the club opened up to women in the late 80’s. Within the last decade the club extended membership to citizens of the world that wish to participate in cultural exchanges with Americans.
Who are the members of AICR, and how many people subscribe every year?
The club extends membership to all nationalities and all professions. Our mission is to provide opportunities that engage people’s interest. We maintain a minimum of 51% American members and welcome all those interested in sharing the American culture, traditions and values. I have been with the organization for less than a year but I’m happy to say that we have increased our numbers by 15% during a pandemic. All things considered, I think this is incredible however I’m confident our membership potential will continue to grow significantly once we are able to organize in person events again.
Do you have relationships with the Italian American community?
My personal mission as the President of the club is to strengthen our relationships with the Italian American community, and not only. I look forward to reaching out to organizations such as NIAF and work towards collaborations that benefit our community. There are many sister organizations in Italy that share the same goals to support our respective communities. AICR will extend invitations to collaborate and provide more opportunities to network and socialize. There are Canadian Italians, British Italians not to mention all of the European countries that have clubs in Rome with whom we can gather and create cultural exchanges.
We know that Rome always has a special appeal to Americans. Was this still the case before the pandemic, and is it still the case today?
This will always be the case. Rome is an iconic travel destination and will never lose its appeal. This was most definitely the case before the pandemic and will most definitely be the case once safe travel resumes. I have no doubts about this.
If you could steal one thing about the habits of us Romans, and transfer it to all Americans, what would it be?
This is an excellent question and full of possible answers however I believe that what makes cultural habits unique is that they represent the identity of the people who practice them. If I were to suggest one of the many characteristics of the Roman culture and share it with Americans it would be the use of irony and humor. I find that the Roman and the Italian culture allows for a degree of humor in managing daily life and activities. It is a way to make light of serious issues that would ordinarily create a degree of stress.
And vice versa, what about something typically American that we Romans would need?
Finding something that Romans absolutely need is not an easy task but if we are comparing cities then I’d say as a proud Texan a prestigious element of life known in cities like Fort Worth Texas is the rodeo. Barrel racing, bull riding, steer wrestling, and team roping are some of the typical competitive events practiced to test the skills of cowboys and cowgirls. Rodeo is the official sport of the Lone Star State. If you are looking to experience something authentically Texan it’s the rodeo. Add country music, line dancing and rhinestones and your experience is complete.
What is your relationship with the various American institutions present here in Rome?
The club has always made itself available to collaborations that support and promote American culture. We work closely with some American Universities with campuses in Rome. We have established an Internship program that provides students an opportunity to learn the various aspects of managing a cultural non profit organization. I find this partnership very rewarding and look to extend to all universities the opportunity to work with AICR. Sponsorship of our annual events like Fourth of July and our Winter Gala is one of the many ways we stay connected with American and Italian institutions.
One day, hopefully soon, it will be possible to travel again, and it will be great to see so many American tourists visiting Rome and Italy again. You represent the Americans who live here: what could Rome do to attract even more Americans, and to make them feel even more welcome?
Perhaps it could be interesting to launch an initiative that represents the bonds we have with Italy. Developing a formula that promotes our link could be a way to relaunch tourism in a way that appeals to both countries.
Furthermore, Italy and America have a strong student exchange program: this also could be a unique way to stimulate local tourism if Universities in Italy promoted more learning excursions for American and foreign exchange students. Encouraging students to attend lectures, seminars, and exhibitions in other cities in Italy would surely help propel local tourism.
Finally, after living here for the past two years and seeing what Rome is like during peak tourism seasons, another thing I think would be beneficial to tourism is to promote the less known hidden gems of Italy. Take, just as an example, a town like Padula, in the Salerno Province, which I had the chance to visit a few years ago: not only it is home of one of the most beautiful and oldest charterhouses in Europe, it is also the the birthplace of Giuseppe “Joe” Petrosino, an Italian immigrant to America who became a police officer and fought against organized crime, an hero that still today is celebrated by the american law enforcement community. As I mentioned before, the ties between Italy and America run deep.
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