Interview to President Mr. Paolo Del Bianco
by Barbara Ganetti
I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Mr. President. How long have you held this post for the Fondazione?
“The Fondazione was established by myself, Paolo Del Bianco, in 1998 on the basis of an activity that began in 1991. The Fondazione was dedicated to the memory of my father Romualdo Del Bianco and I have been its president ever since it was first set up.”
Can you illustrate the targets that the Fondazione has set itself for 2016 and the aims that it proposes to achieve?
“The Fondazione promotes a range of activities, all of which are designed to further intercultural dialogue. We are committed to fostering the exercise of dialogue among cultures at the grass-roots level. Our activities fall broadly into the following thematic categories: apparel (with two-yearly conferences entitled “Costume Colloquium”); food (encounters with young people on the theme of “Knowledge and Taste”); cultural expressions and man’s natural and cultural heritage (an exchange of experiences on climate change, and on tangible culture with projects and initiatives for its safeguarding and enhancement, creating opportunities for using and enjoying heritage for the purpose of furthering intercultural dialogue); man’s intangible cultural heritage, with a lot of work being done on grass-roots traditions (a conference on Carnival Worldwide in 2016); and religions.
How did these cultural and value-based exchanges develop with Japan, and in particular with the city of Yamagata?
“We have enjoyed personal ties with friends in Kyoto since 1996-7, in particular with the Tsuji family which runs Kyokane, an activity closely linked to the theme of Japanese traditions. Our ties have been so intense that one of the rooms in the Palazzo Coppini (the Fondazione’s seat in Florence) has been dedicated to Arimitsu Tsuji. His daughter, Hoshino Tsuji, is a member of the Fondazione’s Council today and represents the Fondazione in Japan. In fact, it was she who put us in touch with the Yamagata region, where will be going next year”.
With what foreign countries are you developing international study and research projects?
“Activities designed to promote the development of intercultural ties are currently being conducted with eighty-three different countries (see below for the full list – editor’s note)”.
Many emerging countries today are interested in cultural exchange and training projects with Italy. In that connection, with which foreign countries would the Fondazione be most interested in cooperating on new cultural exchange schemes?
“We are interested in promoting training schemes throughout the world in order to foster intercultural dialogue and to acquaint the world with ‘Life Beyond Tourism’, which we are already teaching at Josai University (to which we were introduced by Professor Masanori Aoyagi) and at Toyo University. ‘Life Beyond Tourism’ is also going to be taught at Baku University in Azerbaijan as of this coming April. The countries we have just mentioned are all countries that believe in tourism and that plan to invest in the sector, because ‘Life Beyond Tourism’ is a discipline that is very new and that seeks to promote a new way of travelling, going beyond mere ‘hit-and-run’ tourism in order to foster mutual knowledge and peace among peoples. Our main interest lies in developing exchange schemes primarily with countries with a strong calling in the sphere of intangible heritage, which is precisely the case of Japan”.
Do you agree that the cultural enhancement of a region can also bring added value in the fields of trade and of the economy?
“That is unquestionably true, and indeed it is precisely one of things that is taught in ‘Life Beyond Tourism’, which encapsulates a new way of looking at life, consigning egocentric tourism to the history books and replacing it with altruistic travel, with travel as a giving of self, as a gift to the international community of the time and money that we spend on travelling in an effort to commit to fostering mutual knowledge and the exercise of dialogue among cultures in a world that is rapidly heading towards a population of 10 billion”.
In your view, can foreign investments be attracted to Italian culture?
“Of course they can. Italy is an excellent country in which to invest”.
To wind up, I would like to thank you for your time, and to ask you if you can give us an overall picture of Italy at this time of economic crisis in Europe?
“Italy is setting out on a new course. Its present government has taken a number of important steps and it is restoring to Italy the dignity that its predecessors’ old-world mentality had cast into the shade”.
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