Can an event be judged based on the traffic advisories put out across Washington, DC? In the case of Italian National Day on June 3rd, Massachusetts Avenue turned into the busiest roundabouts of Rome. After snaking up the long line of cars and walking through the gates, I was greeted by a lovely woman who quickly checked me in with an iPad with an efficiency that could only have been fueled by the Lavazza station.
If you have ever been inside the Italian Embassy, then you will remember the dramatic Rotunda. This space buzzed with guests celebrating all things Italy, in honor of 2013: The Year of Italian Culture. Over twelve months, Italy is recognizing innovations in science and technology. To emphasize the importance of social technology and thermal power, Enel headlined the evening. Italy is also honoring the next generation by focusing on young researchers and entrepreneurs. Add Italian art, literature, design, music, theater, cinema, and photography and the Italian aficionado has everything a person could love about Italia. Ambassador Claudio Bisogniero in his remarks and on Twitter (@CBisogniero) highlighted the phenomenal contributions that Italy shares with the United States and the hope that the two nations will grow ever closer.
But back to the party. The mouth-watering smells of fresh pesto and tomato sauce pasta wafted through the air. To finish the plate, giant wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano were ready and waiting. Of course, there was fresh caprese salad. To accompany the food, a number of wines were available from the Amarone Families association. But, if wine was not your forte, then there was another delightful option. Don Ciccio & Figli had two tasting stations of their artisanal liqueur making, originally from the Amalfi Coast with a history dating back to 1883. After being treated to a sampling, my two favorites were the Limoncello and “Fico D’India” or prickly pears. However, “Finocchietto” with an infusion of hand-picked wild fennel, fennel seed, anise seed, and dill would have won if Italian sausage were on the menu. Regardless of whether you are pairing with food or sipping in the summer, Don Ciccio & Figli had a liqueur for every palate.
But enough about the beverages. When dreaming of the canals of Venice in the warm summer months, gelato is part of every corner. With two stations, Pitango gave guests a cool, sweet relief from the June weather. Pitango has revived traditional Italian ice cream-making methods, using organic and fresh products in authentic Italian recipes. By the time I made it through the line, they were almost cleaned out save white grapefruit. Lucky for them, I love grapefruit! The texture was gelato meets sorbet that transported me back to 2003 when I sat in front of the Piazza San Marco enjoying my one euro treat. While I suspect Pitango costs a little bit more, it is worth every penny. The gelato was complimented by samples of Ferrero Rocher and other Italian desserts.
There was another scent floating through the air. In the event that you were not already wearing the designer of your choice, there was a selection of Bvlgari and Gucci perfumes to sample. While I adore Gucci, Bvlgari holds a special place in my heart and I spritzed accordingly.
As a parting gift, guests were given shiny gold bags filled with more Ferrero Rocher, Nutella, Tic Tacs, and Pelliconi magnets. And as a final, final gift, guests received a recyclable bag as they stepped into the night air. With the grandeur of the evening and in those final moments, you could almost believe you were stepping across the cobblestone streets of Florence.
This article was originally published in the Diplomatic Courier’s July/August 2013 print edition.