Dec. 10 was a historic day for the Italian community in Milwaukee as the Italian consul general visited the city for the first time in 25 years.
“I take his visit as a sign of Doctor Finocchiaro’s dynamic commitment to helping us cultivate the knowledge of Italian language and culture,” said Robin Pickering-Iazzi, department chair for the UWM Italian program.
The consul general, Giuseppe Finocchiaro, is selected by the Italian government to act as a diplomat in the U.S. for Italian concerns.
Simonetta Milli Konewko, associate professor of Italian at UWM and consular correspondent for the state of Wisconsin, organized Finocchiaro’s visit to Milwaukee.
Consulate General of Italy in Chicago has jurisdiction over 11 states and more than 30,000 Italian citizens living in the U.S. The consulate also promotes Italian culture to connect with the 2.5 million people of Italian descent in its jurisdiction.
“The knowledge of the Italian language is a gateway to studying history, the arts, literature, business, economics and political science,” Finocchiaro said, “which grants a broader and critical perspective that is essential for new generations to be more versatile in the job market and to better face the challenges of the modern work environment.”
The consul general met students and professors of Italian from the UWM French, Italian and Comparative Literature program at a welcome event in his honor at the American Geographical Society Library.
“I am really grateful for the University of Wisconsin(-Milwaukee) for offering Italian classes and the program over the years,” Finocchiaro said.
As a way to say thank you, Pickering-Iazzi presented Finnochiaro with reproductions from the American Geographical Society Library of Sicily from the 17th and 18th centuries.
An Italian event could not be complete without food. There were two tables full of authentic Italian desserts from four regions of the country, some home-baked by faculty and some bought from Scordato Bakery.
“I didn’t know food was this important to Italian culture,” said Josh Breezee, a student in Lucia Soldati’s Italian 103 class.
Soldati, a senior lecturer, brought her Italian 103 class to hear what the consul general had to say.
“I didn’t know what the consulate was until we were told we were coming during class,” said Meagan Hitney, another Italian 103 student that was at the event. “While I was sitting there listening to what he has done, it was really cool.”
Finocchiaro had a packed day in Milwaukee. In addition to UWM, he also visited Victory School, an MPS Italian immersion school, to meet the staff and see the new program. He also did a meet and greet at the Italian Community Center in the Third Ward.
Victory School is one of the first schools in the nation where students from kindergarten to eighth grade are taught all their subjects in Italian and are taught about Italian culture. This school started in 2006 and has not been visited by a consul general before.
Accompanying Finocchiaro on his visit to Milwaukee was Sandro Corso, director of education for the Italian consulate.