Italian initiatives, global perspectives

Italian ingenuity, culture, and intellect are far-reaching and know no bounds. Positioning Italian-driven initiatives in global markets and local governments across the globe is as fascinating as it is overwhelming.

In order to learn more about Italy and the impact of Italians overseas, I spoke with the Honorable Sally Capp, Lord Mayor of the City of Melbourne, Australia. Given her role, as Lord Mayor and using Melbourne as an example, she provides us with an interesting perspective on all things Italian.

Using Melbourne as an example, can you explain the relationship between Italy and local governments?

Milan and Melbourne have been sister cities since 2004. We’ve shared a lot over the years, including fashion and design.

During COVID, the Honorable Giuseppe Sala (Mayor of Milan) led a group of mayors – nine of us – working on initiatives on climate action that we could implement during the pandemic. We signed a covenant that really motivated some of our big programs, like Greening the City, which was delivered during COVID. We planted an enormous number of trees, shrubs, and grasses, and that was a major initiative.

The Honorable Sally Capp

What’s the current learning focus from Milan?

Our real focus is on learning from Milan on waste. Milan is recognized as leading the way on recycling, in particular. I know that doesn’t sound very glamorous, but it does give you a sense of the sort of detail we focus on in cities.

What’s Milan doing that’s so innovative and effective?

It’s the way in which waste is separated, collected, and recycled, that we’re particularly interested in. There are technologies that are used in Milan that we don’t have here in Australia yet, particularly those for sorting waste and dealing more efficiently with recycling and avoiding landfill. 

How does that mirror with Melbourne’s needs?

Milan is a dense city. Melbourne has 84% of our population living in apartments. Milan also has a high proportion living in townhouses and apartments. We’re very interested in the ways that they have been able to collect waste, including food organic waste. 

The Honorable Sally Capp with Consul General Hannah Pappalardo

How do local governments, like the City of Melbourne, engage with the Italian community?

We really appreciate the leadership of the Consul General Hannah Pappalardo, across both cultural elements and commercial opportunities. 

We also work very closely with the Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Australia, in commercial opportunities particularly, but also in ways that we can enhance each other’s cultures, cities, development, and more modern manifestations of culture – such as ways to work, ways to live. 

What’s special and unique about the current Italian community in Melbourne?

I think that people appreciate that when you have a culture, like the Italian culture that’s been going for such a long time, there is that very strong sense of resilience. There’s definitely an amazing work ethic that Italians bring to Melbourne, which is fantastic. 

How is Italian beauty reflected in cities outside of Italy, such as Melbourne?

The first thing I think of is still architecture: when I see some of our cobblestone streets, I think of Italy; when I see precincts, like Lygon Street, and the manifestation of Italian hospitality. It’s the infusion of the Italian culture.

I also think there’s something really engrained in Italians, in their appreciation of the finer things in life: valuing art, spending time together in discussion, coming together over food, and trying to produce the best of the best of their products – a sense of excellence.

Thank you, Lord Mayor. It has been so insightful to explore all things Italian through your lens. Thank you for unpacking the accords and agreements that exist, not only between Italy and other nations but also the political ties and cultural interests that link foreign cities with their Italian counterparts.

Images provided by City of Melbourne