Ours is the land of 1000 capitals

Updated: Jan 27 2008, 05:36am hrs
Culture, arts, fashion and lifestyle is what immediately comes to mind on the very mention of Italy. One of the leading industrial countries of the world, Italys GDP is larger than Indias. Having one of the worlds highest per capita income, this country is linked to India in many ways. Both the countries have 1,000 year long civilisations which have had a number of points of contacts. Both Italy and India have the privilege of being nations whose past glory has shaped the cultural and social development of the vast regions, if not the whole world. Both countries are also the seat of a major world religion, Christianity for Italy (Rome) and Hinduism for India. The birthplace of Renaissance, Italy has been the home of many European cultures, such as the Etruscans and the Romans. Ambassador Antonio Armellini shares more with Monalisa Sen

BILATERAL RELATIONS

Our cooperation with India was not only strong in political terms but also in economic terms. The bonds have become strong over the years. We both are civilisational states with rich cultural heritage and share fundamental values of democracy, civil liberties, human rights, the rule of law and free press. Recently the Italian president and prime minister paid visits to India to improve relations.

We have had a 45% increase year-on-year, in trade, with India. Italy is an important market for Indian agricultural products almost, accounting for 200 million euros and it plans to increase its agri food exports to India to 100 million euros. Italy has emerged as Indias fourth biggest export market in the EU exporting Armani, Valentino, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Benetton, Prada and luxury vehicles like Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini, Pagani.

ON THE ECONOMIC FRONT

Our economic strength lies in processing and manufacturing goods machine tools, mechanical industry, efficient agricultural sector... Fashion and lifestyle do not contribute much to the GDP but they definitely help in building our image. We are a population of just 50 million and we had 40 million tourists visiting us last year!

We mainly import oil, energy, raw chemicals from India and we export manufactured goods. Italy survives on trade. Agro industrial processed food is another such important component of our economy. We are also one of the largest producers of wine in the world and, now, the largest wine exporters for the American market. If there is one thing that we are dependent on, it is energy. Tourism is definitely one of the main sources of our revenue but not a lifeline.

More than just pizza

Italian cuisine is well-known the world over for its pasta and pizza. Unlike India, we divide our meal into courses. Our first course is heavier. Unlike popular perception, pizza is not the staple food in Italy, but cereals and pasta are. French cooking is done in a very elaborate manner. Our food tends to be simpler and we use olive oil.

CULTURE CAULDRON

Italy is considered to be a country having one of the largest congregations of Catholics worldwide. Most Italians follow Christianity and 90% of them are Catholics. Just about 1% are Jewish. A few also follow Islam. If you go by UNESCO world heritage sites, we have the largest number of world heritage sites in the world. For over a thousand years Italy was known as the land of thousand capitals and each city took pride in itself. Italy is famous for its architecture. Western paintings have their roots in Italy and cinema is again an important aspect of Italy. Contemporary cinema, actually, started here.

FOOTBALL AS WELL AS CRICKET

Our national sport is football but cycling too is one of our strong areas. As the country became wealthier, sports such as tennis, skiing and basketball began to develop. Not many would know, but we also have an Italian cricket federation.