On Italian Hospitality

A story told by Valerio Ferrante Italy

Valerio Ferrante works for the Endas organisation, an association of nearly 400 Italian clubs. They try to carry out nonprofit activities related to culture, education, social assistance, sports, tourism, recreation as well as environmental and civil protection, ensuring in particular the promotion of professional education of young people and workers in the fields of social tourism and sport. Valerio is a proud roman with a heart for travelling the world.

On the ISTO World congress Storyweaver Anneleen met Valerio Ferrante. They had a chat around hospitality, a main value in tourism in general and social tourism in particular.  Hospitality is a big thing in Italy, Valerio says. ‘When you travel in Italy, don’t turn down any gesture of hospitality. You’ll take away the right of the host to welcome you in a warm and caring way. Instead, enjoy being adopted for the time of your visit.’


Trust, friends and family

Valerio was still a kid, when he had a profound encounter with the deep power of hospitality, as an expression of true humanity. He remembers a significant moment of ultimate hospitality that not only made him an ambassador of the principle but also changed his life in a fundamental way.

Acts of hospitality as a precious memory

During his childhood, Valerio lived in a very popular neighbourhood in Rome. His mother and he rented a flat in a building which they called ‘the colosseum’. It was a large apartment building, and the architecture of it was similar to the – nowadays overcrowded – Colosseum in the touristic city centre of the capital of Italy.

One day, their landlord decided to kick his family, just him and his mother, out of their home. The family faced a sudden situation of being homeless. But Valerio remembers not only the misery. He also recollects the friendly faces and endless invitations of their neighbours.

Everyone who could, offered his family a place to stay. So, they stayed for a month in different apartments. ‘Even if we didn’t have anything to offer in return to our hosts.  We had lost everything’, Valerio says. For some of us, this seems surreal, for others it’ll feel like the right thing to do. Especially when you are Italian, maybe.

Hospitality is a core value for Italian families

Because, Valerio says :’In Italy, making someone part of your family is a sign of ultimate hospitality. When you invite someone, you also invite your whole family to meet your guest. In that way, a guest becomes a part of the family.’  And, the quest is not only on the receiving-side of this cultural habit. He’ll be invited to help decorating the room, preparing the food and setting the table. ‘It is not about earning your diner or working for your place in the family. It is a demonstration of trust, Valerio explains. ‘You are then welcome to be part of our family and get involved as if you’re real family.’

As a young Italian, Valerio notices that having family isn’t that easy these days as it used to be when he was a child. The economical and societal changes make it difficult to start a family, he says. So, young people find a new way to be surrounded by close and warm relationships. They start to build connections with friends in a way they experience being surrounded by a new kind of family. It’s great, this kind of social life, living in the moment together with friends. ‘Yes, it is a good thing, and also: it will never be the same as a real family. Because the emotional energy and strengths your receive in your family is just unbelievable.’

Endas - Ente Nazionale Democratico di Azione Sociale

Authored by Anneleen Adriaenssens Lier