Giuseppe Pastorelli got a pretty special birthday present last year: a daughter.
The Italian consul general in Toronto, who started at that post one year ago, was celebrating at a restaurant with his wife, Lilla, on Oct. 15.
The couple got home around 11 p.m., and a few hours later they were at the hospital where Sofia was born. They also have a five-year-old son, Andrea.
“I have to say that that was the most memorable time [of his Toronto posting so far],” said a smiling Mr. Pastorelli on Aug. 19. For a family with young children, Toronto is a friendly, helpful and easy city to live in, he said.
Car horns and street noise trickle in through the open windows. Unlike several consulates situated in the city’s high-rises, the Italian consulate was built as a private mansion in 1872.
The Italians used the building as a consulate in the ‘30s until they lost it during the Second World War, after which it was used by an association called COSTI that was helping Italian immigrants, before the building returned to the Italian government.
“It is a building with a story that we want to preserve,” said Mr. Pastorelli, adding that the consulate will start renovations on the building later this year.
From Rome to Toronto
Mr. Pastorelli joined his foreign ministry in 1997; while there, he served in the army for 10 months, a requirement at the time for males.
His first posting abroad was in Turkey where he dealt with economic and commercial affairs. Then starting in 2004 was a stint as deputy head of mission at the embassy in Hungary, which joined the European Union that year and then also entered the Schengen Area: countries that have abolished borders and allow passport-free movement.
“These are moments you tend not to forget,” said Mr. Pastorelli.
He and other members of the diplomatic corps were invited to a midnight ceremony on a cold winter’s night at the Hungarian-Austrian border to mark the elimination of barriers.
“We were a continent thrown apart by the war. And now we are a very strong European Union, so that is a very dramatic change,” he said.
Hungary is also where Mr. Pastorelli met his wife.
Back at the ministry, he focused on eastern Africa.
He had dreamt about spending more time in the United States after a three-month visit following high school. He got his wish when he landed a gig as the Italian consul general in Boston.
“This [was] four wonderful years to better know and to understand the United States and live there and to know the richness of the Italian migration abroad,” he said, adding that he then got to continue this kind of work on a larger scale in Toronto.
Of all things Italian
The consulate’s work involves providing services to the Italian community, which consists of about 70,000 people with Italian citizenship in Ontario and Manitoba (many have dual citizenship) and thousands more of Italian descent, Mr. Pastorelli said.
The mission has 25 staff members; about half come from Italy, though they're not all from the foreign ministry. They also have a network of nine honorary consuls who help them.
Promoting Italy is a big part of their job, but they aren’t alone. There is a vast network of Italian public institutions in the city including an Italian cultural institute, trade commission and tourism board. The chamber of commerce and Centro Scuola, a non-profit promoting the Italian language in schools, also receive some funding from the Italian government.
“It’s [a] pretty strong presence that you don’t have in many other cities abroad,” Mr. Pastorelli said.
The consulate has been partnering with these organizations and several others including the Royal Ontario Museum on its Pompeii exhibit, and the University of Toronto to launch a speaker’s series on the Italy of the future, starting off with the first Italian female astronaut.
In line with EXPO Milano 2015, a world’s fair being hosted by Italy with a theme of ‘feeding the planet, energy for life,’ the consulate, other institutions and a restaurant called Buca started a chef series. They invited Italian chefs to engage students at George Brown College, give talks at the cultural institute and prepare food for a 100-person charity dinner.
A joint national day celebration at Casa Loma this year also brought out a few thousand people.
“There are a number of Italian events already done in the city, so either you find a niche that nobody else is doing…or if there are things that are already being done, you try to give a small extra added value without replicating.”
Toronto-based journalist and former Embassy staff writer Sneh Duggal writes columns for Embassy on foreign consulates in Canada.
Rapid fire with Italy’s consul general
Buca. I also like very much to eat fish at Joso’s and I’m a fan of Japanese food…a great one is Yasu.
[Buca keeps] it simple and with a very high quality of ingredients. When you have two small children, going outside is not easy; when you manage to do it, you want to have a full, nice experience.
We try to have some day trips, so to visit more [of] Ontario. We try to stay outside as much as possible…so we go to the beach by the lake. We always look for playgrounds inside city parks for our son. We go for a walk in…the Distillery District that I like very much.
If you could have any other job?
General manager of a five-star luxury hotel…especially in a nice and warm place.