Manuela Barzan... "I thrive under pressure. If life rolled along smoothly, it would hardly be interesting" Image Credit: Christopher List/anm

It is only through constantly reinventing yourself that you can be the best you can ever be…

My grandmother was a great influence during my growing years.

She was a very powerful and strong woman and I was her favourite. My daughter Maria has been named after her. Unfortunately my grandmother died when I was 25. She was my best friend.

I was born in Venice and lived there until I was six years old.

I never went to kindergarten (I hated it with a passion!).

My uncle decided to teach me to read and write, and by the age of five, I used to go to the library every day. Reading is my favourite hobby even today and helps me unwind after the day's pressures. When I was six, my parents and grandparents decided to move to Pordenone (an hour's drive from Venice) because of some investments they had made in that area. I went to high school and college there. When I was 18, I moved back to Venice for university.

I studied law in England and have a doctorate in foreign languages - English and Spanish, apart from Italian. I also studied Arabic in London, and did research in crude oil while I worked at Petronal, a company connected to Petromin (a petroleum and natural gas production company). That was one of those defining moments in my life. Before I did crude oil research I had no idea what it was. But after the training I realised that it is possible to achieve anything you set your mind to. I used to have a colleague who used to call me "Vesuvio", after the Italian volcano, you know. I have always had boundless energy and I believe that lesson I learnt has helped me constantly reinvent and do what is required to move ahead in life.

While I was at university, I travelled often to the US, England, Spain and Germany.

In America I met several contemporary writers. While I was at elementary school and college, I won two special awards for creative writing and to be honest what I really wanted was to become a very famous writer - which I still aim to be - once I get the time to start writing seriously, and believe me I have a lot to tell! While I was at university I fell in love with theatre and started acting. I was quite good but then I left for England at 22, and the only acting I did since then is in everyday life.

You need to challenge yourself every day.

If you do something for a number of years, you do realise whether it is the right thing for you or not. When I did crude oil research, I realised that though I was involved with it, it was not what I really wanted to do. The trick to succeeding in life is to not be fearful of change. I changed professions, countries... You have to keep moving. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we fail. Fortunately for me, I almost always succeeded!

On a brief visit to Naples as part of my work 18 years ago, I met Michele Lomuto, who is now my companion. Neapolitans never leave the town, and so after several visits, I decided to settle there and have been working with the Chamber for the last 20 years. I do it mostly for the love of the job.

Naples is a very laid-back and amazing city. My birthplace Venice and my workplace Naples are both port cities historically. We have four port cities in Italy - Venice, Amalfi (near Naples), Genoa, and Pisa and the people from these places are similar in a way; they are open-minded.

My greatest achievement...

... is my daughter. Today we share an interesting rapport. She is 17 years old and I am her friend as much as I am her parent and I ensure she is aware of my obsession with discipline. We always make it a point to spend time together.

 

I am very rigid and like to believe that everything depends on discipline.

I get up at 5am every day, including on weekends and public holidays. The first thing I need is an espresso. Then I cycle 30km which normally takes about one hour 15 minutes every morning. After that I get ready and head to work, of course with a stop for croissant and coffee on the way. Being COM.TUR director and being on the board at IRVAT (Institute for the Valorisation of Regional Products) within the region means most of the office work involves fielding phone calls and staying constantly connected. I usually work until midnight. My days are very hectic, and I also travel a lot.

Since 1992, I have been involved in designing and coordinating projects for the development and promotion of tourism, locally produced food products and traditional crafts in the city and province of Naples both in Italy and abroad.

In 2004, I became director of COM.TUR, a special agency of the Naples Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Crafts and Agriculture dealing with trade, tourism and the service industry.

Dubai and Naples are more similar than people realise.

People in both cities are passionate about good food and living quality life. The Emiratis appreciate anything that is exclusive and tasteful, and it's true of Neapolitans too.

Arabs, like Italians, indeed all Mediterranean people, like to celebrate, with friends and family. There is great potential for boosting cultural and economic ties between the UAE and Italy in general, and of course Naples and Dubai in particular. In 2008, we had a 144 per cent increase in tourists from the UAE to Italy, and for the Campania region in general.

I have been trying to take Neapolitan lifestyle, food and fashion around the world to encourage people to come out there and see for themselves. Dubai for us will always remain the main hub in the Middle East, serving as a gateway to the region, and we aim several of our promotions here to build and enhance awareness.

You need to be intelligent and integrated in your promotion to be competitive.

We could take a leaf out of Dubai's book - the way Dubai' goes about marketing its tourist attractions is so holistic.

A few of my favourite things!

  • Favourite movie: The Way We Were starring Robert Redford.
  • Favourite holiday destination: I have three - Seychelles, Polynesian Islands and Dubai.
  • Favourite food: Italian of course, followed close on the heels by Lebanese food - the falafel, moutabel, foul medamas… mmmm!
  • Favourite ways to unwind: Cycling of course, and hitting the gym. Travelling with my family for reasons other than work!