Giovanni Favilli, Consul General of Italy to Dubai, says the country will steal your heart with its art, culture and architecture Image Credit: Supplied

What makes you proud to be Italian?
Italy’s so called “soft power”, the ability to convince people not by sheer brutal force, but through the beauty of its landscape, the sweetness of its music, the taste of its food, the emotions created by its supercars, and the creativity of its inventors and designers. Italy does not twist your hand. It conquers you through the five senses and with a smile.

What is unique about Italy?
The combination between past, present and future, the ability to innovate, the pleasure of its lifestyle, the passion for the beautiful and well done.

What is the Italian cultural identity?
The image of a bridge comes to my mind: between past and present, north and south, different religions and different cultures. Italians travel everywhere, adapt and make friends easily.

What is your hometown like?
My hometown is Siena, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Italy’s most-visited tourist destinations. It has a medieval cityscape in hilly Tuscany, and in the 1300s it was a major economic and military power and one of Europe’s largest cities. Today it survives intact and its universities attract many foreigners willing to learn Italian in beautiful surroundings.

What’s your favourite Italian food, and why?
I used to live off pasta and pizza, which I still love. Nowadays, I prefer every sort of carpaccio (raw fish, meat or vegetables, very thinly sliced) topped with the best olive oil. Every now and then I treat myself to truffle, a delicacy that I detested as a child but find irresistible today.

Which stereotypes about the Italians are true/not true?
This would need a book rather than a few lines. We love food (especially pasta and pizza), that’s true, but there is much more in Italian cuisine than that. We have a lot of history and artistic heritage, but we are also one of the most innovative countries. The Mafia is known as an Italian product, but Italy also has the most sophisticated investigators and the toughest legislation to fight organised crime. We are a country famous for food, fashion, furniture and brands, but our main export is machinery and technology. All in all, whatever your opinion of Italy, visit the country and you will have plenty of wonderful surprises.

What sights or experiences in your country are not to be missed?
An espresso in the centre of Rome, pizza in Naples, a swim in Sardinia, a drive in a convertible car in hilly Tuscany, people watching in the downtown area of any city, skiing in the Italian Alps, the Palio in Siena, the Carnival, or just getting lost in Venice, spending a week in a country house in Apulia or Sicily, etc. If you love culture, art or architecture, Italy will steal your heart.